How MSPs can grow without time or money
The role of the MSP is perhaps one of the most overlooked in the entire technology industry. They keep so much of the economy running, and allow businesses to outsource their thinking about IT so they can focus on what they do best. Everyone knows how important recruitment is in hiring — why do so few people recognise the work done by MSPs?
To a certain extent this might not actually be a bad thing. If you’re an MSP you don’t necessarily want to be in the spotlight. You can do a far better job, some would argue, if you’re allowed to work with little attention or fanfare — it usually means there’s less pressure.
But while this lack of visibility is great for the day-to-day work of managing and maintaining other people’s software, when it comes to growing an MSP, it might be more of a hindrance.
However, it doesn’t have to be: there is a way of growing quietly that allows you to focus on what you do best. As a software company that’s been our approach at Macrium: not to promise the world and offer too good to be true solutions, but rather to do what you do well.
It’s that focus that will earn you a reputation: you don’t need to overexpose yourself, but you certainly should talk about what makes you great.
Build close relationships with vendors
Successful MSPs are almost always built on good relationships with vendors. This sounds simple but once you’re in the swing of day to day work it’s hard to make time to talk to vendors, find out more about their product, and even just how they see the market evolving.
Although it might feel like a trivial task, spending a little bit of time each week or even just each month to check in with your contact at each vendor, either to try and learn a bit more about the product or to give them feedback on how you’ve been using it can be invaluable.
Technical expertise isn’t something that you just have as an individual or an organization — it needs to be built over and over again. The only way you can do that is by having continuous conversations with the vendors you rely on.
Build close relationships with customers
Again, this might seem obvious, but it’s not always easy to get right. While the initial conversations before a contract is signed might feel intense, that closeness can fall away once both parties find they have actual work to concentrate on.
Sure, don’t stop concentrating on the work that matters: but don’t forget to keep talking to your customers and clients. Find out what’s working for them, find out what isn’t — indeed, it doesn’t just have to be about IT, engaging them in more depth about the challenges they’re facing as a business can be a great way to not only build that relationship but even to potentially expand the scope of your relationship.
There’s also another reason to keep your relationship with your customer active: it ensures that you’re at the top of their mindshare. Now, true you might not want the spotlight on you — but if they’re thinking about the work you’re doing they’re far more likely to talk about you with others. To gain word of mouth reputation you need to have that visibility.
Talk business and IT
Building a consistent and close relationship with customers can be difficult when you feel like you’re talking about the same things. And as mentioned one way to do this is to expand the scope of what you discuss — not just about the work you’re doing, but rather about the broader goals and challenges your customers are thinking about.
The way to do this well is to become more comfortable talking business and IT. This can feel somewhat unsettling if you don’t feel it’s your area of expertise, but the truth is that the two areas aren’t actually as different as many would have you believe.
What’s important, ultimately, is that you commit to being curious about what you’re customers do and why they’re doing it. Once you have that initial curiosity you can then ask questions, uncover more detail about what’s actually happening in a given organization.
This isn’t just important in terms of strengthening existing relationships, it’s also important in allowing you to sell to different types of people. Every organization is different: sometimes you might be selling to a CTO or IT lead, other times it might be a financial decision maker or someone else from within the business.
Think about it this way: are you limiting your growth by having the same conversations? By being more adaptable to new context — maybe even new verticals — you will start to win business in places you hadn’t previously considered.
Share your expertise
Finally, don’t be scared to share your expertise. This isn’t to say that you need to become some kind of thought leader, passing off half formed opinions as insight, but rather that you should be talking about the things you’re an expert in. MSPs work with a huge range of businesses, providing support in a diverse range of ways, so there’s undoubtedly something unique for every organization to talk about.
And the truth is, the industry needs this information. Without this expertise, and without the stories that come from it, the field is so much poorer — the work we do within IT becomes atomised and isolated, our imaginations and problem solving skills inward looking. That’s not good for anyone.
The backbone of the economy
MSPs matter. They are arguably the backbone of the economy, such is the nature of our digital-first world. It’s time that they took more credit for it — in doing so they might well find that they can win new business and power their customers to grow quickly in uncertain times.