Should MSPs use direct mail?

Episode 4: Should MSPs use direct mail?

Paul Green

Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast
Paul Green's MSP Marketing Podcast
Episode 4: Should MSPs use direct mail?

In this week’s episode

  • In a world where nearly every communication is digital, Paul talks about traditional direct mail, how to modernise its use and how it could help to get you in front of prospects
  • Here are the keys to a time machine. What would you tell your 20-year-old self?
  • Monthly Recurring Revenue is best kind of revenue. And Paul has found a couple of products that you could re-sell
  • A lot of MSPs don’t realise the huge difference a well performing website could make to their new client enquiries. Special guest Louise Towler from marketing agency Indigo Tree explains
  • Every single drive to work you’ll encounter branded commercial vehicles. You may even have your own. Find out more about the difference between good signage, bad signage and what it can do for your business

Show notes

  • Out every Tuesday on your favourite podcast platform
  • Presented by Paul Green, an MSP marketing expert
  • Here’s a link to the book Paul mentioned ‘The E-Myth Revisited‘ by Michael Gerber
  • To submit the advice you’d give your 20 year old self, or for any other questions or feedback on the show, the address is
  • Have you used Docmail?
  • Here’s just a selection of the ‘video cards’ used for marketing on Amazon
  • For more details on the suite of security and monitoring tools that can be re-sold for increased MRR, just visit
  • The special guest was Louise Towler from the website & marketing agency Indigo Tree
  • Thank you to Jon Cross from Crosstek for the great question about vehicle branding
  • Next week’s guest will be Robert Bowden from MSP accounting specialist Brooklands Accountants who will be explain how to make your business more financially robust, even when there’s a steady stream of revenue
  • Here’s a link to Paul’s Facebook group for MSP Marketing

Episode transcription

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

Paul Green: Hello, here’s what’s coming up on this week’s show.

Louise Towler: Really important that the words are very reassuring and you don’t just talk about the geeky stuff that perhaps people might be searching for in Google.

Paul Green: We’re also going to look at whether your MSP should be sending out direct mail, more stuff in the post, to your prospects, and I’ve got a question from an IT support owner about how to best brand up his company vans.

Voiceover: Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast.

Paul Green: I don’t watch a great deal of television. When I do, it tends to be science fiction, absolutely adore good sci-fi. My all-time favourite show is Doctor Who, the British classic, it’s been going for 55 years, something like that, and it’s based around an alien who can go anywhere in time and space. They’ve got a special ship, it’s called the TARDIS, and they can go back.

Paul Green: And, in fact, I was having a conversation with my nine-year-old daughter just a few weeks ago, if you were given the keys to the TARDIS, you had the keys to a time machine, and we started talking about how interesting it would be for me to go back and talk to my 20-year-old self, I’m 45 now, what would I tell myself? Perhaps some girls to avoid, and then I’d want to really talk about business and I’d want to talk about finances and wealth, quality of life, and all that kind of stuff.

Paul Green: And I would tell my 20-year-old self to start a business earlier, the things that I know worked, the stuff that you know with the benefit of hindsight. The big one I’d probably tell my 20 year-old-self, which I think is relevant to every IT support company, every MSP, is if you’re going to have a business, which is both the best thing in the world and the worst thing in the world, it really is both of those things combined, and I’m sure you agree with me, if you’re going to have a business, make sure that you are more owner than you are operator. Now, what do I mean by that? If you look at how most of us have got into business, I started mine in 2005, my very first business, and I started off doing something that I was good at.

Paul Green: If you think about The E-Myth Revisited, which is a great book by Michael Gerber, he talks about three different levels of business owner: technicians, managers, and entrepreneurs. And the technician is good at a thing, and when they start their own business, they go and start up a business doing that thing. You, yourself, you may have been particularly good with computers, perhaps with tech support, maybe you worked for someone else, and when you started or acquired your first business, the chances are pretty high that you started a business doing tech support, and that’s how you got into it. This is how we get trapped as operators.

Paul Green: I was good, at the time, at public relations and marketing, so I started a PR and marketing company, and I got trapped in that as the operator. And it’s being trapped as the operator for decades is what emotionally kills us. We’re locked in a business that is based around us because, typically, the owner is the best operator within the business. You’d love to clone yourself and have 10 little yous running around doing the business, but it doesn’t work that way. A lot of our frustrations, as business owners, come when we have staff who don’t quite do the things we want them to do in the way we’d like them to do them.

Paul Green: I would go back and tell my 20-year old self, “Don’t start a marketing business, start a different kind of business, or go and buy a business where you cannot be the operator, where you can only be the owner.” And in fact, in early 2020, I’m going to start a long-held dream of mine, which is to go and acquire some businesses, and the last kind of businesses that I’m going to acquire will be businesses I know how to run. I won’t be acquiring marketing businesses. I won’t be acquiring anything at all where I can jump in and do that work because then I would just get trapped as an operator again and I don’t want to do that.

