AS ECW NETWORK & IT SOLUTIONS has matured over nearly two decades, being choosey about our customers has been key to scalability and growth. Saying “no” is how we are getting our business and our customers to a security-first, cloud-first model that protects against cyberthreats, prepares for future trends, and drives mutual success.
We want customers who, first and foremost, are willing to go to the next iteration of technology. We also want customers we can grow with. If they’re not investing in security or cloud, they might not be around in five years. Finally, we want customers who trust that we know what they need. Think about a builder whose client hands him a bunch of toothpicks and marshmallows and demands he build a house. The answer, of course, would be “no.”
Our ideal customer understands the necessity of cybersecurity and understands that technology changes. Those are the people we can approach with new ideas. Anyone who thinks they only need to replace the server every seven years, or still won’t upgrade that legacy piece of software to get them onto the latest version of Windows, is not a good fit.
ECW first culled customers we couldn’t grow with when we moved from break-fix to managed services in 2014. We transitioned those who didn’t understand or want the benefits of monitoring and management to other providers.
The next phase of selectivity started about four years ago: Enforcing a security baseline. It’s a much easier conversation than it used to be because everyone seems to be living the headlines to some degree. We get calls from business owners all the time telling us their friend at the golf course got hacked or they heard of a breach at a neighboring business, so it’s become an extremely real thing to them. Only a handful ended up leaving us because they didn’t want to comply.
Being intentional about the customers we choose to work with isn’t easy. It doesn’t happen overnight, and there is some risk, of course. Here are some steps ECW recommends for creating a security-first customer base:
- Carefully craft your pitch about the importance of adopting your security stack and understand that you may get fired.
- Don’t approach 100% of your customers all at once.
- Transition customers to your security stack on a rolling basis.
- Expect a multiyear effort to get all customers onboard.
- Don’t accept net-new customers who will not comply.
The Next Phase
We are now moving to a cloud-first approach as well for net-new customers. A lot of businesses are still not fully in the cloud, and we know that Gartner and others say that something like 95% of workloads are going to be cloud-based by 2025. Our job is to get our customers there.
Going forward, our strategy is to take the Microsoft-centric plunge and move on-premises workloads to Azure to take advantage of things in the stack like VDI, automation, and authentication mechanisms.
Cloud will be our new customer litmus test because we know we can better maintain and secure systems that are cloud based. It’s easy to do the math. With the ability to automate, we’ll be able to serve more cloud customers than we could on-premises customers. Our goal with cloud is not to make more money with cloud subscriptions, but rather to grow revenue with stability and scalability.
So, the first thing we talk to prospects about now is their vision for the future. If they are not committed to getting their infrastructure entirely into the cloud over time, we are not interested in working with them at this stage in time.
With existing customers, we’ll follow a similar path as we did with moving them to our security stack. We won’t fire those who aren’t 100% cloud, but we are encouraging them to move as many legacy and on-premises systems to the cloud as possible. This is a conversation that’s just beginning, and the pandemic has certainly made it real as businesses recognize the long-term need to support a remote or hybrid workforce.
When we get to the latter part of 2023, however, we will start culling those who are reluctant to invest in their future and by 2025 focus only on customers who want to grow—and who ECW can grow with.
Photo by Steve Boxall