MSP Marketing Madness – Identifying the Opportunity

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(Image Source: Skyglue.com)

In this week’s MSP Marketing Madness, I’m going to provide you with a list of suggestions for you to think about while conducting your sales outreach and when identifying ways to reduce the friction in your sales funnel.

Sourcing the deal and finding your high potential opportunities is your first, and many times, most important step. Identifying great opportunities makes a significant difference in the length of your sales cycle and reduces the time you need to fight an uphill battle to get the sale.  Before the sale, think about these questions in an effort to truly identify if you have a solid opportunity:

         

MSP Marketing Madness – Back to Basics

dr seuss

(Image Source: imgur)

Grab a copy of any Dr. Seuss book, (I’ve always been a fan) and read it.  Then read it again, but this time, notice the simplicity of the story.

The magnificent thing about a children’s book is that no matter how many times you read them, the story is delightfully simple, yet entertaining.  Children’s books are engaging because they build on emotions.  They hook you in and make you want to see a happy ending or a resolution, and there is always a lesson to be learned.

So, why am I talking about children’s books?

Because I think IT service providers can take a lesson from a page in Dr. Seuss’ book. The great IT service providers are the ones that tell stories to explain where they can solve customer IT needs.  Sometimes service providers can get caught up in the technical aspects and feature sets of the products they provide when selling or marketing.  At the end of the day, the customer just wants to see something that works.

Throwing around buzz words and special features can be impressive, but try to think about your sales pitch as if it were a children’s book.  Tell a story that shows value to the customer and relate it to their IT challenges.  Tap into the emotions of your client and walk them through a story that starts with an IT pain point and takes them to see why implementing your solution will be a “happily ever after” ending.

Use images to enhance your story, too.  Part of the beauty of children’s’ books are the illustrations. They not only support the story, but many times, drive the story more than the text on the page.  Your materials and conversations should include and focus around images to help reinforce your solution to your customers’ problems or explain why they need your services.

The next time you are talking to a prospect or customer, pitch your business as if it were a children’s book.  Keep it simple.  Tell stories.  And in the end, show them the resolution that you can provide.

         

3 Essential Business Lessons MSPs Can Learn from Geek Squad

I had the pleasure of sitting in on Geek Squad Founder, Robert Stephens’, keynote at CompTIA’s ChannelCon conference this summer. Stephens quit school and started Geek Squad by himself in 1994 with $200 and a bicycle. Now, Geek Squad has over 24,000 employees and is owned by Best Buy. As I was listening to Stephens share insights on the evolution of his business, I couldn’t help but draw parallels between his challenges and what many MSPs face today. Below, I’ve summarized a few lessons that stood out to me. I’ve also included a fun fact; a joke and Stephens’ final words to the audience.

Lesson 1: Details, Details, Details
I think any IT business owner would agree that growing a company is hard. It’s especially easy to overlook details that could improve the customer service experience.  Stephens makes the argument that not paying attention to detail is the downfall of most companies. The simple things such as, responding quickly, setting expectations, and not making customers feel stupid are critically important. Stephens also gave credence to the importance of uniforms. He didn’t want to be like other companies and make employees wear a polo (he compared a polo shirt to a minivan), so instead he went for a short sleeve, white button up with a black tie. Stephens stole his uniform idea from the Apollo 13 movie, but we’ll get to that in a minute. The uniforms help define the employee and he believes they increase efficiency as well. Now his staff has a functional outfit and does not have to worry about what they are going to wear every day.

I’m not suggesting that every MSP throw out their polo shirts or make their employees wear uniforms, but try to find some time this week to think about what you’re doing and why. Pay a little closer attention to the details that can make you stand out above the fray. Your customers will thank you for it, and probably your employees as well.

apollo 13 mission control

Lesson 2: There is No Need to Reinvent the Wheel
This next lesson hit close to home for me. In college, I majored in public relations and went into the program thinking that I would learn how to develop the most brilliant and original PR campaigns anyone has ever seen. My freshman year, a college professor burst my bubble by sharing some truth with me. No matter how smart or creative you think you are, someone, somewhere, has probably had the same idea before you. Stephens echoed this sentiment in his keynote by stating that he thought it was actually really smart to leverage others great ideas. He said, “All the problems you’ve ever faced have already been solved, in disguise”. He didn’t mean that businesses should become “copycats”, but instead, find the universal truth within an idea and use that to your advantage. Don’t copy, or steal (as he put it).

For example, when Stephens was designing the first Geek Squad car, he didn’t want it to look like other service vehicles that are covered with text and colors. So instead, he looked to successful companies like UPS and FedEx to see how they branded their vehicles. He liked the clean, simple design FedEx and UPS used and decided he wanted to model his car after them. In this case, he saw how successful companies were branding their trucks, found the universal truth that a simple and clean look is better, and used that truth as inspiration to brand his Geek Squad car.

