While scanning my email inbox earlier today, I spotted a daily Google Alert focused on Virtualization. Near the top of the alert was a webcast invite. Was this yet another product pitch from VMware or the Microsoft Hyper-V folks? Hardly. This invite was from Evolve Technologies CEO Dave Sobel. Take a closer look and it's a great example of a managed services provider (MSP) connecting the dots between thought leadership, search engine optimization (SEO), customer outreach and lead generation.

First, if you don't use Google Alerts: Wake up and start signing up for the service, which allows you to proactively track keywords, phrases and news.

So, how did Sobel manage to promote his webcast through Google Alerts? Very simple...

Step 1: Create an event. In this case, Sobel is organizing a webinar to show SMBs how to improve their business performance while lowering their IT budget. Sobel is using the GoToMeeting service as the conferencing platform for his February 10 webinar, which focuses on virtualization.

Step 2: Promote the event. Sobel used Marketwire as a press release distribution service to promote his event. The press release, at only four paragraphs, is filled with proper and generic terms that boost search engine optimization (SEO). Examples include:
  • Dave Sobel
  • Evolve Technologies
  • Virtualization webinar
  • SMB consultant
  • Computer networking services
  • Fairfax, Virginia -- a key location method, to help Evolve Technologies attract companies in its home town, though I suspect the webinar is open to attendees worldwide.
Step 3: Let SEO Take Over. Sometime on February 1, Google Alerts spotted the release and sent a link to my email inbox because I track the term Virtualization.

Step 4: Repeat Your Efforts. Generally speaking I think it's safe for Sobel to invite customers once per week to the webinar until the event actually arrives. Anything more frequent than that can start to alienate established and potential customers. Also, send a reminder two days before the event and day-of the event to ensure registrants actually show up.

Step 5: Integrate with PSA or CRM. MSPs that host webinars should make sure all registration information winds up in their CRM or PSA (professional services automation) system... in order to ensure leads are nurtured and pursued.

Step 6: Deliver great content. Actually, this is part of step 1. Sobel has to have some compelling messages ready to ensure he engages attendees on February 10. It's a safe bet he'll educate attendees about virtualization in small business -- rather than pitching his own services to attendees. The thought leadership approach -- rather than a hard sell -- is a far safer way to develop long-term relationships.

So, how else are MSPs engaging customers these days? Lunch and learns? Road shows? We'll be checking in with more MSPs for their thoughts in the days ahead.

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