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What do managed service providers (MSPs) and marketers have in common? At first glance, there’s not much crossover between the two industries, though both bridge a skill gap for their customers. On one hand, tech experts help their customers to make use of new technology, and on the other, marketing whizzes (hello) help their customers get leads.
We’ve spent a lot of time working for, talking to and collaborating with MSPs, such as our client Chalkline, and we’ve picked up some ideas along the way. It turns out that we do share more than you might think. How? It all comes down to the way we work.
How to make agile working work
While it’s probably one of the most overused phrases in the modern workplace, we think that agile working is the way forward. We’re a well-established remote company, so we’ve got our fair share of experience when it comes to making agile working…work.
MSPs, however, seem to have a few extra hacks to for making the cloud work for flexible (figuratively) employees like us:
We’re big fans of using the cloud to communicate ideas, using Office 365 and apps like Dropbox Paper to send documents for review; brainstorm with colleagues, or share notes on meetings and projects.
The cloud is indispensable when it comes to a remote company like ours, but it’s an important tip for marketers of all stripes. Using cloud-based communication makes collaboration seamless, while online backups of all of your content could save your skin when a computer dies.
A big part of the work that some of our MSP clients do involves managing general cloud security and ‘identity and access management’ (IAM). From them, we’ve learned just how vital data security and management is, and have incorporated best practices into our own working process.
There are plenty of IAM tools out there, but we’ve been inspired to start using LastPass, which we’ve found has integrated easily into our working lives, and sets our minds at ease when it comes to remembering passwords and keeping them secure. It’s a small part of the IAM equation, but it’s a crucial one!
No more jacks-of-all-trades
Most of the MSPs we work with aren’t trying to be everything for everyone. They’re experts that specialise in providing managed services for a single cloud provider, or within a certain industry.
Our most successful clients are thought leaders that know all there is to know about their chosen field, and can confidently deliver on the promises our marketing efforts put out there. The world of fintech offers plenty of examples of small businesses punching way above their weight, because they’re the go-to for one thing.
As a content marketer or marketing agency, it can be tempting to try and handle PR, or to branch out and start creating outbound ads. The one-stop-shop approach might work for some, but we’ve learned that it’s a safer bet to get even better at what you already know how to do. Instead of over-promising and spreading yourself too thin, you can specialise in, say, inbound marketing (ahem), and provide the best inbound marketing service out there (ahem, AHEM) rather than a Chinese takeaway menu of products and services.
The tech behind cloud computing can be complicated, so a lot of MSPs make it their mission to break down complex ideas for potential clients. Client education is a huge part of the job for MSP websites, because people won’t buy something they don’t understand. It’s a levelling process that helps people to see the value in what they’re paying for.
As inbound content marketers, we’ve learned that it’s important to do the same. We’ve developed a client onboarding process as a result, because let’s be honest – most people don’t know what a pillar page is, or what an email workflow is for.
Instead of asking clients to blindly trust that we know what we’re doing, we take the time to explain how it works. It makes for a much more collaborative working relationship. The trust is earned. Thanks, MSPs!
Solving our own problems
We’ve also picked up a flexible, digital-forward approach to problem solving from our MSP friends. The agile working approach puts a premium on performance and results, and that’s exactly what we try to do when we encounter a problem.
When we struggled to find an HR automation platform that suited our needs, we made one! When we found ourselves spending far too much time fixing broken links and blurry images on our blogs, we came up with an application that speeds the process up. We’ve learned that it’s all about creative responses to challenges that might otherwise be accepted as necessary evils. The added bonus? We get to sell our solutions and share what we’ve made, just like a good MSP.
MSP processes = modern marketing processes
On the Venn diagram of working processes for MSPs and remote content marketers, there’s a lot more crossover than we first expected. Cloud-based communication, security, specialisation and education sit firmly in that middle zone, and we’re happy to share.
We’ve learned to quit the luddite way of life by embracing the cloud, and to inject even more transparency into the client-facing side of our business. We’ve kept Bill Nye’s maxim in mind when working with our clients:
‘Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don’t.’
We’ve found that a lot of those somethings are pretty useful.