We want to answer all your questions.
Sales and Marketing
FAQ Question #1: What is the difference between sales and marketing?
How do they relate to each other? Why do they just seem to smush together like a 3-day old, PB&J in a 6-year-old’s backpack?
Though sales and marketing are two distinct entities, their success depends heavily on each other. This is why they’re hard to tease apart at times and why people give up. However, it is vitally important to understand each one independently to foster an integrated and aligned sales and marketing process and relationship.
Think chocolate and vanilla swirl ice cream on top of a cone. Each flavor and creamy structure depend on each other. Without one or the other, there is no swirl, which is just basic and boring. (We obviously have strong opinions about ice cream.)
Marketing is everything you do to drive awareness about your offerings because it prepares clients for buying. Its primary purpose is to empathize with and educate your ideal buyer. To do this effectively, you need to understand their problems and offer them a clear solution. As you share your knowledge of their needs and compassion for their struggles to get them met, you build trust and rapport.
You’re the trusted friend whom they call with questions, ask for your opinions and trust you to be gentle with their pain. They’re lost and freezing while you’re hot chocolate in a cup layered with marshmallows.
Sales is everything you do to establish and maintain contact with your clients through the buyer’s journey to paying customer. Its primary purpose is to help them walk through the frightful path of taking a risk and then, reward them with your great products and services.
The difference is that in sales, you have an agenda. You’re there to help the customer to literally take the steps to purchase from you whereas marketing is there to warm them up like butter on toast.
Different roles and different plays, got it? Okay so what are examples of marketing vs. sales activities?
- Develop and maintain your brand voice across all departments, channels and platforms
- Produce and publish content including, articles, books, workshops, webinar presentations, white papers, newsletters, blogs, podcasts and videos to share your expertise, opinions, and positions.
- Create, drive and continue to refine the overall marketing strategy
- Interact with media (associations, trade journals, conferences) in mutually beneficial ways
- Direct and make digital and print materials such as brochures, direct mail, websites
- Customer loyalty expressed via word of mouth
- Identify and determine which prospects are a fit for your offerings.
- Consistent, direct interactions with prospects that result in signed contracts and sales.
- Presentations and client interviews to give more in-depth offerings information and learn about their business needs.
- Negotiate and customize service plans to seal the deal.
- Manage and maintain ongoing relationships with customers.
- Direct customer relationships to earn referrals for new work.
Let’s get to know each other and maybe like, you know, be friends.
What is digital marketing for IT Services firms, MSPs and SaaS?
In a nutshell, digital marketing is when you use the internet, electronic devices and digital forms of communication (website, email, blogs, social media posts) to promote your products and services and connect with current and potential customers. It’s also known as interactive marketing. At SGS, we only work with IT Services firms, which is why we tailor ALL our digital marketing services for IT Services firms, MSP’s, and SaaS companies.
Why is digital marketing important for your IT Services firms, MSPs and SaaS?
There are many reasons, but first and foremost, it helps you grow your company by reaching more customers and convincing them to purchase your products and services. Other reasons why digital marketing is important include its affordability, flexibility, expanded reach (specifically via mobile), ability to engage audiences, ability to use diverse forms of content (copy, photos, video, audio, etc.) and its easier to track audience activities and other metrics.
What is integrated marketing?
It’s a marketing strategy that stresses the importance of a consistent, coherent, multifaceted brand experience for your clients and prospects. This means that your audience will have a uniform experience with your business no matter where (website, email, social, etc.) they engage and connect with your brand.
Why is integrated marketing important for your IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS company?
Because if you confuse customers and prospects, you lose them. So, to avoid any confusion, you must ensure a consistent brand message across all of your channels. The customer must clearly understand what you’re about and what to expect no matter what channel they find you on. This uniformity of messaging increases your trustworthiness and builds your reputation as an authority. It demonstrates that you know who you are, what you’re talking about and what you have to offer your clients and ideal buyers.
