For this blog, I’m handing over to Mike Douglass, Commercial Director at Yellowbus Solutions Ltd. Mike has run and worked within IT businesses for over 15 years and gives some useful advice below on key issues that will be familiar to many MSPs.
I would also bet that a big percentage of you are technical (or originally started out as a techie).
The majority of MSPs and IT companies follow the same path – Techies have an idea to launch a business, so they do it, often focusing on the end-result, the product or the service offering.
What a lot don’t focus on is sales, marketing, lead generation or their route to market. There are exceptions and some successful MSPs out there that started like this, but most will have started with a tech/service focus first.
What’s wrong with focusing on the Tech first?
I certainly agree that the technology, quality and service delivery should be at the forefront of your focus, but I also believe that sales, marketing and lead generation need to have equal attention.
What’s the point in having a great product or service if you can’t get it in front of people?
Which 4 areas do most MSPs struggle with during start-up or growth?
Again, these areas don’t relate to everyone and there are some great examples of MSPs that have had rapid growth with only a techy focus, but you will find in most (ours included) that there has been a struggle with one or many of the below areas that needs to be overcome –
- UVP – not having a niche or unique value proposition
- Lead Generation, or lack of it – (Sales / Marketing)
- Service Offering – not having a value ladder
- Simply not asking for the sale
These areas are an on-going battle for many MSPs and as you grow, the challenge just gets harder. MSPs need to align these topics with the same importance as their teams, tech and service.
Why do I need to improve on these 4 areas?
Without a plan to overcome these hurdles, your MSP business is just going to stand still – and in today’s fast paced world of IT and the MSP space, you’re going to be in trouble.
Start focusing on these areas like they are the life blood of your business.
How to improve on these 4 key areas
Unique value proposition or niche
With the number of MSP and IT companies increasing it is becoming a crowded market. Add to these the advancements and reliability and of technology and end user knowledge, it is ever becoming a race to the bottom. Gone are the days of selling ‘IT support’.
You need to find your niche! But how do you find your niche?
The answer to this is different for every MSP and MSP owner. 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) is from the same industry, or you may find that you offer a specialist service on top of your standard MSP services that differentiate you from the others.
Look for something different, unique and 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 MSP’s in that space. Can you do it better?
Find your niche, then FOCUS.
Many Managed Service Providers 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.
A good example of this is what we have done at Yellowbus Solutions – the MSP market was getting crowned in the North West, so we took the decision to pivot and become the MSP for the Nuclear and engineering sectors – www.yellowbus.uk/y-enable
Where are your next clients coming from and what is in the pipeline?
These are questions that never crossed our mind a few years ago. Busy working in the business on the tech, service and clients and with a stream of referrals to support growth, why worry?
Lead generation and the value sat in your pipeline should keep you up at night – lead generation is different for every MSP and sector, but you need to experiment.
What is working for similar MSPs? What are the areas of lead generation you haven’t tried yet? Social media, paid traffic?
If you have time, Inbound Marketing is very powerful – put out constant free and useful content, free guides, constantly market, build up your online presence and over time you will find people come to you.
Someone that is a great example of how inbound can work in the MSP space is Rick Yates from Zedphere – He has shown that focusing on marketing/lead generation first can fast track growth – check them out at www.zedsphere.com.
One of the most successful forms of lead generation we have experienced within our MSP is building partnerships. When we get a referral from a partner, our conversions rocket 90+%.
Are there similar service businesses out there that you can add value to and partner with?
A lot of MSPs when putting together their service offer and packaging/pricing, create one offer with all their ‘value add’ and one price option. This offer fits a perfect client persona, and when you come across your perfect client persona the service is a great fit.
However, with this approach are you leaving money on the table?
The above offering is like a shoe shop only selling size 10 shoes. There are many people under this size that you can’t sell to, and there are people above this size you can’t sell to. You would be turning away a lot more business than winning.
Another common issue when MSPs talk to potential clients, is that they lead with the flagship all-inclusive Managed IT offering or product. If you are talking to someone who knows you, or has been referred to you this can be OK – but for everyone else, these will be hard sales to convert.
Don’t forget, people buy off PEOPLE they ‘know, like and trust’.
So, how can you build trust to increase the chances of a sale? You need to get them into the bottom of your value ladder!
When you try to push a new prospect into your full offering from a cold source without showing value first, you are starting too high up the value ladder. Map out your services and offering and create a natural path to find an entry point they are comfortable with at a price that makes it a no-brainer. As they see the value add to the offering, in turn, the revenue from the client increases.
To get people onto the ‘bottom step’ of your value ladder think about giving away free guides, checklists, trials or free audits etc… Give value!
Ask for the sale!
This one is simple, just ask for the Sale!
It took us a long time to realise this. A lot of techies fall into the trap of being the ‘nice guy’, here if you need us and don’t want to hassle.
We realised if clients were not taking our services, it was our mission to keep trying to show them value and why it made sense to improve their IT and support services for their business.
Be consistent and pro-active – don’t quote and wait for the prospect to come back.
Use a CRM and set reminders for your team to pro-actively nurture the relationship.
If you take anything away from this blog….
Find your niche or USP – Why are you different and what’s ‘sticky’ about you?
Work on your lead generation and keep at it – you will fail at lots of areas, pivot and try again. Keep your pipeline full. Build out your services to follow a ‘value ladder’. Don’t be scared about asking for the sale, controlling the next step and putting an end date on quotes to create urgency.
Mike enjoys the challenge of working with businesses (small & large) and startups and has developed a great understanding of technology, business and how they can be used in synergy to grow businesses, add value and improve productivity.
Visit the Yellowbus website at: www.yellowbus.uk
Read more from Mike at:www.mikedouglass.tech
Do you struggle with any of these four areas? Or have you managed to create a niche in your own area of expertise? Let us know in the comments below!