Post-Pandemic Principles for MSP Growth
The pandemic was hard on all of us, and it rocked the business world to its very foundations. But it’s like Einstein said, “In the midst of difficulty lies opportunity.” This is definitely true in regard to the situation that managed IT service businesses are currently facing. Managed service providers (MSPs) are on the cusp of a potentially very fruitful next five years.
Covid-19 dealt us all a bad hand, but MSPs who play their cards right can stand to benefit from certain conditions that prevail in the post-pandemic world. The key phrase here is play their cards right. Although the MSP market is expected to grow a lot in the next five years, not all MSPs are going to be lifted by the rising tide. As in most industries, a select portion of MSPs are going to feast on profits, while everyone else fights for scraps.
To sum up the situation: what you’re facing right now as an MSP is an opportunity, not a gift. Current conditions are conducive to MSP growth, but getting to where you want to be with your business is still going to depend, more than anything else, on what YOU do.
The purpose of this blog post is to equip you with some general principles to guide you forward as you navigate the next several years of your MSP’s journey. Principles are important in life; they give us structure and focus. They allow us to cut through the noise and chaos and build toward a greater goal.
But before we get to “post-pandemic principles for MSP growth,” let’s review why right now is a great time to commit to your MSP’s growth.
The Time is Ripe to Grow Your MSP
The Rise of Working from Home (WFH)
We saw a sweeping transition to remote work as a consequence of Covid-19 — a change which appears to be here to stay. The rise of WFH complicates individual companies’ IT infrastructures and provides new points of ingress for threat actors.
What this all means for MSPs can be spelled out in two words: greater demand. Specifically, there is now a greater than ever demand for the type of proactive cybersecurity that MSPs tend to offer. This brings us to the second post-pandemic reality that has the potential to catalyze MSP growth …
Even before the rise of WFH, cybercrime was already a growing problem. The digital age is a dangerous one, and as more and more cyberattacks make the news, businesses are waking up and smelling the coffee: modern businesses cannot survive — let alone thrive — without a robust security posture. A survey of SMBs carried out by ConnectWise found that 79% of respondents were worried about undergoing a cyberattack in the next six months. And this very justifiable fear will translate to spending — or, investment rather: a study published by MarketsandMarkets™ forecasts that the global cybersecurity market will balloon to $248.26 billion by 2023 (it was at $152.71 billion in 2018).
MSPs stand to capitalize on these trends as their cybersecurity offerings tend to be more proactive and comprehensive than those offered by traditional break/fix outfits.
Finally, there’s the digital revolution itself, which continues to carry out society forward at breakneck speed. The IT landscape is constantly evolving and gaining complexity, and businesses are beginning to embrace — though perhaps not as quickly as they should — the idea that your IT provider shouldn’t just fix your computers, but turn your entire IT environment into an asset that improves your business’s operational efficiency and boosts profitability. And this idea is of course at the very heart of the MSP business model.
If you’re reading this as an MSP owner, the above three post-pandemic realities should be heartening, as they make one thing abundantly clear: Your MSP can really take off in the next several years. But don’t just expect it to happen. Make it happen. Put in the work. Plan intelligently. Make necessary changes to your business even when it scares you — especially when it scares you.
And keep the following principles in mind as you move forward with your business, as they can help you get the most out of your efforts.
Principles to Grow By
Principle #1: Go Deep!
This principle is vague and abstract, but therein lies its value: you can apply it to various aspects of your business. Here, we’ll look at two ways in which “go deep” serves as a useful guide.
The first has to do with your MSP’s offerings. Now, although it’s simplistic to say that it’s better to perfect a service you already offer than it is to add a new one, MSPs are often too eager to expand their repertoire, rather than ‘deepen’ it. Deepening your MSP’s offerings can simply mean getting better at them, or it can mean choosing one or two to focus on as specialties and points of emphasis in your marketing strategy. MSPs who specialize appeal to niche markets who are willing to spend a little more for tailored IT support. So don’t lose sight of the importance of mastery in your efforts to make your MSP a jack of all trades.
The second application of the “go deep” principle concerns client relationships (also the focus of the next principle). Many MSPs believe that adopting a “growth mindset” means something like: Seek out as many clients as possible. This can be detrimental for a variety of reasons (bad clients do more harm than good!), but one distinct cost of growth-by-expansion is that it can take your focus away from clients you already have.
The key to MSP profitability is, let’s not forget, recurring revenue, which you get when your clients stay put — when you build long-term relationships with the people you serve. Expansion is good, but not if it stretches you so thin that you can’t provide white-glove service and support to the businesses who are trusting you to do so. So instead of always looking for new clients, devote plenty of time and resources to deepening the relationships you have with your existing clients. It WILL pay off.
Principle #2: Put Relationships First
Our second principle for MSP growth in the post-pandemic world is really an extension of the first. However, given how utterly crucial relationships are to MSP health — and how they’re often underappreciated or just plain neglected — we think a separate discussion on the importance of relationships is in order. The discussion doesn’t have to be lengthy though, because the principle says it all: PUT RELATIONSHIPS FIRST. If you’re into mantras, work this one into the rotation. Say it to yourself in the mirror every morning before work. Buy a bumper sticker. Get a tattoo!
