SMB Nation Blog

SMB Nation has been serving the Bainbridge Island area since 2001, providing IT Support such as technical helpdesk support, computer support, and consulting to small and medium-sized businesses.

Get Social: Chocolate-covered Bacon

Old school SMB Nation fans remember our love and affection for BACON! Who can forget our “Save Your Bacon” campaign back in the day promoting StorageCraft? (Remember the bacon bit muffins at SMB Nation Spring?) So

when I attended Simply Measured’s LIFT – Social conference in Seattle last week, I was instantly at home when liftsocialChocolate-covered bacon was on the afternoon snack cart.

But this isn’t a foodie review, rather it’s a look at social media analytics. The context is this. If you are reading this blog and seeking to “start-up” a technology business with legs, I’d offer the world of social media and the use of analytics in this Market 2.0 era demands your consideration.

LIFT Social is an ongoing annual conference sponsored by Simply Measured, an analytics ISV in the social media space. Basically it is in the business of providing tools to measure the impact of social media campaigns businesses might execute. For example, Trek was there talking about the use of the analytical tools to measure success in building the Trek bicycle brand using numerous social media tactics such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.

First a few takeaways from the conference and then a few observations.

Engagement is not revenue. Towards the end of the conference, I don’t know if I heard a dirty little secret in the social media space or if the speakers were being completely transparent. Loosely translated, the number of likes (Facebook), friends (Facebook), followers (Twitter) and connections (LinkedIn) doesn’t mean jack snitz when it comes to revenue. I’ve always suspected this. Social media is good for brand building but it’s not transactional by its nature. I’ve seen this in several ways. First is our beloved Karl Palachuk of MSP books fame in the SMB space. Karl has worked very hard to build his brand and hit the 5,000 friend limit for a Facebook personal page. And his brand building has resulted in overall success for his book sales. However, if engagement had a direct correlation to revenue, he’d be a billionaire and I’d be shining his shoes. Another example is how I’ll nudge people to attend our weekly webinar. When I post into an Office 365 LinkedIn group with over 90,000 members about a relevant webinar coming up soon, I’ll pull anywhere from zero to a couple new attendees. Several speakers at LIFT Social shared similar disappointments. Such is the state of the Social Media union.

Attribution. Having spent time in the Big Data predictive analytics space, there is always the issue of attribution when working with leads (affiliates and aggregators). Basically the issues surrounding getting credit for driving traffic. Who drove the click? What timeframe does the attribution apply (immediate or forever)? And so on. Simply Measured announced what it claims to be the first attribution measurement tool for social media campaigns. I’ll be meeting with the Simply Measured executive team in a couple weeks to dig deeper into this.
Spying. One speaker named Skylar delivered an impressive speech on competitive intelligence gathering using the Simply Measured tools. It amounted to keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Best speech for me.

Sources. The C-level executive at Hubspot demonstrated sources of customer traffic and Google ad words was way low on the scale (below 10%) with sources like Instagram and YouTube fairing much higher. That was an eye opener. I confirmed this later with my 18YO son when he affirmed a media buy to target millennials would be best on Instagram, not Facebook.
Young at Heart. Finally, in the start-up mentality, I found the demographic at LIFT Social to be dramatically different than SMB Nation. Women attendees outnumbered men 2:1 whereas SMB Nation events are 95% male. The average age was significantly lower than our late 40s SMB Nation member. That’s OK as it made me feel young at heart LOL.

I end with a question? Why do these social media millennials end every sentence an octave higher (riser) with the word PERFECT? Not everything is PERFFECT in social media analytics but it’s getting closer to the precise measurements we can gather today with email and adwords campaigns.

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Channel Check-In: Atera’s YTD Report Card

Everyone loves a success story. So hang on fast as Atera, a seasoned start-up, is making fast moves in the SMB channel. You’ll recall we extensively covered it’s “Hello 2016” launch at the start of the year. There is ample evidence suggesting nine out of ten start-ups fail (of course) but I’m more interested in learning what makes the ten percent successful like this Forbes article did. Needless to say I count Atera in this top ten percent. So what’s it’s secret to success as an all-in-one SMB RMM/PSA/Remote Access ISV?

First – the word is out. Atera has enjoyed outsized publicity and coverage because of its market timing to provide a right-sized all-in-one RMM Software, PSA and Remote access SaaS solution for the SMB channel partner. “Our target market are the smaller VARs and MSPs.” Gil Pekelman, Atera CEO, shared during a far reaching interview. aterasept“Our pricing model of $89 per technician is both a fraction of the cost of an existing RMM player (not to mention PSA) and the fact that it is not Agent based pricing makes it totally disruptive.” As a privately-held company, Atera doesn’t release financial information but I can attest that its growth rate is significantly ahead of plan, having reviewed some internal information.

Second – Continuous Innovation. “We launched The Benchmark: This is an industry first – utilizing big data analysis we provide our users with Data (KPI’s) that can guide them if its business is on the right track. For example, we just released within our new billing module a comparison between the contracts the MSP has with his customer and the industry median hourly price.” Pekelman added. In a future contribution about Atera’s SMB channel journey, I will dig much deeper into the analytics topic.


Third – Community Feedback. A day doesn’t pass where I’m not promoting the authenticity of the SMB Nation community based on our geek roots dating back to the beginning of time (the release of the Small Business Server product in the late 1990s). Money and time haven’t changed us as we remain a bona fide grass roots community still committed to changing the world. Here’s the good news. Atera thinks like us too! Pekelman proudly “peacocked” his open feedback approach. “It’s an open/transparent/Internet model – You know what we have, what you will pay and what we are working one….” Loosely translated, Pekelman is saying that Atera’s innovation is based on community feedback.

