Managed service providers have long lived in a world where change is the only constant. From hardware to software, and applications to data, the ground is constantly shifting for those that provide technical solutions and support for businesses worldwide. At any given time, you must evaluate new offerings, update and support current solutions, and strategize on how to best provide the right services to scores of customers with different needs, requirements, and budgets. And most importantly, you must evaluate the best cloud partner to stay competitive as an MSP.
It’s enough to make your head spin.
With such dynamics at play, it is fair to ask: is there room for managed service providers to survive? What must you do to address competition and find new ways to move forward?
Based on nearly twenty years of supporting MSPs like you, our view is that the current environment supports not just surviving, but thriving. You have never had more choices, resources, or options to offer your customers. But finding a way to stand out in the market requires a different type of thinking than before.
In addition to leveraging technology, you can employ several other strategies to separate your MSP business from the pack.
1. Niche Down
The best way to ride the wave of all this new innovation is to find a niche in which to operate. In other words, “pick a corner to stand on” and make it your own. Why? Because specialists always stand out from generalists when it comes to business-critical decisions.
Just as you choose a cardiologist and not a general practitioner when you have heart trouble, so too will businesses pick a managed services partner that caters to their specific needs, challenges, or industry.”
For example, while traditional “break/fix” MSPs may well have the ability to serve businesses of all types, specializing in a particular industry will give a more direct experience and expertise supporting that type of client. The cycle is indeed virtuous.
As an example, do you think a 100 person law practice will choose an MSP that says, “we work with all types of small businesses” or one that says, “All of our clients are law firms with between 50 and 200 employees?” We understand your industry, the challenges you face, and the support you need to do your best work.”
The answer, of course, is the latter. Individuals and businesses alike prefer the specialist over the generalist when a specialist is available.
Choosing a niche can be as easy as finding what you are already good at and leaning into that.
Additionally, you can look for an industry or customer type that seems underserved. Offering what your MSP does well to an underserved industry is an excellent way to pick a niche where your business can thrive.
2. Partner to Grow Customer Base and Revenue Streams
Most cloud providers offer attractive partner programs for managed service providers, providing many exclusive benefits to MSPs. For example, some organizations (including Liquid Web) offer training, specific account support, access to new technology, and sometimes offer marketing-designated funds to invest in growing your business.
Many of these partner programs also make it easy for you to fill the gaps in your own service portfolio, so that your customer base and revenue streams both may grow. MSPs have long relied on partnerships and channel programs because of both financial and practical benefits.
Additionally, by partnering with other technology firms, you expand your offerings and negate the competition a bit. For example, if your clients and customers are hungry for the cloud, providing it satisfies both their wants and your own: they get the service they require, and you keep the customer.
3. Distinguish Yourself Through Non-Technical Benefits
Many MSPs get lost in the worry that some new technology shift will make them obsolete. However, the thing that customers most crave is support and understanding. One of the best ways to differentiate your business now is the same as it was years ago: offering excellent service and support. This will continue to be true, moving toward the future as well.
In many cases, this service and support come in the form of being local. Sometimes, it comes in the form of having specific industry expertise. And sometimes, it comes in the form of simply understanding your customers’ specific businesses and needs.
After all, when a business chooses a managed service provider to work with, they are effectively saying, “We trust you to help us solve a problem.” There is nothing technical about earning and keeping the trust of a customer.
Non-technical benefits, such as industry expertise and excellent service and support, can be provided by any managed service provider. The fact that those benefits aren’t always common is a competitive advantage for the businesses that do offer such high levels of service.
Standing Out in a Competitive Landscape
If your managed services business is staring at the ever-increasing competition in the market, the three suggestions above are tried and true for recapturing focus and business growth. Find a specific niche to serve and partner with other providers to open the doors to new opportunities. Deliver high-quality service and support that makes your customers and clients know that you actually care.
Our team at Liquid Web has a long history of partnering with managed service providers. From providing an industry-leading service level agreement to a number of programs that help MSPs of all sizes reach their business goals, our proud history supporting other technologists makes us an ideal partner. We believe that standing out in a competitive landscape is simply a matter of doing your best work in a way that truly benefits customers, clients, and partners. It’s a simple ethos that has served us well for nearly 20 years.
If you’d like to learn more about keeping your MSP relevant in the age of the cloud, and how Liquid Web can help you reach new heights, contact us. Our team would enjoy the opportunity to learn about your business goals and how we might partner together in the market.
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Melanie Purkis is the Director of Liquid Web's Managed Hosting Products & Services. Melanie has more than 25 years of experience with professional leadership, project management, process development, and technical support experience in the IT industry.
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