MSPs are enjoying a period of popularity fuelled by favourable market conditions. Yet as demand increases, so does competition, so how can MSPs use marketing to stand out in this crowded market?
It’s obvious that the business landscape is changing dramatically thanks to technology. But because we’re in the middle of this upheaval, it’s difficult to put into perspective quite how great and profound this change is. Established industries such as retail that were relatively unaltered for decades are being remodelled into something that would have been unrecognisable 10 years ago. The internet has shifted power from multi-nationals to smaller organisations that can use technology to understand trends and alter their offerings in response. And technology means that almost any idea can be spun-up into a tangible business within days, creating unprecedented innovation.
Skyrocketing demand for IT means it is a great time to be a managed service provider specialising in business technology. Why? Because while the typical entrepreneur or company owner may be business-savvy, it doesn’t mean they are good at IT. This is especially true for smaller businesses not large enough to employ an internal IT person or department. While this may be okay during the start-up phase, as the business grows, IT typically develops in an unstructured, piecemeal way which makes it very difficult to scale and becomes invariably inefficient over time. The specialism of MSPs means they are perfectly placed to take this problem away.
While the typical entrepreneur or company owner may be business-savvy, it doesn’t mean they are good at IT
Competition heats up
While these conditions offer great opportunities for MSPs to grow, there is a downside: competition. MSPs are springing up everywhere, of varying sizes, quality, and specialisms. This means that while growth is possible, the market is very crowded. In other words, managed service providers need to do a much better job marketing themselves.
Let’s face it. IT professionals may be brilliant when it comes to technology, but many lack communication skills. Miguel Lopez, senior vice president of Kaseya explains why the nature of IT enforces this problem. “If you take an IT-related course in college, or you’re a Cisco certified engineer, you are likely to be good at the tech. But there’s no training around the ‘people’ aspect of the business.”
Because of this legacy, IT has traditionally struggled to communicate with the business, creating bottlenecks and problems. “MSPs have a great opportunity to reverse the communication stereotype and become more approachable. If a business leader or department head has an easier time talking to an MSP than his or her own IT department, they are more likely to do more business,” says Lopez.
Talk business, not tech
Part of this all-important communication layer – and key marketing differentiator for MSPs – is learning how to talk business, not tech. This starts with the website and social media communications and continues into the customer engagement phase. Does it speak jargon about tech features, or does it address ways to fix technology-related problems faced by businesses?
“My advice to MSPs is to stop trying to explain to non-technical people your technology in non-technology terms. Tell them how you can help and what it means in terms they understand, not what fits the profile of what IT companies can typically deliver or measure.”
Talk to a specific audience
Marketing works when you speak to the right people in terms they understand. MSPs must therefore understand that their potential customers are varied. “The demographic is not just small customers. Internal IT departments of all sizes are now leveraging MSPs. All IT departments have limited budgets that in most cases aren’t going up. They need to do more with less and in many cases, it’s cheaper to outsource or partner with an MSP to deliver a service than it is to develop it in-house.”
Part of this all-important communication layer – and key marketing differentiator for MSPs – is learning how to talk business, not tech
It’s critical therefore that MSPs appeal to IT departments by talking about the challenges they have. “Network monitoring and IT security are both areas that are typically difficult for internal IT departments to manage. In fact, anything that is non-customer facing is a useful starting point for MSP discussions.”
MSPs may find that they are particularly strong when talking to a particular industry or department and they may find that having a single marketing focus is more effective than a ‘blanket’ approach to marketing that many of their competitors may partake in.
Walk the walk
MSPs are hypocrites. Their business model is built upon its customers outsourcing parts of their business operations. Yet according to Lopez, MSPs rarely practice what they preach. “MSPs are people that are supposed to go to other companies to convince them to outsource their IT, but they won’t outsource their own marketing. The problem for many MSPs is they may think they know marketing, but they don’t.”
The decision is simple. MSPs either need to employ people with the marketing skills they lack, train existing staff with the marketing skills they need or outsource. In fact, it’s the same choice that organisations have when deciding to use an MSP or develop their IT service in-house.
MSP marketing is ultimately about explaining the value and business benefits that customers can expect. “Tell them the value you can add to THEIR business. Tell them ‘all these issues you don’t understand, I’ll take care of them for you. I’ll put KPIs and reports in place and you carry on expanding and doing more business.’”
Learn more about the challenges faced by MSPs in the 2018 MSP Benchmark survey from Kaseya.