Don't be vanilla…
A lot of managed service providers and IT suppliers look the same; they look 'vanilla'. Ten years ago, this was fine as you were still in high demand for your IT skills and knowledge.
Now with the advancements of technology, automation and the internet, the base knowledge of IT and tech in companies is higher. This can make positioning your managed IT offering a little harder.
"Why do we need you for IT support when we can do it ourselves?"
This scenario will always happen, and this type of client needs to be re-educated (if possible) that the correct use of IT, and the leverage of an MSP can support their business growth.
But we are different!
Managed service providers often fall into the trap of thinking (and stating) they are "different" or "better" than other MSP's in their area.
When asked why they are better, most business owners or managers will reply with answers like:
- We have better engineers and teams
- We have better tools
- We have better technology vendors
- Our clients think we are the best
- We can offer better or cheaper pricing.
Now let's break these down and look at them in more detail:
Engineers and team: Yes, having a great team (great people AND skills) is extremely important and one of the most important factors in having a great service offering. However, it's not a USP or a reason why you're better. Why? Because any MSP can hire great people and invest to ensure they have great skills.
Tools: Another important factor to the efficiency and quality level of your service offering. Tools like Helpdesks, AV, RMM, automation, etc, all play a key role. However, your competitors can buy the same tools!
Tech and vendors: Partnerships with the likes of Microsoft, hardware vendors and security partners add value to your services, and ultimately your clients. However, guess what… your competition have the same partners!
Clients: Yes you may have great clients with glowing reviews, but so does your competition.
Pricing: undercutting the competition isn't always a good thing. You need to lead with value and service, and if you're adding value then your clients shouldn't be looking for the cheapest.
What's the problem with being an ordinary MSP?
The problem with being ordinary, is just that.
Your MSP and service offering is ordinary, vanilla and boring. It is seen as a cost, rather than a partner that adds value.
Overtime this will be compounded as new managed service providers are born and competition grows. This will result in a race to the bottom for an ordinary MSP which will impact on revenue, quality of service offering and the relationship with clients - if you keep them.
How can you add value and thrive?
The answer is simple, but the execution needs commitment and determination. Once you have your team, service offering, procedures and tools lined up and running like a well-oiled machine - you need to find your niche!
Finding your niche, or owning your space will be your differentiator and give the opportunity to move your MSP to the next level.
How do you find your niche?
The answer to this is different for every MSP. You may already have a niche and not know it, or you may need to go looking.
For example, if you look at your existing client base you may find your client base (or a large part of it) are from the same industry, or you may find that you offer a specialist service on top of your standard MSP services that differentiates you from the others.
Look for something different and unique - a strength you already have that you can leverage. If you're still struggling, get searching. Look at other markets, areas or industries, and look at the MSPs in that space. Can you do it better?
Find your niche, then focus.
Many MSP's claim to have a niche, but when examined it's just another area to add to their growing list of services, areas, industries and mix of clients.
Once you find your niche, focus on it, grow it and own it.
What are the advantages to concentrating on a niche?
When you have found, nurtured and developed your offering around your niche, as you build the client base in this space you will find that:
- Clients are not price focused. They come to you for your experience and quality
- You will receive referrals and recommendations from within your niche.
- Conversations can be about adding value to your clients, and not just reactive IT support
- Overtime the advantages will compound and result in more clients, happier clients, increased leads, better margins and a healthier MSP.
Yellowbus Solutions found their niche, have you found yours?
When Yellowbus was started, we were a very traditional IT support MSP, offering the typical IT services and complimentary services like internet and telecoms. We got good at what we were offering, invested in the tools, people and service offerings. This allowed us to grow. But over time, with the market becoming more and more competitive, we knew we had to change.
We analysed our client base and realised that a big portion of our existing client base was within the nuclear and engineering sectors (due to the location of our head office). We then reviewed the client personas that were the best fit and where we liked working. Again, this was the nuclear and engineering clients.
So, our niche was born. We were going to become the managed service provider for the energy and engineering sectors.
Fast forward to today…
Yes, we still offer IT and associated services to businesses of all shapes and sizes, industries and locations. However, our focus is on the energy and engineering niche when we develop our marketing, messaging, future service offerings and partnerships.
We now have a name in the industry, receive referrals from within the industry and have often won projects against IT companies 100 times our size because of our quality, security and speed - but ultimately because of our track record in this sector.
Find your niche!
Mike Douglass is commercial director at Yellowbus Solutions
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