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I don’t know about you, but what an absolute blur of the year 2020 has been. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it was a dumpster fire of a year, but it’s hard to believe it’s nearly over all the same! That said, I’ve always found it works well to reflect back on the year we’ve had, come the end of December, and make some resolutions and goals for the coming year. This applies to service providers as well! Not only does this help you focus on what went well and what didn’t, but it helps you focus on improving your business as a whole.
Having been involved in the MSP space in some way/shape/form since 2002, as a customer, as an MSP, a CSP, a software vendor, technical engineering, marketing, pre-sales, and account management, I finally feel qualified to make this list. I’ve seen a lot of things that work well and many that don’t. To top that off, if you’ve been in the MSP space for any length of time, you know that the one constant in our industry is change, and change you must! Your success depends on it!
Not all of the recommendations that I’m about to share will apply to your particular case. However, you should pause and reflect on each one and ask if it SHOULD apply to you. Finally, if you’ve got a recommendation that you’d like to share, feel free to do so in the comments section at the end of this post. Service Providers are a tremendous community, and I’ve been impressed over the years when it comes to the mind-share and assistance that the community provides to its members.
That all said, let’s get started with our list!
1. Start Moving Towards a CSP Model (If you haven’t already)
Everything we hear in the industry today is cloud this, cloud that, put this thing in the cloud, sync that thing over there to the cloud…etc…etc. It’s a running joke that many are sick of hearing about “the cloud,” but there is a level of truth to all the talk. Gartner predicts that:
By 2024, more than 45% of IT spending on system infrastructure, infrastructure software, application software, and business process outsourcing will shift from traditional solutions to the cloud.
Think about that…. in a few years, nearly HALF of IT spend will have shifted towards cloud technologies. Let’s say you’re still primarily an on-prem focused shop. Let’s be conservative and ask the following question. Could your business survive if 40% of your customer base decided to go elsewhere for technologies/services that you’re unable to provide? The older on-prem and break-fix model just doesn’t scale well in the long run, and cloud adoption continues to rise faster than most old-school MSPs are able to bring on new on-prem business to back-fill.
Businesses of all shapes and sizes are getting sick of large capital expenditures. They are becoming more accustomed to the pay-as-you-go model and flexibility that cloud services provide. As such many are turning to Cloud Solution Providers to enable those services and digital transformation within their organizations, and trust me when I say you WANT to be part of that transformation. Many organizations are struggling with the new speed of innovation in the cloud, and being positioned as a leading CSP can allow you to be the thought leader those companies need and trust to help them moving forward.
How do you start making this switch? We actually did a webinar on this topic specifically earlier in the year, in case you’re interested.
For additional reading on the subject, consider the following:
- Introduction to the Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider Program
- How to Establish Close Partner Relations with Microsoft
- 5 Ways the CSP Model Tears up the MSP Sales Rulebook
2. Invest in Your Employees
This goes without saying for most, but I’ve seen many service providers that struggle with this over the years. With the speed of change in the industry today, the only way you’re going to continue to be the key player in your space is to invest heavily in your most important asset, your staff. The technologies and innovations that we’re seeing come out in the cloud space today are so different and transformative that it’s difficult to just “figure them out.” Investing some of your hard-earned dollars into your engineering team can go a long way towards making sure that:
- You’re properly utilizing these new cloud technologies as intended
- You have the knowledge needed to address the vast array of use-cases you’re likely to run into in your market
- Be seen as a thought leader in the cloud space in your market
- Maximize the digital transformation of your customers
- Been seen as the continued trustworthy technology partner to those you service
Good places to start would include the Azure Administrator and Microsoft 365 Administrator Certification paths. Additionally, we did a webinar much earlier in the year that talked about Microsoft Azure Certifications and how to go about prepping in case you’re interested.
3. Review Your Core Agreements and Contracts
I know, this is just the thing everyone wants to do….. read contracts and legal documents. But in certain situations, you may be glad you did. With recent news regarding SolarWinds, which may have affected some of you, it serves as a good reminder to always be thinking about ways you can protect yourself in your contracts and master services agreements. Things you want to consider adding for this coming year:
- Additional Liability Protection through your MSA
- Signed waivers for those organizations that ignore security advice
- Partnering with an insurance firm to help you and your customers be financially covered in breach situations
- Review of supported industry regulations and whether there should be mention of them in your agreements.
