MSPs have varied prospect bases. Some focus on servicing large enterprises where the effective decision maker is a technical person or group. But for the many MSPs that target small and medium enterprises (SMEs), there is often a completely different decision-making process.

For starters, many SMEs are owner-led. Financial decisions are often based around a though process similar to “if I spend this, then that money cannot make its way into my pocket.” Also, that owner may not be as technical as the target audience in the large enterprise.

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The problem for MSPs is that the large enterprise market is relatively small by numbers (although massive by value) and is heavily targeted by known names.  In contrast, the SME market is massive by numbers, but low in per-deal value. It is very diverse in nature and attempting to come up with a single message as to why one MSP is better for each different SME is almost impossible. That does not mean, however, that there shouldn’t be some underlying common messaging that can at least attract the passing attention of the SME when they need something.

I encourage every MSP targeting the SME market to bear this in mind and then take look at their own website. Read it from an empathetic point of view. This is not easy – as an MSP, you are probably very technically adept, and are surrounded by technically adept people. You need to put yourself in the position of a person whose first thought is “I have a business problem,” not “I have a technical problem.” What does your website say to these people? Hint: If your website talks about VPNs, 256-bit encryption, virtual desktops, SaaS delivery or similar, then you have failed to be empathetic.

These terms are meaningless to so many SME owners or managers. For example, you would probably find it difficult to follow what was going on if you sat in on a specialist oil and gas SME’s main management meeting. They are specialists in that area: they understand the jargon. You are a specialist in your area: it is incumbent upon you to make sure that they understand what you mean.

How to communicate with potential customers

As an MSP, technology is just table stakes anyway. If you do not have enough security around how you operate, you shouldn’t be at the table. If you haven’t got well defined and guaranteed uptime and business continuity plans, go away, create them, and then come back.

Talk to the prospect in business terms they would understand. What is different in the way that you use security to enable them to carry out business in a better way? Why does having you look after their desktops/email/productivity suite systems add value, lower risk, and reduce cost for them? Explain to them that through your services, they are always guaranteed to have access to newer functionality because you are continuously updating the systems for them.

All of this makes far more sense to the SME – it is what they are looking for. Few will sit down at their computer with a problem and type in “virtual desktop VPN.” It is far more likely that the search will be more along the lines of “how can I get a more stable and cheap PC?” Similarly, they are unlikely to put in “SaaS CRM” and far more likely to use “How can I get the most from my sales people?”

Focus on what really matters to your audience – not what matters to you. Put your messages in business terms – not technical ones. Empathise with the audience. Keep it as general as possible on the website: it is only there to capture first-level interest.

Once you have their attention via the website, you can then focus on a narrower message that will resonate with the SME as a singularity. Only those MSPs that can talk the right language will have long-term viability within the market.

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Photo: Mind and I / Shutterstock

Clive Longbottom

Posted by Clive Longbottom

Clive Longbottom is a UK-based independent commentator on the impact of technology on organizations and was a co-founder and service director at Quocirca. He has also been an ITC industry analyst for more than 20 years.

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