MSP Experts interview with Joshua Feinberg

Joshua Feinberg works with IT Companies to help them effectively outsource their Marketing.

In this interview, I ask him where he sees the MSP industry going, what are some trends that MSP Business owners can take advantage of, and what marketing strategies are working for other MSP’s.

Listen to the full interview.

Key takeaways:

  • Joshua works with companies who are looking for a ‘virtual marketing officer’.
  • His company, SP Home Run, specializes in content marketing and inbound marketing. With over 15 years experience.
  • A big problem for MSP’s is they don’t know who their target market is.
  • He recommends you narrow down on who your market is, and make that your point of difference.
  • Take a look at your client list, see if there are any commons trends. Do you have a lot of accountants? Maybe that can be your specialty, there’s bound to be plenty more accountants out their needing your services.
  • Blogging, webinars, podcasts, screencasts and white papers all need to be looked at as assets. They have a long shelf life. For example, Joshua still gets comments and engagement from a Youtube screencast he did back in 2008.
  • Big opportunity:  Quoting Joshua, “I think the opportunity lies for small MSPs to build their own little channel programs. Go out and build relationships with noncompeting technology providers”. For example, if there’s a company that just does cabling and phone systems, form an alliance and refer business back and forth
  • Joshua can be found regularly contributing on his SP Home Run Blog. You can also find his contact details there.

Important links and social profiles:

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Full Interview Transcript:

Please excuse the odd grammar error, this is only a transcript.

Ross:  How did you get started in industry?  Tell me a bit about yourself, what you do now and then how you got started in the industry and your experience.

Joshua: Most of what I do now centers around working with small companies that don’t have in-house marketing departments and looking at how a lot of those functions can be sourced effectively In much the same way a lot of small IT providers provide outsourced IT services, serving as kind of a virtual CIO.   We look for small IT companies that are looking for virtual CMOs, where they will have either a small in-house person or they’ll have an intern or they’ll have a part-time contractor and look at what they need to do to position themselves more effectively.  My background originally…I got started way back in ’89 and ’90 as a college student working for IBM marketing PS2s and OS2s and the early versions of Word and Excel on campus even before the Windows 3.0 days.  What was interesting at the time, as I didn’t realize it, but a lot of the things that I do today with looking at problems and coming up with written solutions were things that we were experimenting with way back when.  Like for example, in the early days of the PCs going back to [inaudible 00:01:16], we found one of the biggest frustrations were a lot of independent resellers were marketing or advertising systems that really didn’t have the specs to adequately power the applications.

For example, the big thing way back when was advertising the price without a hard drive.  It’s crazy to imagine a system not having one, but if you were looking to do things as basic as having a good word processing or spreadsheet experience, you needed it.  We were publishing white papers on do you have the drive to succeed.  Another big pain point that we saw with IBM being successful and competing against Apple on campus, and it’s interesting to see some of those battle lines have drawn.  Now, it’s kind of Google and Microsoft going up against Apple but at the time it was pretty much a two horse race.  In higher education, one of the things that IBM was very successful with doing was putting together a finance program so students could actually…this was back in the days when PCs were $2, 3, 4,000, and you would actually finance and one of the frustration pain points is a lot of students would apply for the financing and wait weeks, and this was way before the days of instant credit approval, and one of the things that we looked at was putting out white papers and guides on how to help people that were applying for this kind of financing to understand the ratios and what the needed to be successful.

It’s interesting that back in the days of looking at marketing and looking at the pain points and what you needed to do to push people from the top of the sales funnel to the middle of the sales funnel and ultimately the retention and conversion, those were kinds of issues that I didn’t realize they had [inaudible 00:02:44].  This was essentially what I was doing.

Ross: Wow.  That’s interesting.  I mean, over the last few years there’s been a big push towards everybody, especially with B to B stuff moving towards content marketing, relationship marketing, sort of way to nurture leads and wait until people are ready to buy.  Whereas, yeah, you were doing it back 20 years ago.

