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August 30, 2021
Security, hiring and marketing, oh my. These are a few of the pain points keeping MSPs up at night as of late. It’s a lot to handle at once, but much comes down to having the right conversations with your customers, according to Ingram Micro.
We sat down with Eric Kohl, vice president, cybersecurity and data center, Ingram Micro, and Craig Weir, director of global cybersecurity, Ingram Micro Cloud, to get a sense of what they’re seeing in the industry. Who is doing it right, and how?
Ingram Micro Cloud’s Craig Weir
Craig Weir: If we put our MSP hat on with what the market data is telling us, we certainly see a progression here. Last year was all about “you had better scale up on cybersecurity” because the pandemic was unexpected and we all had to think differently. The shift this year highlights behavioral and consumer changes — how MSPs and customers want to buy, what they want to buy. They are realizing that they don’t want to spend much time on it [cybersecurity], but want to make sure they’re protected.
In terms of that, I think a lot of MSPs did a good job on shifting, but some of them did not. You’re seeing a shift where some MSPs are winning hand over fist, but the growth year to date for some of them is really poor. It goes back to the pain points partners have had, and why are those different this year? Are the partners who are winning doing something differently to continue to shift and pivot as needed?
Ingram Micro’s Eric Kohl
Eric Kohl: Craig and I are actively working to strengthen our external messaging around the MSP and a value proposition. What are all the things that we can do to help that channel fuel growth? We’re heads-down, and we’ve got programs and content and things all over the place. But for us, at the highest-level growth strategy perspective, we’re talking about how we want the MSPs to lean into Ingram Micro more than ever. We see our role as helping the MSP channel to do all these things to fuel growth, and at the same time, to help take away some of their pain points.
One of the consistent threads in terms of MSP pain points is work-life balance. That’s likely because they’re accessing so many tools and systems from a multitude of vendors and portals. Ingram Micro works with our vendors to sit at the intersection between us and the MSP. We are also spending a ton of time internally to kind of smooth out operations to drive automation. We’re in the midst of our own digital transformation so that we can serve this channel better.
Another pain point is sales and marketing. One thing I’ve noticed is that a lot of our partners are jumping in with our Emerging Business Group (EBG), as well as some of the new solutions from [Ingram Micro] Cloud Marketplace. There’s much more of an appetite to look at some of the innovative solutions from some of these new and emerging vendors that maybe don’t …
… have crowded partner landscapes. The EBG that we launched about a year ago sits squarely in the middle of that.
CW: My No. 1 concern this year, as an MSP, would be competition. That means someone’s beating me, which means someone’s made that pivot or that shift, or has really focused on what the need is today to get a better outcome in the future. And some haven’t as much as they should. Marketing has always been a pain point or a massive gap. The focus is typically “how do I get new customers? How do I expand my footprint?”
I think, now, the realization is “crap, I’m losing business” or “I’m losing my foothold in my business because someone’s doing a better job or they have a better value prop into my customer base.” This is why competition is my No. 1 concern this year. So I think it all tells the same story that there are still a lot of partners who aren’t making the right shift and focusing on getting deeper with their customers. That involves having in-depth conversations about cybersecurity, cloud, etc.
In 2019, one of the biggest things from an end-user perspective was the lack of cybersecurity focus. In a lot of instances, there was no regular cadence around it. Then 2020 came along, and it was “get anything and everything you think you need, and I don’t have any budget, but let’s figure it out.” So now, the end users are a little more educated — not on the technical side, but in that they know they need to do something. This is why those MSPs who have a really good position and really good value prop, who are having those different kinds of discussions with the customer, are winning more so than those who are not.
EK: I mentioned the automation transformation we’re in right now … we’re also very much in the middle of a sales transformation internally. The feedback across the security space and the teams that I lead is that there is a lot of recruitment activity coming. The vendors that we work with day in and day out are looking to help recruit new and energized MSPs. And so we’ve seen a big uptick and partners signing up, and, and wanting to learn more about existing vendors as well as new vendors.
So I would say it’s a great time to be an MSP. One of the areas where we help from a value perspective is campaigns and things like that. We also know where the money is, and we know where the MDF is. And for those MSPs that are willing to put in some time and effort, there are dollars there to help them invest in their business to attract new customers and new prospects.
CW: A lot of MSPs, who maybe are looking to expand or get into more security, for example, don’t have the ability to invest to develop the managed service or the pre-sale service. We can offset that for them to give them that bridge — to the point where they either have enough scale that they do want to invest, or supplement by outsourcing it to us.
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Allison Francis is a writer, public relations and marketing communications professional with experience working with clients in industries such as business technology, telecommunications, health care, education, the trade show and meetings industry, travel/tourism, hospitality, consumer packaged goods and food/beverage. She specializes in working with B2B technology companies involved in hyperconverged infrastructure, managed IT services, business process outsourcing, cloud management and customer experience technologies. Allison holds a bachelor’s degree in public relations and marketing from Drake University. An Iowa native, she resides in Denver, Colorado.
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