What is outbound marketing for IT Services firms, MSPs and SaaS?
Another word for outbound marketing is “interruption marketing.” Just imagine walking through a crowed street market where all the vendors are shouting at you about their wares. Sure, you’re there in the first place but do they really need to scream that much?!
This type of marketing is all about continuous promotion like a new pop song that gets played 100 times a day. Though outbound marketing is not our preferred method for connecting with prospects and generating leads, it’s ultimate use depends on your business goals.
Examples of this type of marketing include TV commercials, radio ads, print advertisements (newspaper ads, magazine ads, flyers, brochures, catalogs, etc.), trade shows, seminar series, cold calls and even, email spam.
What is inbound marketing for IT Services firms, MSPs and SaaS?
Whereas outbound marketing is all about interrupting to get a prospect’s attention, inbound marketing is about attracting prospects by connecting with them. Pretty novel, huh? It’s all about the relationship. (As it should be, we would argue.) In order to “attract” customers, inbound marketing methodology seeks to create valuable content and experiences customized for your buyers and prospects. The content and experiences focuses on solving problems your audience already has.
Examples include blog articles, content offers, social media, product guides, info on how you solve their problems, customer testimonials and upcoming discounts. In addition, it’s impossible to talk about content without mentioning search engine optimization (SEO). Please see the SEO FAQs on this page for more info on this.
What is native advertising for IT Services firms, MSPs and SaaS?
Native advertising is when a paid ad matches the look, feel and function of the media format in which it appears. In other words, it doesn’t look like a paid ad. It looks like it’s actually from that particular media outlet. Examples include promoted search results and sponsored media posts.
This may look like low level trickery to some however its goal is to feel like it belongs there to avoid “disrupting” the media format’s brand and hence, their consumers. This is helpful for your company as prospects become increasingly immune to traditional forms of marketing, i.e. megaphone yelling, flyer throwing clownery (it was fun while it lasted, right?).
What is data-driven marketing for IT Services firms, MSPs and SaaS?
It’s a strategy that uses customer data, such as their interests, preferences, motivations, activities, behaviors, demographics, etc., to guide your marketing efforts. In other words, collecting and analyzing customer data drives you to run a more client-centric marketing strategy, messaging and tactics to attract and connect with your ideal buyers.
Cultivating and using key data insights will help you get new customers, target well-defined marketing segments, personalize your customers’ experiences and help measure and improve marketing strategies in real time. Also, it will help you invest your marketing dollars in the right places leading to greater revenue and profits.
What is a marketing funnel for IT Services firms, MSPs and SaaS?
A marketing funnel is a way of mapping out and conceptualizing a customer’s journey that ends in them buying your services and products. The funnel represents six stages of their path, which are awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation and purchase.
Essentially, it’s a way to help sales and marketing professionals visualize the process of turning leads into buying customers and help you identify your prospects’ stage. Knowing where your future customers are helps drive the strategy and tactics used to guide them towards a sale.
What is a buyer persona for your IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS?
Buyer personas are semi-fictional representations of your ideal customers based on data and research.
They are research-based profile that depicts a target customer. It describes who your ideal buyers are, what their days are like, the challenges they face and how they make decisions. Typically, companies have multiple buyer personas because each has different criteria for evaluating your product and you will have different strategies to address those needs.
Why are buyer personas important for your IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS?
It’s extremely hard to sell anything to someone you don’t know. That’s the very definition of cold calling and it sucks. No one likes trying to shoot a target in the dark. It’s the definition of frustrating.
Since most of today’s marketing is inbound marketing, which depends on attracting prospects and developing relationships with them, you will need to speak, read, write, produce and publish lots of clear and compelling copy. From one copywriter to another, writing for an unknown audience is EXTREMEMLY difficult, generic and yawn…boring.
To be clear, personas are all about fleshing out your ideal buyers in vivid detail, not just a description. You need to know their motivations, what causes them pain and frustration, where do they go to get information, who are they hanging out with and specifically, how your product is going to not only solve their problems but make their lives better!