Paul Green: And, possibly, I’m looking at the care sector, the adult care sector, and go and acquire a business that I couldn’t run even if I wanted to, which then forces me to acquire a business of a certain size and scale that will have a management team, and I can then focus on improving the management team, improving the overall feel and and productivity and profitability of the business without getting trapped being the operator. That’s what I would tell myself.

Paul Green: I’d really love to know what would you do, if you could go back in that TARDIS in that time machine, talk to your 20-year-old self, what advice would you give that person? Do you want to email that through to me? Because maybe, if we get enough, we can feature some of these in a future edition of the show,

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

Paul Green: In a world of digital where everything comes through a screen, through a device, there’s a real place for taking it offline and making it physical. I’ve just realised the start of that sounds like a bad movie trailer. In a world where everything is digital … but it’s true. If you think about it, 20 years ago, we had all of this stuff coming through our letterbox everyday. We had junk mail, flyers, leaflets, and we had very, very few emails and, 20 years ago, one of the most effective ways to reach someone was to send them an email because it was unusual. Well, 20 years on, we all have far too many emails. You never hear someone sitting and complaining because they haven’t had enough emails. And yet the amount of posts that I get is very low, very, very low indeed.

Paul Green: I don’t even get bank statements anymore. That all comes digitally. I get perhaps two or three items of post a week, still get catalogues and things like that from clothing companies, but really it’s almost, almost getting to the point of becoming a lost art. And 20 years ago, it was a very, very beautiful and lucrative thing to do to send stuff out in the post, but these days, because it’s cheaper and easier, people just stick to the digital platforms, the email, the social media, that kind of stuff.

Paul Green: Now, where you’ve got a trend where everyone is doing something, one of the opportunities to you is to look at that and say, hey, I’m going to do something completely different, and that’s why I always recommend to MSPs and IT support companies to go physical, to make it real, to print stuff. And I’m a big fan of direct mail. I’m a big fan of books. I’ve written a whole load of books myself. I’ve never sold a single one. I’ve given away tens of thousands of books and it’s probably coming up to 15, 16,000 books, and they’ve funded many business ventures by using them as introductions, as business cards rather than books.

Paul Green: I’ve sent out hundreds of thousands of pieces of direct mail, and some of it’s been a bit rubbish and some of it’s worked quite well and there’s been a lot in the middle. But the point is it’s a hell of a lot easier to get someone’s attention when you send them something in the post or when you make it physical than it is just trying to do it through another digital platform. What I want you to do is I want you to think now, who are the people you’d most like to reach? What are some of the things that you could send to them, you could post to them, mail out to them, that would impact them and just make it easier for you to follow them up? Because you’re not going to sell to people using direct mail, but what you will do is you’ll get their attention and you’ll get a chance for them to read some stuff.

Paul Green: I’ve worked with some clients over the years who’ve done some amazing things. I’m working with a client now who sends a box out in the post, it’s, and this is an MSP by the way, a specially designed box designed to go through the letterbox so there’s none of that hassle of having to pick it up from the delivery office. And inside, there’s some chocolate bars and there’s a very specific message related to the chocolate bars and there are stickers on it and it has a stamp and a handwritten envelope and it costs them probably about 10, 15 pounds per unit to put that together. But for every X units of those that they send out, they ended up sitting down in front of people and having the conversation about their IT support, which is exactly the point of that.

Paul Green: I have other clients who send out just basic mail merge letters, some that do it in the office, some that use services like Docmail which is a UK service. I’m sure there are American services equivalent, but Docmail is just a mail merge in the cloud essentially where they will do the posting for you. I’ve got one client who did a very clever piece. He would take a toy, a radio-controlled toy, and send out the toy, but not the remote control, not the radio control, and the letter inside would say, “Look, can I come over to your office for half an hour, share a coffee, and we’ll get to play with the toy?” Some of the people that got that, it was so intriguing that they thought, “Yeah, do you know what? We’ll do that.”

Paul Green: These things, you never get 100% response, but isn’t it all just about standing out? These exact same messages sent on email or through social media just wouldn’t be as compelling as sending it in the post because it allows you to stand out. Or we have another client, just remembered another client that sends out videos by post, so rather than just relying on YouTube or Vimeo to get their video out there, they actually send it in the post, and they’ve got some special cards. They’re quite widely available. You can get them on Amazon and from special places and they’re video cards. I don’t mean a video card in the sense you would think of a video card in a PC. I mean it’s actually a greetings card with a video element, upload an MP4 to it and you physically post it out. It’s like a mini-player that arrives in the post.

