Managed Services – The Secret Sauce For A Successful Managed Services Business

Just for the moment, consider yourself a moderately successful IT service provider who sees the growing opportunity in managed services, is quickly developing the technology to support this burgeoning market and knows the secret – has in fact the secret “sauce” – to managing a successful managed services business.Now liken yourself and your IT business to the owner of a fine dining establishment. The restaurant owner knows that his professional livelihood is built on the “meat and potatoes” of his operation, namely his fine selection of highly quality meats cooked to perfection. And he is convinced that his culinary success is due to the secret “sauce” he has created to adorn each entree. He even has a signature garnish that he places on top of each entree that makes it highly unique to him and a cut above his competition.This same analogy applies to your IT business. Your company is probably beginning to shift away from the technology and the tools that deliver services to a realization that the managed services business is the “meat and potatoes” upon which your future livelihood will rest. Your “culinary” success will be due, in large part, to the special “sauce” you create to adorn each managed service you offer. That special “sauce” is your marketing strategy. The garnish you place on each managed service is the one unique fact or feature about your business -and how you market it – that sets you apart from your competitors.So, what are the “meat and potatoes” of your business – the managed services you plan to offer your clients as you transition to a successful managed service business? How are you going to marketing those services – what “sauce” or “sauces” are you going to create to sell them? What “garnish” will you put on top – what fact or feature about your business is unique enough to separate and differentiate you from your competition?First, let’s talk about managed services. This is the “meat and potatoes” of your operation.To optimize your overall performance as a successful managed services business, here are five key elements of the business to master. Mastery of these “secrets of success” will determine how well you do in the marketplace and positively impact your success and survivability as a managed services provider (MSP).Core Technologies. The definition of managed services is expanding from infrastructure management and remote maintenance to the inclusion of software as a service. Selecting the right technology is one key piece of an effective MSP strategy. Successful MSPs typically use one of two types of software solutions – Professional Services Automation Software (PSA) and Remote Monitoring and Management Software (RMM). PSA blends such functions as customer relationship management (CRM), sales force automation, customer billing and troubleshooting into one single comprehensive platform. RMM allows the MSP to proactively maintain and troubleshoot customer systems and networks off-site.
Emerging Technologies. Up until now, MSPs were able to master basic PC and server administration. Today’s MSPs face new challenges as the landscape of managed services continues to evolve. Now these MSPs have to master cloud and SaaS managements and learn how to tap into systems like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Apps, Microsoft Windows Azure and Microsoft Business Productivity Online Suite (BPOS). Keeping pace with these options requires constant networking. Successful MSPs make this one of their biggest priorities.
Business Leadership. As you move from being a technology driven business to being a managed services provider, commitment from the CEO and top management is critical. Managed services will stall or fail completely without this commitment. CEOs don’t have to master the MSP technologies but what they do need to do is this:
Promote recurring revenue streams as much as possible instead of quick break fix project work.
Track and improve customer service levels rather than billable hours.
Schedule frequent meetings to advise customers on those service levels and to discuss technologies that can further improve overall business performance.
Hiring & Firing, Sales Training & Compensation. The jury is still out on whether MSPs need to fire or replace staff as they push into managed services or work with existing staff to generate more and more recurring revenue. Sometimes MSPs find it works better if they augment their staff with outside talent, though many times this talent can be found within their existing rank-and-file. In more traditional IT companies, sales teams are generally paid a one-time commission for special projects revenue. In the managed services market, however, recurring revenue models create new opportunities and new challenges. The biggest challenge is keeping salespeople focused on longer-term, ongoing contracts rather than quick-hit project work. Without the proper compensation plans in place, salespeople may make half-hearted managed services calls and end up pitching a new technology product instead of the managed services you hope to sell. The best MSP in the most successful managed services business has clearly communicated compensation plans with well-defined goals and priorities that motivate the sales professional to look for more business and more opportunities for managed services from either existing clients or new ones.
