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SEO Is Not Dead: How to Leverage it to Scale Your MSP Business with Glen Moore & Steve Treanor


Glen Moore and Steve Treanor 2

SEO Is Not Dead: How to Leverage it to Scale Your MSP Business

There’s a lot of debate about search engine optimization (SEO)—some say it’s dead, some believe it’s one of the most effective tools for your business.

The reality is that it depends on your business and the SEO strategy you employ. Glen Moore, co-owner of Bear Fox Marketing, believes that SEO is not dead at all. His take is that it’s alive and well, helping many businesses scale and grow. But it’s a rapidly-changing strategy thanks to innovations and changes like ChatGPT and AI.

To learn more about the effectiveness of SEO for MSP owners and small businesses, we talked with both Glen and Steve Treanor of Help Desk Calvary on a recent episode of the Stride to Freedom podcast.

Steve’s MSP business has relied heavily on reputation and referrals to grow. They’re now ready to strategically scale the business and are curious about what an SEO strategy can do for them.

Here are some takeaways from our conversation about the power of SEO for small businesses.

Why SEO is so Powerful

People regularly and consistently use search engines like Google to find recommendations for businesses to solve their problems. Common search terms like “IT support near me” drive traffic to local businesses.

SEO is the way to capture those prospective clients by increasing visibility at the top of the search results page. With strong SEO, clients who search for terms relevant to your business will see your company pop up right at the top.

One key to an SEO strategy, in Glen’s experience, is to first analyze how many people are looking for your specific services. What are they looking for? What search terms do they use?

Once you know these things, you can strategically optimize your online presence to capture that interest.

And, once your SEO is optimized, you can start predicting regular and consistent flow of incoming leads and conversions.

Three Tiers of SEO

SEO is an effective strategy because it’s a comprehensive one. Glen and Steve talked about the “SEO Pyramid” on the podcast. There are three key pillars to a good SEO strategy:

  • Technical SEO: This requires having a god web developer or programmer on board to ensure there’s a good user experience, your website uploads quickly and it’s all secure. Google will scan your website, so it needs to be clean and effective to rank higher.
  • Quality content: In SEO, content is king. Regular, high-quality content on your site means that it’s relevant and interesting to consumers—all helping you rank higher.
  • Backlinks: Once the first two are there, it’s important to have reputable, trustworthy sites link back to your website. In doing so, you’re expanding your reach and further showing Google that you are worth a high ranking on its search results.

These three pillars of SEO are part of an effective strategy to help you rank higher and bring in the leads.

Getting Started with SEO

SEO is not a simple, singular strategy—you can go extremely in-depth with it. For that reason, working with a partner like Bear Fox marketing can determine a specific strategy for your MSP business.

However, if you’re thinking about getting started with SEO, here are some initial steps to take:

  • Get clear on your business’ value proposition:Who are you? What do you offer? What makes you unique in the industry? Who are you trying to target? This will help you create a clear strategic SEO plan.
  • Optimize your Google Business Profile: This is what shows up on Google Maps. Ensure it’s 100% complete and your voice search is turned on. This is how most people find you, so use it to your advantage!
  • Focus on valuable content: Whether it’s blog posts, newsletters, or LinkedIn posts, the content you create needs to add real value for your ideal clients. This is how you establish yourself as a thought-leader and rank higher with Google.

And, of course, don’t hesitate to seek help. If you’re interested in working with Glen Moore and his team, check out Bear Fox Marketing. While you’re at it, make sure to also visit Steve Treanor at Help Desk Calvary. You can also listen to their full conversation with us on the Stride to Freedom podcast—we talked about so much more than covered here!

The Stride to Freedom podcast is hosted by Stride Services.  Contact us today to learn more about our back-office accounting and CFO services, including stable and efficient bookkeeping, cash flow management, and actionable analytics for growth. You’ll enjoy this Podcast episode with Glen and Steve.

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We are fortunate to have Glen and Steve available to spend time with us on this edition of Stride 2 Freedom. If there is a speaker you’d like us to interview, click here and let us know. Stay well. Stay safe. Stay healthy.

Show Notes and Links From Episode:

Glen Moore: LinkedIn

Bear Fox Marketing: Website/LinkedIn

Glen Moore: glen@bearfoxmarketing.com

Steve Treanor: LinkedIn

Help Desk Calvary: Website/LinkedIn

Steve Treanor: Steve@hdcav.com

Glen Moore and Steve Treanor: Top 10 Takeaways

Episode Transcript:

Russell Benaroya: Hey everyone, welcome back to another episode of the Stride 2 Freedom podcast where we help business leaders get and stay in their genius zone. I am your host, Russell Benaroya. It is great to be with all of you today.