If you want great sales and marketing, you must communicate clearly and compellingly with your prospects. To communicate well, you need lots of words, e.g., copy. And the success of your copy depends on knowing your ideal buyer. Seriously folks, we don’t live in a vacuum. Customers are humans with full, complex lives. It’s our job to understand and value their lives. How else can we make sure that our offerings will improve their lives?! Enough said.
School of Sinek: If You Don’t Understand People, You Don’t Understand Business
What it means in everyday human words.
What is a lead magnet?
Is a marketing term for a free item or service that is given away for the purpose of gathering contact details; for example, lead magnets can be trial subscriptions, samples, white papers, e-newsletters, and free consultations. Marketers use lead magnets to create sales leads.
What is direct vs. organic traffic?
Visits to your website falls generally under the heading of “traffic.” There are multiple kinds of traffic including direct, organic, email, paid search, referral, social and other (anything that doesn’t fall under the previous categories).
The two we’d like to talk about are direct vs. organic traffic. Traditionally, direct traffic is when a visitor visits your site by entering your company URL. However, a more modern definition simply states that is’ any traffic where the referrer or the source is unknown. This differs from organic traffic, which are visits that come from search engine results that is earned, not via paid ads.
Increasing organic traffic is inbound, digital marketing’s main goal. SEO and key phrases are vital to increasing visibility and ranking on search engines and is an important part of any overall digital marketing strategy.
What is content marketing for your IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS?
Content marketing is a strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.
Why is content marketing important? Does it even work?
What does it mean that your content marketing is “working?” In general, this means it’s supporting your marketing and business goals. Here’s a simple way to track your content marketing program and, more importantly, how to communicate this to your team and management.
What content should we create?
Clear, compelling and good content.
What is the StoryBrand framework and why is it important to your IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS?
The StoryBrand framework is a 7-part marketing messaging tool that helps businesses tell a clear and compelling story about their brand. It was created by the brilliant, Donald Miller. Learn more here.
Do I need a blog for my IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS?
Yes, you really do. Having a blog not only helps with your SEO ranking but it also establishes your brand as an authority in your industry.
How often do I need to publish blog posts or create new content for your IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
The frequency in which you publish new content or blogs is less important then posting them consistently. Pick a frequency that is attainable for you and be sure to follow through on it regularly.
What’s better for your IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm, short or long-form content?
There is no such thing as copy that’s too short or too long unless it’s BORING. In which case, please burn it and start over. Or hire us to write your words. You’re welcome.
How do I get people to read marketing content for your IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
By making sure it’s clear and compelling. Bonus points if it’s also relevant and highly entertaining.
What is sponsored content?
This is promotional copy written to advertise your product while also resembling a publication’s editorial content. Basically, it blends in with the publication’s content.
Do I need a professional copywriter for my IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
Yes, trying to get good copy without a professional copywriter is like trying to get a child to make you a decent martini. It may be top shelf gin but you might also find a mix of pureed peas and applesauce at the bottom to give it “flavor.”
What is a call to action (CTA)?
This is a piece of advertising content intended to motivate your ideal buyer to perform a specific act, in relation to your product or services such as “buy now” or “sign up here.” You’re essentially “calling” your prospect to “act.”
Do you need video for your IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
Yes. Yes. Yes. The pandemic just made it a nonnegotiable for anyone with anything for sale period. Thank you, COVID-19. So, folks LOVE video. Why? Because its waaaay more engaging and stats show it’s highly effective in generating leads.
Wyzowl’s research shows that people watch an average of 16 hours of online video per week. And, 84% of people say they’ve been convinced to buy a product or service by watching a brand’s video.
According to Google, YouTube reaches more 18- to 49-year olds in an average week than all cable TV networks combined.
Google adds that watch time for shopping-related videos on YouTube grew in the U.S. by more than 5X over the past 2 years.