Joshua: It’s interesting, too, with content marketing and inbound marketing, there’s really more of a need then ever.  We started looking at this pretty heavily about 10 or 15 years ago.  I was doing some work for Microsoft, writing a column for their NT server team and small business server team twice a month on how a small channel partner could succeed by understanding the pain points that the products were really solving for their clients.  I guess Microsoft kind of discovered by accident that the words of third parties that were similar to their persona would resonate a lot more than the product manager just talking directly to channel partners.  This was the Microsoft direct access program.  At the time, was the predecessor to the Microsoft partner network and Microsoft solution provider again which folded into the different levels of what’s known today as the Microsoft partner network.

What was interesting was examining those pain points.  It was examining the [inaudible 00:04:00] and consultants, these innovators at the time could add, but moreover, a lot of the things that we were talking about at the time was how to differentiate your firm because the last thing in the world, even 15 years ago that you really wanted to do was to be selling the exact same skews and exact same products and exact same hardware and boxes that everyone else was doing, even if everyone was buying from [inaudible 00:04:21] or buying from Tech Data.  There had to be a way to not only have some value ed but be able to effectively explain that value ed, and what’s interesting, it’s kind of come full circle as we’ve moved from just hardware being sold on a standalone basis with some incidental value ed of services to most of the last decade was largely about transplanting the business model from hardware and product centric to be more service eccentric.  Now, we’ve come full circle where with managed services, an awful lot of managed service providers are selling off a lot of the same services through the same programs and sure they can bundle them together, but what’s extremely important is being able to convey what’s unique that your firm brings to the table, and that’s where the thought leadership and that’s where the positioning is extremely important.  It’s very, very important to update the marketing and the sales process to better position your company in terms of your brand and your management as individual thought leaders and thinking of ways to reach the decision makers in your target market at a much, much earlier place in the sales cycle because by default, a lot of what MSPs and consultancies and VARs and a lot of the other small and medium size technology providers out there are programmed to do by a lot of the channel programs and a lot of the trade publications is to be very product and service eccentric so they tend to market that.

The problem is by the time the decision maker is at the stage where they’re just looking at that late stage of the funnel, all they’re going to care about is really who responds to them as quickly as possible and who has the cheapest price, so it’s important to be able to plant the seed very, very early on and frame the discussion and frame the criteria in kind of a comparison grid of what potential decision makers should be looking at in your target market.

Ross: Cool.  That makes a lot of sense.  For some people that aren’t…you’ve given sort of content marketing and some other stuff in a good overview.  Some of the people are probably looking for a bit more detailed explanation of what exactly you would do for MSPs.  Can you give them a quick rundown of sort of…you talk about being a virtual CMO, is there a bit of a plan that you usually use?

Joshua: I actually prefer to kind of educate your blog readers on what they ought to be looking for when they look for these kinds of services.  A lot of our services are kind of in the developmental and pivotal stage or in the process of transforming their own business model to be a lot more focused on delivering marketing services in a very similar fashion how managed services are delivered, but probably what’s most useful to your readers is rather then listen to a pitch from me on what specifically we do and why we’re the best in our specific USP with the whole thing is to make sure that they understand the sales funnel because in the same way that most managed service providers and VARs and integrators a lot of times need to educate the decision makers on what they should look for with cloud storage, what they should look for with security, what they should be looking with BYOD and mobile device management.  I think it’s very important for readers to understand enough of the sales cycle to make sure that they’re an educated consumer with all this, and a lot of it really comes down to understanding the buyers in the target market that they’re going after.

This is a huge issue because so many in the SME side of the IT channel when you ask what the target market is, the answer almost always is small business.  Regardless of whether you’re in the United States, depending who you ask anywhere from a few million up to 25 or 30 million small businesses depending on how the broad definition is.  It’s obviously considerably smaller in Australia and the United Kingdom and Canada, but it’s still a massive number, and if you’re looking at being a managed service provider in the suburbs of Toronto or the suburbs of Miami, you’re still looking at thousands or tens of thousands potential of buying units, so it’s important to kind of narrow it down.  Obviously, with managed services, one of the big advantages is there’s not a tremendous amount of geographic limitations if you’re strictly being a managed service provider.  That said, there’s still a tremendous amount of value to add to your client engagements in terms of how you position your company and the margins that you’re able to achieve and the loyalty and retention by kind of transcending just being a managed service provider and really taking care of anything and everything that’s IT and web-related that small and medium size business clients can handle to the extent that they’re willing to do that kind of one stop shopping.