You may wonder, what is your genius zone? Well, your genius zone is that thing that you do that feels effortless for you, where you make an outsized impact, where you’re not keeping track of time. And if you could do it all the time, you absolutely would.

We want to create the space for you to spend as much time as possible, which is why our responsibility on this podcast is to bring guests to the show that are in the business of helping other leaders get and stay in their zone of genius.

You might ask what our zone of genius is as a sponsor of the Stride 2 Freedom podcast at Stride Services, where we outsource back office and bookkeeping, accounting, and fractional CFO support. Well, our genius zone is helping business owners use data to make better business decisions. Okay, let’s jump into the episode today.

Today is a bit of a mixed bag. I’m going to call it a bit of an experiment that I haven’t run before, which makes me equally excited and slightly anxious. I have the distinct pleasure of being joined today by one of the leading SEO marketing agencies on the planet, Glen Moore from Bear Fox Marketing. Glen, hi.

Glen Moore: Hi there. Nice to be here, Russell.

Russell Benaroya: Great to see you. And simultaneously having one of the largest IT service companies in the Pacific Northwest, Help Desk Cavalry, led by Steve Treanor on the show. Hey, Steve?

Steve Treanor: Hey, Russell. Appreciate being here as a guinea pig.

Russell Benaroya: Thank you for acknowledging that. Why would I have them both on the show? Because I want to merge two worlds today. First, I want to bring to the audience some knowledge about the power of search engine optimization, and how companies can benefit from it, and frankly, even determine if it’s right for their business.

I’m sure many of you have heard about the term SEO and organic search traffic for a long time. I’ve harnessed the power of Glen to share his knowledge and the latest thinking around that strategy. But I want to do it in the context of looking at it through the eyes of a Managed Service Provider, like Help Desk Cavalry, who’s a small, midsize, growing business. And it’s thinking about: how do I build a referral engine in my business that transcends the business owner.

We’re going to do a little bit of a Q&A. We’ll learn a little bit from each other. We’ll use a bit of Help Desk Cavalry’s goals and objectives to answer some questions around where SEO may or may not be relevant for the business. But just so we anchor on the right starting point, Glen, maybe you could just set the stage for us and talk a little bit about you, Bear Fox, SEO, and the types of companies that benefit from what you do.

Glen Moore: I’m a co-owner here at Bear Fox. Bear Fox has been around for about seven years now. We help small businesses scale their growth. We do that by using SEO as our primary tool.

When we say search engine optimization, what we mean by that is getting people noticed, getting them right up at the top of Google on those search engine results. So when they’re looking for IT managed services near me and they’re in a local area where your website is coming up top, you’re getting a majority of that traffic coming in so it can generate new business for you. That’s what we do.

I love that we get to have this conversation today. I love honest conversation because sometimes SEO might not be the best fit. Sometimes it’s a great fit and there are some things you can do for free and there are some things that it’s going to cost you a little bit of investment to do. I love SEO for small businesses and that’s where I get the satisfaction. I love helping small businesses to grow.

Russell Benaroya: We’re going to double-click on more SEO content in a minute. Steve, give a little bit of background on the history of Help Desk Cavalry. What have been both the catalysts as well as some of the obstacles to growing the business as a small business owner?

Steve Treanor: Help Desk Cavalry is a Managed Service Provider here in Kitsap County, up in the Northwest. We are about 10 years old now and have grown organically with a lot of referral-based growth. We’ve got a reputable name in the area, bumping into people and they all want to do business with people that they know. That’s been fantastic.

Glen mentioned something that was pretty key. That’s predictive. I’ve had zero predictive knowledge of what our growth is going to look like. That’s significantly of interest to us moving forward, as we’re trying to make much larger plans and moving in certain directions. I’m excited about this opportunity to get to know Glen and understand how SEO might benefit us.

Russell Benaroya: That lack of predictability, is that largely because in any given month, it’s the Steve Treanor hustle, or maybe you have a salesperson and you’re out networking but you just don’t know? It comes in fits and starts and it’s hard to plan. Is that what I’m hearing?

Steve Treanor: Very much so. On top of that, you end up accepting anybody who’s knocking on the door because you are friends with somebody that they know. You’re not targeting clientele that you’ll really do better business with.

We’re now at that stage where we want to be proactive in our marketing efforts and target specific types of industries or sizes of organizations, or whatever it is that we find that lines up well for us.

