Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast

Episode 93: Should your MSP's logo go on your car?

Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast
Episode 93: Should your MSP's logo go on your car?
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In this week’s episode

  • Want your MSP to stand out in the crowd and really be noticed? There is a solution that involves your car and a LOT of vinyl plastic. Check out Paul’s brilliant tried and tested method for making a lot of noise and being seen in the marketplace
  • Also, did you know your MSP needs a Star Wars-esq opening scrolling story? Okay, maybe not literally yellow text fading into the distance, but Paul explains how creating the right backstory can set up your MSP for increased growth
  • Plus on the show this week, Paul’s featured guest explains exactly how he grew his MSP and navigated some very challenging times

Featured guest

Nick Moran guest on Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast

Thank you to Nick Moran from Powernet for joining Paul to talk about how he grew his MSP to have offices in 3 cities and 85 staff.

After co-founding Evolve IT back in 1993 and merging with Powernet in 2019, Nick still looks the same as he did at 18(!). He loves his music, kebabs and travelling with the family.

Connect with Nick on LinkedIn.

Show notes

Episode transcription

Voiceover:
Fresh every Tuesday for M`SPs around the world. This is Paul Green’s MSP Marketing podcast.

Paul Green:
Hi. Hello and welcome back to the show. Here’s what we’ve got in store for you today.

Nick Moran:
Once that client lift and they outsourced direct to the vendor, we have to look for a new revenue opportunity.

Paul Green:
We’re also going to be talking about your backstory today, your origin story, how you came to be the owner of the business. This is a nice follow-up to something we did in last week’s show about whether or not you should build your brand because your backstory can actually form an important part of your marketing, of the packaging of your business. We’ve also got some news this episode of another giveaway. In next week’s show, we’ll be giving away a fantastic prize and producer, James, will be here later on to tell you all about it.

Voiceover:
Paul Green’s MSP Marketing podcast.

Paul Green:
Should you put your MSP’s logo on your car, so your branding on your car? If you can, 100%, yes. Do it, do it, do it. Now I’m a little bit biased in this because in my earlier career, before I started doing marketing and getting involved with MSPs, we’re talking in the past century, I worked in radio. In fact, I did 10 years in radio and the last few years, I was running the radio stations. One of the greatest marketing tools that we had as a radio station were our promotional vehicles.

Paul Green:
Now, you may have heard of these before because this was a concept which went worldwide in the 1990s, but at all the stations I worked at, we had promotional vehicles called Black Thunders. Did any of your local radio stations have Black Thunders? They were basically black four by fours, as we call them here in the UK, or SUVs as they’re known in the states and we’d have two or three of them, and we’d plaster them with our radio station logo. They were completely stand out. They were the ultimate look at me vehicle. In fact, it used to be really cool driving around in those because people would wave at you and they’d honk their horn. You get stopped by the police quite a lot, normally because they want to see if there’s someone famous in the car, which there very rarely is.

Paul Green:
Anyway, those vehicles were worth their weight in gold. The reality is there were just too knackered, overused vehicles, but we just got them out everywhere. We would have them out on the road, literally from six in the morning till seven, eight o’clock at night. We would park them up in all sorts of places. If we were at an event, they were at an event and they were our main marketing tool. Most of the stations I worked at were quite small and didn’t have big marketing budgets. Whatever money we did have, we just put into things that would get us out there. The vehicles were a critical part of that. We only had two promotional vehicles at my favourite station, the one I worked at in Peterborough in Cambridgeshire. We only had two vehicles, but we made it look like we had five, or six or seven. We worked those vehicles, and worked them, and worked them and worked them. I realised, at the time, just how it was to wrap your vehicles, to put branding on your vehicles. Yes, you need to do this if you possibly can.

Paul Green:
Now, I appreciate you may only have one vehicle in your business, which is yours and you might not want to drive around with the name of your business plastered all over your personal car and I get that because actually, for a couple of years, my company car was one of those promotional vehicles and I had all of that promotional stuff all over. What’s really cool when you’re working is not cool at the weekend when people are approaching you and coming and asking for a car sticker. I used to get quite a lot of abuse as well. People would leave bits of kebab on my car when it was parked in the street. It was a bit of a random thing that was.

