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MSPs need marketing focus to make it all cheaper, says expert

Managed services providers, like a lot of the IT industry do not do as well they could because they miss out on key aspects of customer engagement. This was a key message at the London Managed Services and Hosting Summit on 19th September. As Mark Paine (pictured at the event), research director at the technology and go-to-market group at Gartner said, “The go-to-market strategy is too often from inside out and it needs to be outside facing in. This means providing the customer with what they want. Yes, differentiation is important, but there are other areas which matter just as much.”

The way the customer buys is an even more important differentiator, he told several hundred attendees. And this may not be too worrying while the overall managed services business is growing by around 35%. “But we are expected a slowdown in next few years as the move to cloud slows, changing as small business uses SaaS, and there will be consolidation. To survive and thrive when selling is even more difficult means helping customers buy from you.”

When only 5% of customers think suppliers have any differentiation in IT, there is a problem. Without differentiation, new players will not get onto the buying list, customers may tend to stay with existing suppliers, or drop the project altogether – this happens to some 40% of ideas in customers, he said.

Do several key things - firstly, does everyone know you? – some suppliers are hard to find; others don’t say what they do. “Customers needs help throughout the IT buying and ownership cycles. The ownership is more complex for the partner it means being found, being evaluated and finally engaging. And this process goes on throughout the buying cycle. Selling does not stop once you have the deal, particularly in managed services.”

Two thirds of the buying process happens before contact is made. If you fail at this point, the customer will go elsewhere. “Customers find out about you mainly through research, and this is mainly online. It is not enough to have a search engine optimisation – you need at least three channels putting out  information about you.”

Get yourself known – if you are working with larger technology providers use their facilities and partner locators. “HP’s Cloud 28+ allows customers and partners to interact, and this is wrapped round a partner locator; other brands are similar,” he said.

You do not need a huge budget to do marketing – the key is focus – know which customers are your target, where you can help them, and this can be low cost because the target audience is smaller.

Partners cannot be horizontal, he warned: “Do not exclude anyone, but focus reduces sales cycle time and gets you to the next stage.”

Influencers and analysts like Gartner also want to hear from partners and what you do, and there is no charge for this. Your presentation is vital but it is not about you the partner, but what the customer is being offered, he said.