Service Level Agreements. Successful MSPs know that without a well-designed and understood service level agreement in place, the clients will be expecting one thing and the MSP another. Using a solid service level agreement shows the client that you know what you are doing and that you will put both your reputation and wallet behind your word.Now, let’s talk about how you are going to marketing these managed services. What “sauce” or “sauces” are you going to create to sell this business model and bring value to the customer. The signature “sauce” you create and the ingredients you use to make it is the key to your success. Here are the three ingredients you need:Marketing & Client Education. Managed services generates a significant amount of information about end users’ activities and needs. Successful MSPs use that information to anticipate those needs and recommend applications and value-added services to help clients run their businesses more effectively. Using that information as part of a marketing strategy to better educate the customer is paramount. Many MSPs believe the client’s lack of knowledge and understanding about the managed services business model is their greatest inhibitor to success. When the time comes to describe your managed services portfolio to clients, remember these three words – less is better. Skip the high-tech acronyms, the techie bells and whistles, and focus on the benefits to your client. Concentrate only on the services you offer that bring them real value, like customer satisfaction or service levels.Marketing Strategies. To date, managed services has been about the technology, but today’s successful MSPs are more focused on how to run their business well and deliver value to their customers. They know the importance of a successful business model, targeted sales strategies and value propositions and they are marketing all of that to their clients as part of their managing services portfolio. But the driving force behind the push to invest in a sales and marketing strategy is the company’s commitment to sell the customer on the value the MSP can provide.The New Marketing Model. Successful MSPs know that technology alone is not going to change their business. They know it’s all about creating a business model of managed services and equipping themselves with the skills to run their business and to market it to a targeted audience. To build a successful marketing model, you need to do three things:Define your product (managed services) from the client’s perspective and sell it that way. Let client’s know the advantages of this approach. Let them know you can provide them with software and spread costs over a number of clients. Tell them you can build more application experience than in-house staff. Assure them that your key software systems are kept up to date, available and managed for performance by experts. Let them know they will always have access to product and technology experts. Show them you can reduce their costs to a predictable monthly fee.
Know your client and let them know you know them. Let them know that you know it takes them six to 12 months to commit to a services program. Speak to them in their own language by speaking to the pains that you know that they have because they are common in the industry. Then show how you are uniquely qualified to resolve these pains and problems.
Use sales and marketing tools to your advantage to reach your client and, use only those with a proven return on investment. Schedule as many visits and meetings with the client as you can to advise them on service levels and to discuss new and emerging technologies to further improve business performance. Invite them to events like small business luncheons to get their thoughts and opinions on business trends or use of technology. Prepare hand-outs describing the benefits of predictable, flat-rate, proactive managed services programs. Create ongoing marketing and PR campaigns to announce new software products and technologies. Actively solicit customer endorsements.Now, once again, liken yourself and your IT business to the owner of a fine dining establishment. We have defined the “meat and potatoes” of your operations – all of the managed services upon which your business in now built. We have given you the key ingredients to make your special “sauce” or “sauces” – client education, key marketing strategies and the new marketing model. Now all you need is that signature garnish you place on each of your products that is unique to you and you alone and a cut above your competition.That garnish is a statement of who you are and how you present yourself. Are you ingenious? Are you creative? Are you capable of delivering the services required in a knowledgeable and innovative way? Do you communicate reliability and dependability? Are you empathic towards your client and their needs? What is it about you that makes the client want to do business with you and nobody but you? These are the intangible things that set you and your managed services business apart from your competitors. This is what your clients will remember.This is a concise overview of what it takes to succeed as an MSP. Know your product. Know the market. Know your customer. Then move ahead and capitalize on the opportunities in managed services.