Russell Benaroya: Because when you have a prospective customer that’s knocking on your door, you’re looking at potential revenue but you’re also looking at potential variability. They might not be the customer segment you typically like to serve, or maybe they don’t have the characteristics or attributes where you’re highly confident you can crush it. But you take the business because you don’t know where the next lead is coming from. I’m feeling you.

Glen, how does SEO help to crystallize or clarify getting the right customers with some level of predictability to avoid the whipsaw associated with uncertain lead generation?

Glen Moore: What Stephen talked about is something very common. When you’re word of mouth, you get those as they come in and they’re haphazard. What we look at with SEO is how many people are actually looking for your particular services each month. Is there a relevant search volume around that? How much is it? Is it worth going after?

The end goal is to get an evergreen flow of interested traffic and leads that are generated from that each month. One thing that’s really nice is if you’re setting it up right, you can target it exactly.

Sometimes we use complicated words like long-tail keywords or short-tail keywords. We want to go after the most specific and focused we can be with our SEO in terms of the type of search keywords we want to go after. That’s going to help bring in the right type of relevant traffic that’s going to be more likely to convert. Those are the kinds of clients that you want to have.

Russell Benaroya: Is SEO as relevant and opportunistic today as it was 5 or 10 years ago? Or are the Google wizard oracles of the world finding ways to stop it?

Glen Moore: That’s a great question and there’s a variety of opinions on that. Some folks think SEO is dead. The true answer, in my opinion, is that it’s still very much alive and well, it’s just changed significantly. The algorithms that Google uses have changed, even just over the last four months. It’s changed so much since ChatGPT and all of this AI. It’s crazy how much it’s changed.

The approach that I would suggest to people when it comes to SEO is, sometimes you’ll hear these ideas of, “Oh, we’re trying to trick Google or trick the algorithm.” That’s not a good sustainable way. If you’re trying to work the system, or trying to out-think Google, it’s not going to work well for you.

I think the important thing when it comes to SEO is trying to understand how that algorithm works, and then how can we work within that algorithm to make sure that we can elevate our website’s authority and popularity so we can get the right kind of leads coming in? We’ve got a very system that works very predictably but in a very Google-friendly way.

Russell Benaroya: Speaking of Google-friendly, Steve, you have 157, five-star Google reviews, which is really awesome for a professional service firm. I’m wondering if you’d be willing to give away your secret on how to get 157 five-star Google Google reviews. It’s very notable.

Then, how does that help with SEO, is my follow-up for Glen. Maybe you could talk about your success and people’s willingness to write about it.

Steve Treanor: When you help 1000s of clients that you’re supporting and you ask them at the end of every engagement that you have with them, I guess 150 doesn’t sound too bad. We’ll keep trying to grow that. Your question is, how can I leverage that? What does that mean? How can I move that forward, Glen?

Glen Moore: Well, I love that you’re proactive about that. It’s part of your engagement with your customer and it’s so smart. One of the lowest-hanging fruits when it comes to SEO that not a lot of people are aware of is the Google Business Profile. It used to be called Google My Business. That’s where your Google reviews lie, it’s where you’re on Google Maps. You also want to turn on your voice search.

These days, about two out of three people that are searching on the internet are on a mobile device. Having a profile on Google Business Profile will allow you to show up in Google Maps, and show up when somebody’s on their phone saying, “Hey, Siri, what’s a good IT management company near me?”

That’s something that you can do. You can post content on that page. You can get your reviews and that’s going to help you. All those play into that local search. So, especially if you’re a local business and you’re going after local clientele, that would be something and it’s free. It’s something that everybody can do.

Russell Benaroya: MSPs are typically local businesses. Steve, would you agree? It’s typically within a particular geographic radius.

Steve Treanor: That’s where you have the stronghold on the organization as far as building a partnership and a relationship. But it will grow over time when everybody is working from home. So having businesses that we are supporting remotely isn’t necessarily the same negative that it used to be.

So we do have some national coverage, but that’s not where I would initially want to focus my SEO. That might be something that Glen can talk about. When we start off with an SEO platform, should we be targeting a specific locale or should it be a vertical nationwide?

Glen Moore: Google’s going to give preferential treatment to those local searches as we’re looking. So what’s really smart, and this is the exercise that we like to start with when we’re assessing an opportunity for a small business, is to say, What are the best opportunities? First, talking with the company to say, What are those services that are really profitable to me, that I really want to focus on, and I want to get new clients for?

