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The CORE of what I teach is summed up in a favorite quote from my long-term mentor Nido Qubein: “Who your customer is today is a piece of data; who your customer should be is a piece of strategy.”

Yet, most business owners do not discriminate who they take as a client, much less take a strategic approach to finding and attracting them. Instead they are looking for more leads, any leads; more clients from any source in any manner. Quantity over quality. Further, once they identify who they want, they make no plans for structuring their services and marketing to appeal to THAT type of client.

Let me be VERY clear: As long as you refuse to clarify WHO your target market is and really dig in to understand them and THEN use that information to construct products, services, and marketing messages that have a strong appeal for them, your fate is going to be one of commoditization, mediocrity, and poverty. Let’s start with a few fundamentals:

Identify the clients you want

If you cannot describe in detail WHO you want as a client, you can’t possibly be effective at building a business, period. How can you build a list or write content for your website if you cannot clearly define who you are trying to persuade? Surely a practice manager at a small doctor’s office needs to be communicated with differently than the CEO of a large construction company. Trying to broaden your message and approach is the fastest road to failure.

Building the right mousetrap

Once you have identified the “WHO,” and ONLY after you’ve identified the who, you can go about building the “mousetrap” that will appeal to that client. It is SO easy to get sucked into focusing on the deliverable for the client. It’s what you know and love. It’s what you *think* your business is about.

That’s why most do the exact opposite, building the mousetrap first by modeling on what everyone else is doing, then setting it out in the hope that a mouse shows up and gets a toe trapped. If you want to succeed, you must be MARKET-DRIVEN, and focused on what your CLIENTS want — not product/service-driven, focused on what everyone else is doing, “best practices,” and how things have always been done around here. No breakthroughs come from that type of thinking.

Think from your target’s perspective

You must constantly ask yourself, what will my chosen target market buy? What do they want that they aren’t getting now?

Uber was able to take a HUGE piece of business away from taxis because they eliminated several irritants people had with difficult cab drivers. Starbucks crushed Dunkin’ Donuts NOT because they had better coffee, but because they created the “third place” — delivering an experience where coffee was just part of the equation. Both companies charge a premium because they are MARKET-DRIVEN.

Ask yourself these questions

As a good beginning-of-year exercise, look at these questions and see how accurate and detailed you can be with your answers regarding your target market. If you cannot answer them, OR if you’re a little fuzzy on one or more, then you’ve got some work to do:

  1. Who is/are the primary decision maker(s)? Who influences the decision?
  2. What are the most common situations/problems that drive them to seek out your services? (Hint: This should be the focus of marketing communications, including your website. For example, mine would say: “Are you an MSP struggling with ______?”)
  3. What are their primary goals? What KPIs are they focused on?
  4. Operationally, what are their three biggest headaches?
  5. What is their buying criterion for what you sell? How “savvy” of a buyer are they?
  6. What other characteristics make them a good client?
  7. Where do they get their information? What associations do they belong to? What conferences do they attend?

Remember, you must first ask yourself what are the clients that will make up your target market. Then, ask the same questions that those in your target market will be asking themselves to better understand their perspective. By answering these fundamental questions, you can build a better business plan to transform your managed services business in 2020.

Photo: sutadimage / Shutterstock

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Robin Robins

Posted by Robin Robins

There is no doubt about it: Robin Robins has helped more MSPs and IT services businesses to double – even triple – sales, profits and MRR growth than any other marketing consultant in the IT services industry, period. As a trusted advisor to over 9,000 IT services business owners for over 18 years, Robin knows a thing or two about what it takes to grow sales, recurring revenue streams and a profitable client base for an IT services business. To discover how you can double your MSP leads, appointments and sales without spending a dime on marketing, go to

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