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Is This The End For MSP Specialists?

Are you a specialist or a generalist? Your success as a managed service provider over the next few years is highly dependent on how you answer that key question. Should you position yourself as a specialist, or is it wise to offer and promote value across a broad range of areas? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each approach.

December 29, 2014

2 Min Read
Is This The End For MSP Specialists?

By Michael Brown 1

Are you a specialist or a generalist? Your success as a managed service provider over the next few years is highly dependent on how you answer that key question.

As an MSP with expertise in cloud-based file sharing, your clients might consider you as a specialist, when in fact you deploy and manage a wide range of solutions. As this series of interviews highlights, it’s critical for managed service providers to distinguish themselves as providing a more holistic solution.  The “specialist” label is an MSP death sentence (so the argument goes).

But is it accurate? Should you position yourself as a specialist, or is it wise to offer and promote value across a broad range of areas? Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of each approach:

The Specialist Route

  • Pros: Positioning yourself as a specialist — an expert, even — in one area provides your brand more clarity.  That is, it becomes very apparent to customers what it is that you offer. It’s often easier to sell and market your company on a niche set of services (management of cloud-based file sharing, for instance), when there is a definitive focus.

  • Cons: Companies that view you as a specialist in certain areas may not be able to see through to the other services you can offer them. Most likely companies will require more than a few core services, including everything from file-sharing, security, data backup & recovery and more in a single package. If not explicit, you might get overlooked by potential clients. Furthermore, you inadvertently exclude yourself from growing markets and trends by appearing too specialized.

The Generalist Route

  • Pros: Trends in IT services are always shifting. As companies discover emerging needs and requirements, the generalist MSP appears more at the ready to onboard those companies to the latest solutions. No matter what the client is looking for initially, positioning yourself as a generalist makes it easier to up-sell/cross-sell your solutions over the long term.

  • Cons: Most of the time, prospects contact MSPs with specific needs in mind. Thus, positioning yourself as a generalist can make you (and your services) seem overly vague. And while the generalist will have more opportunities to cross-sell/up-sell, they also run the risk of getting pulled in directions they don’t want and hadn’t plan for (e.g. enterprise security, network monitoring, etc.).

At the end of the day, it is really a question of marketing. In reality, most managed service providers have a wide range of expertise, yet decide to focus on a few core areas. Indeed, most MSPs are specialists—they just happen to specialize in a wide range of areas.

So is the specialized MSP in the process of going extinct? Not from our point-of-view. What about yours? 

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