By Joe Foos
Buy Me Today. I’m Changing Tomorrow.
Some of you see this message every day and miss the whole marketing ploy that repeats itself every day. Others use it every day in your own business, trying to get a customer to choose you now, instead of taking the risk they’ll choose someone else tomorrow, when they think about it a little more carefully.
As we bid farewell to another calendar year, what are you thinking about doing in 2015?
- More of the Same. Because I Can’t Try Anything New.
- Something Radically Different. Because I Can’t Keep Doing What I Have Been.
“If You Can’t, Then You Must”, Tony Robbins
There are 50 Shades of Grey Everywhere You Look
Consultants. Resellers. VARs. System Integrators. Managed Service Providers. Cloud Service Providers.
“We started out as technical consultants, but then gained vendor product certifications as well, and a couple of years ago also started offering remote monitoring and help desk services, so we can provide fixed fee managed services, and recently also learned how to help customers move to the cloud.”
But Most Customers Who Make Big Changes Justify Their Decisions In Terms of White Or Black.
“Every IT firm we spoke with offered the same thing, so we chose yours because you offered the lowest price.”
“Every IT firm we spoke with offered the same thing, except your firm was the only one that ….”
In 2003, I learned about SBS. In 2015, none of my customers remember what that stands for, even though they all bought it from me.
Like many of you, I was an early adopter of SBS. In fact, the firm I worked for was the very first to achieve Microsoft Small Business Specialist Certification (SBSC) in the Silicon Valley/San Francisco Bay Area. Today, the firm I work for recommends Office 365 to almost all SMB clients. In the past eleven years, I have learned a lot about a zillion different technologies and been trained by every major vendor in our industry to understand and explain the value of every major IT solution or service. But I still can’t answer every question that comes up, and I still can’t do everything a potential client might ask me to. The only way I come close, is to offer to coordinate their various needs by pulling together as many engineers, consultants, vendors, and other partners … to meet a client’s comprehensive needs.
Today, Technology Is Much More Complex, And Simpler. At The Same Time.
We used to need a Blackberry Enterprise Server attached to an Exchange Server, combined with special “Crackberries,” only available on a special pager network, to read our emails while away from the office.
Now, we can use almost any mobile device we want to, without spending a king’s ransom on infrastructure, for someone else to figure out whatever collection of hardware and software is needed to make the magic work.
But what if the magic stops working one day? Who do we call, and what can we do about it if there is no clear resolution? Most of our customers don’t want or need the same products and services they wanted and needed in the old days. But why do some customers believe they don’t need IT service providers either? Because someone else defined our value to customers.
In the face of simplicity, there is very real complexity. That’s where value comes into play. If you understand how a vendor’s 99.9% uptime guarantee or 24x7 support personnel could still cause havoc for a customer without a contingency plan, you can deliver greater value beyond simply getting paid to migrate the last few remaining servers to the cloud. But nobody will know how much more you can do for them, if your idea of focused marketing stops at getting listed in Microsoft Pinpoint.
The Most Important New Years’ Resolution. Defining Yourself. With Your Own Words.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. If we all just keep telling the world that we “also do what you’ve heard others tell you they do, but better”, we’ll never define ourselves. IT providers who didn’t know how to automate email migration yesterday, will learn how to do so tomorrow. Those who define themselves by comparing themselves to others, will always define themselves that way. Here are the most common ways we define ourselves.
- We Won An Award
- We Won More Awards.
- We Care More.
- We Know More
- We Answer The Phone Faster.
- We Arrive To Your Office Sooner.
- We Are Bigger.
- We Are Smaller.
- We Are Closer.
- We Are Global.
- We Cost Less.
- We Are Free.
For Me, It’s All About Teamwork. Everyone Working Together To Help Customers Improve Everything.
Over the past eleven years, I went from one really good place, to another really good place. But they are different, because they define themselves with their own terminology. Customers understand the difference. I decided to make a change because I wanted something different. I helped my first company transition into a better version of itself over the course of eleven years. But then, I saw I could do even more in my new company. It took years to come to this conclusion, but it only took an instant to make the actual change when I viewed things from a different perspective.
In both cases, the key is teamwork. Collaboration. Togetherness. Regardless of whether you are a single independent consultant or a member of a larger company with dozens of people, you achieve more when you work together with others in a complementary manner. Most SMB Nation members are small independent consultants that don’t spend enough time thinking about ways to become true business partners. Instead of competing against each other, strengthen yourselves against the global commoditization of IT services by forming closer working relationships amongst yourselves. Spend more time on this activity than on anything else. Some of you already do this with industry associations, mentor groups, and referral networks. You realize that every challenge you face is probably something someone else has already overcome. The rest of you are still frequently having to lift heavier and heavier loads on your own. Customers value you more, if they know you are not alone.
Larger IT consulting firms are always struggling to hire experienced professionals that can hit the ground running. Your independent business might actually benefit most from joining a larger company. You could still spend time on the most rewarding part of your business in front of customers and technology, while having a fully staffed back office handle the work you end up doing yourself at night or on weekends.
However you choose to work more closely with others in our industry:
Figure It Out Now: Do Something Radically Different
Before You Get Distracted By The Next Interruption: More Of The Same
Define Yourself Today. So You Don’t Have To Change Again Tomorrow.
Joe Foos is the Director of SMB Sales & Marketing at ZAG Technical Services in San Jose, CA. You can learn more about his new firm at www.itconsultingsiliconvalley.com
Joe used to work at Lanlogic in Livermore, CA until November 2014. You can learn more at www.bayareaitconsulting.com