Managed Services Best Practice–Build it and they won’t come…

Note: This is the fourth of eight blog entries in which I examine managed services best practices identified in the CompTIA MSP Partners 2010 market research.

In business school, we were informed of the challenges facing companies that are driven by great engineering. These organizations often had a laser-like focus on building great products with a mistaken belief that a great product sells itself. A quick look through the technology industry’s scrap yard would reveal some of these products: Sony’s Betamax, IBM’s OS2, and Microsoft’s Tablet PC, just to name a few. The truth is great products do not sell themselves; great marketing sells great products. The third managed services best practice identified in our 2010 research is: top MSP’s invest in and execute on their marketing programs. By doing so, best in class MSPs effectively drive demand for their services and as a result, reap the rewards.

In the past (in a product driven channel), large vendors marketed on behalf of their resellers. This only stood to reason, as reseller product sales meant more revenue for the vendor. As a result, business opportunities for a reseller were primarily inbound. Today (in a service driven channel), the onus of demand creation falls not on the vendor community, but on the MSP as the primary beneficiary of service sales. Today’s MSP must develop an expertise in generating opportunities through outbound marketing. If an MSP is not marketing its services, it should not be expecting to sell its service, no matter how good they are. Top MSPs know this. Two key statistics demonstrate this best practice:  Best in class MSPs spend more on marketing as a percentage of revenue (they invest more in the activities) and best in class MSPs realize a higher rate of return on their marketing dollars (they are more effective at this aspect of business).

So we determined that marketing is important, but how does an MSP become effective at doing it? Here are four strategies that an MSP can employ to become best-in-class in promoting its services:

  1. Create a marketing strategy on paper – Who is the MSP targeting with its services? How will they reach this audience?  What is the most effective means of communicating an MSP’s core value?  How much are they investing in marketing?  How will an MSP evaluate the effectiveness of campaigns?  A marketing strategy addresses these questions and serves as a reference point as MSP’s execute on marketing throughout the year.

  2. Designate a dedicated marketing person within your organization– Most MSPs do not have an employee dedicated to perform this task, but best-in-class providers understand that a capable person in this role will increase accountability, consistency and quality of the business’ marketing efforts.

  3. Create a calendar of marketing activities – Marketing takes time to be effective. Sporadic spurts of marketing activity are much less effective than a consistent and persistent effort over a longer period of time. By creating a marketing calendar, an MSP can better execute, track and evaluate the performance of each campaign.

  4. Create a target market description - An MSP must craft a clear understanding of the customers it is trying to reach in order to effectively generate demand.  What size of customer? Where do they do business? What business verticals are particularly attractive? What customers match the MSP’s strengths? What customers uncover an MSP’s weaknesses?

Best in class MSPs know that a great service is not enough to ensure profits. “Build it and they will come” may work in a corn field in Iowa, but not in business. Today’s best in class MSPs develop expertise in providing great services AND effectively communicating the benefits of working with them to potential customers. You can learn more about this topic and all our 2010 best practices on CompTIA MSP Partners’ website –
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