How Does an MSP Inbound Marketing Retainer Work?

If you’re an MSP, you’re going to love using an inbound marketing retainer.

Why? Because inbound marketing retainers are kind of like managed IT service engagements translated to the marketing world; they’re an engagement with a marketing agency that focuses on results over campaign deliverables and works via a fixed monthly cost.

And, like a managed IT service engagement, an inbound marketing retainer is a win-win for everyone.

Let’s unpack how.

1. You pay a fixed cost for marketing services.

Let’s stick with our MSP metaphor here. We know that the traditional break-fix mode of IT service has two key problems related to costs:

  1. The provider’s incentives aren’t aligned to results (because the more things break / the longer you take fixing them, the more you get paid).
  2. Under traditional models, costs are unpredictable and hard to budget for.

The same things are true for traditional, project-based marketing engagements. Instead of being incentivized to deliver results (i.e. leads for your MSP), marketing agencies working under this model may be incentivized to complete projects quickly or to pursue directions that don’t lead to bottom-line growth. And scope creep (in the wrong directions) can drive up costs that aren’t connected to results.

Let’s say, for example, you pay someone to build you a new website. Sure, quality still matters – because the hope is that, if you like the results of this project, you’ll sign for another – but the work is disconnected from lead generation, and the day-to-day decisions made on the project will reflect that. Your team may get into the weeds on color schemes and spend weeks deliberating different CTA styles, driving up the cost of the project without impacting how your website creates new leads.

Marketing retainers hold agencies accountable for bottom-line growth, so results are always the end goal. And the fixed, monthly cost is easy to budget for.

2. You get access to expert marketing strategy.

The argument here is the same one you make to businesses that are thinking about hiring an internal IT person: It’s way cheaper to outsource, and outsourcing gives you access to broader and deeper strategy.

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If you own an MSP, you probably have some experience with marketing. Maybe you built your website, or wrote blog content, or have ideas for what works on social media.

But you almost certainly don’t have expertise in every area of marketing – Google Search Ads, LinkedIn ads, SEO, copywriting, design, CRO, email marketing, video production… you get the idea.

If you’re the CMO at an MSP and you’re looking to expand your capacity, you know that you won’t find all of those skillsets in a single, even semi-affordable person.

Outsourcing via an inbound marketing retainer works.

Just as your MSP is able to serve clients well by having various technology experts on staff, marketing agencies are able to serve you well by having a deep bench of marketing experts. Marketers often build careers by becoming experts in a single one of these marketing tactics – and with a retainer, you can access their expertise at a fraction of the cost of an internal hire.

3. You get better marketing results (more leads).

This is kind of stating the obvious, but when you standardize costs, align the incentives of the marketing agency with the incentives of your business, and access deep marketing expertise, you get better results.

You get more leads.

And, unlike project-based work, inbound marketing retainers build over time. There’s an overarching strategy in place for these engagements which leads to compounding results. You get your messaging in place, then update your website, then drive traffic and get conversions – and all of the work fits together, making it more effective.

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On the flip side, if you only ever complete marketing projects – a website refresh here, a Google PPC campaign there – you’ll get strategy on a per-project basis, but your projects will be less likely to build on each other over the long-term.

You’ll get fewer leads and you’ll probably pay more money.

Again, outsourcing via an inbound marketing retainer works.

Do marketing projects ever make sense?

With all of this laid out above, you may be wondering if there’s ever a time for a marketing project.

Of course there is.

Marketing projects are beneficial in two scenarios:

  1. Situations where a long-term engagement is being evaluated. For example, we often perform one-off strategy assessments for MSPs. The idea is that the project sets the stage for an ongoing retainer – and if the MSP doesn’t like the strategy we propose (or they simply aren’t ready to implement it), they can cut ties easily and go another direction with more insight than they had before.
  2. Situations where there is a specific short-term marketing goal. For example, you may be launching a new service to your market and choose to run a six-month campaign to generate awareness. Or, on a smaller scale, you may need marketing collateral to be updated to match a re-branding. If the goals are short-term and clear, a project can work – but even so, inbound retainers sometimes work better.

(Yes, we offer projects. Click here if you’re interested in seeing the various engagement models we offer.)

Ready to get the benefits of an inbound marketing retainer?

If you’ve got questions about this engagement model – or if you’re ready to put it into action – get in touch with us.

At New North, we’ve been marketing for MSPs for over a decade. We’ve worked with dozens of MSPs, helping them to dominate new markets, grow, and get successfully acquired.

If you’re ready to grow your MSP with marketing, an inbound retainer is a good option. Schedule a consult to start sketching out what yours could look like.

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