John Pagliuca, CEO of N-able, has taken issue in the press multiple times with the term digital transformation, preferring the term digital evolution. I agree that evolution is a better term. Digital transformation implies a one-time event; digital evolution acknowledges the ongoing nature of these changes.
In short, the market will continue to change. How you adapt dictates whether you come out far ahead or remain with the status quo.
Today, I want to prompt you to think about expansion by supporting the complete digital evolution for your customers. This means thinking bigger and going into realms not traditionally in your job description as an MSP.
Expanding your duties
Many in our industry draw a distinct line between our responsibilities and those of the client. Traditionally, this meant we focused on getting devices to customers and keeping them productive. We made sure their devices stayed running, maintained their network, kept their business apps accessible, and fixed issues as they arose. As cyberattacks have grown more numerous, many have expanded into the security realm, too.
This won’t change, and you will still need to do these. But increasingly, these are just table stakes. Top-performing MSPs and consultants look beyond these traditional services.
Let’s say you have a client who’s thinking about rolling out a new software solution for their business. Traditionally, your role might involve planning out the deployment, running the installer, making sure everything works, and remaining on call for troubleshooting.
Yet this one decision offers multiple revenue opportunities. You could start earlier in the process to help them vet the solution, choose the right one, and develop rollout plans to minimize customer disruption and risk. Plus, someone has to train them on the solution. Why should they hire a high-priced consultant to do this when you’re already right there? These sorts of business challenges would normally be handled by a chief information officer (CIO). When you think like one, you become their vCIO—and can charge accordingly while providing immense value.
But even without digging into individual clients, consider some of the potential shifts occurring in our own industry. For starters, Mac computers are still gaining wide adoption in businesses. If you don’t already support them, that’s a gap that’s worth closing as the market will likely only increase. Additionally, the widespread shift to the cloud and hybrid environments means you should consider trying to manage elements of this infrastructure. If you act as a vCIO, you can advise them on how best to accomplish this task (and take on the project work for shifting more of their infrastructure to the cloud). Regardless, managing and monitoring their cloud infrastructures should absolutely be on your radar, even if you’ve traditionally focused on managing on-premises infrastructures.
Know your customers and adapt
These are just examples. There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to what you should offer. But the process is reasonably simple:
- Know your customers’ industries
- Know your customers’ specific goals
- Figure out how technology helps them reach those goals
How might you do this?
1. Know your customers’ industries
If you have a niche you serve, start by reading industry publications and subscribing to a few. You don’t have to be glued to these, but they help you keep your ear to the ground.
However, this strategy alone is passive; you’ll want to be more active by attending industry conferences as well. When attending conferences, you get a few major benefits. First, you’ll soak up a lot of the industry jargon. You’ll know a lot of the jargon already just by selling to them, but I promise you’ll pick up new ideas and grow more confident speaking your customers’ language.
Second, you’ll gain new ideas on how to help people. You might hear everyone talking about a new product at a biomedical device conference and decide to start looking into supporting, deploying, and managing those devices as an option. You’ll hear a lot about new trends and can ask people what they think about them. Knowing these trends and helping customers achieve those goals positions you well for the future.
Finally, you’ll meet prospects. Bring cards with you and grab some of theirs, but make sure you don’t pitch at a conference. You’re gathering information, not selling it. Find out what challenges they’re facing at work, specifically around tech.
Note: Don’t skip your own IT conferences though—they’re still extremely important for making sure you can deliver to customers.
2. Know your customers’ goals
Next, focus on your existing customers. In quarterly business reviews, try to uncover what business objectives they want to achieve over the next few years. For example, your customer may be on their way to a major expansion, including opening a new location (or perhaps their workforce is going mostly remote). You might find that offering zero-touch deployment—so their new devices get there fast, with the right applications and settings pre-loaded—becomes a unique selling point for you. You really can’t talk to customers enough. Don’t wait until the QBR either—even a 30-minute coffee meeting, or lunch once in a while, in a casual setting will give you ideas.
3. Align to customers’ needs
Finally, spend time connecting the dots between the needs you’ve gathered and the solutions you can potentially offer. Set aside brainstorming time with your team if it helps. Between following their industry’s news, going to conferences, and just talking to them, you’ll start to notice patterns. For example, let’s say customers in your industry are settling on a specific piece of software, but you know you could improve performance for them by integrating this new solution with parts of their existing toolset. You could start approaching customers about the possibility of developing integrations between systems, and either build the skills on your team, hire a developer, or contract out to a third party and manage the project for them. Or maybe you notice people are increasingly moving to the cloud, but a subset of your customers remain primarily on-premises. You could easily pitch customers on the possibility and remind them their peers have already moved. If you manage the process, you’ll set them up for the future and set yourself apart as the partner who’s preparing them for it.
The next phase of evolution
Any adaptation in a natural environment that proves to be advantageous sets the new norm for businesses. In the MSP world, we’re lucky that we can have some say over what direction that next phase is headed. The top MSPs—the ones who will lead the pack—will find new ways of serving their customers and strike new ground.
I want you to be one of these top MSPs. The ones that others follow. The opportunities are there, so find them and take them.
One trend that’s going to continue regardless of your customers’ industries is the shift to cloud and hybrid environments. Expanding into this realm is absolutely paramount—and it helps you manage more of their infrastructure and devices (which means more revenue for you).
N-able™ N-central® can help with this shift. We’ve partnered with Microsoft to offer a strong integration between N-central and Microsoft Intune, so you can start handling more of their infrastructure. Plus, Intune uses Autopilot to offer zero-touch deployment, so customers can be ready to go the moment you ship a device. Learn more about the integration between N-able N-central and Microsoft Intune.
Luis Giraldo is senior marketing director, N-able