I try to make time to visit as many of the UK’s IT Community Groups, Peer Groups and User Groups as I’m able to. Whenever I’m in a town, I look up the local IT Community group and make the time to visit with them. This is time well spent for me, as doing so allows me to build new connections with my peers and catch-up with existing friends, hear how people are overcoming business challenges and generally keep my ear to the ground.
Listen to the introductions…
If you ever happen to be at the same group meeting as me, and fancy a little chuckle at my expense, then watch my face during the round-the-table introductions typically used at the beginning of these meetings.
The first introduction typically go like this (names and locations purely fictional)
“Hi, I’m Carlos from Best Fix IT and we’re an IT company from Edinburgh. We provide IT Support to Small Businesses in the Edinburgh area.
The second introduction then often goes like this:-
“Hi, I’m Manuel from Faster Fix IT. We do pretty much the same stuff Carlos does, but we’re in Glasgow”.
Remember I told you to be watching my face during these introductions? Well it’s starting to go a nice shade of red now.
The third introduction continues:-
“Hello everyone. I’m Raul and I’m from Supreme Speed IT. Erm – I guess we do the same as Carlos and Manuel, but we’re from Dundee”
Still watching me? Well you’ll start to try to suppress a snigger at this point as you watch my face go a nice shade of purple, biting on my tongue.
Why am I going purple in frustration?
You’re not all the same!
Because whatever business you run, you don’t do the same thing as your competitors.
Even when you’re at a User Group meeting where you are probably surrounded by friendly peers who work in the same industry space as you, most likely with many of the same technologies, you don’t do the same thing as them.
Your clients don’t work with you because you’re the only IT company in your local area. They work with you because of something unique you bring to that relationship.
Why are you unique?
What is that unique thing? Well, it could be because you focus on providing exceptional Customer Service and can give examples of this. It could be you specialise in providing out-of-hours support. It could be a Technical skill you’ve worked hard at becoming an expert in – SQL Server, Scripting, Windows Home Server. It could be a certain Technology you’ve worked with extensively – SharePoint, Linc, Voice-over-IP. It could even be a soft skill – business networking, peer collaboration, strategic alliance building.
My own MSP grew a reputation for building strong working relationships with peers and vendors around the UK, allowing us to provide the same high levels of support to a client 100 miles away as someone within our local area. You could be sure that everyone knew that, because we weren’t shy about telling people!
In my local user group, and I suspect it’s the same for every local user group, there are people who are “Go To” guys for certain things. Sharepoint and BPOS are two that spring to mind. Those people who seem to know everyone are another. The reason these peers are “Go To” guys? They don’t simply state they do the same thing as everyone else, they let people know that they excel in a particular field.
“Hi, I’m Leanne from Fast-React IT. We’re based in the Aberdeen and we provide outsourced IT services to small business clients in the Aberdeen area. We also specialise in helping clients with distributed workforces, providing strong VPN and Remote Worker solutions”.
If you’re not sure why your clients work with you, then go ahead and ask them! It’ll be a useful exercise because you’ll learn a lot about your business, and it’ll give your client pause to consider exactly why it is they value your time.
“Hello, I’m Scarlet from FixIT Services. We work in the Lothians, and our clients tell us they choose to work with us because we’ve developed high levels of Customer Service and go the extra mile to help them. As a result, we typically work with high-value, rapidly expanding companies within the Finance industry”.
Speak about what you really do
The next time you’re at a User Group meeting, think about what you *really* do. I bet when you boil it down, it’s not that you fix SBS systems like everyone else, but something entirely more valuable. Share that reality with the group.
As a result, whilst you’ll no longer have the opportunity to laugh at my face going purple in frustration anymore, I bet you’ll gain a lot of confidence in how you describe your own business.