IT outsourcing obviously there’s a certain sweet spot where if they’re too small, they’re not going to be able to afford a lot of outsource services and if they’re too large, it may make a lot more sense for them to have an in-house IT manager or strong in-house marketing manager.  In that kind of 10:100 or 10:500 employee space, there’s a tremendous amount of opportunity.

Ross: Yeah.  Okay.  The next question I wanted to ask you is what trends to you see in the industry, MSP industry as a whole over the next 1 to 3 years?  This is something that MSP business owners are always sort of looking to try to stay ahead of the game.  Are there any things maybe from more a marketing perspective or even just by looking at the industry as a whole that you see happening?

Joshua: I think the whole issue of being all over the place with your target market definition, the issue is really going to be forced because I think as a lot of technology providers got a lot smarter about the niches and the target markets they’re going after, being the jack-of-all-trades is not going to cut it anymore.  It’s just going to be too expensive to reach that broad of a market.  By narrowing who you’re going after, I think that’s going to make an enormous difference in the social group that you’re able to bring to the table with showing you already understand that industry with being able to shorten the sales cycle with having top of funnel and middle of funnel marketing materials that really resonate with the pain points of your target market and the personas that you put together.  That we see as an enormous issue.  We don’t think that the whole idea of outsource IT and virtual CIOs is going to go away any time soon because it’s highly unlikely that all of a sudden small businesses that never saw the need from a budgeting or just a logistical standpoint to have an IT manager, all of a sudden said, you know what, my 5 person company never had an IT manager before, now we need that person.  There’s certainly always going to be exceptions to the rule where really tiny, micro small businesses and the $500,000, 1 million, 2 million, 5 million range do have a justification for having a true in-house CIO.  In most cases for things that are outside of their core services, whether it’s legal advice, whether it’s accounting advice, whether it’s graphic design or information technology, it still makes a heck of a lot of sense to outsource so we don’t see that going away any time soon.

Obviously, cloud is going to continue to be huge.  It’s going to be more and more pressure, more and more of a compelling reason than ever for a lot of small businesses to move assets from premise based to off premise based, and there’s certainly a lot of rules in making that migration and handling hybrid infrastructure going forward.  BDR, backup and disaster recovery, is still going to be bigger then ever the more uncertainty there is with natural disasters and worldwide instability and everything like that, the more small businesses are going to be generally concerned about that.  Mobility and BYOD is still going to continue to be an enormous issue as a lot of marginal notebook users replace their 10 inch and 14 inch, 17 inch devices they’ve been schlepping around with devices that are a fraction of the size, and that’s going to put all kinds of strains on existing access points and writers and everything will all need better management and better security.  There’s an awful lot of trends that are going on that still favor a very strong need for a lot of the core services managed service providers are providing.

Obviously, security will continue to be an enormous issue.  It’s very hard to go to news.google.com or any major portal or news outlet without seeing security vulnerabilities and things that businesses of all sizes need to be concerned about.

Ross: Cool.  Maybe just…I like what you sort of mentioned that from your area of expertise with the marketing sort of stuff and really establishing a company’s target market.  For the guys out there that may be sort of looking at ways to grow their business, they haven’t really taken a specific approach to targeting a a specific market in the past, and they’ve just sort of been running around all sorts of industries in no real direction…what’s sort of a quick 3 step plan that someone could take to really start maybe trying to find a bit more of a niche or a market that they can go after?

