How MSPs Can Fish for SMB Business

Fishing is one of those activities that some people “get” and others do not.

August 8, 2012

3 Min Read
How MSPs Can Fish for SMB Business

By Dan Berthiaume


Fishing is one of those activities that some people “get” and others do not. While some see fishing as a way to get out on the water and compete with nature, letting the tides wash away their troubles and cares with the possible reward of a fresh seafood dinner, others see it as way to get cold, wet and bored.

Whatever your personal views on fishing, it is hard to deny that fishing is a perfect metaphor for any industry that involves actively pursuing and maintaining client relationships, such as providing managed services to SMBs with highly specialized needs in terms of project scope and pricing.  As we glide through another prime fishing season, MSPs may want to take a few pointers from the world of anglers in how they go after SMB customers and keep them happy.

Know Where The Fish Are

Anyone can take a fishing pole and a box of tackle, plunk themselves in front of, in or on top of a body of water, and cast a line. But if the fish aren’t swimming there, the effort is all for naught. One of the most important skills a fisherman can develop is knowing how to detect the presence of fish. On the ocean, this includes looking for large flocks of seagulls, schools of feeder fish and rip tides; on fresh water this includes looking for “structure” that draws fish from open water.

In the SMB managed services niche, this means knowing where to find your clients for communication and engagement. If you provide managed finance and accounting services, what are the top conferences and trade shows financial decision-makers attend? If you specialize in customizing enterprise software for SMB users, having a strong presence on developers’ blogs and social media feeds is critical.

Also remember that even the most experienced commercial and charter fishermen often use advanced “fish finding” technology to back up their instinct and know-how, so don’t be afraid to use and other IT solutions to assist sales and marketing efforts.

Use the Right Bait

Different fish take different bait. Some species prefer live bait and others tend to swallow artificial lures. Similarly, SMB prospects in different industries will be attracted by different services and features. Continuing the above examples, managed financial services customers will often be looking to perform basic transactional functions for a cheaper price offsite, while enterprise customization customers may be most interested in their MSP’s skill level and turnaround time.

Follow Through

Every fisherman knows the agony of landing a “big one,” reeling and reeling, and then losing the fish just as they are ready to break the surface of the water. Usually this results from improper follow-through, or not properly doing all the little things to ensure a fish stays on the line once it is hooked. In the world of managed SMB services, it is also easy to assume a customer is “hooked” and then not follow through enough to either get the contract signed, or once it is signed not perform proper governance to ensure the client stays through the life of the contract and renews. This means staying right on top of negotiations until a signature is inked on the contract, and then paying close attention to service level agreements and benchmark performance.

In addition, MSPs may assume that SMB customers will sign or stay with them simply because they offer specialized services. Don’t. Fish will ignore or abandon readily available bait on a  hook if they think it is not right for them or something better is somewhere else – your SMB customers are no different. So happy fishing, and remember that in both fishing and business, the early worm catches the fish!

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