Then we can do some keyword research inside of Google and say, What are some similar keywords that people are looking for in these geographic markets where I like to play? Then, is there enough volume? That’s the number one question that I have on my list.

Are there enough people that are searching for my services that are relevant in my area? That’s number one. Then number two is how difficult are these different keywords to get top ranking for?

If you live in a small community with 10,000 people, and there are only 10 people searching for IT Managed Services in that area, it might not be a really good investment for you. But if you’re in an area that covers a couple of 100,000 people, and there’s some decent search volume that’s very relevant for your business, that’s a good opportunity for you.

Steve Treanor: Are you able to run reports on the volume of searches that are in your area?

Glen Moore: A good analogy is to look at it as a low-hanging fruit. Because it’s within the tools that we have, you can assess and say, On a 100-point scale, 100 being extremely difficult to get these keywords, and zero being extremely easy, the lowest-hanging fruit if they say, What are some relevant search traffic for my business right now?

It’s not that difficult to get how much volume there is, start there. Once you start getting top-page rankings for them, and then you move up to the next low-hanging fruit, and the next. You move up that way. That helps small businesses because sometimes we want to see wins quickly and that’s a really good way to do that.

Start with those battles that we can win in the short term. Then as we win those battles, we can move to the next low-hanging fruit, those that are a little bit more difficult for us. For example, if I’ve got a business in New York City, and I’m going after a broad search term that has got millions of visitors, that’s going to be more competitive than if I’m going after a really small niche for a particular industry or market or geographic area. That’s going to be easier for me to get.

Russell Benaroya: Your comment triggers a thought for me, which is, this all presupposes that you know your value proposition in the market. It presupposes that you’ve done the strategy work to be able to articulate, “This is the problem that we solve. These are the types of customers that we serve best. This is the vertical where we believe we can differentiate ourselves.”

Glen, would you recommend that before a company goes all in to work with Bear Fox, they’ve done some of the requisite business model canvassing and design work so that we’re not just throwing a bunch of spaghetti against the wall?

Glen Moore: Exactly. It’s like the spray and pray type of scenario. We’re hoping this works, but we have no idea. That is so important. It saves you so much time and so much money if you do that proper work upfront. It doesn’t take more than a few days to assess that and say, Is this a really good opportunity for me or not? How big is the prize? How long is it going to take us to get there?

That way, you’re going into it with your eyes wide open. Here’s a laser-focused plan, here’s where we’re going to start, then we go here, and then also how to do it. It’ll give us some milestones to say, Where should we be at this point?

We’ll break that down. We’ll say, Well, how much of this traffic can we pull into our site in the next three, four months? Where are we going to be in six months or 12 months so that we can see how this is going to scale up? Then how do we build that up over time?

One thing about SEO that I love is that it’s very much like building equity in your home. There’s a place for advertising as well. Advertising is like renting. I’m buying that keyword or I’m buying that traffic into my website. But as soon as I stopped paying Google, and as soon as I stopped paying LinkedIn or Facebook, those leads stopped coming in. One thing that’s so great about SEO is it builds up cumulatively. So even if you have to stop investing in your SEO, it’s going to have a much longer half-life. It’s going to stay with you. That’s why they say it’s free leads or free traffic because you build it up and then it stays with you.

Steve Treanor: Is there a cost forecast based on the types of words that you want to be searchable for? For an MSP, you may have a backup solution that is a primary focus or a phone system that’s a primary focus. Do you want to do all of them at once or would you focus on one category for a short amount of time and then move on?

Glen Moore: It’s going to be a combination of all. We have to say, How valuable are these services to your company? How much is core to what you want to do? Usually, we can find different keyword options that can play right into that aren’t super difficult to own. Sometimes we call those longer tail keywords.

If I’m looking at IT Managed Services for healthcare in the Seattle area, that’s a very long tail keyword, not as difficult to get. Very specific to you. We can get that granular and then own 50 of those keywords, as opposed to one or two of the broader keywords that you get.

Steve Treanor: You also mentioned the different ways that we’re coming to build your site. Back 10, 20 years ago, we used to make sure that we had links going outside of our site, or pointing to other vendors or partners of ours. Is that still a thing? Does that help with SEO? How does that work?

Glen Moore: Usually, we talk about the SEO pyramid. First, if you have a good web developer or programmer, you want to make sure that your website — we call this technical SEO — there’s a good user experience, uploads quickly, and it’s secure. Google needs to be able to scan your website and understand cleanly what you guys are about, who you’re trying to market to, and what your company is all about.

