Why Communication is Critical to Managed Services Success
What information do you share with clients, prospects, neighbors and future employees? In most cases, as the old adage goes, what you don’t say says a lot more about your company that what you do say. While it’s true some organizations go overboard with their emails, newsletters and other forms of communications, most businesses are ‘minimal’ in the frequency and amount of information they share.
That nominal approach may be ok for companies looking to maintain the “status quo,” but it’s not a good plan for those building a successful MSP.
The nature of managed services is often its largest detriment when it comes to awareness: proactive, behind the scenes system management and support. When the technology and processes work well, the normal lines of communication between services companies and their clients typically decrease. It’s easy to overlook what isn’t a point of everyday conversation. Granted, no news is often better than bad news, but successful MSPs create more positive ways to keep front and center with their customers.
Through the use of multiple communications avenues, MSPs can not only regain the attention for their clients, but attract new prospects and improve their community image. Social media offers several platforms that companies can use to improve awareness, including LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest. A recent CompTIA study validated those perceived values, with 61% of respondents citing improved communications as a key benefit of interactive online communities. Recruiting and customer relationships also improved according to the research, while cost savings (51%), brand positioning (49%), real-time customer satisfaction (48%) and potential lead generation (43%) were also identified as advantages. Obviously, each of these benefits is important to managed services growth, but social media is just one component of an effective communications plan
What’s the proper formula for creating a valuable managed services communication plan? While there are universal elements that all MSPs should consider when building the messaging strategy, the “cookie cutter” approach the right way to go. A suitable communications plan needs to address your organization’s specific service portfolio, client expectations and even your company culture. For example, an MSP’s customers may not care that the lead tech has a new hamster, so highlighting it in a newsletter or posting it on Facebook or Twitter may be alienate them to future messages.
What goes into an effective MSP communications plan?
- Marketing messages and collateral—create an effective, consistent message that resonates with clients and prospects
- Sales methodologies—avoid templates, but outline the messaging points and what NOT to say
- Email messaging —develop corporate rules (avoid spam) as well as individual guidelines to ensure employees remain professional at all times
- Newsletters—one of the easiest ways to mix marketing messages with valuable articles and related information. Try a weekly newsletter with three-four articles (brief intros with links)
- Social media—who controls the company’s pages? Stress the separation of business accounts from the employees’ private networks (check out this social media policy resource)
- Media and public relations materials—what’s the corporate message for the community and who is responsible for relaying it (important to spell this out in the employee handbook)
- Documentation and manuals—frequently review the information used internally, as well as the materials delivered to clients and prospects
- Legal documents –all contracts, handbooks and related forms should be reviewed by a legal professional to protect the company and its constituents
- Incoming communications—call and reception procedures, including voice mail and follow up
- Surveys—determine the best use, frequency and what you’ll do with this information
- Certificates and awards—how will the company promote these accomplishments? Media, newsletters, social media, etc.
- Speeches—do executives engage with specific groups or in community activities? Make sure people can identify the company, what it does and how to get in touch
- Invoices—perhaps one of the most overlooked messages sent to clients. Invoices provide a great opportunity to highlight new services and document all the “value” the company delivered
As they say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day,” and MSPs won’t assemble quality communications plans without some time and effort. But the payoff will come soon enough if it’s done well. When providers project themselves professionally and reinforce their reputation for superior service, customer satisfaction is likely to climb and new sales are sure to lead to increased revenues.
While it sounds simple enough, building an effective communications program requires a lot of patience, research and fine-tuning…just like any other critical part of an MSP’s business.