Seeking to help IT providers position themselves for success in 2018, the first of this year’s SMB TechFest conferences, held yesterday in Anaheim, Calif., focused on business fundamentals like sales, operations, and tool selection.
“It’s a new year,” says Dave Seibert, who is both owner of the SMB TechFest series and CIO of Irvine, Calif.-based MSP and solution provider IT Innovators Inc. “It’s time to assess all of the departments within your business and strategize on what your plan will be.”
According to the day’s first speaker, however, channel pros must first address an even more fundamental task: articulating precisely why they’re in business in the first place.
“The vision is the guiding light. That’s why you have to start with that,” said Manuel Palachuk, an MSP consultant based in Boca Raton, Fla., and author of Getting to the Next Level: A Blueprint for Taking You and Your Business to the Top. Everything you do and sell should flow from that overriding vision, he added.
That includes marketing, another topic on yesterday’s event agenda. According to Seibert, it’s a discipline even experienced VARs and managed service providers know relatively little about.
“Most solution providers are technologists first,” he says. “There’s something second, something third, something fourth, and then somewhere around fifth or sixth they’re marketing and sales people.”
Failing to take marketing seriously though, he added, isn’t an option for anyone who wants to add new customers or avoid losing the ones they already have to competitors.
“It’s fundamental to running any business,” Seibert says.
With that in mind, a morning presentation by Kendra Lee, president of Denver-based sales and marketing consultancy KLA Group, offered five concrete suggestions for producing more and better sales leads, from honing a compelling marketing message to diligently courting prospects until they become customers via multiple demand generation vehicles.
“You don’t want to focus on just one strategy for your lead generation,” Lee said.
A subsequent panel discussion addressed the challenges of selecting RMM, PSA, and BDR platforms, as well as the importance of getting those selections right.
“Ripping and replacing a solution after it’s been deployed to all of your clients is not a lot of fun,” observed Erick Simpson, CIO and senior vice president of SPC International, a business improvement and training service for MSPs and solution providers headquartered in Orange, Calif.
A one-time MSP himself during the earliest days of managed services, Simpson reminded newcomers to the field that the range of options in critical product categories was once severely limited.
“Today, it’s so much different,” he said. “We’ve got all these cool tools that make our job much easier.” That also makes choosing among all those systems significantly harder, added Simpson, who advised his audience to simplify the process by defining a list of needed features, ranking them by importance, and rigorously evaluating how well or poorly different solutions meet those requirements.
Isaac Boudaie, owner of Network Experts Inc., an MSP and provider of hardware repair services in Beverly Hills, Calif., recommended soliciting input from the people who will be using a new system as well.