There’s a lot that goes into that. That’s the foundation of that pyramid. The next layer up is content. In SEO, we talk about content being king. It’s marketable content. We want to make sure that we’re adding content regularly to the website. Then if we have social media pages, we’re linking back to that content. That’s important.

The last element and the cap of that pyramid is what you’re talking about. If we want to be authoritative and popular within our industry, we share some of the content that we’re putting up on our website, and we ask other websites that are trusted. We don’t want to go out and buy cheap planks from India or Russia. We need to go out and get legitimate websites, media outlets, and bloggers to share that content and then link back to it.

As you do that, it elevates your authority. Google is going to put you up higher on the rankings. You’re going to be able to get more of that traffic coming through. Those are the three legs of the stool: the technical on-site, the content, and then the off-site, the backlinks.

Russell Benaroya: Steve, over the years, what experiments have you run to resource in marketing at Help Desk Cavalry? What has worked well?

You, Steve, are trying to stay focused on the horizon. I’m trying to build equity value. I’m trying to close bigger deals. As much as I love you on this podcast today, what you’re basically done is you’ve put on a marketing hat today in your organization. I’m wondering, have you ever had anybody in a marketing role that would otherwise oversee this? Did it work? Didn’t it work? What did it get you thinking about?

Steve Treanor: Because we’ve been primarily referral-based, our focus solely on marketing has been brand recognition. It’s been making sure that our website is legit and that we’re following the guidelines and setting up for the future but not pulling any triggers on campaigns and whatnot, other than to our current client base.

We do newsletters and we have blogs that are put out regularly. We do social media as far as LinkedIn, and Facebook. I’m interested to hear what Glen has to say about leveraging any of the other ones in a B2B scenario.

Again, our focus for marketing has been to make sure that everything is looking right so that we are a legit organization from any aspect of looking at us. Be prepared to start marketing to future clientele, but not yet. I’m wondering what my next steps are going to be and where we should be focusing.

Russell Benaroya: Got it. So, your marketing work has validated your value proposition through look and feel and content, but it hasn’t been used as an arrow or a spear for acquisition. Validation versus acquisition. Great. You’re probably not alone. That’s good to know.

Glen, Steve asked a good question that was on my mind as well. There are other outlets, social and otherwise, that seem to pop up, for me at least, at the right time to convert me to buy something. Do you also play in that arena? How might Steve be thinking about it?

Glen Moore: There is a survey that comes out each year. What they do is they survey 300 business owners and I ask them which channels are the highest return on investment. It’s funny because sometimes, I don’t know if you get bombarded, I get hit by everybody saying, “I got this new magic bullet, you got to do this. If you do this, it’s going to save all your problems.”

We’re very skeptical of those things. Usually, there’s no magic bullet. I love looking at those surveys because it tells us what’s working for small businesses. In my opinion, it’s going to vary for each one of your businesses. What works for one of you will be a little bit different from what works for somebody else. It’s going to depend on who your target is. There’s not one channel that’s always going to perform best.

LinkedIn is a great channel for creating conversations. Especially if you’re a B2B and you’re targeting very particular decision-makers of certain sizes of business, LinkedIn can be a really good tool for you. If you’re going into B2C, and some of those other channels like Google or Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok can be really good tools for you.

What we like to do before we start any engagement is to do a little bit of research and homework and try to find out what channels align best with where my customers are. Where are they? Then how can I reach them? Then run some forecast to say, realistically, if I were to go inside this channel, what do I expect to see from that? Talk with folks that are running campaigns right now in those areas successfully and you’ll learn a lot about what they’re finding successful.

A couple of things that I would just point out: what is consistently at the top of that list in terms of ROI is email marketing. Email marketing is always fantastic. It always comes up high. It doesn’t cost very much and it’s a great way to include as part of your prospecting as you bring in new prospects.

The mistake I see with people’s email marketing is they try to pitch their business too much. They’re not adding value as much as they should. So make sure with email that you’re adding value that they really want to see. Offering great content, whether it’s a blog or videos.

Right now, rich content is so important because people are a little bit skeptical about who to believe. So coming off as the authority and establishing that is super important. Then SEO is great because it’s a complimentary service. As somebody learns something about you, the first thing they’re going to do is go to Google and try to find you. Those are three areas that I really like.

If you’re in it for the long game, those are great tools that don’t cost that much and are good to help you build your business.

Russell Benaroya: I’ll make sure you both have the recording of this podcast to share with your email marketing lists, so you can demonstrate thought leadership.

