By Shannon Mayer, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Continuum Managed IT Services
The seventh installment of a monthly blog series offering tips and best practices on various ways MSPs can help their SMB clients work through the most challenging daily business issues.
In the last installment of, “Better Call an MSP,” we offered tips on staying ahead of the game when it comes to malware and virus attacks. Let’s switch gears and discuss the recent M&A activity that’s occurring on the enterprise and SMB levels. This type of activity is becoming more prevalent with both vendors and MSPs as they grow with the market. For instance, just recently, Dell acquired EMC, Barracuda purchased Intronis, and Solar Winds was acquired by two private equity firms. The same goes for the various MSPs that have been acquired or have joined forces to merge into one larger company to better serve clients.
What does all this mean for MSPs? First and foremost, transformation, now more than ever, is a necessity, rather than a proactive measure because as the market consolidates, competition increases. As an IT solutions provider, it is critical to deep dive into your business, looking at where you can add opportunities to set yourself apart from your competitors; this includes everything from offerings and services, customer service and value proposition. Let’s examine this closer.
1.) Increase Services/Increase Value Proposition: This is a good starting point, especially since there are specific focuses currently on certain services. For instance, security is currently at the forefront, and there are many opportunities in this area, such as password management, managed print and telecom. One way consolidation can be a positive for MSPs is by partnering with another firm that has the expertise and resources you want to add. For instance, if you want to add managed print, but don’t currently have a solution, seek out one of your peers who might have this area solidified. I have heard of several MSPs (including Continuum partners) who have partnered to add telecom and vice-versa; all of which have led to positive results.
When it comes to value proposition, separate yourself from your competitors to stay current and unique. This is especially important as you don’t want your services to sound too much like everyone else’s. How can you overcome this hurdle? One way is to perfect your “elevator pitch.” Can you honestly tell a potential customer what your value proposition is in 30 seconds or less? If not, then think about how you can be clear, concise and to the point without any added jargon or “filler” material.
2.) Build Customer Service: Regarding commodization of the MSP space, customer service is critical to your success. Did you know that it costs six to seven times more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one? Think about the financial aspect of this, not to mention the time it takes to obtain and then onboard a new customer.
We’ve also spoken about pricing in this blog series, specifically when it comes to competitors trying to undercut each other. However, if your customer service goes above and beyond expectations, then you are more likely to retain your current customers (and also add new ones at the same time). In fact, according to global management consulting firm Bain & Company, “A customer is four times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service related rather than price or product related.”
3.) Cultivate Relationships: Aside from always ensuring your customers are well taken care of, also show your appreciation for their business—not just when they have a problem that needs to be addressed. The key is to be proactive rather than reactive if you want to be unique in your business model. Don’t wait for a customer to call you when they are at the point of their system shutting down. Set up monthly check-ins to see how things are running; get to know them and what their needs are for both the long and short term.
Another way to do this is by “showing” rather than “telling” them, possibly on a quarterly basis. Lay out on paper what you as the MSP have done to support their IT efforts; numbers speak louder than words, and if there are specific instances of ROI that you can share, then make sure to highlight those components. This way, they can visibly see where their money is going and how it’s being utilized toward their business. If you need guidance in mapping out a strategy for these types of reports, look to your vendor partners for guidance and tools that can help. Many MSPs often are not aware that their vendors are always there to help and educate them, as well as providing products and services.
Letting your customers know you appreciate them doesn’t always have to be all about business. You could also let them know they are important by holding a local “meet and greet” type of event where you can socialize and they can get to know you and your staff in a casual setting. Other gestures like a special gift during the holidays or other company milestones can go a long way as well. You could also establish a loyalty program in which customers earn points that they could use toward services and product discounts.
Whether you start with implementing one of these components, or all three, remember that the key is to think of areas where you can position yourself as a unique market leader, ensuring you stay competitive, while providing the highest level of customer service to both current and new clients.
Shannon Mayer is Continuum's Senior Product Marketing Manager and is directly responsible for platform go-to-market strategy and messaging as well as business intelligence. She manages the Continuum Peer Groups program and content for Navigate 2016, Continuum’s annual partner conference. Shannon was named a 2013 Channel Chief by CRN and has also been named to the MSPmentor 250, CRN’s ‘Top 100 People You Don’t Know, But Should’, and CRN’s ‘Women of the Channel: Power 100’ lists. Follow her on Twitter: @shannonjmayer.