Paul Green:
Anyway, you might choose not to have that as your own personal vehicle, but if you have any business vehicles at all, wrap them. By wrapping them, I mean, you don’t just put your logo on you. Literally, you get the whole car wrapped. This costs you a couple of thousand pounds or dollars, but it is worth every inch. You get the most impactful designer you can find. You get them to design an incredible design and you wrap it and you have it so that they cannot ignore those vehicles. Even if you’ve only got one of those, that will have an impact. If you’ve got two or three or more, incredible, absolutely incredible. If you have any vans or any vehicles at all that are involved with the business, or even if you’ve got the guts to do this with your own personal car and show it to your family, then just get it done, but you’ve got to go for impact.

Paul Green:
When you have promotional vehicles like these or you wrap and put branding on your vehicle, you cannot be subtle about it. You’ve got to be very, very overt. It’s got to be in their face. Oh, and don’t forget as well, when you wrap a vehicle, it’s not just what goes on the front and the sides and on the back, you’ve also got the roof. In fact, if you think about it, if you’ve got vans and your engineers, your technicians are taking those vans to office buildings, well office buildings aren’t just single story buildings. There are people on floors, two, three, four, and five. Some of those people will look out the window and they’ll see your company vehicle. Wrap the top of the vehicle. In fact, you could be very clever and you could have a message put on the top of the vehicle Like someone in this building is benefiting from IT support from your company name. You could probably put that in fewer words, but you get the idea. Wouldn’t that be cool? Imagine what impact you can have in your local area with branded vehicles.

Voiceover:
Here’s this week’s clever idea.

Paul Green:
Last week on the show, we were talking about your brand and whether or not you should be investing time, and energy and cash into developing your brand. Pretty much, the answer I gave was no. Unless you’ve got a really, really big business and you’re buying in a lot of marketing resource, I wouldn’t worry too much about your brand because the brand is the emotional feeling that people get. Instead, focus the small amounts of time and cash you’ve got us on doing practical, direct response marketing that actually gets people talking to you and gets leads into the business.

Paul Green:
However, there is easy piece of branding that you can do, and you can put this within your packaging, within your marketing, and that is getting your backstory, right. Your backstory is your story, or the business’s story. It’s how you got to where you are today. Now, I don’t mean some kind of turgid account of facts and dates. We established the business in 1972 as a one-man band. Then in 1981, we moved to so and so building down the road. A particularly interesting thing happened in 1986. No one wants to read that, they really don’t. In fact, this is boring and it’s only of interest to you and maybe to your family.

Paul Green:
No, a powerful backstory is a very carefully put together tale. It’s a story and it’s created in such a way that it triggers an emotional response in your clients and in your prospects. Let me give you an example. Maybe you’ve heard of Stelios. Stelios is a UK entrepreneur and he founded a company called EasyJet, which is an airline. It’s a budget airline. He’s actually the son of a wealthy shipowner. He’s got, I think it’s Cypriot roots. Get this, this will be nice to happen. In the early 1990s, his father gave him 30 million pounds to set up a shipping business. That was called Stelmar Shipping. Then Stelios later, he built it up and he sold it for about a billion pounds, which is nice work. I wish my dad would give me 30 million pounds to go and set up a shipping business.

Paul Green:
Anyway, he launched EasyJet because while he was running the shipping business, he was flying around a lot. He traveled a lot and he had to use the old big legacy airlines. Every time he was on a plane, Stelios would sit there and think this is just crazy. I’m being served up food that I don’t want and yet I had to pay for it as part of the ticket. I’ve paid 400 quid for this trip. There should be a budget airline where the earlier you book, the less you pay and that’s what Stelios did. In fact, he went on to create not just EasyJet, but arguably he created the entire modern budget airline industry that’s now worldwide, where you simply pay for what it is that you want, cheap flights with no frills. The earlier you book, the less you pay. Now, that’s a real backstory because it explains why Stelios was motivated to set up the first modern budget airline. He was really frustrated with the way that the big airlines were doing things and he believed that people shouldn’t have to pay for things that they didn’t want. What’s the backstory for your MSP?

