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How To Get The Most ROI On Your Digital Marketing Efforts

A lot of digital marketing effort and resources can be efficiently employed by following a few simple steps starting with speaking your customers' language, according to Quebec-based digital marketing firm SherWeb.

Businesses who market themselves to clients instead of focusing on the business outcomes those clients are looking for risk wasting their marketing resources and finding themselves with a shortage of potential clients.

That’s the word from Marc-Andre Fontaine, vice president of sales and marketing at SherWeb, a Quebec-based provider of digital marketing services, who told an audience of MSPs at this week's NexGen 2019 conference that his company's goal is to help MSPs improve their marketing while avoiding the pitfalls associated with the activity.

NexGen is produced by The Channel Company, CRN’s parent company.

[Related: 6 Reasons Why The Public Cloud Is An Opportunity For Channel Partners]

Fontaine said that when it comes to digital marketing, there are three things people in general are not doing right.

The first is that marketers are often not strategic enough in their marketing, Fontaine said. "So when a partner goes and hires a marketing agency, they can spend several thousand dollars a month and no results," he said.

The second pitfall is inconsistent messaging, Fontaine said. "You invest in marketing for a couple weeks or months, and then you remove the budget, and then you go back, and so on. So you will not get good results or good ROI (return on investment) out of these kinds of initiatives."

The third mistake is to expect immediate ROI, Fontaine said.

Online marketing is a key for MSP success, Fontaine said. "But I don't have to convince anyone that investing in marketing is super important because I think this room proves that you care about marketing," he said.

About 78 percent of buyers look online when selecting a vendor, while 57 percent of the decision making process is done before even contacting the supplier, Fontaine said.

"So if you have a weak presence on your website, on your LinkedIn profile, or online, you will not even have the chance to talk to a new customer," he said.

Furthermore, about 80 percent of potential customers are looking for content and information and don't want to be bothered by advertising, Fontaine said.

"Well, when you hire a firm and you spend $5,000 in [Google] AdWords, this is what you're doing," he said. "You're doing advertising."

For marketing ROI, it is important to look at the marketing funnel which measures a lead from the awareness stage to the buy stage against the amount spent on marketing, Fontaine said.

"If you have a sell cycle of six to nine months, it will take six to nine months before you get the ROI," he said. "We have to measure ROI at different levels, and level number one is how are you bringing visitors or awareness in the market. And this can be done on multiple levels: online, social media, events, and so on."

The next step is decide if the new leads or audience are concerned with the vendor or interested in its solution, Fontaine said.

"ROI shouldn't be measured only on at the last stage, but at every stage," he said. "And if you hire a marketing agency, they should be able to present you with the number of people you touch and then your conversion [rate]."

For instance, if 1000 people look at a company's website, but only one is converted to a customer, it would be better to invest in sales processes than in getting more leads, Fontaine said.

"This is what the funnel will tell you," he said. "Usually, it's a lot better to improve sales efficiency. Contact these leads and making sure that you are providing value to them instead of spending more money and getting more leads."

It is especially important that businesses speak their potential clients' language, Fontaine said.

“I've seen a lot of partner websites where you're talking your language, you're using your own words," he said. "So you're talking about routers and network support, all the technical aspects, but you're not talking to your clients' language. You're talking to a healthcare client the same way you would talk to a retail client."

Smaller companies in, say, the healthcare industry, do not care about the networking, but instead focus on the business outcome, Fontaine said.

"What is your unique value proposition in your clients mind?," he said. "Maybe your answer is, 'Oh, I'm providing 24x7 support, I have the best technicians in the market, they are trained, they are there.' ... But this is not the business outcome for your clients."

The primary question instead should be, what problems are you solving for your clients, which stems from knowing your audience, Fontaine said.

“Once you have this information, you create content," he said. "And content doesn't have to be super complex. It can be a LinkedIn post, it can be a small blog article, and so on. You create great content, and this content has to focus on the solution you're providing. It shouldn't talk about your capacity to deliver XYZ. It should talk about the problem that you're solving."

To succeed in marketing, companies should highlight the vertical markets where they are having the most success, generating the most profit, having the most fun, and taking the best advantage of their skillsets, Fontaine said.

He highlighted one of SherWeb's clients, Montreal-based IT specialist BGR Informatique, which recently looked at its customer base found that five of its 50 clients were non-profits, Fontaine said.

"So it created a super simple landing page on nonprofit organizations," he said. "Now they're talking their clients' language, they're talking about what problem it was solving with these customers. This is super easy to do, and I'm pretty sure everyone can just add one vertical page to their website and get results."

BGR went further and asked an employee to volunteer to give time to non-profit organizations whether they were clients or not, Fontaine said.

"This is giving them trust and opening the doors to other local clients," he said. "This is super easy to do. ... But this is super hard to do with traditional marketing agencies because they don't know your customers. They will just plug and play your formula."

Fontaine an excellent job of making sure the customer is at the center of the story, said Nathan Phinney, president of Bright Bear Technology Solutions, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider.

"Too many solution providers make it about themselves, their capabilities, their strength as a provider, and their knowledge," Phinney told CRN. "And that's not really the story that customers want to hear. Customers want a provider who will come alongside them and understand their business and make that the center of the story. He was totally spot on."

Phinney said his company has been taking that approach for some time, and is seeing his peers start moving that way.

“Providers are beginning to understand that putting barriers between us and our customers, trying to position ourselves as having some kind of special knowledge, is not the best way to engage," he said. "Businesses are looking for a partner who can support them and help make their story better and their business outcome better. Showing them how they can use technology as a force multiplier in their business is great thought leadership."

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