Steve Treanor: Russell, since you’re talking about the email list, I’ve got to say this since it’s being recorded: do not email people and tell them that you have the solution to their problem when you haven’t even talked to them. You don’t know what their problems are? They get deleted so fast in my inbox.

Russell Benaroya: I think Glen, you nailed it. All you’re trying to do through email marketing is establish a rapport, a conversation, and give value. I have this acronym, AASV, Always Add Selfless Value.

If you lead with that, and it’s appropriate content, especially for the target customer segment,  it’s high integrity. Thinking about how to make the most of working with a company like Bear Fox, I would reason that if Steve said, “We’re an MSP. We’d love to work with Bear Fox, we want to nail SEO,” he might feel good about having made that decision.

But the decision is really the easy part. It’s all in the execution, the follow-up, and the rapport, and the connection with Bear Fox, and making sure that we get the best ROI possible from that investment. I’m curious, Glen, if you could guide us on this: in order for an MSP to make the most of working with a company like ours, you need to be prepared with these resources internally so that we can help you.

Glen Moore: I think what you’re getting at Russell, it’s very much like a partnership.

Russell Benaroya: It has to be and if you’re not prepared for that, then don’t do it. How do you become most successful for a client?

Glen Moore: You can’t just offer cookie-cutter solutions, where everything works for everybody. You have to understand what are the goals. You shouldn’t do SEO if you’ve got cash flow problems and need leads now. You’ve got to have patience with SEO. You’ve got to be able to see it through and build it up. If you need cash flow, you need to be thought focused on those cash flow drivers, and that’s going to be mostly advertising.

So, understanding what the company goals are and what their timeline is. Sometimes they have an impatient owner. I’ve got to see this in the next two months or I can’t do this. We have to understand what goals there are. Sometimes folks may not even know what those goals are and we have to talk and figure out what’s best.

That communication is really good. Our best client is in Silicon Valley. The communication with him is so good. He’ll come in and say, “These leads that came in, these are five out of five, these are three, these are two.” That feedback is so valuable to us because we can go, “Where did those come from? How do we get more of those and cultivate that?” Then, let’s cut this out. Having that trusting relationship and partnership is so valuable.

Russell Benaroya: What I’m hearing is don’t pursue an SEO partner unless you’re prepared to be a partner. The thing that’s so compelling for MSPs is, take a managed service agreement, Steve, that you have at Help Desk, and I’m probably going to under-calculate this, but let’s say your average monthly recurring revenue is $4000 a month. Your gross margin is, say, 50%. That’s $2,000 a month of gross margin, and you tend to keep your clients for a really long time.

Let’s say you keep your clients, on average, for five years. Five years times $2,000 is $125,000 of lifetime value of gross margin. Theoretically, as an MSP, you should be willing to spend quite handsomely to acquire that customer. My question for you, Glen, is, does that make it easier to work with a company like yours when you know that the lifetime value is really robust?

Glen Moore: It’s so valuable. There are two metrics there: lifetime value and acquisition cost. If we look at this and say, “The lifetime value is $10,000 for our company, that’s how much we’re going to get in revenue from that customer over their lifetime.” Then I have to say, Okay, what am I willing to do to get this customer? What will make sense with my finances? If I’m getting that customer for $200 or $500, will that work within our model?

Oftentimes, as an agency, when we’re working with people, and I’m thinking about one individual, he’s like, “Hey, as long as you can keep getting us qualified leads at $300 a lead, we will keep scaling our growth.”

That’s a great way of looking at it, going back to predictability to say, “Here’s my lifetime value. Here’s my acquisition cost. How do we keep that acquisition cost at or below where we need to go and scale it up?” It’s a great way of thinking. You’re thinking like an accountant, Russell.

Russell Benaroya: What I’m hearing is, for somebody like Steve and being a thought leader in the MSP segment that guides a lot of his fellow MSP peers, it is about making sure that, do we have somebody that owns the outcome of this initiative, which is probably not the CEO? Sometimes it could be, but he’s got other things to do.

Number two, do we have a measurement mechanism to quantify the effectiveness of this strategy so that we can give feedback to you, Glen, to continue to do more of that, or pivot to another strategy? If you’re lacking either of those things, don’t dive into the deep end because you’re going to make an investment without having that return.

Glen Moore: If you have somebody that’s holding that marketing rock within the organization, and you’re saying, “One of my rocks this quarter is to make sure that I keep my cost per acquisition below this number,” and you can do that predictably, that’s a pretty powerful thing. Often, what happens is, can you do it for 20% less? You’re always stretching yourself to say, how can we do this in a more profitable way?