Paul Green:
What’s the back story that paints a picture in the minds of the reader and it tells them why they should trust your business? I mean, it could be something as simple as your name is passionate about IT and has been for as long as he can remember. As a child growing up in town name, he was fascinated by all sorts of computers and was always playing with them. His bedroom was crammed with all sorts of technology as he experimented with computers, constantly pushing the limits. It was no surprise to anyone when you left school and announced that you dedicate your life to helping businesses get the most out of their IT. That was 20 years ago and today, your name is still in love with IT, computers and technology. He’s the owner and the principal technology strategists of your business name, the leading IT support company in your town, with more than 10 highly qualified support technicians.

Paul Green:
Now, that is a backstory because you see, even though Stelios was really wealthy before he founded EasyJet, what’s relevant is not really the money side, it’s a man sitting on a plane, getting frustrated and thinking, I’d like to do this better. Maybe you working somewhere and getting frustrated and thinking, I want to run my own MSP, my own IT support company the way I want to do it because I’m passionate about the technology and helping clients, but I don’t think we do a very good job here. I want to do it my way. That would be a great backstory. Even if you only opened your business a couple of years ago, you still have a backstory. It’s unique to you because you had a unique motivation. Get that backstory, put it on your website, sprinkle it throughout your marketing materials. The purpose of a backstory, remember, is to communicate passion. Show passion for what you do and how you do it and clients will not be able to resist you.

Voiceover:
Paul Green’s MSP Marketing podcast.

James Lett:
Hey, this is producer James here to tell you about something cool happening on the podcast next week. As this show approaches its 100th episode, the prizes are getting bigger and we’re celebrating the return of physical events in the MSP world. The huge three-day DataCon 21 conference is for the first time, not only a physical event in Seattle, but if you can’t travel or you’re in the UK or elsewhere in the EMEA region, Australia or wherever you are in the world, it’s been equally designed as an awesome virtual experience too. If you’re an MSP, this is the big event, loads of speakers, sessions, networking, and insights to inspire you. As a listener, you could either be winning a place DataCon 21 in person, if you can make it to Seattle between the 11th and the 13th of October or a pair of VIP virtual places. Just listen to next week’s show, Episode 94, out on August 31st.

Voiceover:
The big interview.

Nick Moran:
Hi. My name’s Nick Moran I’m the Co-founder and Director of Powernet. Started back in 1993 and I’m an MSP just like you.

Paul Green:
Thank you so much for coming onto the show, Nick. We’ve got so many things to talk about because you’ve got an incredible business and I want to explore how you started that business, what you’ve done to grow it over the years. Then in the second part of our interview, I want to talk about your marketing. I know you have a pretty good inbound marketing strategy that I’d like us to explore, but tell us about your business. Where are you now? I know physically, you’re in Australia, but where are you now in terms of number of techs, number of clients, that sort of thing?

Nick Moran:
We’ve been operating now for about 28 years and we’ve got offices in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, but we pretty much look after small to medium businesses throughout Australia. We’ve got about 85 staff, probably three quarters of them are technically based.

Paul Green:
In terms of running the business day-to-day, you said you’re the co-founder. Do you have a management team that works with you? I guess with 85 people, you’d have to.

Nick Moran:
We’ve got a CEO that’s been appointed and he’s got a leadership team around him, and myself and the other director are a part of that leadership team.

Paul Green:
You’ve got it easy. You’re just out playing golf all day.

Nick Moran:
I wish, I wish. Maybe one day, but yeah, certainly it’s a little bit easier now. Different range of issues than what it used to.

Paul Green:
I bet. That’s pretty impressive growth and obviously, you’ve taken a number of years to do that. It’s good, steady, solid growth. Tell us the story. How did you get started in the first place?