On a side note, another motto I learned in public relations class was KISS (keep it simple, stupid). This is a good mantra to keep in mind when creating marketing & PR campaigns. Concise and simple messaging is the best way to sell your services.  Can you clearly summarize you’re company’s value proposition in a sentence or two? If not, stop reading this blog, do that exercise and then come back. I’ll wait.

ups mail truck fedex mail truck vs. russ automotive truck

Lesson 3: Your People are Your Product
Finding and hiring talent is something a lot of MSPs struggle with. Stephens suggested that he doesn’t have to find his “people”, they find him. Lucky guy, right?! The Geek Squad brand and culture seems to naturally attract the kind of people that Stephens wants working for him. How did he do this? I believe it stems from consistent messaging, branding and service. He was daring to be different and was building something great. He was out in the community, letting people know Geek Squad was there to help. And he took care of his people. He created a culture that fostered the exchange of ideas, collaboration and social unity. Stephens encouraged his employees to create their own social network and arrange activities outside of work with each other. Employees receive official Geek Squad badges and they are called “agents” instead of customer service reps. This is all part of building culture. If you are serious about growing a great business, these are the kinds of things that matter. Your business hinges on your people. How long has it been since your last office party? If you can’t remember, it’s time to organize a social outing of some sort.

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In summary, Stephens was an incredibly thought provoking speaker and I would watch another keynote of his any day. I’ll wrap this blog post up by sharing a fun fact, a favorite joke of Stephens and his parting words to the audience.

Fun Fact: Geek Squad is a LogMeIn Rescue customer!
Favorite Joke: Q: What is the difference between a geek and a nerd?
A: A nerd doesn’t know he’s a nerd and a geek doesn’t care.
Parting Words: Stay curious.

         

4 Easy Steps for Finding the Right IT Partner for Your Business

collaboration people together

When it comes to candy bars, paper towels, event tickets and goldfish, customer service doesn’t matter very much.  Product function is the key here – if it tastes good, is absorbent, gets you through the gate, or keeps on swimming, life is good.  The value of customer service is absolutely variable, and entirely dependent on what product or service we are trying to acquire.

When you get into the realm of services, things change.  The customer service expectation is clearly enhanced as a result of the interactive nature of the engagement, but even in this realm customer service has varied degrees of importance.  I don’t really care much about the level of customer service I get from the guy who washes my car or even my accountant.  Don’t get me wrong, I want both of them to do a good job and deliver valuable and professional service, but I don’t particularly care if they do it in a charming and service oriented fashion – the value they deliver is key, not the pleasant way in which they deliver it.

IT is different.  Way different.  In my opinion, the level of customer service provided is just as important as the quality of the services delivered.  Let’s face it, there are many ways to provide technical support in the technology field, a variety of choices from both a hardware and software perspective, and every SMB business has different needs.  Add to that the difference in individual personalities of those being served – not to mention the nuances of their business and the nuances of each function — and it becomes evident that pleasant, responsive, and thoughtful customer service is a key component to successful engagement with your technology provider.  So why does that matter?

Most SMB businesses don’t spend very much time vetting their technology providers, and what time they spend is generally focused on the technical abilities of the provider, not cultural fit and customer service attitude.  With that in mind, here are a few suggestions on how to go about picking a provider:

  1. Start out with a speed dating round – find at least 5 potential candidates for the opportunity to manage your technology and schedule a 30 minute meeting with each.  Face to face is generally better, but an online meeting session works well too.  Let them do the talking with one really important exception.  If they ask you about your business and technology challenges, give them clear and direct answers to everything they ask.  (Hint – if they are asking lots of questions about your business and citing examples of how they have engaged with others who faced similar technical issues and solved them, you might want to bring them back for phase two).
  2. Select your top two or three candidates – preferably two, but if there are more than two solid candidates, bring them back.  Invite them and everyone at the organization that is going to be involved in your service provision into your business and ask them to provide a one page plan about the process they intend to use to manage your technology platform, and pay close attention to details around engagement.  If they are focused entirely on taking care of the network, and not as focused on taking care of the people who use the network, consider that a red flag.  During the onsite visit, schedule time to have them engage with key technology stakeholders within your organization – people who depend on technology daily to get their job done (that is a long list these days, but bookkeepers, office managers, and engineer / designers are definitely on the list).  Get feedback from those folks about how they feel about working with the company.  Did you like them and the approach?  How would you feel about working with them?  Those kinds of things.
  3. Get references and leverage them – focus entirely on the interpersonal engagement between the references and the prospective IT Provider. Let’s be clear here, no one give you a bad reference on purpose (although some of the funniest conversations I have ever had were with disgruntled customers who were about the fire the prospect and the prospect was not close enough to the relationship to realize it – a huge red flag), but you can still get great information from these references.  Focus the conversation on the customer service aspects of the relationship by asking some of these questions:
    1. a.      How does the provider get along with your staff?
    2. b.      When you have a disagreement about a bill, how does that get resolved?
    3. c.       Do they show up on time (physically or virtually) for appointments?
    4. d.      Is someone from the company available when you have issues?
    5. e.       Would you trust the employees of the business with confidential information?
  4. Pick a winner – At the end of this process, evaluate the remaining candidates for fit as your IT Provider – here is a short list of key criteria to focus on:
    1. Do they understand the nuances of your business?  Will they be able to hit the ground running?
    2. Did you feel comfortable with them?  Deep down, we all know when we have reservations about people.  If you have those reservations, you are likely in for a struggle.  If you cannot honestly imagine enjoying spending a couple hours quarterly with your primary contact, choose a different provider.
    3. Does your staff feel comfortable?
    4. Are you comfortable with their focus on the people and goals of your business, not just the focus on the hardware and software in your business?