Video’s also an important part of the shopping experience:
- More than 55% of shoppers use online video while actually shopping in a store, says Google.
- Wyzowl says that 66% of consumers prefer watching a video to reading about a product.
- And Hubspot says that 54% of consumers want to see more video content this year.
But again, you’ll need a professional guide. If you don’t get the tone and length right, people will bounce.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
What is SEO?
SEO is the practice of increasing the quantity and quality of traffic to your website through organic search engine results.
Why is SEO important for your IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
SEO is important because it helps your searchers find you when searching for your services. The higher you rank in results pages, the more clicks and traffic your site will generate. SEO also improves user experience, making it more likely for customers to become repeat buyers. And SEO is cost-effective.
What is local SEO and why is it important for your IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
Local SEO is a search engine optimization (SEO) strategy that helps your business be more visible in local search results on Google. Any business that has a physical location or serves a geographic area can benefit from local SEO. This is especially important if you are a local or regional business, without a national presence.
Local SEO is all about increasing search visibility for businesses that serve their communities face-to-face. These can be brick-and-mortar businesses with physical locations, like a grocery store or dentist’s office, or service-area businesses that operate throughout a certain geographic area, like an electrician or an IT Services company.
This includes everything from claiming a business listing to ensuring a franchise location appears in a local search on Google (a process known as location data or citation management). It also extends to managing online ratings and reviews, local-centric social media engagement, and beyond.
What are keywords?
Keywords are the words and phrases that people type into search engines to find what they’re looking for. They also describe what a piece of content (or an entire website!) is all about, and they’re the words at the heart of on-page optimization. They play a key role in a site’s ability to rank, so by identifying the right words and phrases to target you can have an outsized impact on achieving your SEO goals.
What determines search engine rankings for your IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
Ranking refers to the process search engines use to determine where a particular piece of content should appear on a search query. Search visibility refers to how prominently a piece of content is displayed in search engine results. Highly visible content (usually the content that ranks highest) may appear right at the top of organic search results or even in a featured snippet, while less-visible content may not appear until searchers click to page two and beyond.
How do I get mentioned and linked to on other websites?
Inbound links, also known as backlinks or external links, are hyperlinks that point from one website to another. They are the currency of the Internet, and act a lot like real-life reputation. Here’s a good example. Let’s say you go on vacation and ask three people (all completely unrelated to one another) what the best coffee shop in town was, and they all said, “Coffee Joe’s on Main Street,” you would feel confident that Coffee Joe’s is indeed the best coffee place in town, and you would most likely go there and buy a great cup of coffee. Links do that for search engines. The point your visitors to the right place to find what they’re looking for.
What is mobile optimization?
This is the process of adjusting your website content to make sure that visitors can easily access and navigate the website on their mobile devices. Importantly, a site that is optimized for mobile will reformat itself for a particular set of handheld and tablet devices. Typically, you’ll see website differences, i.e., navigation buttons, content formatting and images, when viewing it on your desktop computer or mobile devices. These changes make sure the website adapts for each device in a way that makes it easy for visitors to view and use the site.
How often should I update my website?
This depends on the nature of the updates. Ideally, you’ll be reviewing your site every quarter to make sure it’s still accurate, includes any newly released offerings and that your About Us and Careers pages stay pace with your current team and any staffing needs. However, after 3-4 years, it’s time to redesign or revamp your website. The reason being is that search engines are always changing, and you want to make sure that your website stays current with the latest technology and search engine algorithms. Also, design standards and trends consistently change and after 3-4 years, your website can start to look extremely dated, which isn’t a good look for a cutting-edge technology company.
Is email marketing still effective for my IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
You’ve probably heard that email marketing is dying, or even already dead, more than a few times. Don’t believe it. Here’s the thing: That line has been around so long that even respected news outlets started referring to email as a “hot, new way” to reach customers in 2021. With returns north of 4400%, email marketing remains the best way to attract and retain customers.
