Understanding Your Managed IT Services Competitive Landscape
Welcome back to our MSP Sales Success blog series, a collection of posts that dive deep into the sales journey and answer what you’ve been asking for some time: “How do I sell managed services?”! When we last left you, you had just started to learn more about the managed IT services sales process and its individual stages. Next up, we review one of the steps you have to take when laying the groundwork for a successful sale. Do you know who you’re up against? In the following post, we’ll teach you how to understand the competitive landscape in your local area.
NOTE: This series is designed to walk you through the MSP sales journey, from start to finish. Before researching your competitors, however, make sure you understand your unique selling proposition (USP) – also commonly known as your value proposition. We’ve already written on this subject matter and so have excluded it from the series, but please check out our explanation of how to set unique selling propositions as an MSP when you get the chance.
Now, on to the task at hand…
Learning about your local competition is a never-ending process and as such, the competitive analysis section of your business plan must continually be revisited and updated. If you haven’t refreshed your competitive documentation recently, here are some tips.
Who Are We Talking About?
These are the other MSPs serving your same area. You likely know some of these names. Maybe you have dart boards with their logos attached. Whether you’re familiar with the local competition or not, don’t skip over this step when researching the landscape. New competitors can easily emerge, and you may find a few names slipped under your radar.
To cover your tracks, start by opening up Google and searching any of the following terms:
- “managed services [INSERT CITY NAME]”
- “IT service provider [INSERT CITY NAME]”
- “best IT services [INSERT CITY NAME]”
You can even get more targeted and narrow the radius further by specifying the name of a suburb or town within the larger city. For example, if I wanted to find an MSP within 10 miles of my office, I could search “IT services cranberry township” instead of “IT services pittsburgh.”
Then, note the companies that show up in the top organic – meaning listings that aren’t ads – search results, and copy these names into an Excel spreadsheet. You’ll populate that sheet with the rest of your competitive findings.
Want to increase your own website’s visability in search rankings? Watch this introductory video!
Their Company Size and Demographics
Now that you know who your competitors are, let’s find out a little more about them. There are a myriad of sources to help you build comprehensive portfolios for each of these companies.
I like to start with LinkedIn. For each of the competitor companies you’ve flagged above, search within this social networking tool. I’ve found that people on LinkedIn are often proud of their careers and associate themselves to the company they work for. How does this information help? Not only does it offer a window into the professional experiences and credentials of key players within that organization, it also helps reveal how big your competitors are.
Here are two takeaways you may be faced with in comparing the size of your own MSP business:
You’re larger than a competitor:
Let’s say you have 30 employees as opposed to one competitive company’s two. In later communications with prospects who may mention this other company, you can make the argument that this competitor won’t be viable enough to truly manage their IT infrastructure needs.
You’re smaller than a competitor:
If you find yourself on the opposite end of the spectrum, however, you can argue that you’ll be able to deliver more specialized service and support. Unlike your competitor, your prospect wouldn’t just be one of many accounts. Instead, they’d be a key client for you. Remember, people like to feel special.
Once you pull your preliminary competitive research from LinkedIn, cross-check that data using Manta. Manta is like another version of Hoovers and Dun & Bradstreet. It’s a free tool, and while the information is not always 100% accurate, when combined with LinkedIn, it can help you understand the number of employees that a competitive organization may have. Additionally, Manta categorizes the business’s service, indicates how long the company has been around and gives an estimate for the organization’s annual revenue. This last figure especially can give you a rough idea of how healthy and how much of a threat your competitor is.
What Do They Do?
At this point, we’ve addressed who your competitors are and how to find the size of their managed services practice. Now, let’s drill into what they do. My first step is to, again, leverage the power of the Internet. Visit each of their websites, identify their value propositions and review their services. You’re looking for what’s different between your portfolio and theirs. Look for any links or sections that say “what we offer” or “solutions.” Is there anything that they provide that you don’t or vise versa? What about backup and disaster recovery (BDR)? Is that noticeably missing from their technology stack? If you offer it, that gives you one more leg up on the competition.
One sales tactic for MSPs is leading with the ever-increasing demand for cybersecurity. Chances are, your prospects are familiar with high-profile data breaches, and are already concerned about the security of their sensitive data. If they’re considering a competitor you know doesn’t offer BDR, suggest that they could be leaving data protection to chance. If that prospect were to get infected with ransomware, the only way to recover that data is through the last backup restore point.
Ask Your Clients
Do you have any competitive wins, those clients whose business you earned away from your competition? Reach out to them and ask why they went with you instead! As business owners, I’m sure they’ll sympathize with this request because they also appreciate receiving feedback from clients. This information can then be used to develop competitive campaigns, messaging strategies and sales talk tracks. When asking for feedback, consider including the following questions:
- What did you like about [INSERT COMPETITOR’S NAME]?
- What didn’t you like?
- Do you recall anything [INSERT COMPETITOR’S NAME] did differently?
- Did they offer the same products and services that our company did, or more?
- Were you sent or could you download any educational documentation without having to provide your contact information?
Now, that you’ve gathered all of this data on your managed IT services competitors, don’t let it go to waste! Record key points on the Excel spreadsheet I referenced above. Here’s an example of how to plot the data:
|Competitor Company Name||Size||Estimated Annual Revenue||Services||Strengths – What Clients Liked||Weaknesses – What Clients Didn’t Like||Last Audit Date|
|A (hyperlinked to their site)|
|B (hyperlinked to their site)|
|C (hyperlinked to their site)|
You’re not done once you’ve filled this table in! Continue to track the competitive landscape. We actually explain various methods you can use to keep tabs on the competition in this blog post.
That’s going to do it for this installment of our MSP Sales Success series, but be sure to leave a comment below with any follow-up questions you may have!
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Frank Bauer is senior channel development manager at Continuum. Read more Continuum blogs here.