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The TotallyMSP Roadshow – Our Experiment in improving MSP events

TotallyMSP RoadshowTowards the end of last year, I hosted a new type of Managed Service Provider (MSP) event – the TotallyMSP roadshow.

The TotallyMSP Roadshow took place over four separate dates in Manchester, London, Dublin and Bristol. The roadshow was an experiment — an attempt to run a different type of event for MSPs. An event that didn’t feature a headline sponsor, wasn’t a thinly veiled series of sales pitches and was simply about bringing MSPs together to talk, learn and network.

The TotallyMSP roadshow was the brain-child of my friend Chris Tate of Datto. Chris is a former MSP himself, one who now helps Datto partners to build their MSP businesses. Like me, Chris has attended dozens of MSP events over the years, and like most of us in the MSP industry, sometimes came away from those events disappointed at the opportunities missed by the hosts.

When Chris approached me with the TotallyMSP roadshow idea, I agreed that if I were an MSP again, I’d like to attend an event that was more about connecting MSPs together and educating them.

Of course, somebody has to pay for these events, and wouldn’t it be nice if we could draw together a group of vendor sponsors who were MSP-friendly, play well together with one another, and appreciate that you can sell your products and services to MSPs through educating them on benefits, rather than repeatedly hitting them over the head with a sales hammer.

The TotallyMSP Roadshow Experiment

TotallyMSP Roadshow in Manchester

A selfie with the TotallyMSP Roadshow audience in Manchester

With that in mind, the experiment began! Over 150 MSPs and 6 vendor sponsors joined us for the TotallyMSP roadshow in Manchester, London, Dublin and Bristol for a new type of event.

Here’s what happened!

As host, I kicked off each day by thanking the MSP attendees for taking time out of their busy days to come along and join us. While the events were free of charge to attend, there is still a cost involved to MSPs in travelling to and spending half a day with us. As a former MSP myself, I wanted to acknowledge that investment from attendees.

I went on to explain that this roadshow was an experiment, that it was interactive, the audience could ask questions at any time. The day was to be about meeting fellow MSPs and having conversations. This networking aspect was very important to me, as I’m a massive believer in MSP collaboration for business growth.

Avoiding the Mistakes MSPs Make

To set the scene for the TotallyMSP roadshow day, I gave the first presentation and answered a common question — if I were to start an MSP again tomorrow, what mistakes would I strive to avoid? I shared the three most common mistakes I see MSPs making:-

  1. Not documenting their business
  2. Trying to be a jack of all trades
  3. Not focusing on lowering their cost of support

… and offered some practical tips on how to avoid these mistakes.

I gave away some copies of my own book Mistakes MSP’s Make – The Five Most Important Mistakes IT Managed Service Providers Make Which Cost Them Time and Money to attendees and introduced the speakers.

AppRiver – Networking Analysis Tools and Automation

AppRiverCloud-based email and cyber-security specialists AppRiver talked about Networking Analysis Tools and automation, Office 365 and hosted Exchange solutions, opportunities in email encryption and web filtering, and what great partner support looks like to them.

AppRiver was a vendor many MSPs weren’t aware of before these events, yet one who offers a lot of solutions that MSPs could – and in my opinion, should – be offering to their clients.

I asked how many MSPs either sold web filtering solutions (some) or gave-away web filtering solutions to lower their cost of support (virtually none) and this prompted plenty of discussions about the line between MSPs doing what is right to keep their clients safe and secure, and maintaining profitability. This is especially important when the client doesn’t see the value in the solutions and doesn’t want to pay for them.

Datto – Data Protection Experts

DattoChris Tate from Data Protection experts Datto spoke at each event with a fantastic presentation looking at the history of cybersecurity — computer viruses on everything from mainframes and home computers to the early PCs, how we historically protected against those threats (does anybody remember Dr Solomon’s Antivirus?), plus the modern raft of ransomware and how MSPs need to change their approach to protecting clients.

This was a nostalgic look at cyber-security with a very real message. The bad guys have always been present, even from the earliest days of computing, and they are now more sophisticated than ever.

Coming off the back of Datto’s announcement of their new range of Networking Continuity solutions for MSPs, Chris’s sessions provoked some interesting debate in the audience on how many of their clients had been affected by ransomware, how many of those clients had paid the ransom (clue — too many…) and how to protect those clients going forwards.

IT Glue – IT Documentation Specialists

IT GlueIT documentation software specialists IT Glue were at each event and took the brave step of giving a live demo (brave!) of their MSP documentation platform with an audience member who had never seen the IT Glue software before. The demo allowed MSPs to see how easy it was for their staff to create client documentation and find important information on an ongoing basis.

IT Glue spoke a lot about the need to document your MSP business and your client’s infrastructures — something I hugely advocate myself. It really is a fundamental of modern Managed Services.

There was also a healthy debate on how MSPs currently document their businesses, ranging from:-

  • SharePoint (free for Microsoft partners, but difficult to manage)
  • Word documents (Better than nothing?)
  • Bespoke solutions (Time-consuming to set up and maintain, but useful)
  • Post-It Notes (No, really…)

This was a great example of a product, in IT Glue, proving its value to the audience without the IT Glue speakers ever hard-selling their solution. The application and benefits of the IT Glue platform were obvious, and IT Glue proved to be a hit on this roadshow.

While in Dublin, I also recorded an interview with Melissa Saar, the Partner Success Manager at IT Glue. Keep an eye on TubbTalk – the Podcast for IT Consultants, for that episode!