Let’s be clear: the email marketing statistics show that email is here to stay. As a nation, we send 102.6 trillion emails every year. And the numbers keep going up, with 126.7 trillion expected to be sent by 2022. The average email subscriber receives 13 commercial emails a day with more than 90% of people over the age of 15 using it. Despite the rise of social messaging apps, more than 3/4 of teenagers are still using email. In fact, they consider email a “fact of everyday life.” Most consumers check email as much as 20 times a day. Key takeaway: No matter what age group you are targeting or where they are located, email remains a great way to reach your audience.
Should I buy an email list to get started with my email marketing efforts for my IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
It depends. Before we get into the pitfalls of buying email addresses and lists, let’s review three ways marketers are currently able to acquire their email lists:
1. Buy an email list.
2. Rent an email list.
3. Own an opt-in email list.
Buying an email list is when you work with a list provider to find and purchase a list of names and email addresses based on demographic and/or psychographic information. For example, you might purchase a list of 50,000 names and email addresses of people who live in Minnesota and don’t have children. There are several sustainable ways to use email marketing to grow your business. This isn’t one of them.
Renting an email list is when you identify a segment of people to email — but you never actually own the list. As such, you can’t see the email addresses of the people you’re emailing, so you must work with the provider to send out your email.
Own an opt-in email list is when someone voluntarily gives you their email address either online or in person so you can send them emails. They may pick certain types of email content they wish to receive, like specifically requesting email alerts when new blog posts are published. Opt-in email addresses are the result of earning the interest and trust of your contacts because they think you have something valuable to say.
When it comes to rented or purchased lists, you may come across vendors or marketers who say, “This email list is totally opt-in!” This means the people on the list opted into an email communication from someone at some point in time by filling out a form or checking a box to receive more content from that provider. Opt-in doesn’t mean, however, that the email recipient opted in to receive email communications from your business. This is a critical distinction, and the next section of this post will go into more detail on why this type of “opt-in email list” (should be read with air quotes) is not a good idea for your email marketing program.
What is lead nurturing for your IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
Lead nurturing is the process of developing and reinforcing relationships with buyers at every stage of the sales funnel. We use a funnel approach that starts by targeting buyers at the top of the sales funnel, then moves them to the middle of the funnel, then to the bottom of the funnel to produce a sales scenario.
Do I need an email newsletter for my IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
Yes, you do. Email newsletters can help your business connect with customers–and increase sales–as long as you make sure they’re effective. With the advent of social media and a host of new ways to market your brand and products online, many businesses forget about the power of email as a marketing channel.
Do I really need a Facebook page for my IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
Yes. Despite its changing reputation, it’s still the easiest and most popular channel for friends to stay in touch. It’s typical user ranges in age from 18-64, so unless your target audience are seniors, you best get on there.
What social media channels should my IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm be on?
To be clear the best social media channels are the ones that you’ll be on consistently. Nothing looks worse than a neglected social channel. That being said, the best social media channels for B2B businesses are LinkedIn, YouTube and Facebook.
Why is social media important for my IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
It’s important because this is where a lot of people are spending their time connecting and developing relationships. It’s the place to see and be seen. It’s a place where you can increase your brand awareness, amplify your events, generate more warm leads, recruit new hires and your activity there helps increase your SEO and link building.
Last, but not least, you can connect with current clients there either answering or asking questions and getting relevant feedback.
How do I manage my brand on social media?
This is a complex question. For now, we’ll just cover some of the bases. First of all, make sure your name, logo and company description and contact info are all up to date across all of your channels. It’s also important to make sure have and use clear branded messaging and tone when posting content to social. Also be sure to share tons of free valuable content at a ratio of 3:1 with targeted sales posts. Anything more may turn off some of your followers. If you’d like more guidance, please keep in touch with us via the form below.
Who should run our social media for my IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
Though different members of your team could technically run your social media, it’s best leaving it to the person that’s the most familiar with and versed in your brand’s messaging. The most important thing to remember when posting on social media is that your brand should always be consistent in its messaging, voice and tone. This builds credibility and trust with your audience.