Joshua: It usually tends to happen by accident.  Every once in awhile, there are some people that start up and have a very strong kind of [inaudible 00:13:28] idea on their mind of what exactly they want to do but usually what ends up happening is over time you build your client list and not exactly sure why or how it happened, but you look back and like wow, we have 3 clients that are certified public accounting firms, and we gained some expertise in this area and maybe there’s something to that.  Maybe we should drill down a little more, take them out for lunch, look at what some of the motivations are, look at some of the shows they go to, some of the places they hang out online and figure out what we need to do to reach more clients that are just like them and obviously in the course of doing that, it’s fantastic to package up some social proof as well with some interviews and case studies because you’re able to show other potential clients that are just like them that you can hit the ground running, so kind of a 3 or 4 step process is first looking at your existing client list where there’s concentrations of vertical expertise that’s going to happen by accident.

Another thing that a lot of people will do is look at their resume, look at their LinkedIn profile, look at resumes and profiles of others that are working for you and look and see if there’s pockets…like for example if you hired an office manager or assistant manager or something like that that had a strong history of operations management or medical services, maybe that’s a natural that fits in with your client list.  It’s a combination of looking at where you already have strengths.  It’s a combination of looking at where some of your team already has some strengths.  It’s a matter of understanding the pain points of what brought those clients to your door in the first place and making sure that you’re satisfying all of them and then packaging your successes so you can show those to other potential clients.  In the course of packaging those successes, it’s again an issue of understanding your sales funnel.  At the top of your sales funnel when you’re looking to attract traffic to your blog or traffic to your landing pages, traffic to your thought leadership assets, it’s very unusual that someone in your market is going to be going to look and figure out what other accounting firms are doing and their particular area where it intersects with IT.

There’s definitely other accounting firms that are going to be looking for just kind of checking out what their competitors are doing, but it’s a matter of looking at what the broader pain points are that attract that kind of traffic and attract that kind of interest in the first place.  The social proof assets, the testimonial videos, the case studies and things like that are fantastic at the middle of the funnel where you’ve already attracted the traffic, you’ve converted them to a lead.  They’re coming back, and they’re looking at additional blog pages.  They’re perhaps coming to webinars to talk about big issues that others in that particular industry are concerned about and then as they move further along showing them what to look for when it comes to buying IT services as a CPA partner.  What are some of the CPA partners that you’ve helped with similar kinds of problems to theirs, to use those assets, use those marketing assets to push down the funnel, and there’s a big need with all of this to really re-think how you look at marketing and promotion.  A lot of small channel partners and managed service providers included tend to look at marketing as expenses, and the reality is most are things that you do with regards to blogging and webinars and podcasts and screencasts and white papers, those need to be looked at as assets.

For example, just a few minutes before I jumped on this conversation with you today, I saw a comment come in on a Youtube screencast that I had recorded back in 2008…a screencast that was recorded 5 or 6  years ago kind of a cheesy looking template, obviously relevant and still resonating because it garnered a comment.  I looked at the tracking URL and what’s it pulling and be like wow, it’s hard to believe it’s not only that many views, but it’s gotten so many clicks, and it’s gotten so many leads over a period of time so when you look at the long life of some of these assets, there’s a big need to invest aggressively in creating your own thought leadership content, and you want to do a combination of evergreen and non evergreen content that 5 or 6 years later is still attracting interest and obviously there’s going to be certain stuff that if you’re writing about the latest share point release, the latest [inaudible 00:17:38] release or something like that, there will be a certain shelf life where after 6 months there may not be very many people talking about it.  Along the same lines, I doubt there are very many people looking for my book on small business server 4.5, a lot of people that are still going around saying, I can’t believe that the small business server platform is gone.  That’s another interesting thing that’s effected small parts of the channel as well as okay, what now?

Obviously, there’s other options with going with a more traditional Window server.  There’s managed services, but in a lot of ways Microsoft’s decision last summer to sunset and not port SBS and EBS over to the 2012 platform has big implications for small channel players down the road and looking at cloud services and managed services, that would potentially replace some of those traditional premise based solutions.

Ross: You’re saying that would be a good piece of content to be producing for your market because it’s [inaudible 00:18:35] pain point?

