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Establishing a Winning MSP Website: 6 Key Requirements

Author: CA’s Ken Vanderweel

Over the years, CA Technologies has partnered with thousands of enterprise customers and a wide range of service providers. This engagement with enterprises gives us a unique vantage point in our work with MSPs; we can gain direct insights into how enterprise priorities are evolving and how their service requirements are changing.

As mentioned in one of our prior posts, a big shift is underway within today’s enterprises. Today’s businesses are growing increasingly focused on two key objectives:

  • Maximizing the agility of their internal operations.
  • Optimizing and innovating the digital experiences they deliver to customers.

To achieve this latter objective, organizations are under increasing pressure to speed application innovation, which is fostering the move to establish a modern software factory. (See “The Modern Software Factory: The Business Imperatives and How Service Providers Can Capitalize”).

Whitespace analyses

Research IconMany teams within CA work extensively with our service provider partners, not only to equip them with solutions that can power services, but in helping with developing service catalogs and bringing services to market. Given the move of enterprises to adopt the modern software factory, we’re looking to help our MSP partners support this shift. This is one of the big drivers behind an initiative we’ve been supporting, our whitespace analyses.

Through these whitespace analyses, we focus on helping partners spot “whitespaces” or gaps in service coverage, and, based on their existing expertise and assets, identify where new services can be added. There are two main components to these analyses: assessment of MSPs’ online presence, and mapping of existing services against a comprehensive list of potential services. Through these efforts, we hope to help partners identify opportunities for enhancing web sites and market positioning, expanding services and expanding business.

In recent months, we have done dozens of detailed assessments of a broad cross-section of service providers. We’ve worked with organizations based across a number of regions, including Europe, US and Latin America. There was a huge diversity in types of partners assessed, ranging from small firms with less than 100 employees to global firms with thousands of employees. In terms of the websites themselves, there was also a wide range, with one provider site that had a handful of pages as well as an international site with thousands.

Key Differentiators

Through our whitespace analyses, we’re seeing very striking differences between those leading firms that are positioning their business in the strongest possible fashion, and those that are coming up short in this regard. The following sections offer a detailed look at six key differentiating factors.

#1. Speaking to modern customer requirements

Icon Growth PlanA big part of our website analysis is focused on assessing the types of services being featured and, more generally, whether MSPs are articulating messages that will resonate with today’s reader. This is important because when these modern concepts are lacking, given short shrift or hard to find, there’s the danger that site visitors will come away with the impression that the MSP doesn’t understand their priorities or offer the services they’re looking for. In addition, both visiting prospects and even existing customers may be left with the impression that the service provider isn’t a business that represents a suitable long-term partner.

Some of the MSPs we looked at are leading the way in articulating messages that resonate with today’s prospects. These organizations are using service categories like “advise, transform and manage,” or articulating how they help customers achieve such objectives as navigating their digital transformation, enabling a modern workforce or supporting user-focused innovation.  Through these approaches, service providers show they’re aligned with customer priorities and equipped to help them pursue top objectives.

#2. Compelling readers to engage

Chat IconWhen visitors arrive at an MSP’s site, it’s important that they see compelling, welcoming content that draws them further into the site so they will learn more about the business. In evaluating MSP sites, we typically started with a web search to see how the MSP presents themselves through their site descriptions, the meta tags in the webpage code that are displayed in search engine’s results. We then inspected the top of the home page and what appears above the fold, that is, the top of the page that’s initially visible in a browser. We assess these areas in an effort to determine how well the MSP is engaging readers at these early stages.

The leading websites we analyzed clearly made an investment in ensuring their search descriptions and home pages were compelling. Above the fold and on the home page more generally, these MSPs addressed several key requirements:

  • Making bold value statements.
  • Providing an engaging set of visuals and text that grab the reader’s attention.
  • Giving a clear picture of services and value.
  • Compelling visitors to go further on the home page and deeper in site.

