Referrals for MSPs – Part 11

Rampant Referrals

Recap : Last time we looked at :
– Different Stakeholders – this was a worthwhile framework to use as a business-owner to ensure you are at least aware of (and can communicate with) your entire stakeholder list, for all practical purposes, in the future. Then we started looking at communicating those stake-holders, namely :

– Onboarding your own staff
– Onboarding your clients

Then we looked at developing your referral pack and having something to give to people that the people doing the referring actually want for themselves and that helps make your referrers look good and feel good.

Now, in this section, I’d like to continue looking at communicating with your stakeholders

Onboarding With Your Suppliers

After your staff and your clients, the next layer of people with whom you have the most degree of control is your suppliers, if nothing else because they’ll typically want to keep you happy. Therefore, having a proper onboarding session with them which includes discussing your referral process is a bit of a no-brainer, except it’s one that’s often missed.

Obviously, there will be different types of suppliers and you’ll have different levels of engagement with suppliers so perhaps trying to have an onboarding session with someone like GoDaddy or your water supplier might not be appropriate! However, for those other suppliers where you have an account-manager, these are usually absolutely the kind of people where you can ensure that the flow of information and value isn’t all one-way. This is because you can show that you have a particular kind of customer and you can communicate your referral requirements to them so that if they’re allowed to, they can think about this when dealing with their other clients – ie. other people who might be either direct clients or referral partners for you.

You can mention this more than once because, like everything else, repetition is the key to remembering. Also, I think it’s important to note that if you can create a relationship with more than one person at any particular supplier, you can increase your spread of referrers. With (say) twenty suppliers, each with two or three staff who you could have some degree of relationship with (who also deal with other clients like you), that’s a pretty good network, right there.

The next layer, I would suggest, is maintaining regular communication with your own staff (i.e. your weekly meetings) and just to recap :
 – Make sure everything is entered into the CRM and that sales & marketing staff are kept abreast of any new referrals or contact-details that have been forwarded. Make it part of the process and procedure of your staff-meetings to add new contacts and also you can gamify it with a leaderboard to make it more competitive and perhaps even have a weekly prize of some kind for the person who adds the most contacts or leads. Certainly, it needs to be discussed regularly to increase awareness and motivation.

In general, with these three main stakeholders, there’s a kind of similarity between them, in that for your staff and your clients and your suppliers, you have an onboarding session with them and then this can be followed up with regular meetings and reviews. Other stakeholders might well not be applicable for this format (such as perhaps your bank or loans manager), but for staff, clients and many suppliers, this format works just fine.

With that out of the way, I’d like to introduce what it probably the next best thing you can do, which is to set up your regular marketing communications.

This is where you take your relevant, interesting and ideally shareable content in terms of news and stories and notifications about upcoming events and training sessions and ensure they’re disseminated as much to your contacts-database as they can be.

In an ideal world, you’d have a fully-functioning marketing team to manage everything for you and each of your stakeholder-groups would have their own fully bespoke marketing communications plan mapped out specifically for them. In the real world, most MSPs either do nothing or do very little communicating and what they do, they tend to do sporadically and poorly.

So at the very least, here’s where you can take your MKLINK content and amend it as you see fit and then get it out the door … on a regular basis. Even if you don’t ever get round to personalising it, then you should at least get it out the door because it’s no good just sitting in your inbox!

In terms of frequency, I’d suggest weekly, personally. That means sending it to your email list(s) for your prospects, clients, suppliers and other stakeholders. Ideally, each stakeholder group would be separated and the communications would be specific and nuanced for them but at the very least make sure they get your newsletter so that you’re in their inbox as part of your DRIP campaign and to reiterate, DRIP stands for Differentiate, Remind, Inform, Persuade.

Then you can post the various content & articles on your social channels. Further to that, you can repost and retweet and share accordingly to give you more bang for your buck for each piece of content. There’s enough content for you each week to make a splash and a re-splash in the great big shouting match called the internet so that whenever anyone looks at your online estate such as your website and blog and social channels and whatnot, it’s always fresh and up to date … so that they know the lights are on and that the business is keeping abreast of things. At the very least, it looks better to your prospects than another MSP’s website that hasn’t been updated for years and where all the information is out of date.

So that’s your three main external stakeholders; your clients, your prospects and your suppliers that get your newsletters and social media updates. As far as your weekly content is concerned, I’d also include your staff in that as well and also all your other stakeholders too because you’re doing the communications anyway – it’s no extra cost to include those other people they all need reminding that you exist and why you exist.

Next Step … Your Prospects

I’d suggest that next in terms of priority is reaching out to your prospects, directly. My whole ethos about marketing in terms of connect, communicate and cooperate literally starts with the word ‘connect’. There’s no point doing any communications if you’ve nobody in your pipeline to connect with! So, to start with, I’m assuming that you’re gathering email addresses and growing your list via in-person-networking or LinkedIn-outreach or inbound-marketing or outbound-marketing like cold-calling … whatever … there are plenty of ways to grow your list.

And that’s rather the point, in that your list should be growing regularly. This means that your pipeline of suspects to prospects then prospects to leads then leads to appointments and then appointments to proposals then proposals to sales and then finally from fresh-sales to account-upsells and referrals is growing continuously and inexorably. Each week, your KPIs should reflect the fact that your list in your CRM is getting bigger and bigger and with more interactions within your contacts list. Even if you only add 10 contacts per week which, let’s face it, isn’t particularly onerous for any business, that’s 500 new contacts per year and sooner or later by continual communication with that list and moving the contacts down the pipeline, the magic starts to happen.

There are various views around this but personally, I don’t think there’s any substitute for getting on the phone and speaking with prospects on your CRM and making appointments. If you only make just three outbound calls per day – and everybody can do that no matter how busy you are – then with around 5 working days per week and 50 working weeks per year, that’s around 250 calls per year and sooner or later, some of those calls will translate into appointments and then proposals and then sales.

Now, I know that’s a big ask for some people. So whilst I say that everyone can manage three outbound calls per day, that’s not to say you couldn’t manage many more than that of course depending on your schedule but from my experience of working with MSPs, most people simply avoid what they don’t like and then fill their time with stuff that they do like.

So look, here’s the deal, if you can’t or won’t do any calling yourself, then at least get someone else to do it so that it does actually get done. Picking up the phone and speaking with people is pretty well where the track meets the tread in terms of any kind of B2B sales – in my view anyway.

That means you can have an entire team of outbound telemarketers working for you … all the way to someone who just spends an hour or two hours a week on it … or anything in between. Wherever you are on that continuum of outbound-calling, if you’re not making at least a few calls per week – even if it’s just to the warmest of leads and keeping them moving along that conveyor belt – then I think you’re missing a massive part of your sales opportunities, which ultimately impacts your referral opportunities as well.

Telemarketing is an entire subject and well outside the scope of any further discussion here, but suffice it to say that having at least some kind of function in place to phone at least some of the leads on your CRM – on a regular basis – is a pretty basic, low-hanging-fruit type of opportunity on your communications framework.

Right, so we’ve covered the basics in terms of onboarding your three stakeholder groups where you have the most control, i.e. your staff, your clients, and your suppliers. Additionally, we’ve looked at getting your weekly communications out the door and then having at least a very basic telephone outreach to the leads and prospects on your CRM.  I’d consider all this the first part of the puzzle that you should be doing at the very least.

Next time, we can extend this framework and get a little more advanced by looking at the remaining stakeholders and their communications too – all of which can be covered by the over-arching principle of connect, communicate and co-operate.


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Mike Knight