This transparent community paradigm has allowed Atera to gleam insights into its VAR/MSP customers. “For the small guy what did we do? We changed his life.” Pekelman declared. “He can now afford an all-in-one MSP Software platform (or save a lot of money on the system he has). The system is so easy and automated that he can actually use it without hiring PSA/RMM implementation consultants. He has a unique Offering – Unlimited Agents vs. all those MSPs that are stilling using an agent based product. We are giving him a compass to run his business and guide him to a healthy one.”

Finally – design. I can attest to the simplicity of the Atera solution. I reviewed that aspect earlier this year .

Over the next couple of months, I’ll continue to track Atera’s success. It’s one to watch.

PS – If you downloaded and used Atera in a trial several months ago, DO IT AGAIN! It’s rate of innovation is amazing so the version you worked with a few months ago is different today!

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Fast Forward into Fall: NetConnect

 Since NetConnect splashed on the US MSP scene in 2Q, I’m monitoring the chatter and am finding that MSPs, while sincerely intrigued, still have more questions about this “Workspace as a Service” (WaaS) solution

designed to implement at SMB customer sites. The purpose of this blog is to dig deep and steep to offer additional WaaS insights. First things first. Take a moment to review prior NetConnect missives here and here.

Once NetConnect is installed and configured, customers are able to access your environment from any device you like; in practical terms, this means you can access that netconnectold, legacy application from the latest iPad!

In fact, customers who use behind-the-times business critical programs get a new lease of life by mobilizing with NetConnect – if the application vendor can’t provide a solution to fit with the modern way of working, NetConnect can step up to the plate. For staff, who need to work offsite and are struggling with the headache of setting up VPN connections or fixing an RDP shortcut that’s inexplicitly stopped working, can now access straigt from their browser-even better, you can do this on a Mac or PC.

This is important. As an added bonus, the unique approach to printing allows user to print to any locally accessible printer with no configuration, driver installs or setup. The company doesn’t have to worry about threats to their network, as no device ever connects to the environment; NetConnect acts like a clear pane of glass.

I can offer that best of all it integrates with Active Directory, meaning there’s not additional accounts to be setup, no additional point of management to be considered for day-to-day tasks and users get single sign on to their applications or desktop - simple. I can’t emphasize that enough.

Next steps
Northbridge Secure runs an active partner program to support NetConnect partners at every possible turn.

  • There’s a certification process for both sales and technical staff as well as access to NFR licence for internal use and demonstration.
  • Northbridge support partners with setting up in-house demo environments, proof of concepts or adding applications to their own public demo to support your sales cycle.
  • Partners are given access to everything they require to independently identify, scope, quote & install.

One of the great advantages NetConnect has over a product like Citrix is the unparalleled access partners have to the sales and technical teams; Northbridge are in that sweet spot of being big enough to produce consistent, stable innovation and yet small and agile enough

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Remembering 9-11

    With all due respect and honor, it’s time to remember September 11, 2001 which was 15-years ago today. Everyone has a memory and we welcome your stories on our Facebook page.

    Briefly, today is my birthday and it is the same day my father was born. In part, that’s why we shared the

same name (my father passed away about 13-years ago). So this date will forever be ingrained in our collective psyche because of the “9-11” tragedy. On that day, my own story is this. I was up early and making final preparations to fly from Seattle to Boston.  newyorker620

SMB Nation was representing Gateway Computers at an ITEC tradeshow the following day. I was “in the booth” lecturing on Small Business Server in mini-sessions on a three-month tour. For whatever reason, I had turned on the morning news and saw the early coverage moments after the first jetliner had hit the World Trade Center. I witnessed the second jet on live TV hitting the second tower.

After those moments, my memory is somewhat of a blur. Of course I did not fly to Boston that day on the Gateway Computers tour. I remember the TV channels only having news or going dark for several days. Like everyone, I had a range of feelings and emotions in the months that followed and I had heightened awareness of my surroundings as I was traveling by air frequently that Fall.

What’s your story? I’d love for you to share your memory as a sign of respect for the fallen. Thank you.

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Should MSPs Unionize?

Earlier this month, the Seattle Times ran a thoughtful article about a long journey for Microsoft contractors to unionize. The short story is these “perma-temps” where seeking benefits and stability afforded permanent Microsoft employees. Please read here before proceeding further so you have the proper context about what I plan to say.

Many words have been written over the past two years about the changing nature of the relationship between partners and vendors. My own take is that partners pride themselves as technology and business advisors providing value as consultants to clients. That’s what gets us up in the morning. No doubt about it.

But in a quantitative-based “Marketing 2.0” world of measurable metrics, the SMB vendors have become not nice people, viewing us as “resellers” who have no other passion than to sell licenses. Their Jim Crow language about “partnering” and their degrading actions are repulsive and highly offensive to our culture. And they don’t care. It’s all about the monthly pipeline report. Unknowingly they are increasingly biting the hand that feeds them.
This sets up the dynamic for considering some type of organization. When relationships are out of balance, there will be a reaction. Just ask the US Republican party in this Fall’s elections. Given over 80% of the SMB Nation tribe self-identifies themselves as MSPs, I’d offer this is a segment you shouldn’t ignore.

percentage MSPs

Years ago, under the late Jim Locke, the fledging SMB Technology Network (SMBTN) messaged aspects of organizing as a collective to bargain both against and fairly with the vendors. It was one of its pillars if not mission statement. While its intentions were noble, it didn’t execute broadly to truly organize MSPs to cut better deals with vendors and receive better treatment.

So in the spirit of late August crowd sourcing, use the comment section to tell me what you think. Should MSPs lead a revolution?

PS - this topic is just in time for Labor day next week LOL!

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