Not only did the home pages encourage further site review, but supporting pages continued to engage visitors. In addition, leaders also effectively capitalized on site visits by employing efforts for lead generation. For example, through objective white papers and webinars, MSPs offered compelling resources that required registration in order for visitors to gain access. Not only do these objective resources help spur lead generation, but they also serve to establish the MSP’s expertise.

#3. Ensuring messaging and content consistency

Icon NotesAn interested prospect will typically look through several different areas in a site in order to learn more about an MSP. Will they remember what they saw and come away with a clear understanding of what messages the MSP wanted to convey? Consistency plays a critical role in the effectiveness of a site’s message delivery.

When readers see inconsistency in what they’re reading, they tend to come away confused and far less likely to remember the key attributes about the MSP. High level messages aren’t supported in the rest of the site, making them less likely to be remembered or believed. Ultimately, visitors are less likely to investigate the MSP further.

Top MSP sites exhibited an impressive level of consistency, including of key messages detailed in the home page, second level pages, collateral, site descriptions and so on. Key points are reinforced consistently. Each page supports the MSP’s high-level story. This consistency is vital in giving prospects a clear understanding of MSPs’ focus and value proposition, the services they offer and how they can help.

#4. Delivering service offering detail

managed services iconWhen prospective customers visit a site, they’ll most often want to learn about the services offered. We assessed MSPs’ service description pages to gauge their effectiveness in helping visitors evaluate service offerings.

When navigating MSPs’ sites, we often found fairly lengthy lists of links to service offerings. However, it was common to click these links and get to pages that offered very little detail.

First and foremost, this lack of service detail means that prospects can’t get further in their vendor evaluation through their preferred online channel. Further, these vague, cursory descriptions can give the visitor the impression that the MSP is only paying lip service to an offering or that services aren’t well defined or well established. Ultimately, service offerings can come across as immature and unproven.

At the top MSP sites, when visitors browse through service pages, they see specifics about the offerings as well as strong statements about the benefits customers receive by signing up. As a result, visitors get a clear idea of what they’d be getting if they signed up, so they can intelligently determine whether services are aligned with their specific needs.

#5. Offering well-conceived site structure

Business Strategy IconEven the best website content won’t do much good if it isn’t ever found. Given its criticality, site navigation was another feature we examined in our analyses.

Contending with complex navigation, site visitors can’t find information they need or grow frustrated by how long it takes them to do so. This can lead directly to lost opportunities for the service provider. If organizations have multiple disjointed domains, it erodes not only the customer experience but search engine rankings as well.

Some of the top sites we saw had very well-conceived navigation structures. These sites offered a consistent, high level structure that makes it easy to navigate across the site, and find the information needed, with the minimum number of clicks. Further, by offering strong, clear navigation, the top sites provide visitors with a good top-level view of the business and the spectrum of services offered.

#6. Establishing credibility

One of the key aspects we considered was, when visitors came to MSP websites, would they ultimately believe what they read and come away feeling like they’d entrust critical, 24/7 services to the company’s care?

While it may be an overstatement to say a typo could make the difference between whether a vendor is shortlisted or not, it’s important to recognize that even slight flaws or shortcomings on a site may be enough to give a prospect cause to reconsider, look elsewhere or view subsequent interactions with a more critical eye. Particularly for those operating in highly competitive marketplaces, the last thing you want to do is give a prospect an excuse to start looking elsewhere. These types of errors and issues are compounded when the site lacks strong, credibility-building content.

Some MSP sites we examined did an exemplary job of exuding credibility and professionalism. One of the key ways top sites did this is through featuring customer traction and success, including through logos, testimonials and case studies. In particular, customer case studies do a great job of validating key messages, and ultimately in boosting the credibility of the business, its services and its people.

Conclusion

Through their websites, MSPs can either make it a lot harder or a lot easier to grow their businesses. By establishing strong sites that are tightly aligned with current customer requirements and priorities, many MSPs are well positioned to maximize their opportunities for growth. On the other hand, there are also a number of MSPs that can take some practical steps to improve their websites and boost their prospects for business expansion.


Ken Vanderweel is senior director of service provider solutions marketing at CA Technologies. Read more CA blogs here.

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