Joshua: Oh yeah.  Absolutely.  For example, a small business decision maker that has been having your firm take care of their network for years and they know they’ve gone through 3 or 4 generations of small business server and they start poking around online, and [inaudible 18:51] small business servers really gone.  Is the system engineer that comes in and takes care of something [inaudible 00:18:56] like Microsoft surely wouldn’t have canceled the product [inaudible 00:18:59] small business server health in Melbourne, small business health in Miami, small business server health in Montreal, you want to come up with a legitimate reason to be able to attract those kinds of searches and engage them in that kind of advice and educating them on some of the big issues that they should be aware of with what’s going to happen with that product and what’s very important with all of those assets whether it’s a podcast, whether it’s a webinar recording, whether it’s a blog post is there needs to be a CTA.  There needs to be a call to action in there that takes the percentage of people that have really said wow, this company, they’re right on.  They understand exactly what we’re going through.  They have some really great advice.  What else do they have available?  Oh, they have a free guide.  They have a free white paper.  Let me go and put my name and email address and answer 1 or 2 questions, click and now you have a lead that you can engage with over time.

Ross: Yeah.  I think that is super important, having a call to action because you’re investing a reasonable amount of time in producing these pieces of content, whether it be a blog post or webinar.  If someone is interested, there needs to be a good clear action at the bottom.

Joshua: Oh yeah.  Definitely, because when you look at it, most small business clients that are worth having don’t make impulsive decisions.  The sales cycle can be…every once in awhile it’s a few weeks, usually it’s a few months.  Sometimes, it’s a few years.  Look at wanting to attract clients that are going to bill $3, 4, 5000 on up a month where there’s $50, 60, 70, 100,000 a year in potential recurring revenue over a period of 5 or 10 years.  That client is tremendously valuable, but that also isn’t the kind of client that’s going to change vendors on a dime.  They’re going to definitely put some thought into that, and that’s all the more reason why you want them in your funnel.  You want them continuing to experience your thought leadership.  You want to invite them to webinars.  You want to offer them free assessments.  You want to give them free trade show passes when you’re exhibiting at the local B to B expo for the Chamber of Commerce.  You want a lot of different value added ways to keep educating them and framing the discussion on why these issues are important and why your leaders and your staff are really smart about looking at these issues and why your company is a natural choice when they’re ready to make that change and typically the vendors that are doing a really good job of staying in front of these decision makers are the ones a lot of times that are going to win just by being in the right place at the right time.

A very smart guy that I know at Hub Spot…Hub Spot is a big SAS provider of inbound marketing software…[inaudible 00:21:39] talk about how a lot of times small businesses are going to win out are not going to be the best marketers anymore.  They’re going to be the best educator.  That’s a very different paradigm shift to what I’ve seen over the last 2 decades or so in our industry.  It’s not hard to go through the 1990s and see that there was a lot of companies that won out with their platforms and products because they had superior marketing and superior [inaudible 00:22:03].  All this, [inaudible 00:22:08], Lotus…these are all companies, Hayes, these are all companies that at their peak were really at the top of their categories then all of a sudden what happened to them?  They were outmarketed.  Well, what’s changed is as people are becoming a lot more empowered with how they seek out information with using Google searches and social media and they’re not watching television commercials anymore.  They’re Tivo’ing or DVR’ing it right over the commercials.  They’re using caller ID to screen calls.  They’re not reading much junk mail anymore.  Tons of stuff is getting dumped into spam filters.  The entire way that people buy services as consumers and buy services on a B to B basis has changed dramatically, so it really isn’t about being the best marketers anymore.  It’s about being the best at explaining things and being able to reach people with explanations that really resonate with the pain points that they’re trying to solve and the solutions that they’re looking for and the more niched you can be with that, the better.

A lot of times what makes sense is to niche on a particular platform.  If you’re broad and you take care of anything and everything having to do with It, a lot of times it makes sense to niche my industry.

Ross: Great advice.  I do a lot of content marketing for our server at [inaudible 00:23:23] and a couple other hats I wear, and I think you’re spot on with all that and definitely taken a few things away.  Definitely [inaudible 00:23:34].  So you use Hot Spot, do you?  How do you find that one?

