Where Are Tomorrow's MSPs Hiding?

Where Are Tomorrow's MSPs Hiding?

A quiet race to recruit managed service providers into associations and user groups continues. The latest example: CompTIA MSP Partners has announced a relationship with PartnerConduit Network, an online community that helps solutions providers to manage collaborative opportunities. Here's a look at the relationship. Plus, a broader look at the effort to find and recruit MSPs into associations, organizations and user groups.

First, a look at today's news involving CompTIA MSP Partners and PartnerConduit Network. According to a joint press release:

The new alliance will provide participants―including technology vendors, channel partners and solution providers―with additional cross-collaborative and networking opportunities to achieve greater growth, reach, efficiency and profitability...
PCN (short for PartnerConduit Network) and CompTIA MSP Partners also announced a series of cross-promotional efforts involving education and member discounts.

MSP Partners was founded in 2007 by Cisco, Intel, Ingram Micro, Level Platforms and Microsoft as an effort to increase managed services awareness. The alliance has grown to about 5,000 members since its launch. CompTIA acquired MSP Partners in 2009, in a deal that promised to further raise MSP Partners' visibility in the channel.

Where Are Tomorrow's MSPs?

The MSP Partners-PCN relationship puts the spotlight on a larger industry question: It's getting increasingly difficult to recruit MSPs into paid associations and organizations. Simply put: MSPs are short on time and overloaded with event and/or member invites from associations, vendors, education bodies, coaches and media companies (MSPmentor included).

To find and engage tomorrow's MSPs, some associations and organizations have increasingly shifted to low-cost or free membership models.

The MSPAlliance -- the oldest and largest industry association serving managed services providers -- has been using free membership drives from time to time, to boost recruitment numbers. MSPAlliance, founded around 2000 (I believe), now says it has more than 10,000 members worldwide.

A range of additional groups and associations also serve the MSP market -- from the ASCII Group to MSP University (organizer of boot camps) to industry coaches to vendor-led efforts.

Most of the major PSA (professional services automation) and RMM (remote monitoring and management) software providers now promote face-to-face and online user groups. The next major move will likely involve Kaseya, which appears to be preparing an online community strategy that will likely launch in time for Kaseya Connect -- a user conference scheduled for June 1-3 in Las Vegas.

The Real Challenge

Ultimately, I think media companies, associations, coaches and vendors are fighting for the attention of a highly niche audience.

For example: Let's assume the North American channel has between 80,000 to 120,000 solution provider organizations -- ranging from one-man shops to massive IT consulting firms. I suspect only 10 to 20 percent of that audience -- 8,000 to 24,000 solutions providers -- have made a successful shift to managed services. Other areas (such as Europe and Australia) are perhaps one-tenth the MSP market size of North America.

Tracking down and engaging those established and aspiring MSPs is a full-time job -- whether you're a lunatic blogger, a coach, a vendor or a large association.

Free offers will pull in some of the people some of the time. Quality education and programs will pull in more of the people more of the time. Mind you: I'm not criticizing free or freemium. But even free has to deliver value in order to keep MSPs coming back for more.

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