Being an MSP I am surrounded by products and solutions that cater to our industry. All the products that make up our service offering, anti-virus, anti-malware, email protection etc. along with all the products we use to manage the business like our PSA, RMM, knowledgebase, and reporting packages. Last year I came up with a decent product idea to cater to MSP’s that use Connectwise. The product was an online scheduler to help MSP’s come up with a convenient time to meet with their customers to preform follow-up work or work that needed to be scheduled. Lots of time is wasted trying to work on a ticket just trying to get a mutually convenient time to work on your customers systems. The product myitscheduler.com never got off the ground because I lost my developer that was working on it with me but you can see a small explainer movie of the concept on the myITscheduler.com website. I still might resurrect it in the future but for now it is on hold.
The reason i am telling you this is being in business you always need to look at tomorrow two ways, laser focused and eyes wide open. What I mean is that its easy to go off and chase a shiny penny but it is also just as easy to blinding keep doing the same thing over and over while your business, market or customer base is shrinking.
In 2007 while looking for a online billing system for our consulting and custom software business, I came across Connectwise and today what they are calling their Connectwise Manage product. Connectwise is what is know in the industry as a PSA or Professional Services Automation tool. Their biggest competitor in that space is AutoTask and most recently Kayesa. When I found Connectwise it hit all the right buttons for me. It’s promise of removing the silos of chaos and exactly what I was looking for and equally as important it opened my eyes to a whole new business opportunity that I new nothing about and this was the Managed Service Provider business model….eyes wide open.
Interested in Connectwise
In 2008 we started our MSP and today it represents at least 50% of our gross revenues. Thinking back to that time, someone had moved our cheese. Our business was centered around QAD consulting and software development but the world had gotten flatter, the internet had allowed a lot more companies to do what we do and sometimes at half the cost. In addition, things just started working better, no longer did it take a highly specialized person to make the wheels turn, normal users could do it. Well at least some of it. Think about it, 10 years ago could your grandma take a photo, edit it and upload it to a social media site? I bet she could today.
Which brings me to my 2017 project(s). I have two big agenda items on my list for 2017 and they are:
- Implement an inbound marketing program to get a constant source of new leads
- Expand our Revenue stream by building brand and marketing/selling to a new space.
For those of you not familiar with the concept of inbound marketing check out this 6 minute video from Hubspot titled “Essentials of an Inbound Marketing Strategy: Why Inbound?”
We are already doing some pay per click and have a decent website. What we lack is anything that really works to convert a “visitor” into a “lead” or better yet a customer. We feel Inbound Marketing will be huge part in helping us focus on creating landing pages and calls to action that drive leads into sales.
Part of embracing the concept of inbound marketing is embracing the concept that “information should be free” and that you need to give away good content that is of value to build trust in your audience and prove you are trusted experts in your field. This is a new concept for us. We have always held our intellectual property close to the vest and giving it away is really foreign. In the MSP space there is tons of information spread freely because of one simple fact. Even with a great list of ingredients you still don’t have a great chocolate cake! It takes time, skill and practice to make a great chocolate cake.
Finding some New Cheese
The second big agenda item on my list for 2017 is finding some new cheese. This one is a little easier to fall off the cliff if you do it wrong. Ideally you want to find a new revenue stream that compliments your existing business without taking your eye totally off the ball. This happens all the time in business and is a direct outcome of the “grow or die” mentality. We see it in our business year after year, some recent examples of finding new cheese in 2016 were:
- Moving Customers to Office 365
- Moving Customers to the Cloud – in whole or in part
- Embracing new tools and shedding old ones
- Changing Offerings to meet current demand – either more full featured or more a-la-carte
So the above examples are the day to day stuff that keeps your company agile and allows you to stay in business. In 2017 I am taking about another large pivot point in our company. I am talking about breaking into a new market and selling in a different way. I am talking about selling into the same market we are in. I am talking about selling solutions to solution providers.
The skunk works project in the Basement Bunker
Starting in Q1 2017 we are going to launch the “Service Provider Network” or SPN Radio Network. SPN will start as a weekly podcast designed to help educate MSP’s and CSP’s on the industry. We have over 21 years of experience as a consulting and development shop and 8 years experience as a successful MSP. We have learned a few things over this time and we think this knowledge is valuable. The initial thoughts on the show would be to cover topics such as:
- Tools and Services available in the Market to MSP’s
- Interviews with Industry Leaders – Coaches, Vendors, Industry Icons
- Interviews with Successful MSP/CSP partners
- Online Sales Meeting – Prospect Reviews
- Solutions and Cookbooks – Implementing Projects for Customers
Why a podcast?
Well a podcast is just the beginning. 99% of service providers are techies turned entrepreneurs, they are great candidates for a downloadable or streaming broadcast. In addition our industry is so every changing I believe that topics would be a plenty. The plan would be do the weekly audio only podcast but to pepper in video production, blog posts, and other media as well when the topic warrants it. The key is to create a compelling evergreen (if possible) contact, working calls to action and build the base with service providers that we can sell products and services to and advertisers that will purchase advertising.
We will produce the show in a basement space in our building that has just become vacant. Our VP of Sales and VCIO will be part of the on-air team. In a later post I will detail the technicalal setup as well as the building of the studio but for now we are just getting ready.
As we progress with the show we will build out a online monthly consulting practice for service providers. This will be similar to offerings by others in the field and will cater to new service providers looking to build a multi-million dollar recurring revenue engine. Single shingle type techies will get the advantage of Online Training -> Podcasts -> and Audio and Video how to’s to grow their business. As far as I know nothing like this exists in the industry.
We have had a bunch of success with some older videos we produced for our MSP business, not only do they provide valuable information for our client base but they also provide us a certain level of differentiation in the market place. The series which ended in 2012 called ITech Insights has over 15 videos and still continues to work as a marketing and sales tool for us today. Here is one of the more popular ones on YouTube for Microsoft OneNote that has over 4500 views.
The Next Steps
We need to get some more of this plan laid out, I see the future of the SPN including training classes, possible certifications for SP employees, a buying group and maybe even a “master SP” type service. First step is to take the first step which in my case is getting our basement bunker rehabbed for human consumption.