Ask an MSP ExpertQ: We’re looking to differentiate our MSP, but there are a few other IT service businesses in the area that focus on the same vertical. We like to think of ourselves as having more industry knowledge and being very tech savvy. How can we give our MSP the reputation of having a technical edge over our competition?

Differentiating your MSP from the competition can help you charge a premium price for your services. Despite what some MSPs may believe, the IT service industry is not a commoditized market—if you ask one IT provider what they charge for an hour of labor, it can be drastically different from the next. Knowing your strengths as a business can help you differentiate your services and ultimately help you position yourself for success.

To help you differentiate your MSP and give it more of a technical edge, we spoke to Chris Johnson. Chris is the director of compliance and security strategy at Wheelhouse IT, and he’s on the executive council for CompTIA’s IT Security Community. With more than 15 years of experience in the IT channel, he’s seen many MSPs struggle to differentiate themselves from their competition. Here’s his advice on how to help set your MSP apart.

How to highlight your technical edge

mother boardOne area you can use to highlight technical proficiency is proven certifications. When you can show traction and knowledge in your organization around products, it shows your clients you have initiative. This can go a long way with clients and reassure them that your staff is educated about the technology you’re implementing.

To me, having a technology advantage is about how the technologies I offer to my clients align with each other. For example, if I’m using Barracuda firewalls and Barracuda backup, how do those technologies work alongside each other? An advantage this presents is that my staff doesn’t need to go to eight different locations to log into a dashboard for our client when something comes up. Instead, they can efficiently look at the solutions in one dashboard and quickly diagnose the problem, which shows that not only are there technology advantages that you need to present to the client to justify the value, it’s sometimes about how you demonstrate that alignment internally.

When I talk to my techs and I’m asking them for input on adding a product and service to our line card to go out and sell, we always keep in mind how the product will align with our current offering and make sure it doesn’t make our jobs more difficult.

Standing out from the competition

Competition is self-inflicted. As MSPs, we tend to believe there is somebody down the street who’s trying to undermine us and provide lower-priced add-ons. The reality is you both have your own unique set of skills, and it’s more about figuring out what your sweet spot is and which businesses you want to target. This sweet spot might be an area where your competition is more generic. If you specialize in a vertical, that’s one way to differentiate.

Over time, most of the managed service space has developed this ”I’ll take whatever business comes my way” mentality, but the truth is it’s very difficult to differentiate by doing the same thing as the guy down the street.

Another way to differentiate is to make sure your pitch doesn’t become generic. It’s important to highlight the different pieces of your service offering. That doesn’t necessarily mean changing the way you’re pricing your product, but you need break it out to show that you have business continuity as a line item instead of simply glazing over this in your bundled offerings.

At the end of the day, your service offering should be all about enabling clients to run their businesses to the best of their ability. Maybe your motto is “We take care of the technology so that you can take care of the patients” or something similar. What’s interesting is that as IT providers, we don’t often spell that out. We know that every business needs a phone solution or that everyone needs to keep their data protected, though. So when you talk to your prospects and clients, highlight the products and services that fit into those categories that they simply can’t live without.

From an educational perspective and as a point of selling, if they don’t know, they don’t know. If you aren’t educating them about the technology or services you offer that can help them as a business—someone else eventually will.

When you talk to perspective clients, chances are you’re talking to them for one of three reasons:

-They’re having a bad experience with their existing IT.

-They’re looking for a way to cut costs.

-There’s a new regulation or incident, and they need to add another layer of protection.

It’s also possible they already have IT services in place, and they aren’t looking to get rid of them. But, they’re looking for somebody to come in, complement their current services, and add an additional layer of value. The important thing is making sure that when you’re in the room talking to the customer that you’re talking to the points that they’ve asked you to talk to them about. Don’t go off on a tangent about how great the organization is! Make sure you listen to what their pain points are so you can offer them the solution they need—not just the solution you want to give them.

By following Chris’ advice, you’ll be able to focus on providing the services you’re best at, demonstrating the value of those services, and ultimately becoming a technology partner customers can trust.

Lauren Beliveau

Posted by Lauren Beliveau

Lauren is a content and product marketer with several years of experience in the IT channel. She has created and developed content that helps managed service providers grow their business, and has written many articles featured in SmarterMSP’s The MSP’s Bookshelf and Ask an MSP Expert series.

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