Joshua: It’s fantastic.  A lot of people when they first look at Hub Spot are concerned with the price itself, and it’s a very similar argument when you’re at hiring a solution provider or an IT consultancy or managed service provider.  Wow, you really charge $150-200 an hour?  Some people still do that.  A lot of people price on a per device basis or managed service basis, but what’s important to think about with Hub Spot is that people like Josh and Ross and people that have a lot of experience doing inbound marketing command hefty salaries, so by the time you take into account the labor to scotch tape a whole bunch of solutions tog4ether that are either free or a lot less expensive and you look at how many imports and how much massaging and inconsistencies with the data, it’s very important to take the cost of labor into account.  The integration makes a tremendous difference to being able to piece this all together through the channels through the sales pipeline with content marketing, with social sharing with looking at keyword analysis, with looking at which blog posts are resonating better.  It’s a certain amount you can definitely get through Google analytics, but there’s definitely a lot to be said for having everything together in one integrated package.  I can’t over-emphasize enough just how important closed loop marketing is where you understand not only which keywords and sources of traffic are best conversations, but ultimately which ones materialize into paying clients.

For example, you could put out…let’s go back to the example of accounting being a managed service provider consultancy that specializes in certified accounting firms.  You could have a great checklist that has for example a 30 or 40 or 50% conversion rate where 3 out of 10, 4 out of 10, 5 out of 10 people that are hitting that landing page convert to leads but if none of those leads over a statistically valid sample are converting into paying clients, what good is it?

Ross: Yeah, exactly, yeah.  Very good points.  Let’s get onto next question.  Opportunities.  We brought up a few sort of things during our call now, but what is one thing as an MSP business owner you think right now is a big opportunity that they need to sort of step up and try and make something of it or try and take advantage of it?

Joshua: I’d love to say that there’s a silver bullet, and there certainly are a lot of hot areas.  No one’s going to deny the cloud and storage security and mobile devices are extremely hot, but you know what I think is the biggest opportunity is?  I think it’s for small MSPs to build their own little channel programs and say, wow, can I build a channel program?  That seems really complicated, really expensive.  I need a whole bunch of Ivy league MBAs to do this kind of thing?  No.  It’s actually a lot simpler then you realize, and some of it may be right under your nose.  As you go around and you network and you build relationships with noncompeting technology providers, if you look through your phone and you say, oh yeah, there’s a company that just does cabling and phone systems that we refer a lot of business back and forth.  There’s a graphic web designer that we refer a lot of business back and forth with.  There’s someone that’s awesome at dynamics that we refer a lot of business back and forth with.  You’ve already started a lot of the ground work for building your own channel program, and you haven’t really realized it.  It’s a matter of formalizing it and formalizing it could be as simple as getting those 4 to 5 or 10 or so people together a couple times a year for coffee or for pizza and just having like a little meet up kind of session where you brainstorm about and share what’s going on in your businesses.  What are some of the biggest frustrations?  What are some of the big challenges?  What are some of the kinds of clients you work with?

You start to see what are the biggest things that are going on in your business and how you can help each other.  In addition to the deeply niched company that you might be partnering with or doing subcontract work, there’s a tremendous opportunity in partnering with other influencers that are just a hair outside of IT with CPAs with chart accountants, with management consultants, with attorneys that already have relationships with the same kinds of small business owners that you want to get a foot in the door with so a lot of people may think that building an IT channel program is tremendously expensive, but it can be as simple as putting up a form on your website listing some benefits coming up with some referral payments that correlate with what your business model is able to support with your monthly recurrent revenue streams and stuff like that.  The whole idea is it can tremendously accelerate the sales cycle because the source of the…it’s the same way that now all your keywords and now all your referral sources and now all your PPC trackers are going to convert equally, but other things being equal, the recommendations coming from other technology providers or the recommendations coming from trusted technology providers with their clients are largely presold.  It’s not a particularly price sensitive potential buyer.  The sales cycle is tremendously collapsed and accelerated, and in a lot of ways can improve your margin.