So, the next time you decide that you need to make an IT Services Provider change, make every effort to ensure the company is a cultural fit with an attitude towards customer satisfaction that is aligned with your business expectations.  Choose a company that is a good fit across the organization, and make sure you are willing to work with them, have lunch with them, etc.  This company is not just fixing your network, they are generally driving technology choices within your business.  That is important.  Take the time to make a good decision, and you will reap the benefits again and again.

         

The New LogMeIn Channel Program: A Behind the Scenes Look

logmein elevate channel program

In case you missed it, LogMeIn has officially announced a new channel program to help MSPs, VARs, and other outsourced IT service providers better capitalize on the growing shift to cloud-based apps and employee-introduced technology.  The program might be new, but the people behind – and LogMeIn itself – have enjoyed relationships with IT service providers that in some cases, go back decades.  It was this experience and these relationships that attracted many of us, including myself, to LogMeIn in the first place.   So what exactly is the channel program and what’s in it for MSPs, VARs, and IT service providers?

I sat down with Ted Roller, LogMeIn’s VP of channel development, and a former MSP himself, to discuss why this new program was created and how it will help service providers bring on new services for today’s cloud-centric workplace.

Mayer: Why introduce a channel program into the market now?

Roller: Cloud applications have changed the way technology is introduced into the workplace and the way workers look to address their needs around collaboration, productivity and communication.  Nearly 70% of SMBs report the use of employee-introduced apps actively being used at work – something known as the bring-your-own-app (BYOA) trend. 

As the new wave of BYOD and BYOA continues to emerge, IT service providers must realign their management mindset – and related offerings – from simply managing devices on a defined network to managing users. They need to evolve their business to focus on the deployment, management and integration of cloud apps.

With this in mind, the LogMeIn Elevate channel program is dedicated to helping businesses evolve to deliver user-centric IT services in the cloud, empower BYOA and BYOD across their client’s business, and meet the demands of the cloud environment.

M: How will LogMeIn Elevate help MSPs, VARs and other IT service providers do this?

R: Our goals are simple:

  1. Help IT service providers make the shift to user-centric management. We believe the only way to do this effectively is to center IT management on the user, thus ensuring that no matter where they access information or how they share it, IT is in position to enable, secure, and support use on the terms of the business. 
  2. Redefine RMM and how it’s delivered. The monitoring of networks and the devices on them has been a proven profit center for MSPs, but the changing dynamics of today’s workplace threatens to diminish the value of classic RMM. LogMeIn’s Elevate program is committed to helping IT service providers augment RMM to meet the needs of the modern cloud-centric workplace through remote management of cloud apps, devices and users.
  3. Give IT service providers the tools and education needed to deliver productivity benefits, expand their offerings, and create new revenue streams within their customer case. By delivering value-added management benefits atop the dozens of cloud apps at use in today’s workplace, and becoming a trusted source for new productivity benefits, Elevate will put our channel partners in position to increase revenue, margins and influence in the cloud app era.

M:  Upon sign up, what can channel partners expect to receive?

R: We’re rolling this out in phases, but the goal is to help our channel partners create and effectively market profitable services around user support, user management and user productivity.  To help with user support, we’re offering special monthly pricing on LogMeIn’s remote support solution, LogMeIn Rescue + Mobile, giving them options to deliver higher margin services to support users and cloud app usage across personal or work PCs, Macs, smartphones and tablets. Partners will also have early access to AppGuru, LogMeIn’s cloud app management solution, giving them the ability to manage users and policies across cloud apps, no matter where they are accessed or used. In addition they will receive marketing support to help create and sell new managed services, access to LogMeIn’s product and development organizations to influence future channel product offerings, dedicated tech support to quickly resolve issues, and lastly, channel-specific education to accelerate ROI.

A second phase beginning later in 2013  will introduce a reseller program for LogMeIn’s popular collaboration and productivity app, as well as 3rd party cloud app management capabilities through a channel-focused version of LogMeIn’s new IT offering, AppGuru.

Interested in chatting with us about the LogMeIn Elevate program? We’ll be on the road at CompTIA ChannelCon, July 29-31 – stop by our booth if you’re attending!  To learn more information on the program, click here.