What is influencer marketing?
Influencers are people with a base of loyal and committed social media followers. Typically, they’re real-world consumers regarded as subject matter experts in their niche. They excel at motivating their base to take specific actions based on the influencer’s recommendations. This ability makes them desirable for brands looking to increase their brand awareness or their sales.
Why is influencer marketing important for my IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
Since influences are good at mobilizing their followers to take a desired action, they’re an important part of your integrated marketing strategy. They help raise your company’s visibility and profitably just by talking about your product or services and recommending them on their social media channels.
Ah, the ROI conversation. What metrics should you be measuring? How often should you measure them? Where can you get them from? What should you do with the metrics data once you have it? Ideally, you should measure 6-7 different metrics with your marketing that are based on activity. At SGS, we have a metrics sheet called a Marketing Scorecard where we measure the most important parts of your marketing.
What is Google Analytics and what does it measure for my IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm?
In a nutshell, it helps you understand your website traffic, glean insights from your visitors to inform your strategy and make better decision when it comes to investing your marketing dollars.
What is conversion rate optimization (CRO)?
Conversion rate optimization (CRO) is the process of optimizing your site or landing page experience based on website visitor behavior to help improve the probability of the visitor taking desired actions (conversions) on the said page.
How long does it take to see results from my sales and digital marketing?
Most firms see a 1.5x to 2.x increase in growth by working with us over a 12–18-month period.
Customer Relationship Management (CRMs)
What CRM’s and PSA’s do we work with?
We work with a variety of different CRMs including MS Dynamics, ConnectWise and Salesforce.
What is marketing automation software?
Marketing automation refers to software platforms and technologies designed for marketing departments and organizations to more effectively market on multiple channels online and automate repetitive tasks.
Should I sign up for marketing automation software or HubSpot?
Marketing automation will not transform your business or your marketing. It’s true. It won’t. Read our HubSpot breakup story here to learn why.
The Business Side of Marketing:
Where should I invest my marketing dollars?
Why outsource your marketing vs hiring in-house staff?
You know that marketing is important, yet you’re not a 100% sure if you should hire a marketing professional or completely outsource it. We get it and we’ve been in your shoes. Hiring a digital marketing person can be challenging because many marketing professionals want exorbitant salaries that can be hard to justify. And, if you want measurable success in your sales efforts you should want to align sales with marketing, but are finding it difficult because marketing is so ambiguous. Not to mention, there’s no clear path to help you make your decision because there’s too much noise when searching for a good, outsourced marketing solution. We can help guide you because we plan and execute your marketing for you. Our proven process helps you outsource your marketing to a company that can plan and execute your company’s marketing strategy. And it won’t cost you a million dollars.
We still want our in-house person, but they need more guidance, training then we can give them. What can we do?
If you have a junior level sales and marketing employee that has the potential to grow with your company, sign up for our sales and marketing coaching package with Dave. He’ll help expertly guide them through the soft and hard skills they’ll need to help take your company to the next level. See more here.
What kind of marketing should my IT Services firm, MSP and SaaS firm stop doing?
I wish people asked this question. Marketing continues to be additive. Yet, to be truly creative – and offer something different and worthwhile – we need to deliberately do activities that make the greatest difference.
Paid ads. At least, don’t do them first!!! It’s important to invest and do as much as you can with your organic traffic first.
Stop buying and posting syndicated content to your platforms. Google knows if it’s duplicate and repeat content and it will hurt your SEO.
Spending lots of money with supposed marketing gurus who only give you their system to use and don’t customize it for your business. Big no-no. Though sales and marketing has proven strategies and tactics that work, the other piece is that buyers are constantly changing and so you’ll need experienced folks who know how to read their tracks to anticipate what you need the most of now and what you’ll need next.
Based in Fargo, ND // With offices in Minneapolis, MN