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Digital Marketing Lessons From Yoda, Luke, Princess Leia & Han Solo

Marketing inspiration can be gleaned from many sources, and in this case, we look to the famed characters of Star Wars to help us on our way. Let’s review a few pithy quotes from likes of Han Solo, Princess Leia and the great and wise Yoda, and see how they might apply to digital marketing.LESSONS FROM HAN SOLO”Punch it.” Take your content to the next level, make it relevant and continually review and refine. In other words, punch up your content!”Look, I ain’t in this for your revolution, and I’m not in it for you, princess. I expect to be well paid. I’m in it for the money.” Though most organizations are in it for the profit, the goal of many digital marketing campaigns is to establish credibility and to build an online rapport. This is especially true for considered purchase items. So… focus on educating and helping first, and selling second.”Great, kid. Don’t get cocky.” If your business is growing nicely, now is the time to invest in new ideas, technologies and resources to continue that growth. Don’t get cocky and think that you can continue to sell and market the same way you did a few years ago (or more).”Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.” Old school thinking may not appeal to your progressively younger buyers. Innovate and stay ahead of the curve. That said, we never want to use an email “blaster” mentality. Always follow email marketing opt-in best practices.”Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, farm boy.” Email marketing to thousands of prospects list is a giant leap from a modest list of a few hundred. Keep this in mind when creating new, aggressive email marketing initiatives.”Great shot kid, that was one in a million.” Any given campaign can prove to be a home run, but consistent, educational campaigns should be the goal for every business.”Laugh it up, Fuzz ball.” It’s great to have fun with your marketing initiatives, but many B2B businesses should err on the side of professionalism with educational and relevant content. Explaining the origin of Foosball, or the best recipe for New England clam chowder in your business blog is unlikely the best way to engage your audience.LESSONS FROM YODA”Patience you must have, my young Padawan.” Marketing, including digital marketing, takes time and patience. Execute, Measure, Refine. Execute, Measure, Refine. There is no substitute for an experienced digital marketing professional. Don’t trust your digital marketing to a novice or treat it as a part time job to be completed by a salesperson, producer or account manager when and if they have time.”Mmm. Lost a planet, Master Obi-Wan has. How embarrassing.” Though it must be very embarrassing to lose a planet, forgetting to include a working call to action link can be embarrassing too! Double check all your links before launching campaigns.”You must unlearn what you have learned.” Just because something has worked in the past doesn’t mean you should continuing doing it in the future. Sometimes you need to step back and assess marketing initiatives, even if they’ve been successful in prior years and for many years.LESSONS FROM LUKE SKYWALKER”It’s not impossible. I used to shoot womprats with my T16 back home.” Laser like focus can be invaluable for marketing campaigns. Defining a target market, determining a buyer persona, creating a prospect scorecard and ensuring that your company has a robust prospect list are all crucial to effective and efficient marketing. Whether you’re targeting womprats or trucking executives, make sure you have the data and methodology in place when embarking on your next campaign.I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you.” Are some of your marketing initiatives going so poorly they need to be rescued? How are you determining which plans need to be rescues versus those that need to be jettisoned? Marketing initiatives need to be reviewed on a regular basis, and culled when they are beyond rescue.”I am a Jedi, like my father before me.” My father founded this company, so I’m going to run it the way he did. As companies transition from fathers to sons and daughters, there are important elements to keep, and many to throw away. When it comes to marketing, look at what has produced recent ROI, and look at innovative approaches for future ROI. A simple example might be the website your father (Jedi or otherwise) created ten years ago. It might have been great then, but the time has come and gone to create a new, mobile responsive website.LESSONS FROM LUKE DARTH VADERThe force is strong with this one.” Once you earn a positive digital reputation, the force will be strong with your company, and can remain strong with high quality content and consistent communication.”It is your destiny. Join me, and together we can rule the galaxy as father and son.” Though ruling the galaxy may be beyond the scope of your business, you can dramatically increase your book of business with innovative marketing initiatives, leading edge tools and the talent to execute them. Considering outsourcing certain marketing initiatives to compliment any missing in house staffing or skills. Outsourcing can be a more effective solution than internal staffing for many organizations, especially smaller businesses.LESSONS FROM PRINCESS LEIA”Help me Obi-wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” Though marketing can often be daunting for many companies, particularly small businesses, it’s not as hopeless as it might initially seem. And there usually isn’t just one silver bullet that will solve a problem(s), but rather many options which can provide successful outcomes. When initiatives are going poorly, start with the basics such as market, profile, persona, delivery options, etc. Use A/B split testing (or multivariate split testing) to better optimize messaging and calls to action.”Aren’t you a little short for a storm trooper?” Just because your budget is small doesn’t mean it can’t be effective. For example, leverage less expensive tools and platforms to expand reach. Use LinkedIn long form publishing as opposed to paid press releases. Cross pollinate your digital content by using free or inexpensive social media platforms. Small businesses and startups can use sweat equity when they have insufficient capital available.”I have a bad feeling about this.” Well this one seemed quite obvious. If you don’t have a good feeling about your marketing campaign or initiative, think out of the box (or “poke the box”) and try something new. How about whiteboard videos, or a social media based referral program, infographics for digital content, on demand webinars, a new app, or pod casts. There are so many tools and technologies available today, there is something for companies both small and large. LESSONS FROM OBI-WANStrike me down, and I will become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.” If at first you don’t succeed, measure, refine (or overhaul), and execute. Repeat!Marketing inspiration can be gleaned from both traditional and innovative sources. Businesses need to embrace innovative marketing ideas and new technologies. And if your business is looking to “punch it” when it comes to marketing, you may wish to consider outsourcing some or all digital marketing to a professional and proficient marketing agency.