Nick Moran:
It’s a little bit interesting and in some ways, I sort of fell into it. I finished high school in 1992. Had a lot of fun in high school, but didn’t do much work. Probably not blessed with too many opportunities straight after it. My dad actually won $7,000 at the horse races and kindly tried to push me into doing something rather than working at the local service station. Pushed me into running my own computer business and with nothing to lose, I said, “Yep, no worries. All right, let’s do it.” It took off from there.

Paul Green:
That’s awesome. I’m guessing back in… So what are we talking? ’92, ’93, was it mostly residential? Was it just break, fix work? Did you have a shop?

Nick Moran:
First thing I did was I got a really small shop and it was literally, I was just sitting behind a desk. I’d advertise in the local paper. Someone would come up and I’d try to sell them a computer. If they went ahead with it, I’d shut the shop. I’d go hurry pick up all the parts. Go back to the office together, put it together and the cycle just continued, but it was very different times, that’s for sure.

Paul Green:
Doesn’t it seem like a different world back then. It really does. What was the point at which you moved into what we would look at today as managed services? Where you’ve got clients on contract and you’re actually partnering with them, not just fixing things.

Nick Moran:
It came at a time that we were going through some challenges. We had a major client, which was probably 70% of our business and it was great while it lasted and we certainly thrived off the back of it, but once that client left and they outsource direct to the vendor, we had to look for a new revenue opportunity. Managed services was quite new at that stage and it was all around the time of the global financial crisis as well. It was challenging times all around, but it gave us an opportunity to try something a bit different.

Paul Green:
How business survive losing 70% of its revenue?

Nick Moran:
We nearly didn’t. I still have regrets to this day that I probably didn’t pull the trigger on having some tough conversations that I should of had earlier. I probably lost over 18 months, probably lost nearly $500,000 back then. In hindsight, looking back on it, knowing what I do today, my dad at the time was ready for retirement and he pretty much put up his house to keep us afloat. It was really tough times. Yes, learned a huge amount from it, but I said I’d never put myself or my team in that position again.

Paul Green:
Would you say that that was a pivotal moment, a moment that you realised we can’t keep going like this we can’t trust these whale clients, we’ve got to do things different? Let me put it another way. Is what happened to you… Must be what, about 13, 14 years ago? Was that what has directly led to the business that you’ve got today?

Nick Moran:
Absolutely. What it did give us was a platform, to start fresh and off the back of some really disastrous financials, we were able to make some decisions to say this was the type of client we would take on and this is the type of client we wouldn’t take on. We put everything into the traditional all you can eat managed services model and it did pay off.

Paul Green:
I appreciate this may have changed over the last decade or so, but give us an idea back then of what was the ideal client? What were you looking for back then?

Nick Moran:
It’s funny. What we were looking for back then is probably not too dissimilar to what we look for now. It’s a client that valued IT. Back then, it was a little bit harder, I guess, because IT was considered a cost in a lot of organisations. Back then, a 10 employee business that really valued IT and valued the work that we did was our perfect client. Whereas, now it’s more around the 50 to a 100 seat mark.

Paul Green:
I guess, as you get bigger and you have the extra resources, well, it’s the same opportunity cost, isn’t it? Per client, whether that client has 10 seats or 50 seats. It makes sense that as you get bigger, you’re looking for bigger clients as well. What’s the secret? I hate to use the word secret, but what have you done then, Nick, over the last 10 years to go from essentially rescuing the business and just about hanging in there to the point where you are today with all of these clients and 85 staff?

Nick Moran:
One thing that I’ve done really well is surround myself with people that compliment me and are able to do things that I certainly couldn’t have done by myself. We’ve always had a very strong culture, a really great culture at Powernet, but some of these people have just been amazing. At times that I was either personally down or the business was professionally down, these guys stepped up and they really complimented me. I mean, the worst thing you could do is to have multiple Nicks run around the business. It would just be chaos.