Paul Green: There’s so many things that you can do. There’s got to be an opportunity for you to integrate direct mail into your business. Maybe you would do it to people at the prospect stage, maybe you’d do it to people that you’re just trying to keep in touch with, maybe you’d do it to brand new clients, but somehow there’s some imaginative, very, very clever direct mail that you could do, which will give you a massive point of differentiation in an over-saturated market and would also move your relationship with prospects forward, which means you’re closer and closer to sitting down with them, talking about taking over their IT support.

Voiceover: Paul’s blatant plug.

Paul Green: I have some lovely clients I’ve been working with for a number of years now, their names are Andrew and Jean, and it’s been an absolute pleasure following along, watching them change their business, putting so much more monthly recurring revenue, completely change their relationship with their clients, and remove themselves from the technical delivery. One of the pleasures of that has been watching them automate common problems. And, in fact, I remember having a conversation with them, I think it was about three years ago, where they developed a piece of software internally to just solve problems that were happening again and again and again. And they were mostly Office 365 things where the fixes were were there, but they were hidden somewhere inside Office 365, and they just developed software which made it easier for their tech team to do this. And what it allowed them to do is it meant that level one technicians could do some level two work.

Paul Green: Now, around about a year ago, they realised that this was a set of tools that other MSPs could benefit from, and they went ahead and redesigned all those tools so that it could be sold on to other MSPs. And a few months ago, they launched that tool set and it’s called MSP Easy Tools. I don’t know technically how it works, but it’s a very big bag of tools that just makes life easier for your technicians, but it also gives you the opportunity to generate new revenue streams. And, in fact, Andrew and Jean, they’re generating thousands of pounds of monthly recurring revenue using their own tools. For example, one of them is called Prompt Mapper and it allows you to keep drives mapped. Prompt Mapper, if it falls over, it just fixes it.

Paul Green: They have another one which detects email forwarders being set up in either an Outlook or an Outlook Web Access, which obviously is a great security tool. We all know that that’s an email hijack entry point, and they have that tool and they sell that tool on to some of their clients. They might use it with all of the clients to help the MSP do its job better, but they sell that on and have reporting for all of their clients. They’ve put together this whole set of tools and they all either make lives easier for your techs and/or become revenue streams for you. I’m going to put a link in the show notes to MSP Easy Tools. Go and have a look at that because it’s one of those things that you think, oh, do you know what? The cost of that is completely justified by X, Y, and Z.

Paul Green: And in fact, the way they’ve priced it as well is very smart because this is the beauty of buying a toolkit from another MSP is they understand your world. The cost is fixed every single month regardless of how many users you put on, so the opportunity to you is to put this on to as many users as you can, the price never goes up. Have a look in the show notes. Go and have a look at MSP Easy Tools, could be some very nice monthly recurring revenue streams for you there, as well as something to make your staff more efficient and make their lives easier.

Voiceover: The big interview.

Paul Green: We’re talking about websites with today’s guest. Her name is Louise Towler and she runs a marketing agency in the UK called Indigo Tree. Now, Louise actually works quite closely with a number of my MSP clients, helping them to implement their marketing materials and ensure that they’re in touch with their prospects on a daily basis. Now, I wanted her to come on and talk about websites. Louise is a self-confessed geek, she’s a coder at heart, and she loves building websites, and I asked her why so many MSPs just went so long with websites that they really didn’t love.

Louise Towler: It’s quite a high threshold of pain you have to be in before you want to invest in a completely new website, and also a lot of businesses may not actually be aware of how much difference a new website could make. They’re not always very methodical about how they’re actually measuring whether leads convert into new customers and sales. Sometimes the thought of getting a new one might be just too much, and everybody’s really busy in their day-to-day job, so it’s very easy just to put it off and put it off until you get to the point where there’s a real crunch of something not working or you get some feedback where someone says, “Oh, I really, really don’t like it.”

Paul Green: You don’t get that feedback, do you?

Louise Towler: No.

Paul Green: It’s just people go onto your website and they look at it and, three or five seconds later, they have an emotional opinion that, “Oh, this isn’t the right one for me.” When an MSP has a new website put together or when they’re improving their website, what do you think are the most important aspects of that website?

Louise Towler: Oh, I think you’ve got to have lots of different calls to action. You cannot assume your visitors are like you. A lot of MSPs will be really geeky and technical and, actually, what they should be giving their customers is the peace of mind that they don’t have to worry about the technical stuff, making it really easy to communicate, telephones, emails, inquiry forms. But I think, most importantly, what you’ve got to do is reassure that prospect so that they can get on with their day-to-day business. People often spend a lot of time talking in their own industry jargon without realising that some of their customers just may be something that they don’t understand.

