The Three Secrets to Long-term Managed Services Success

Let's fast forward three years in the managed services market. By 2012, I expect most major IT vendors to offer SaaS (software as a service) options directly to customers. How will MSPs make a living as on-demand services increasingly go direct? And how will the best MSPs maximize their valuations during potential company sales, mergers and acquisitions? I put that question to Arlin Sorensen during last week's HTG Summit in Dallas. Sorensen offered a concise answer.

Sorensen said effective marketing, sales and consulting are the three basic criteria for long-term MSP success and maximum company valuation. Translation: The more things change in the IT channel, the more they stay the same.

If you check out our MSPmentor 100 list and visit the associated company sites, you'll find that most of the top MSPs have strong marketing, PR and search engine optimization programs in place.

What about consulting? I gag a little bit when MSPs refer to themselves as "trusted advisors" (talk about term filled with self appreciation). But there's no doubt MSPs need to remain strategic consultants who are engaged with their customers.

Instead of debating whether Dell, Microsoft and other vendors have the right to sell SaaS services directly to customers, many of the HTG Summit attendees huddled up to discuss their marketing and PR strategies.

HTG member Stuart Crawford drove a private conversation where he helped peer MSPs understand how to set up a basic blog, RSS feeds and PR relationships with local media. And Everon Technology CEO Mike Cooch hosted a standing-room-only session to explore MSP compensation (i.e., sales) strategies to control costs and motivate employees.

Crawford and Cooch are extreme MSP examples -- they each spend numerous hours each week blogging and nagivating social networks to share opinions and promote their respective companies, Bulletproof Infotech and Everon Technology Services. (Disclosure: Crawford also blogs a bit for our sister site, The VAR Guy.)

From Crawford to Cooch to Sorensen, it's clear that MSPs participating in HTG Peer Groups are burying old channel stereotypes.

Critics say VARs and MSPs generally don't understand sales, marketing and strategic consulting. I beg to differ: The best VARs and MSPs already understand those three business elements, and they'll be able to sell their businesses at far higher multiples than traditional resellers.

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TAGS: Marketing
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