Paul Green:
I think that’ll be the same for any business owner, wouldn’t it? We think we should clone ourselves because of course, we’re both the greatest asset and the greatest liability in the business. Certainly, when you get busy and you’ve got two or three staff, you think, oh, if only I could clone myself, but you’ve actually found that building a proper team around you is the route to getting big and doing it properly.

Nick Moran:
Oh, absolutely. Myself and my business partner, Jacob, if we cloned ourselves, I’m not sure we’d have much of a team left because we seem to cause a lot of chaos behind us, but what we do do well is attract some fantastic people to join us on this journey. We’ve got something pretty special at the moment.

Paul Green:
You see, Nick, your staff want you to be on the golf course. They don’t want you there meddling with things.

Nick Moran:
Oh, don’t tempt me, Paul.

Paul Green:
You know you want to go and do it. Let’s talk about your marketing then. You obviously are feeding a big business. You have a lot of overhead. You’re, I’m sure got a ton of monthly recurring revenue that’s coming in and it’s probably a very solid business to run, but what do you do to attract new clients?

Nick Moran:
It’s something that we’ve had a few cracks at over the years, to be honest and at times, we’ve sort of pulled all our cash together, pushed it in a pile and just set fire to it. It’s really been a challenge at times and that’s probably because we didn’t have a strategy behind it, and we certainly didn’t refer back to that strategy and it didn’t link with our business plan.

Paul Green:
Can you give us an example of a time you burnt your cash?

Nick Moran:
We’re doing some really good numbers with vendors and vendors throw MDF at you often, but with two days to go at the end of the quarter, we don’t need to spend it. They don’t care about the ROI, they just care about spending that. What we find is that we put in as much effort as they put in and we’re never going to get the results that we all would ideally want because we just haven’t put the effort in. I’m taking away those once offs. We’ve had to sit back, it was probably three, four years ago, and really do a marketing strategy that we were committed to execute. That came down to assigning a budget for it and allowing others and trusting others to be able to execute against it.

Paul Green:
Give us an idea now of what you do then to acquire new clients.

Nick Moran:
We do a range of things. We’ve obviously got our initiatives surrounding our normal website and SEO. We outsource a lot of the SEO content for back links, and keywords and content and things, but we create a lot of content ourselves. That ranges from eBooks to blogs, to video content to create that inbound marketing. That takes time and it needs to be a consistent effort and it needs to be themed. We do that in a variety of ways. We set at our themes for the whole year, but they may change according to all the performance of those themes, or the industry may change or the VCL business plan, all the stakeholders may, in fact, change it as well. There’s quite a few things we do there, but we need to execute on it.

Paul Green:
That makes sense. I think you and I have very similar opinions about the power of inbound marketing, of using content to attract attention and position yourself correctly to the prospects, but it is a long-term strategy. Many of the MSPs I talked to, they haven’t quite got the will to wait the 6 to 12 months for the leads turn up. How do you manage that? How do you deal with that?

Nick Moran:
It’s a tough one because personally, I’m an impatient person. If you’re sticking your hand in your pocket and committing to $100,000 in marketing or whatever it might be, it could be $10,000 in marketing, I’m looking for a return immediately. Inbound marketing is just not that. It’s a consistent approach. You need to be there when the buyer is ready to look. It’s very rare that you can keep them on that first engagement of marketing. Inbound and content creation is just one of the marketing strategies that we execute against.

Nick Moran:
SEO is another one. We do a lot of webinars in what we call our community or ecosystem. Doing virtual lunch and round table discussions with clients, prospects, things like that. We do some account-based marketing. Our marketing manager sits down with our account managers internally once a fortnight and goes through some targeted approaches for their clients as well.

Paul Green:
It’s just engagement. There’s lots and lots of engagement in there.

Nick Moran:
Again case studies are certainly written up with SEO and new business references in mind, so there’s a big focus on that as well. The last part that we do is around lost leads and nurturing our lost leads. As much as sometimes to lose a client, you want to put a line through them and forget about them. What we do is we’ve got a whole campaign around making sure that we try to stay in touch with those clients where possible. Obviously, some may not want to, but we certainly want to be there just in case the grass isn’t as green as they imagined it would be.