A lot of…it comes down to, too is it’s a very inexpensive way to add leverage and scale to your own business development efforts because, again, you think about going through a typical networking event…would you rather meet 2 or 3 potential clients or would you rather meet 2 or 3 potential influencers who have dozens of clients who could become…could be introduced to you over a period of the next couple of years.  There’s a lot of very simple grass roots things to do that cost next to nothing like sharing guest blog posts, doing webinars together.  If you have a podcast, have each other on the podcast and doing offline seminars together, sharing trade show booths, jointly writing white paper together that you both market.  There’s so many very inexpensive things to do that are really just a little bit of time and elbow grease on your part to introduce your company to your partners client list and vice versa.  It’s kind of what you’re doing here as well.

Ross: Yeah.  I mean, I’m so glad you ran that one up.  I’m in total agreeance with you.  I think whether it’s a channel program or just really building relationships with other people within your industry where there could be a mutual benefit for everybody, especially in the B to B space, saying people buy from people they know, like and trust, and if you’re out there spending a bunch of money on advertising, you just sort of push and push and pushing, it’s going to end up being expensive, but if you can work with other players and other influencers in your own market, then if they’re going to recommend something to their clients, you dare say [inaudible 00:30:30] it and it’s a strong sort of lead, so I’m very glad you brought that one up and definitely something that I think moving forward in terms of when we’re talking trends, particularly in the marketing sort of space, since everything’s getting so crowded.  Everybody’s trying to sort of do so much stuff and it’s getting so cut throat.  It’s the ones that have the strong relationships with people that’s going to be the way to cut through it.  That’s my thought.

Joshua: Absolutely, and the tips are fairly straightforward.  You just basically want to look for partners where there’s not a lot of overlapping what you do so you’re basically noncompetitive with each other so you don’t have to worry about that particular issue.  You generally want to look for similar size partners.  I’ve been saying for years that it looks great on your website and it looks okay on your business cards to say that you partner with very well respected Fortune 1000 brands like Microsoft and Dell and Cisco and Apple and [inaudible 00:31:31] and Citrix and things like that; however, the reality is if you’re a 5 person company and you’re partnering with a company that has 25,000 or 50,000 employees, you’re not exactly on equal footing so what tends to be the true partners is if you’re a 5 person, must be you’re a 5 person system integrator, look for others that are in the same belief as you are, a little smaller, maybe a step or 2 bigger, but don’t go nuts with much bigger.  You’ll be outmatched and won’t necessarily be the best…if you’re used to being able to develop these partnerships on a business owner to business owner basis, when you start getting into larger companies, you’re not going to be speaking directly with the CEO.

Ross: Exactly.  All right.  I think that just about wraps up a lot of the questions I wanted to ask you, and I think you’ve brought a lot of good insight.  We’ve got a lot of MSP influences on this list that I’ve been talking to, and they’ve been…there’s a lot of stuff when it comes to running operations of an MSP and all that sort of stuff, but I’m really glad I got a chance to talk to you about some of this marketing stuff, because some of it is…I’m a big fan of what you’re doing over at sphomerun.com, and I think there’s a lot that MSP business owners can learn from what you’re doing.

Joshua: I certainly appreciate it.  Thank you again for including me and your list of influencers and for the opportunity today to talk about my thoughts on what managed service providers should be concentrating on going forward.  It’s so important that when you’re selling similar services to the company down the road or across town or the next town over that you think about what’s going to make you stand out, what you can do to position your company as a brand and position your management as individual thought leaders so you really resonate with the problems that your target decision makers are worried about.

Ross: Exactly.  One more time…where can everybody reach you if they want to get in contact?

Joshua: The best way to go is go directly to our home page sphomerun.com.  We also have a weekly newsletter that I highly recommend for a lot of your readers.  You can sign up for that by going to sphomerun.com/update, and each week we provide tips and instant strategies on getting clients, building recurring revenue and growing your business.

Ross: Awesome.  Well, I’ll be putting some of those links on this recording page as well so you’ll be able to see them just below.  All right, cool.  Thanks, Joshua.  I appreciate your time.

 

Tagged: MSP Advice

About Ross Beard

Ross Beard was on the marketing team at Client Heartbeat, the simple customer feedback tool. Learn how Client Heartbeat makes improving customer satisfaction easy.



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