SMB 501 Award Winners: 'No Better Marketing Piece'

Managed service providers looking to grow leverage leading industry accolade to gain customer satisfaction.

Kris Blackmon, Head of Channel Communities

May 8, 2018

4 Min Read

Every spring, managed service providers (MSPs) around the world put their hats in the ring to compete for a spot on the MSP 501, the IT channel’s most comprehensive ranking list of global MSPs.

An industry accolade like the MSP 501 is a laurel in the cap of any service provider, but for small businesses, such highly recognized awards can be an especially powerful tool. That’s why Channel Futures makes a special effort to recognize SMB partners with a Small Business Edition for MSPs with 15 or fewer employees.

The midmarket and SMB space is an exploding opportunity for partners, but for every small and midsize business that turns to IT services to help them compete in a technology-fueled market, another so-called “industry leading” MSP pops up promising technological wisdom. For business owners without technical expertise, trying to decide which service providers will fit the bill can be a frustrating experience. Having an industry-recognized stamp of approval can go a long way toward establishing the trust that is the first step to a successful client relationship.

“In many ways, the MSP industry is unregulated,” says Dr. Paul Rouse, whose Illinois-based MSP, Rouse Consulting Group, placed third on last year’s MSP 501 Small Business Edition. “It can be difficult for a typical business person to discern differences between two competing MSPs. ‘Which one should I trust my business to?’ Leveraging this validation from a respected third-party source is extremely beneficial during the sales process.”

A win on the 501 won’t by itself land new clients, or help MSPs retain them. That takes superior levels of technical skill, customer service and the ability to stay in tune with customer needs. But it’s these skills that the MSP 501 judges applicants on, and so the award becomes a reflection of how well the service provider is received in the industry as a whole. Marc Scarpelli, director of sales for of technology service provider Nothing but NET, No. 5 in the 2017 Small Business Edition, says MSPs have to be absolutely relentless in their customer-service efforts if they want to be set apart from competitors — and the 501 recognizes that effort.


“Oftentimes it’s difficult to point to a specific factor when you earn another trusted MSA client,” says Scarpelli. “It is true, however, that being able to provide a list of industry accolades such as MSP 501 to prospects – whether it be at the outset for differentiating ourselves or at the final stage of due diligence – reassures our newest clients that Nothing But NET is both established and recognized in the MSP arena. It’s always impressive to provide actual substantiation to the claims of excellence you make in a client meeting or call.”

It isn’t just a win on the 501 that’s valuable to those that apply. Because the list utilizes the same transparent methodology to evaluate every submission, the results show deep insights to where MSPs sit in relation to their competitors. The survey weights different revenue streams differently, judging businesses on how fast they’re growing and how scalable their models are, for instance. It gives verifiable data that helps explain MSPs’ competitive position.

“Most owners of MSP practices have a high opinion of their business,” says Rouse. “This list is an excellent measure that quantifies your company’s position on the ladder. It is a valuable way to establish a baseline and then assess how internal business improvement efforts help to move the dial — are you getting better, treading water, or sinking?”

The IT service sector is intensely competitive, and it’s growing more crowded every day. Just like any other industry, businesses looking to grow need to leverage every marketing channel possible, and can’t afford to pass up a chance to glean intelligence about the industry and their place in it. Pennsylvania-based service provider JENLOR Integrations, which placed eighth in last year’s MSP 501 Small Business Edition, says the win helps create credibility for new prospects.

“No better marketing piece if you happen to win the award,” says JENLOR CEO William Peters. “If not, the results provide visibility into how you stack up against others in your space.”

About the Author(s)

Kris Blackmon

Head of Channel Communities, Zift Solutions

Kris Blackmon is head of channel communities at Zift Solutions. She previously worked as chief channel officer at JS Group, and as senior content director at Informa Tech and project director of the MSP 501er Community. Blackmon is chair of CompTIA's Channel Development Advisory Council and operates KB Consulting. You may follow her on LinkedIn and @zift on X.

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