Explicit Promises in Marketing for Managed Service Providers

Some recent research between LinkedIn’s B2B Institute and Warc has brought to light a crucial insight that can help transform the marketing of managed service providers. (Source)

Here’s an outline of the study and I quote : “Drawing on WARC’s extensive database of B2B and B2C effectiveness case studies, over 2,000 award entrants and winning advertising campaigns from the last five years (2018-2022) were analysed, of which 40% (808) were identified as having made a credible promise to the customer.” As a quick aside here, only 100 of the businesses reviewed were Business-To_Business, however I don’t think that has any negative bearing on the value of the findings.

Specifically : “A Promise to the Customer is more likely to drive brand health, market share, and long-term sales, according to new research from WARC and LinkedIn’s B2B Institute.”

We’ll be referring to this as ‘PTTC’, i.e. Promise To The Customer.

Here’s a key takeaway quote : “PTTC campaigns deliver a commercial advantage – they are 60% more likely to report increased market share, and 17% more likely to report increased market penetration than non-PTTC campaigns.”

Here’s another one ”The study reveals that B2B firms making an explicit promise to their customers have a 48% higher chance of enhancing their brand health”.

However, it’s important to remember that the research showed that only 40% of campaigns make a promise to the customer. This means that there’s a significant opportunity for MSPs because – as is so often the case, most of your competition won’t be doing this.

The research also underscores that the effectiveness of a PTTC campaign is not dependent on the budget, duration, or number of channels used – this means that any sized MSP will benefit from implementing PTTC marketing.

Mimi Turner, head of EMEA at the B2B Institute at LinkedIn said “When we looked at the lowest scores of creative commitment, separated out the ones that made a promise to the customer and the ones that didn’t, we saw you were 84% more likely to increase market share if your campaign has a promise to the customer at the heart of it when you have a low budget, low channels, low number of channels and low duration”.

This research is being touted as being earth-shattering although personally I think it can be simplified to basically mean that your main brand message should have a clear benefit (i.e. a promise) that should be consistent within your marketing mix. Like I said, I think this has been dressed up a bit, perhaps that’s just me. However, it does emphasise the importance of getting a decent slogan which captures what you want to be remembered for.

For MSPs (and indeed any business), they suggest marketing strategies should focus on making explicit promises which need to be Memorable, Valuable and Deliverable.

Memorable. Self explanatory. The example they used is from the IPOD’s “A thousand songs in your pocket” example, rather than (say) using any particular functional USP such as focusing on memory size.

Valuable : This is where you need to ensure that your promise resonates with what your clients and prospects actually want. There’s little point talking about being reasonably priced if people really want speed or expertise or security or availability or whatever is their pain point.

Deliverable. If you can’t deliver it consistently – you risk reputational damage – so don’t offer it.

Now, typical promissory dimensions that people play with include Quality, Ease of Use, Speed, Availability, Expertise, Number of Locations (etc) … there’s a ready reckoner available for MKLINK members which we’ve made. Ultimately you’ll be looking to making the customer feel differently somehow – whether that means appealing to a sense of certainty or security for example. There are lots of different dimensions readily available to review and lots of relevant emotions as well that you can aim to use when you’re setting out your stall.

What I would say from our own comprehensive research (undertaken by MKLINK on eighty clients of MSPs) has shown that speed of response is the biggest concern for most clients. Therefore, a promise that appeals to a potential client’s sense of urgency would very likely be well received in any marketing communications.  “Speak to a human within 60 Seconds Or Your Support For the Month is Free”. Might need a bit of work to make it snappy – have a go!

So, if you want your Promise To The Customer to be as robust as Ronseal’s “Does Exactly What it Says It Does on the Tin” slogan, remember that it needs to be Memorable, Valuable, Deliverable.

Have a play around with it and see what you come up with … get feedback from your customers and find out from the horses’ mouth what resonates with them.


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Mike Knight