Webroot – Next Generation Cyber-Security

WebrootWebroot talked about the changing landscape of cyber-security, specifically next-generation endpoint protection and smart threat intelligence services.

Some of the stories that Webroot shared about the current state of the cyber-security landscape were definitely eye-opening. It’s no longer enough to deploy anti-virus solutions that rely on regular updates to keep devices safe. Instead, cloud-based security that detects and protects against threats in real-time is required.

Suffice to say, Webroot’s presentation (along with Datto and AppRiver) highlighted to many attendees that they need to rethink the approach of their MSP business to Cyber-Security. The times, they are definitely a changing…

Keep an eye on my MSP Podcast for an upcoming interview with the security experts at Webroot.

RapidFireTools – Network Detective Solution

RapidFire ToolsRichard Daly of RapidFire Tools joined us at each roadshow event and spoke, honestly and openly, about the Network Detective solution. Network Detective is a well-established tool that allows MSPs to non-intrusively detail network infrastructure, expose security threats and vulnerabilities, plus produce client-friendly reports on these activities.

Richard explained how many of their existing MSP partners use Network Detective to generate consulting opportunities, and that specific tools for Microsoft Exchange, SQL Server and even Datto devices, allow MSPs to differentiate themselves from competitors who rely on manual security checks.

This idea of MSPs creating their own managed cyber-security services was an intriguing idea to many attendees, who definitely saw a need for their clients.

Inbay – White-Label NOC and Helpdesk Services

InbayLondon-based Inbay was a name new to many of the TotallyMSP roadshow attendees.

Inbay provides white-label Network Operation Centre (NOC) and Helpdesk services to MSPs to help those MSPs to scale more effectively.

Head of Global Sales at Inbay, Scott Tyson, delivered a highly valuable presentation on building a sales playbook — how MSPs can systematically and methodically tackle sales opportunities to grow their business.

Despite being about sales, Scott’s presentation was the epitome of education over blunt selling — with the audience being educated on how they could make more sales, rather than having a sales pitch pushed down their throat! As a result, there was a lot of interest from audience members in how they could partner with InBay and many MSPs who debated whether outsourcing was right for them, and how to choose an MSP NOC provider.

Question and Answer session

TotallyMSP Roadshow in Manchester with Robert Gibbons

Thanks to Robert Gibbons of Think4 IT for the picture!

Where time allowed, on some of the roadshow dates we also hosted an open question and answer session with all the speakers lined up to answer questions from the audience.

I truly believe we could have had an entire day just for Q’n’A’s. This was a very popular segment! The audience asked questions of the presenters, the presenters asked questions of the audience, and the audience asked questions of each other. We covered everything from:-

  • how MSPs can more effectively partner with vendors
  • what frustrates vendors about working with MSPs
  • what one thing do MSPs wish vendors would do more of
  • what you should wear to client meetings

No, really! The last fashion-based topic proved to be quite the debate. 🙂

How was the feedback?

With the TotallyMSP roadshow being the first of its kind and an experiment, what feedback did we receive from attendees?

  • Our goal of having an educational, non-sales pitchy event was a grand one — and you’ve got to expect vendors to want to get a good return on investment (ROI) for the costs of sponsoring the event. The feedback we got on the first event in Manchester was mixed — with some attendees thinking there were too many sales pitches. To the vendor sponsorss credit, they listened to this feedback to the point where the feedback on the last roadshows in Dublin and Bristol suggested that the vendors didn’t talk about their products enough! There is obviously a balance to find here. People want to be educated, but also want to learn about products that can help them.
  • Much of the feedback we received loved the relaxed, open and informative nature of the event. As one attendee fed back to us “It’s not the competition in the room – it’s a collaborative pool of minds. It was a great learning experience.” Another said “A good opportunity to meet fellow MSPs.”
  • We generated a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 83 for the event in London, which is exceptional! “The roadshow was great. Simply one of the most useful events I’ve been to” said one attendee. Well done to everybody involved!

Based on this feedback, and the fact the vendor sponsors were very happy with the return on their investment, I think we can chalk this experiment up as a success. There are things we’d definitely do differently, but the bottom line is this — we got started trying to change how the industry runs these type of events.

I’ve had a raft of MSPs and vendors getting in touch with me to ask if we’ll be running this type of event again.

Keep an eye on www.totallymsp.com in case we decide to go on the road again in the future and make sure to follow my List of IT Channel Events for MSPs to find other events you can attend.

If you’re interested in meeting with other MSPs to collaborate, then I’d also recommend checking out my list of user groups for UK Managed Service Providers.

Conclusion

TotallyMSP RoadshowThere’s clearly a need to provide more events like the TotallyMSP roadshow where MSPs can learn and network. Even those MSPs who had never spoken to the “competition” before appreciated the value in this approach, post-event.

If there was one clear realisation to come out of the event, it is this. MSPs understand vendors have to sell products and services. But if vendors educate and inform, rather than sell, sell, sell, then they’ll build a relationship based on trust. The sales then come naturally.

  • Would you like to see more events similar to the TotallyMSP roadshow?
  • Did you attend an event and have feedback to offer?
  • What do you love or hate about the MSP events you’ve recently attended?

Please leave a comment below or get in touch with me. I’d really appreciate hearing from you!

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Richard Tubb

I help IT companies grow their businesses in a scalable and sustainable way. My clients are business owners of small to medium sized IT firms. at Tubblog
I help IT business owner's to free up their time, concentrate on what is important, and build a business that can run without them.

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