One of the more common problems we see IT managed services providers suffer is increasing difficulty with the commoditization of services and differentiation within the industry. There are three factors involved here that we need to understand and manage to solve these problems.
Problem 1.: Our prospects are seeing fewer visible IT problems
Even ten years ago not only was Windows XP less reliable but so were servers and the internet in general. These are not generating problems anymore..the average CEO doesn’t have "technology issues" on their agenda.
So our traditional marketing and sales efforts are no longer effective. Even referrals are not coming with the same frequency lately.
Problem 2.: Our Value Proposition is limited
The MSP value proposition is designed around peace of mind - keeping your lights on, managing your technology so you don’t have to. The entire value proposition is reflected in the challenges of managing that technology. We can embellish and enhance, but that is the core value every managed services provider is delivering. All our discussions tend to come back to proactive maintenance, anti-virus and managed devices.
Problem 3.: Communicating MSP value proposition is a dead end
The ability to market the service by appealing to technology awareness is diminished and the industry is saturated. Prospects have fewer IT problems with their IT infrastructure and there’s no room to move sideways to look for new IT infrastructure territories. Too many fish in a smaller pond. Trying harder is not a solution, nor is tweaking your delivery.
A few smart folks in the Business Model Generation group made an interesting observation, of service companies who see these problems we’re facing and start to look inward to develop new services. This, they found, is very ineffective. Instead they thought: what if we first understand the problems of the target market - their pains and wishes, and then try to figure out how we can solve their problems. Once we have these in mind we can start developing IT services.
Check out their cool Canvas tool. On the right-hand side, you see a traditional CEO's job, their pains, and the gains they are after. As it was when a CEO had visible IT problems, as service providers on the left, we have been able to solve their pains and offer services to reach their desired gains. It is a very simple formula to connect our services to their needs, so it’s called the Value Proposition Canvas.
If we really take the time to understand our clients and prospects we can quickly see they actually still do have IT problems - they just aren't as obvious as they used to be.
First and foremost they usually want to grow and to be more efficient. They see their hurdles as lack of productivity among their staff, for example, and as in need of immediate solution. But while every business is looking to grow sales, they don't see these as IT-related opportunities. They see these as general business problems.
Here’s where we can excel! If we try to figure out how we can help their business problems using IT solutions, the whole conversation starts to change. In reality there are many solutions to their business problems. A new CRM or improved reporting and adoption by staff through proper training, or some improved collaboration and internal communication could ease their pains. Sadly all too often some or all of these solutions do not exist in our particular service stack.
Right now nobody is there to connect the dots - find the problems, look for opportunities and manage the implementations. Their internal resources cannot do this and most consultants and IT companies aren’t either. There may be no shortage of skilled experts, but nobody there to manage the solutions.
If the solution for them is to be more IT savvy and do better implementations, and to better use their existing environment and become more productive, we have to find out how we can deliver this value to them, and this is what a virtual CIO is doing. This is the Value Proposition of MSP 2.0.
The idea here is that unlike the MSP 1.0 model, where the Value Proposition is limited in scope to IT infrastructure problems, here we can solve any business problem. This value proposition is thus UNLIMITED. We can now differentiate our vCIO services by vertical structure, size, business problem, or any other metric.
Free yourself: why fight the same limited dead-end MSP 1.0 battle. We can elevate our conversations and solve the problems that really matter to clients.