Steve Treanor: Glen, you’re talking about money now. Best in class, you’re going to want to spend 2% of revenue is what we’re being told. Then you have to invest that money towards marketing personnel, events, and advertisements to get the revenue coming in even greater. Do you work with organizations to figure out what an appropriate amount to spend on SEO is?

Glen Moore: Again, an ideal mix will depend on what it is for each company. I think there are certain things that should be part of your toolbox. I believe that SEO should be a foundational part because it’s such a great long-term goal to build your equity. If you ever want to sell your company in the future, that’s such a tremendous value to say, “Look at how much free traffic we have coming into our site every month.”

It’s a continued revenue stream. You don’t have to worry about me bringing in new business, it’s built to do it. Back to your question, I would say you want to have a good CRM. You want to have a good mechanism to be able to work with your clients, your prospects, creating those email flows, that automation. You want to make sure that that automation, you’re taking full advantage of it. You’ve got a good content plan. SEO is important.

Some of the other things like social media and advertising can help supplement some of those other initiatives. That’s a great question. I don’t know if we can solve it today in the podcast. We talked about 360 degrees support. I’m a big believer that one plus one can equal three. There are synergies with some of these different marketing activities. When you do them together, they work better than when you do them in isolation.

The trick here is don’t spread yourself too thin. You want to focus on a few things that you can do really well and own those. If you do that, you’re going to get better traction from your marketing campaign.

Russell Benaroya: Glen, just to press you and not let you out of the box, how much should you know about a typical company plan to spend with a company like Bear Fox on a monthly basis?

Glen Moore: We’re a full-service agency so we have 20 people that are here. There are freelancers that you can work with. If you’re just starting out, you can pick a good freelancer or somebody that you can work with.

Usually, we’re working with companies that are making over a million bucks or more in revenue. They’re looking to add at least another $20,000, $30,000 a month in new revenue for their business and they’re able to invest three 4000 bucks a month to get it.

If they’re not in that position, let’s point you to somebody that’s a better fit. But those are our ideal client persona; those companies are a little bit larger, small and mid-sized companies looking to scale. Maybe they’ve tried some things in the past and they haven’t gotten traction from them.

I love that spot for us as an agency because it allows us to specialize. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about digital marketing: there’s always somebody that’s smarter than me. What I tried to do is hire people that are really good at email or at SEO and bring them in so that the clients we work with can have access to really smart specialists. Not one jack of all trades. I think that’s a little different than working with a smaller freelancer.

Russell Benaroya: Steve, what’s an area in what MSPs are offering clients that’s particularly hot or of interest, or tends to be something many clients are very interested in talking about today?

Steve Treanor: Cybersecurity is an easy one.

Russell Benaroya: What I’m wondering, Glen, is, could companies have a slice of their business really focused on, let’s optimize for this service line very specifically, versus the company at large? Is that a reasonable strategy?

Glen Moore: It’s super smart. I’m thinking about a client of ours. They focus on cybersecurity. They have other services that they provide, but by owning that one particular service, they are able to dominate it quickly. They’re able to get higher up in those search rankings, move quickly, and accelerate in those rankings.

What we like to do for ad campaigns is, if you have a very focused ad campaign, and it comes into a very focused landing page, Google is going to reward you by giving you better advertising costs. If your quality scores are really good, you’re going to pay less in advertising than if you cast a really wide net. In Google, you can benefit. If I get a quality score that’s three times better than this campaign, my cost per click is going to be three times less. So it’s really smart to niche down that way.

Russell Benaroya:  I think you write some really good content, Steve. They create all this content. Do you help them at Bear Fox launch the “Grenade Land and Expand” strategy so that they can then leverage their content? Could they leverage it for SEO? Yes. Could they also leverage it on social media? Yes. Do you help them propagate that content?

Glen Moore: For sure. I have to be honest here. You guys know your business better than we do. You’re the subject matter experts. We’ve got professional copywriters and they can help and partner. Sometimes some of our clients will say, “We’d like to write the content and create this content because we’re the subject matter experts.” We can partner from within in that way.

I think it needs to be appropriate for whatever channel. The type of content that you do on LinkedIn, for example, is going to be a little bit more sophisticated than something you do on another channel. It’s syndicating that content appropriately within email, on our blogs, within video, and on social media is really important.

