The IT channel is in the midst of major disruption. Value-added resellers (VARs) and systems integrators are making the transition to the managed service provider (MSP) model, which relies more on cloud-based services than racking and stacking servers and updating hardware.
In this episode of the B2B Nation podcast, we’re going to discuss how the MSP model changes the way channel businesses are run. The cloud eliminates geographic territories; differentiation is hard to come by; and IT channel businesses increasingly find themselves specializing in certain services or industry verticals.
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Changes in IT channel business models also require changes to the marketing strategy. In the crowded channel landscape, word of mouth will only get you so far.
In this episode, we talk to Howard Cohen, a 35-year veteran of the IT channel about how businesses can adapt to this new reality and what they need to know about marketing their services in a very crowded space.
Howard Cohen: The first thing an MSP really has to do is really define their service offering. They have to define who they are, what they do, and who they do it for. Who’s their market?
More important than that, perhaps, they have to identify the value a customer can expect to get out of working with them… [Customers] don’t engage you because you’re a wonderful person, they engage with you because you’re smart, because you demonstrate intelligence, you demonstrate capability. So that’s why they’re going to buy from you, because they know you’re going to get done what they need to get done. And you have to be able to convey in all of your marketing: “This is what we can get done for you; this is the value you can have if you work with us.”
So I suggest to partners when I speak with them that nobody cares. Think about it that way: Nobody cares. They don’t care how great you are, how many years you’ve been in business, what vendor certifications you hold. They don’t care. If they don’t know who you are, they don’t care about what you do. So you have to first convince them that you’re of value, and then they’ll be interested in all of the other stuff.
I think the best way to test whether you’re on that page… If you want to see if you’re really conveying value, go to your own website, and go to every paragraph and every page on your website. Count how many there are, and count how many of them begin with either the name of your company and how many of them begin with “I,” “We,” “My,” “We,” “Our”… anything indicating you. And don’t be surprised if 80-, 90-plus percent of your paragraphs begin talking about you.
That is all backwards. Everything in your marketing should be about them.
So if you want to be more effective in your marketing, start thinking about what you bring in terms of what it means to the customer.
Howard Cohen: Of all the things we do as marketers… Email, direct mail, web… you name it. None of them are as effective as the power of the referral. Referrals are still the most effective marketing there is. And so what you want to do is you want to automate, you want to “routinize” referrals.
And how do you do that? You incorporate into your content a lot of reasons for a lot of your readers to share your content with their friend, share your content with associates, share your content with competitors. Encourage other people to benefit from the writing they’ve benefited from.
And if your writing does bring them benefit, and you are convincing, then what will happen if your readers will cut through all the noise. You won’t have to try to rise above it anymore. They’ll cut through it and get you right to more people to join your audience. Eventually, a lot of the people who are joining your audience, who become part of your readership community, eventually a lot of them start to drop through and become customers. So that’s where I would suggest people start.