As we move toward the end of the year, it’s time to revisit 2018 and decide where to focus your energies next year. Every time you examine your go-to-market strategy, sales process or revenue streams, it’s a chance to decide what kind of MSP you want to be.
Will you maintain the status quo or push your organization to be on the leading edge of the managed services market?
There’s little doubt we’re at an inflection point in the channel. The market is maturing fast, and what worked last year or the year before might not be enough in the next 12-24 months to stay competitive. The temptation to keep doing things the way you’ve always done them, to not rock the boat and not invite risk, is strong. But resting comfortably in a rut, which may have worked in the early days of resale, won’t cut it in today’s market.
So while it might go against common sense to fix something that ain’t broken, the honest truth is that MSPs that haven’t jumped on new trends before the old ways of doing things stopped producing results very often find themselves behind the curve. Who has the competitive and bottom-line advantage today: partners that bit the bullet and pivoted toward recurring managed services early or those that dragged their feet? What about technologies such as cloud and IoT that once were classified as “emerging,” filling reluctant MSPs with risk aversion but so quickly becoming cash cows for partners that saw their advantages early?
You don’t have to undergo a complete transformation in order to jump on these new trends. Here are a few ways to jump on forward-thinking trends in ways that won’t be a huge shock to the system.
MSPs as a whole aren’t on the leading edge of marketing automation. Data from the 2018 Channel Futures MSP 501 survey show a full 93 percent of MSPs surveyed reported relying on networking to acquire new recurring clients, with 70 percent reporting a reliance on word-of-mouth referrals. Only 53 percent of respondents said they leverage content-distribution platforms to conduct webinars or seminars, and the number that used inbound campaign management like Hubspot came in at a dismal 34 percent. Let me hold a question up to you: Do you think born-in-the-cloud agencies and consultancies are ignoring digital marketing efforts?
If the idea of retargeting, email automation and PPC is overwhelming, remember — you can start small. Optimize your site, for starters. Prominently showcase any awards or accolades, and explain what they are and why they’re significant. Your customers don’t know what the MSP 501 is, for example, so give them a brief rundown and tell them why it’s so cool that you placed. If you don’t have a blog, create one. Don’t get bogged down thinking you have to craft an essay worthy of a Pulitzer, either. Showcase a client or a solution you recently implemented. Talk about the state of the industry. Explain confusing concepts in layman’s terms. Creating compelling, original content is hands-down the best way to raise your Google profile, and the more platforms you use to distribute it the better.
Only 22 percent of the companies that earned a spot on the MSP 501 this year offer no sort of vertical-market focus. As the IT ecosystem becomes more and more complicated, it becomes increasingly difficult to prove your value if you’re just offering the same basic IT infrastructure you’ve always provided. Your competition offers the same thing, but they do it in a way that’s specific to a certain type of customer that fits their business goals and internal expertise. The goal of any MSP should be to develop high-margin offerings, and vertical-specific solutions are a great means to that end because the solutions are replicable and streamlined.
Take a look at your current customer base. Do you have a number of clients in one industry? Have you noticed some clients are more profitable than others? Don’t forget to look at your internal resources, too. Maybe one of your techs came to you from health care and has a solid understanding of HIPAA and the pain points of medical facilities. Why wouldn’t you leverage knowledge you already have in-house?
Partnering with MSSPs
It can be counterintuitive to open your business up to another channel partner, and it’s hard to admit, even to ourselves, that we don’t have the bandwidth to do it all. This is especially true in today’s cybersecurity landscape. Sure, you’ve got the basics down. You provide a managed antivirus and firewall, maybe an endpoint-protection solution, or even some security best-practices training. But the truth of the matter is that security technology is advancing at a rate that no one can keep up with without devoting significant resources. For many MSPs, that’s simply out of reach.
But many security-focused shops, while being able to provide advanced solutions, don’t have the relationships that MSPs do. Tapping into your existing client base is a great way for them to boost their business. On the other side of the coin, MSPs that partner with MSSPs can offer white-labeled security solutions as part of their own portfolios, so customers don’t have to contract with multiple providers in order to feel taken care of.