IT and Business Insights for SMB Solution Providers

MSPs Must Build Ecosystems to Meet SMB Customer Needs

MSPs that create healthy, proprietary ecosystems with diverse offerings to solve SMBs’ real business problems will gain a competitive edge. By Rahul Bhavsar

A majority (68%) of small to medium-size business (SMB) executives believe working with a managed service provider (MSP) helps them stay ahead of their competition, according to research from Infrascale. However, a recent report from Techaisle revealed a lack of alignment between what SMBs want and what channel providers believe they should offer.

Traditionally, an MSP’s primary focus has been on supplying and managing products and services to sustain IT infrastructure. While this is an important role, it’s not usually found on an SMB’s list of most crucial needs.

As business becomes increasingly digitized, and technology plays a core role in all facets of the organization, providing a sound IT infrastructure is becoming a mere prerequisite. Forward-thinking MSPs must do more to fulfill their SMB customers’ needs.

Here’s how MSPs can refocus their mission and get back into symbiosis with the needs of SMBs.

MSPs Must Become Ecosystem Builders

Long gone are the days when SMBs are satisfied with calling in the IT person when an issue arises. More and more, SMBs are leaning on their IT service providers as trusted business consultants that can offer up actionable IT solutions to solve real-world business problems, such as reducing churn with managed AI customer support software or providing cloud infrastructure services to allow their business operations to remain active during COVID lockdowns.

What’s more, as end customers across the board look to consume an increasingly diverse range of technology services, they don’t necessarily want the number of service providers they buy from to rise concurrently. Too many providers can lead to more hassle and delegation internally.

That’s why a growing number of SMBs are seeking a one-stop shop for all their IT needs, including cloud infrastructure, hardware, cybersecurity, and more. For example, in a 2021 survey of SMB telecoms, the vast majority of respondents (83%) said they prefer to obtain voice services as well as collaboration services from a single provider.

By manifesting their own ecosystems, service providers can draw from a network of trusted IT vendors and solutions providers when their SMB customers need an answer to a problem not readily available in the MSP’s toolbox.

MSPs that create and orchestrate a healthy, proprietary ecosystem will drive a competitive edge and set the new standard in the industry.

Provide A Differentiated Value Proposition

MSPs need to form a network with a broad spectrum of solutions, because what good is an ecosystem without diversity? This means allocating a set of multifaceted connections rich with options to provide the products and services that they can't. They should partner with as many software vendors, resellers, and even other service providers as possible to fill gaps in their own solutions.

But building a strong ecosystem doesn’t just mean accessing it only when it benefits the MSP. Service providers must understand that the ecosystem is founded on the strength of all its players, and it might require the MSP to take on different roles within the ecosystem, including being a non-transacting partner in some circumstances. 

MSPs must also make their ecosystems stand out from the pack. In order to attract partners, a digital ecosystem needs to provide a differentiated value proposition that helps it rise above its competitors. MSPs should demonstrate that they are a trusted brand, or have compelling offerings, low prices, or a superlative customer experience, showcasing that their value comes in various forms.

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