MSP Specialization: 7 Steps to Vertical Market Success
Specializing in one or more vertical markets comes with big benefits for many MSPs, including a stronger competitive edge and a sure-fire way to fuel consistent growth. MSPs that have won the specialization game know that the playbook calls for first understanding the demands of the vertical market in question, and then knowing how to address those demands with relevant managed services.
Whether you want to reinvent your business this year or make sure your vertical market strategy is on point, take a look at these 7 steps for success:
1. Know the Niche
Don’t follow the trends. Follow your business. Don’t go after a hot vertical because everyone’s doing it. Focus on what you know best and really work to own it. For example, if most of your clients are dentist offices or small medical practices, then begin with the healthcare vertical. Or, if your client base comprises mostly small mom-and-pop shops or grocery stores, then retail is likely your best bet. Maybe you have several clients that are in a variety of practice areas like real estate, construction, accounting or tax services? If that’s the case, then why not be specific (yet broad), and position yourself as a professional services specialist?
2. Socialize for Success
You already know how important it is to be involved with the association groups in the SMB IT market. The same goes for the vertical markets you serve.
Talk to your current clients, and find out some of the organizations that they belong to and see how you can get involved. This could entail attending monthly meetings, lunch-and-learn educational seminars or even taking things a step further and traveling to an industry trade show or event for the vertical that you want to specialize in. By making this extra effort, your clients will view you as a trusted advisor, as well as a thought leader and market specialist.
3. Don’t Go It Alone
Your vendor and distributor partners are dedicated to your success. So why wouldn’t they be willing to work with you on developing and maintaining your position as a vertical market specialist? Talk to them about your plans and ask for their advice, best practice guidance and help. Also, are there any partners local to you, but non-competitive, who also do business with your vendor and/or distributor that might share your vertical-specific interests? Consider working together to build up a specific practice that could be mutually beneficial to both of you as solution providers.
4. Keep on Learning
To cement your position as a specialist in your chosen vertical, go above and beyond to research and learn all you can about that vertical. It will not only impress your current (and potential) clients, but will also alleviate some of the stress on them when it comes to discussing their technology needs. With research and preparation behind you, you will be better equipped to offer proven suggestions to solve clients’ various challenges. The insight you gain will give you a leg up on your competition, and your expertise will allow you to foresee potential issues and problems before they actually happen—and that kind of knowledge will cement your relationship with your customer for the long haul!
5. Turn Up the Vertical Volume
When establishing yourself as a vertical market specialist, your branding and marketing must also reflect this—from all angles. Start with updating your website. Make sure you have a prominently featured section outlining your areas of specialization. This will also help with SEO when a potential customer might be doing a web search for a solution that meets their needs.
Also ensure your new messaging is concise and consistent across all marketing/public relations materials, from press releases and case studies, to blogs, your website and more. Most importantly, get your employees on board and make sure they understand and are clear on your new messaging. This includes every employee from every department as they are all representing your new brand.
6. Compliance Is Critical
There are certain verticals that will require you to put in additional time and research to understand the compliance issues facing that market. For example, in the retail and hospitality verticals, end users need to be up to date when it comes to Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance. In the healthcare vertical, there are compliance measures regarding the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) — and related mobile market opportunities.
This all might sound daunting at first, but you don’t have to go it alone. Resources are available – from distributors, vendors and industry trade associations—and some of it is offered at no cost to you as the MSP. For example, regarding HIPAA, reach out to your local Healthcare Information Management Systems Society (HIMSS) chapter. For the retail and hospitality verticals, you can turn to the Retail Solution Providers Association (RSPA).
7. Bring It with the Right Tools and Technologies
Don’t forget that having the right remote monitoring and management (RMM) and IT service management (ITSM) tools will also set the stage for business success, no matter what vertical you have chosen to master. These tools, which offer IT automation, remote control, reporting, help desk, patch management, backup, security, mobile device management, billing and more, can be tailored to the vertical of your choice as well as your unique business needs.
An added bonus: as you move forward with your specialization strategy, you’ll be able to expand both vertically and horizontally in your sales. For instance, as you start dealing with more medical offices, your experience can lead to work with health care supply companies and other market segments that represent a natural progression and follow similar guidelines.
That’s my take on vertical market success based on feedback from our MSP Elite. If you’ve already built an effective vertical market strategy, what’s your best advice for other MSPs who are just getting started?