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differentiation Over the years, I’ve learned that there are three things customers are looking for from their MSP: high quality, fast service, and low cost. But, you need to make sure those priorities are in the right order. If low cost is at the top of that list, you’ll never be able to deliver on the other two. That’s why you shouldn’t try to differentiate your MSP based on price.

So how should you set yourself apart from the competition? Being able to articulate the value of your services is huge. You need to be able to show potential customers the processes that you’ll follow to protect their data and their business. It puts emphasis on the value of everything you’ll be doing for them instead of letting them look at it as a commodity that they might be able to get cheaper from someone else.

Having standard operating procedures (SOP) in place is an important part of making this happen. At my MSP we stress the idea of having SOPs in place for everything we do. It helps us make sure customers are getting a consistent experience, and it gives us an easy way to show customers how things work. You need to have your SOPs documented, though, to really get value out of them. It’s not enough to have a list of things in your head.

You need to communicate these ideas in a variety of ways, not just during sales conversations. That means your website needs to have content about how you’ll deliver your services, and it should show potential customers what the user experience will be like. Your website should make it simple to see how easy it will be to get in touch with you when they need help or have a question.

Make sure you use all of the resources available to you as well. For example, we used to do a poor job of sharing client references. We were closing new business, but we realized we could speed up those deals by sharing references. If you offer up two or three references, potential customers can hear for themselves what working with you will be like, and it will be more powerful when they hear it firsthand.

Mistakes to avoid

I’ve seen MSPs make a number of mistakes trying to set themselves apart from the competition, though. Here are three that you should avoid:

Trying to do it all. Unless you’re a massive MSP, you aren’t going to be good at everything if you try to offer it all. It’s important to focus on what you’re good at and be upfront if you’ll be working with a partner to deliver services that aren’t your strong suit, such as working with a managed security provider. Don’t create the impression that you’ll be doing everything yourself if that’s not the case.

Supporting everything. I’ve seen competitors that support everything, whether they have the expertise or not. I call it race car syndrome — those MSPs that have a sea of vendor logos on their website for everyone they work with. I saw one MSP advertising six different backup companies they work with. How well do you think that plays out?

It’s important to standardize. When it comes to the products and services we sell, we have a standard. For example, we’ll accept a customer that has a different firewall when we onboard them, but we want to have a plan in place from the beginning to cycle it out.

Using too many buzzwords. Sometimes MSPs get caught up pushing the hot new thing instead of figuring out what makes sense for the customer. For example, there’s been a heavy push to put everyone on cloud, but there are some cloud products that just won’t make sense for some customers.

Most companies aren’t looking for the latest and greatest cutting edge product; they’re looking for a consultative sales approach that will help them get what they need. Some customers might think they want it all, but it’s our job as MSPs to show customers the difference between what they want and what they need. You don’t need to sell them an Escalade if all they need is a scooter, even if they think they want the Escalade. Don’t try to differentiate yourself as the MSP with the hottest new products, position yourself as the MSP that acts as a true partner.

If you set your MSP apart the right way, you’ll be able to focus on providing the services you’re best at, demonstrating the value of those services, and becoming a trusted partner customers will turn to.


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Chris Johnson

Posted by Chris Johnson

Chris Johnson is the director of business development and strategy at Wheelhouse IT. He is also the current Chair for CompTIA's IT Security Community. He has more than 15 years of experience in IT services and web development, and he specializes in helping medical practices make strategic HIT decisions.

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