All jokes aside, find a way not to lose focus of the fact that your MSP is only as successful as the relationships it builds.
The relationships your MSP builds with clients are, of course, of the utmost importance. Happy clients stay put, and the best way to make your clients happy is to actually connect with them on a human level. They’ve hired you to be their IT provider, not their friend, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make an effort to get to know them. Asking for referrals isn’t a bad practice, but if you’re truly taking care of clients, they’ll often refer you without needing to be asked. When that happens, you know you’re doing things the right way — with a human touch.
Take care of your clients, but don’t forget to foster relationships within your MSP too. Check in with your employees, promote a positive and supportive company culture, solicit feedback — and don’t go about doing this in an ‘artificial’ way, like a robot that feeds on metrics. Putting relationships first doesn’t mean pretending to for the sake of profit. It means actually caring, actually listening, actually connecting. If you can be real with your clients and your employees, and form genuine human connections with them, you can help your MSP stand out as a true IT partner in a sea of IT providers.
Principle #3: Figure Out How to Talk to Prospects and Clients about Cybersecurity
You might be thinking, “Aren’t principles supposed to give us answers, not tell us to figure things out on our own?” But here’s the thing: there is no agreed upon answer in this case — no consensus among MSPs as to how best present the issue of cybersecurity to prospects and clients.
Channel Future’s recent survey of MSPs yielded a variety of answers to the question: How are you addressing customers’ cybersecurity concerns? Some MSPs reported that they take an optimistic tack, reassuring customers that they’re being protected by “best-in-class products and suppliers.” Other MSPs said they choose to be frank about the severity of situation, telling customers outright that nobody who uses the internet is “safe.”
It’s not as though there is one perfect way to broach the issue of cybersecurity, and how you frame it for your clients will depend on your style of communication, among other factors. That said, finding out what works for you can give you a competitive edge.
Fear tactics can be too aggressive, but generic optimism and confidence might sound hollow and inauthentic to your prospects and clients. Try to find that sweet spot, where you’re honest about the very real dangers of cybercrime, but at the same time, confident and reassuring in how you characterize your MSP’s approach to cybersecurity. If you can pull of this feat of nuance, it will help you convert more leads and boost that bottom line.
Principle #4: Marketing, Marketing, Marketing!
If you choose to follow only one of the principles presented in this blog post, let it be this one. Here’s the deal. You might not like marketing. You might even think it’s silly — that it shouldn’t matter what font you use on your website, whether you post regularly on social media, etc. Or maybe you’re just not comfortable ‘putting yourself out there’ the way marketing often requires. And that’s fine. You don’t have to like marketing. But you do have to do it — if you’re serious about growing a successful MSP in this ultra-competitive industry. You have to do it consistently, seriously, and well. Why?
Because it WORKS. Look at what successful MSPs are doing. Put aside your pride and really look. They’re marketing up a storm. And they’re not going about it willy-nilly, either. They’re systematic, and in many cases, they’re hiring experts, because let’s be honest, most people who found MSPs know a lot more about tech than they do marketing.
Now, it can be scary to invest in marketing. When you begin marketing in a serious way, the results aren’t always immediate. It’s anxiety-inducing not to see a healthy ROI right away. But that’s just the way it works. You market your butt off, nothing happens. You keep going, making tweaks and adjustments. Nothing happens. A few more months. More tweaks. More adjustments. You see a few results. Nothing big. Then you start to notice a trickle. A lead here and a lead there. After a year — maybe more — the trickle grows stronger. You refine your methods even more. Now the trickle is a stream. Your sales pipeline gets fuller and fuller. You’re amazed to find yourself actually turning down work because your team is at capacity.
This is the pattern we see time and again, so if you’re planning on bringing your MSP’s marketing up to speed, you MUST (a) commit to being patient, and (b) commit to actively working on your marketing on an ongoing basis — or to hiring professionals who will do so.
Grow Your MSP with The 20
We’ve seen that MSPs face a potentially lucrative five years if they get their houses in order. The MSP market is growing, but it’s also becoming increasingly crowded and competitive. There’s no shortage of demand for the type of IT services and solutions that MSPs offer, but how do you distinguish your MSP in the eyes of your potential customers? How do you separate yourself from the herd?
The 20 is an exclusive business development group of MSPs aimed at dominating and revolutionizing the IT industry with its standardized all-on-approach. Growing a successful MSP requires a lot more than technological prowess, and The 20 offers a robust RMM, PSA, and documentation platform, along with proven processes for sales and marketing, to help MSPs not only separate themselves from the herd, but leave it in the dust. Instead of assembling all the moving parts your MSP needs in a piecemeal fashion, join The 20 and get them all in one convenient package. Learn more about what The 20 does and how we can help your MSP achieve monumental revenue generation and unprecedented profitability and growth.