- Additional protections for dropping services in lack-of-payment or hostile-client situations
All that said, it’s worth noting that I am NOT a lawyer. While I can make some recommendations based on experience, that does NOT replace the advice and direction of a board-certified lawyer that specializes in the managed services space. I’d advise you to think about the above recommendations, and if you want to act on or have questions about any of them to reach out to your legal counsel for further action.
4. Drop the Terrible Clients
This is always a weird one for me, but it’s so important. I URGE you to drop the “bad clients.” You know the ones I’m talking about. I know it’s difficult to turn away any business, especially in the COVID economy, but the rest of your service delivery will thank you for it. Going in line with item number 5 from the core agreements section above, the ability to drop a bad client is so important. Bad clients may:
- Not pay bills on time
- Complain about work done
- Treat your staff poorly
- Not see IT as a priority
- Prevent you from properly supporting other clients
- Create poor profit-margins
If you need further examples, I’ve found that this is a recurring theme on the MSP Subreddit, and you’ll posts about this very topic on nearly a daily basis. So, if you’re wondering if you’re the only person dealing with this situation, you’re not. Rip the band-aid off and move on with life. Your bottom line will eventually thank you for it, as will your staff.
5. Focus on Monthly Recurring Revenue
Quick one here, but I’ve found that many organizations don’t put enough focus on this. Monthly Recurring Revenue (MRR) is king. MRR is cash that you just get every month regardless of how much business you do. It makes things cashflow easier, and it allows you to better weather those slower months. A good starting point for generating some MRR is becoming a CSP and reselling M365 licensing. You’ll find that not only does that drive a lot of new project work, but the CSP licensing will also help make the client “sticky” as well.
6. Start Selling Security Services
Security was an exploding segment of the market, to begin with. COVID-19 has actually made it even more of a concern for the coming year. The long and the short of it is this, increased digitization and work-from-home has opened up new avenues for attackers to exploit. That said, your customers will be looking to you to help them combat these issues. I’m not advocating you attempt to become an MSSP overnight. Still, If you’re struggling with where to start, I would suggest starting by enabling MFA with Conditional Access for all your customers that are currently using Azure Active Directory. MFA is likely the number 1 thing most of your clients can do to help improve their security posture.
Additionally, if you have a customer with a lot of third-party OAuth apps that are authenticating to M365 services, I would conduct an audit of those. We’ve seen a recent uptick in the number of breaches that are occurring as a result of OAuth apps in M365. We covered this issue in great detail in our recent webinar on Azure AD and M365 Security.
7. Start Content-Based Marketing Targeting Your Ideal Client
We all want to be seen as thought experts in our industry, and that’s doubly true for most MSPs. The more you’re seen as a thought leader, the more trust that earns you in terms of potential clients. It’s tough to build that monthly recurring revenue portfolio I talked about earlier if you don’t have new prospects coming through the door. Additionally, the more time you spend chasing new prospects, the less time you’re billing. If your marketing is of the caliber that you just have prospects matching your ideal client walking in the door, you’ve hit the gold mine!
Many MSPs don’t know where to start with content-based marketing. It’s easy to go find some marketing company that provides pre-canned content for you to slap your brand on, but prospects are smarter than that. They can smell a post written by a marketing person from a mile away, so I would suggest looking to your engineer staff as a start point. Sure many of them aren’t authors by trade, but many of them have knowledge and expertise to share. Leveraging that knowledge to help show your customers that your team knows what they’re talking about will go a long way towards bringing in new business. Even if your marketing efforts don’t get conversions right away, the additional touch-points via a CRM or mailing list will help keep your brand top-of-mind for when they have an IT need or are looking to change providers.
Finally, when it comes to marketing, try to avoid these common pitfalls as well!
I know it’s been a difficult year for many organizations, and while it may seem difficult to effect change within your MSP when the world is in the state it’s in. However, I would argue that this is just the time to really dig in and make those needed changes. Your business will thank you for it, your clients will thank you for it, and your employees will thank you for it, so get to it!
Thanks for staying with us and being a part of our MSP community for another year! We really enjoy creating content for you, and always love to hear from you!. If you have any thoughts on any of the items I’ve included in this list, or if you have some items that you don’t see on the list, be sure to let us know in the comments section below!
Thanks for reading!
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