IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

Customer Litmus Test

ECW Network & IT Solutions put a stake in the cybersecurity ground, is now planting one with cloud, and wants only customers who will take that journey. By Eric Weast

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.

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