The ASCII Group is on a mission this year to help its members strengthen their security offerings and best practices surrounding them, all to make their businesses more valuable in a computing environment that faces more threats than ever before.
“There's no way people can be in this industry in the future without having specific skill sets around security. The risk will be too large,” Jerry Koutavas (pictured), ASCII president, said at the group’s kick-off MSP Success Summit in Houston on February 16 and 17. “They won't be able to manage clients or maintain a business.”
The summits will visit eight more cities throughout the year. Each event will focus on improving MSPs’ security posture, as well as their general sales and marketing strategies. This year's keynote speaker is Paul Nadeau, a world-leading hostage negotiator and criminal interrogator, who explains how to use his unique approach to understand human behavior and win in sales.
Many SMB customers, Koutavas and others at the summit noted, believe they’re too small or inconsequential to ever be the target of a security breach. They feel the basic steps they’re currently taking offer enough protection and that a comprehensive security package is probably too expensive for their needs. In most cases, MSPs care more about the client’s security than the client does. To combat that indifference and make the security sale easier, ASCII’s 15-member security committee is currently honing a list of questions MSPs can ask customers to help them better understand the importance and affordability of professionally managed security solutions. ASCII will solicit member feedback at each summit before finalizing the document.
“We need to ask ourselves the tough questions to make sure that we're all moving in the same direction,” Koutavas said. “We're going to be reinforcing that by providing frameworks, templates, and resources to have the MSPs talk the talk and walk the walk around security.”
The customer-facing document follows last year’s list of questions ASCII created for MSPs to vet security vendors on the products that best suit their businesses. “We’re trying to up the game for our industry,” Koutavas said. “No one is immune.”
Ramping up security offerings and following best practices should not be difficult for most MSPs, Koutavas said. It’s a matter of education and taking advantage of all the tools industry groups and vendors now offer. He and others urge MSPs to begin or update their security offerings by implanting the technologies and protocols in-house and then rolliing them out to customers through smart, proven sales and marketing strategies. Shaping up in-house security technologies and practices is also important as MSPs face potential third-party audits.
“MSPs need to slow down and just really look internally at what's happening within their own organizations and simply start upping their game. We're not looking for them to become MSSPs. There's a huge distinction between an MSP and an MSSP,” Koutavas said, adding that MSSPs typically focus on companies that are much larger than the SMBs ASCII’s average member serves. “I think there's a lot of mismarketing and misunderstanding between those two. But ultimately, you can be an MSP and offer great security solutions and have great practices internally.”
The challenges of building a viable security practice to address additional and more sophisticated types of threats are relatively new for ASCII’s MSPs. But the difficulties of developing and executing effective overall sales, lead gen, and marketing strategies have been a longer-term problem for most. “It's a constant struggle,” Koutavas said. The expense of adding a dedicated marketing person, dealing with constant change within the industry, and handling day-to-day business often distracts technology-oriented business owners from focusing on that side of the business.
To help them, ASCII will continue to provide members with refreshed, customizable templates they can use to create different types of marketing, promotion, outreach, newsletter, email, and customer education campaigns. “Half the battle is just making sure that there's some consistency,” Koutavas said. “Most MSPs do not have a game plan.”