Paul Green: I think that’s a major problem for MSPs because it is a very technical world and it’s full of acronyms. Even MSP is an acronym that the end decision-maker doesn’t know about, they don’t know what that means. They’re just looking for IT support. Most of the websites that you and I have sat down and looked at together in the MSP world have been shocking. There have been pictures of network cables. There’s been no real pictures of real humans other than a few stock images. Does it really, in this age of LinkedIn and Facebook being so important, does it really make that much of a difference to have a good natural website that affects people at an emotional level?

Louise Towler: I think that people buy from people. If your target audiences are slightly larger organisations where you’re not just always talking to the decision-maker, there might be an issue with a network or a PC and somebody a little bit low down in the organisation is tasked with going and finding a supplier or solution for that. But, actually, when they go back to their boss, their boss might go, “Oh, this company, right, I’ll Google them. I’ll find out a little bit more about them,” and they will land on that website.

Louise Towler: Even if you’ve been found through an email or LinkedIn or some social marketing, it doesn’t mean the decision-maker or the person signing the cheque isn’t actually going to check out the company and do some due diligence. And, of course, as an MSP, what you’re looking for is organisations who understand the value of their time and don’t actually want to be doing it themselves. They don’t want to have staff crawling under desks trying to figure out why the network stopped working and make sure that you’re actually going to be helping them, not just in that pain point, that hour of need, but also to build that ongoing relationship.

Paul Green: What’s more important on a website, really good copy, which is what we call words, or really good images?

Louise Towler: That’s an interesting question. I think the images are very important, but for your website to be found, you need to have good words for Google. I think the two actually need to be in balance. If I’m buying a computer or a service from you, I’m actually buying the afters of having something on my desk which is going to be quick or having a network which is going to be reliable. I think it’s really important that the words are very reassuring and you don’t just talk about the geeky stuff that perhaps people might be searching for in Google.

Paul Green: Thanks, Louise. What’s the best way for us to get in touch with you?

Louise Towler: Go on our website, and click on the link to email, fill in an inquiry form or give us a call.

Voiceover: Paul Green’s MSP Marketing Podcast. Ask Paul anything.

John: Hi, it’s John from Crosstek. We’re getting our first van. What kind of branding would you recommend we put on it?

Paul Green: Well, I think the short answer to that is branding with impact. If you’re going to have this cost of driving around town and you want people to see your van, then you don’t want the van to look like all the other vans. You want it to have massive impact. And I think back to when I used to work in radio where we had promotional vehicles, we had virtually no money to promote the radio station, but we had these promotional vehicles which, at the time, were called black thunders. Oh, that takes me back many, many years, that does. And we would spend as much as we could on the graphics and on the design so that they had the maximum impact. And when you saw two or three of them together, it was amazing. It really felt like the entire radio station was there. And, actually, our entire marketing budget was caught up in three vehicles.

Paul Green: I think, John, you’re looking for maximum impact. Absolutely go to a graphic designer, say to them, “I want to wrap this vehicle,” depending on what your budget is. You could just have your logo on the side. I would wrap it, I would wrap it, and put it in … consistent with your branding, something which just stands out a little bit. You could do clever stuff as well. For example, if you’re often parking your fan at office blocks where there is more than one floor, so there are people in in upper floors, I would have a sign written on the top, “The IT guys are here.” It’s not going to generate sales, but you imagine someone in one office looking down and saying, “Blimey, I know we’re having IT problems today, but so is someone else because, look, the IT guys are here,” because they’ve seen it on the roof of the car down below in the car park.

Paul Green: There’s lots of things that you can do. I think, generally though, impact is your word, and the vinyl technology on vehicles is so good these days, you want it to stand out. Now, your staff may not want to drive that, but the more it stands out, the greater the impact you’ll have. One thing just to remember with that is the more standout ability on the vehicle, the better it needs to be driven. I’ve driven lots of promotional cars over the years in my radio careers, and the ones with subtle branding, you could get away with driving badly. The better the branding and the more it stood out, you had to really be on your best behaviour when driving. It’s probably just something to bear in mind, to consider, depending on which of your staff are going to be driving the vans.

Voiceover: How to contribute to the show.

Paul Green: Do you know, actually, earlier in the show, I lied to you. I told you that I had too much email. I don’t. I don’t have enough email, so why don’t you send me an email?, you could tell me nice things about the show, stuff that you don’t like, perhaps recommend a guest, even put yourself up for interview. I’m happy to do that, just drop me an email,

Voiceover: Coming up next week.

Rob Bowden: You can’t really turn around to your staff and say, “Well, sorry, guys, we’re not getting paid for 60 days on this. Can you wait until the end of next month and we’ll pay you double?” It simply doesn’t work that way.

Paul Green: That’s my friend and specialist MSP accountant, Rob Bowden, and he’s going to be talking next week about how not all growth is good growth. In fact, if you grow too fast, you could run out of cash and put your business in considerable danger. We’re also going to be talking next week about the beauty of something called the profit matrix. It’s the one guaranteed way to grow the monthly recurring revenue in your business.

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