Paul Green:
Got it. By lost lead, you mean someone how dare they? They haven’t chosen you. They’ve chosen to go with someone else, but instead of just giving up on them, you keep in touch with them. You might not have a percentage, but do you see some of those people coming to you a year or two down the line when they have discovered that someone, as you say on the other side, another MSP wasn’t necessarily as good as they thought they’d be?

Nick Moran:
Oh, absolutely. We’ve created a real culture and what we call an ecosystem around Powernet for many years where we’ve got… A lot of our staff actually returned to us two or three times, and a lot of clients do the same. Sometimes, they could have been purchased by another organisation and then sold off, and then they came back. We really try to create a safe environment for clients an`d staff to be able to come and go.

Paul Green:
That makes perfect sense. Nick, let’s draw this to a close. It’s been a fascinating insight into what you’ve been doing over a number of years. I think you and I must be a very similar age if you finished high school in ’92. I certainly left school in ’92 at the age of around about 18. You you’ve done an incredible amount in your years, assuming you’re in your mid to late 40s as well. This is my final question to you. If you could go back and talk to 20-year-old Nick or 21-year-old Nick, what piece of advice would you give yourself?

Nick Moran:
It’s a good question and it doesn’t seem that long ago, if that makes any sense whatsoever. I know it’s been 28 years, but I think I would tell myself to get involved in community and the partner community in the industry a lot sooner than I actually did. I know a couple of turning points in my business career were being involved in peer groups and surrounding myself with other business owners that could really share some ideas and to share some of my mistakes with because people learn from mistakes. I often think had I known about some other people’s mistakes earlier, I might not have made them themselves. You can learn a lot from other people’s mistakes and you can certainly teach a lot by sharing yours.

Paul Green:
Nick, thank you so much for your time. You’ve been so incredibly generous joining us on the podcast this week. How do we get in touch with you?

Nick Moran:
You can hit up our website at power-net.com.au, or I’m on LinkedIn under Nick Moran.

Voiceover:
Paul Green’s MSP Marketing podcast. This week’s recommended book.

Steve Preda:
Hi. My name is Steve Preda. I’m the author of Buyable: Your Guide to Building a Self-Managing, Fast-Growing and Hyper-Profit Business. This week, I’m recommending High Output Management from Andy Grove, who is the former CEO and Chairman of Intel. He took the business from the beginning to being one of the biggest company in the country. This is a wonderful little book in which Andy shares his own experience of how to build a business, how to be a great entrepreneur, a great CEO. What are some of the core steps that you’ll come up against and how do you think about it? What are the frameworks and how do you conceptualise some of the issues in your business? This was published in the mid-80s and it’s still on the best sellers list, so definitely check this out.

Voiceover:
Coming up next week.

Reuben Swartz:
Hi. I’m Reuben Swartz, founder of Mimiran, the CRM for people who love serving clients, but hate selling. I’m also the host and chief nerd on the Sales for Nerds podcast. I can’t wait for you to hear my discussion with Paul Green where we talk about how to write better MSP proposals.

Paul Green:
We’re also going to be about where you sit for pricing in your marketplace. Now, you’re probably like most MSPs. You’re probably somewhere in the middle. You’re not the most expensive and you’re not the cheapest either. Well, you don’t want to be the cheapest because that’s just a battle to reduce your own margins and you don’t really want to be in the middle because everyone else is in the middle. I believe you should try to be the most expensive MSP in your area. We’ll be talking more next week about why that is and what you can do about it. Plus, we’ve got that giveaway next week that producer James was talking about earlier on. If you want an in-person or a virtual VIP place at the huge DattoCon event that’s happening this year, make sure you’re listening to next week’s show. See you then.

Voiceover:
Made in the UK for MSPs around the world, Paul Green’s MSP Marketing podcast.

 

 


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