The ability to excel in a specific area can give dealers an advantage when selling managed IT service. Specialization might include a vertical market, an application or technology, or a methodology. Whatever niche you chose should align well with your abilities and market, and provide a springboard to expand.
Specializing in a vertical market might allow a dealer to provide additional value and achieve higher margins, although to a smaller customer base. “We work with a number of MSPs who focus 90 percent of their business on dentists,” said Greg VanDeWalker, senior vice president of IT channel and services at outsourced IT services provider Collabrance. “They know the speak. They understand their line of business software, and in many cases they can manage that. If you start to develop an expertise, it is worth the extra investment to do sales and marketing in that area.” He suggests that dealers attend trade events in their strongest verticals to better understand the market.
The most venturous dealers might consider high-value services such as application development, website development and management, or system integration. Identifying those opportunities depends on staying close to the customer. VanDeWalker recommends that dealers ask probing questions during the regular review process. “[Dealers] need to have their ears open for needs. They might say, ‘I saw your contact page on your website. Tell me what happens when a prospect submits a request for information on your website. Where does the lead go to?’ You talk to the marketing and sales managers and you start to uncover things that work well or don’t work well. As you see those things that don’t work well, you’ll start to see some commonality, and those are the areas that you invest in,” he said.
Sometimes it’s the managed service provider’s approach to the projects it bids on that makes a competitive difference. It can demonstrate that the MSP has the vision to not only implement well today, but do it in a way that provides a framework for future improvements.
For example, Impact Networking takes a mobile-first approach with its IT services clients. “You’re going to design from the smallest screen and work out. Everybody has an iPhone, a tablet, and a computer, and they want to use them,” said Patrick Layton, vice president of managed IT services at Impact Networking. “Mobile data management is starting to explode for use. Being able to keep the company data secure and allow access to company data from a consumer device is key. Technology such as MaaS360 will allow that to happen. Managing mobile devices is going to be the biggest thing in the next couple of years.”
It’s important that MSPs make sure customers and prospects identify them with whatever niche they lay claim to. That means having well-targeted marketing plans, good content that highlights the MSP’s expertise, and success stories from happy customers.