Sometimes for business owners, it can be so overwhelming. I’m running my business; the last thing in the world I want to do is sit down and write a blog post. I think that’s one area that you tap into a content writer. Usually, within two, three months, they get up that learning curve. Are they going to write it as well as you would write it in terms of your knowledge? No. But they’re going to get there and approximate. That’s what reviews are all about. We send it to you and you’re like, “Okay, that’s good,” or, “No, we’re off base.”

Russell Benaroya: Steve, as a voice for MSPs, and you’ve been around a long time, you’ve ridden cycles, you’ve stayed in the game, if you were to be the voice for the segment, and have internalized what we’ve heard today from Bear Fox, what are one or two things that you’re taking away or that you’re curious about, or that you might suggest to other MSPs to be curious about if they’re either looking for a partner like Bear Fox?

Steve Treanor: The first thing that got me focused was the predictive growth; going after the accounts that we’re looking for and that we fit best with. I think that’s a great approach for us. You’d think after 10 years, we would have gotten there, but it’s been so easy to open up our doors to those who knock.

Luckily, we’ve been blessed with great opportunities that have worked out for us for the most part. We’ve got to change that to go after accounts that make a lot of sense for us.

The idea around SEO, to me, I’m excited about, but I know there’s a lot more than just the SEO aspect. What Glen has been talking about with the clicks and these different categories. So, getting more in-depth knowledge and learning how that incorporates into the package that you’re offering, Glen, could be a great follow-up conversation for anybody listening to this as well as myself.

Russell Benaroya: Awesome, Steve. Thank you. Glen, you’ve shared with me the top five things that you might want to think about if you’re interested in endeavoring SEO. I would love it if you wouldn’t mind summarizing those. I thought they were great takeaways that anybody listening to this can consider as they’re evaluating their options.

Glen Moore: Steve, just to put you at ease a little bit, SEO is such a complex and confusing thing for people to really get their hands around. I definitely hear you there.

The five things if you’re a small business owner and you’re looking, is SEO right for me? Should I invest in SEO? I would start by saying, Do we know our identity as a company and what services we really want to focus on? Is there a niche that we find profitable?

We actually do an exercise that’s very inexpensive. We can assess the opportunity for you to find out how much volume there is. That’s number one. Is there relevant volume for the services on Google or other search engines?

Number two is, how difficult is it? You don’t want to try to climb up a mountain that’s this steep and you don’t have a rope. You want to go after those battles that you can really win and know how long it’s going to take you to get there. That way, you can manage expectations, and you can build a very predictable plan.

So, having the right volume of traffic, going after traffic that’s not going to be too difficult to own, and that you can dominate it in the markets where you want. Then, SEO is not for everybody. If you’re not patient or if you’re in a cash flow crunch, don’t do SEO. Focus on shorter-term lead generators, hammer your sales, go to your trade shows, and run advertising. Sometimes companies are in triage mode. They’re like, “I’ve got to get cash now.”

You have to be patient, that would be my number three. Number four is to know the lifetime value of your customer. If it’s more than $2,000, SEO is going to be a good candidate for you. If you know the lifetime value of the service that you provide is really low, it might not be worth the effort of investing in it to get those sales coming in from that channel.

As a rule of thumb, I’d say if your lifetime value is $2,000 or above, you’re going to have a really strong return on investment from that initiative. Then the final one, number five, is 360-degree support. All boats rise.

We talked about one plus one equals three; when you’re doing great content, or you’re doing email, or you’re doing advertising, or TV/radio, make sure that your SEO is going to help capture all of that interested traffic. If I’m running a radio ad, you’re going to naturally have people go immediately to their phones and Google you up as a company.

Make sure that when they’re looking up your company, you’re top of the list there. Those are the easiest ones to get. You also want to have some non-branded terms like those services that you want to own. Those are my five.

Russell Benaroya: Thank you both for being my guinea pigs and allowing me to run this experiment. I wanted to do two things. I wanted to bring more visibility to the opportunities available to MSPs, specifically, as they’re thinking about growing their sphere of influence beyond what traditionally has been a referral-based business, to ways to leverage the internet to drive a more predictable stream of leads.

Glen, I certainly wanted to highlight the work that Bear Fox is doing as an expert in the space and as a guide to support companies that are ready to take this leap and have a trusted, reliable partner that they can look to help take them to the promised land and not feel like they’re always doing the heavy lifting themselves because you’ve laid so much of the groundwork to help them be successful.

So, thank you both for being on the show today.

Steve Treanor: Thank you for the invitation.

Russell Benaroya: Such a pleasure. Thank you everybody for listening to another episode of the Stride 2 Freedom podcast. We will see you next time. Thanks. Bye.

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