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Home Based Businesses From an Average Family Point of View!

This is my first article on home based business so if you want to succeed and get out of your financial debt and make some realistic extra money just pay attention! I was currently in the same situation that you are currently at now now knowing how to make it to the next month living pay check to pay check. Until I started seeing how much money people was making with a work at home job. A work at home job would be just what I needed for a second source of income . And you know what it turn out great. I was always taught that if you just believe in your self and the good Lord! Everything else will follow!I have been searching the Internet to come up with a second source of income and I have come up with quite a few. But most of them are trying to either lure you in for the kill or charge you anywhere from $50 to thousands of dollars just to get started. I can say this I have personally found out the hard way on quite a few resulting in losing thousands of dollars and bad credit. Boy what a bomber. One of the worst ones out their is a credit card site where they say you can make anywhere from 1 thousand dollars a month to 50 thousands a month. But I am not going to disclose the name of the site. The CEO was a very powerful speaker He sure did know how to lure us in. Boy did me and my wife fall into it. They seen us coming a mile away. Fortunate after this long journey of pain knot know my head from the other end.The advice that I give to everybody that reads this Article about Home based business needs to be aware of the wolf in sheep clothing. Be careful and sleep on it for a day, and the next day if you still think that is a good program then go ahead and buy them by all means. But make sure you do your homework before you submit to any make money on the Internet program. Or you can learn the hard way like I did. I have found a few to make some realistic extra money. Making a program to produce massive amounts of cash is not an easy job!Their isn’t program that I have ran across that will generate massive amounts of cash without doing homework. Since I’m spending so much time on the Internet I was looking for a Home based business that works. I thought it would be good for me to see if it was at least possible to make money on the Internet.Guess what I found some of the best home based business programs .Boy now that I have found them how would I promote them? Well after I done research on my business and how to bring it up to the top ranking . I first tried AdWords but after weeks of using them I still didn’t get to the top. So I started going solo and doing everything by research. My first thing that I did was go a search term for keywords for my web site. After that I had to make sure that the keywords was relevant to my web site. After that and I was happy with that I had to come up with a good and catchy name for my home page , I did research to make sure that it was a very unusually one and it wasn’t being used and I think that I cane up with the perfect home based business name and was very happy.The next thing to do was to create an article to announce to the world that my web site was up and running. The reason that you do this is article generally tend to give a higher ranking than regular web pages. And article can give your home based business new life and on top of this its free. Their are free web site optimization out their. That in itself along with keyword optimization will help your site ranking. After all these things are done to publish your home based business after that all you have to do now is getting back links . Before you get back links make sure its in the same business market that you are currently in it will bring up your ranking with search engines. The more the merry. You can manually submit your site to search engines it is a very long process but it is possible and can be done. So you really don’t have to pay for most of these things unless you have a lot of money to just waste. If you do all these things your ranking will go up and after this all you have to do is fine tune everything! What do I mean by fine tuning your home based business opportunity you ask? That means getting the appropriate keywords for every page of your work at home job. And every page that you have must be optimize for better search engine results. You want good search engine results for your home business.Good results means more money and more products being sold. Now you see why it is very important for you to have good key words optimization. All this will insure an very productive work at home job. With a very productive home based business you can do a lot! But this isn’t going to be an easy task. It could take anywhere from 1 to numerous hours to get everything just right for the search engines to pick it up. Ensure that you don’t have any broken links will help out a lot when the search engines search your site and they come across a broken link and they stop in their tracks. That could cost your home based job thousands of dollars just for that mess up.After you are up and running and need to know how your home based business is tracking as far as search engines I suggest that you type in one of your main keywords and see where your home based business is located on the Internet. Their is a lot of things that run in conjunction with web site optimization for your home based job. That brings up the page reverence in conjunction with your keywords did you know for every keyword that you use for your home based business that you need to have a web page in conjunction with that keyword. That got your attention about doing your research on your home based business! To check the amount of traffic that a key word receives type in the symbol ~ it is right under the escape key. I recommend some of the top key words and some of the lower ranking ones to cover all angles of your home based business. This way you would have maximum conversion for your home based business. Well that’s about covers it about how to get the most from your home based business. Home based business from family man! Good luck!

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