How to Differentiate in the MSP Market: Part 2

3d rendering of a sea of umbrellas

In the first part of this blog, I discussed how soft differentiators can help you improve your business. This time, we’ll focus on hard differentiators: what they are, how they can help you grow your business and examples of how our partners are using them today.

Author: Ray Vrabel is senior director of strategic partners at Continuum.
Author: Ray Vrabel is senior director of strategic partners at Continuum.

Think of hard differentiators as the tangible differences you can make to set your business apart from your peers. Luckily, hard differentiators are more black and white than the soft differentiators we discussed in Part 1. It really comes down to your ability to offer a particular service or skill to your customer. When done right, they can significantly help with retention, positioning your MSP for growth and higher profits.


When discussing toolsets, you should think about the tools that will enhance the capabilities of your team, to ensure your team's soft skills match your execution strategy.

“It’s about changing over the mindset of we have to keep everything in-house, to make sure we have the best available solutions for our clients.”

—Rob Gelsinger, Secure Network Services (SNS)

Use the below questions to help guide where you should focus your efforts when assessing toolsets.

  • Do you have a hyper-focused technical team that could build this in-house?
  • Are your analytics robust enough to not only show client successes, but also help your team identify gaps and areas for improvement?
  • Do you already have a robust tech stack, and are looking to simplify?

Using these questions as a guide will help you identify your non-negotiables when assessing the tools needed to bring your team and business to the next level.


Focusing on the refining or acquiring of skillsets is critical. If not, how can you be that vCIO and subject matter expert to your clients? It’s important that you stay current by utilizing industry publications, educational materials from vendors and research from reputable sources to not only stay informed, but to protect your clients and provide them with the level of service they desire. You should always look out for training opportunities to help enhance your skillset, with hyper-focused industry shifts to areas like the cloud and security, you and your team need to be ready to not only protect but educate your clients.

Resource Development

Now that you have the tools and skills needed to win more business, the last piece of the puzzle is being able to provide your clients with something tangible. Whether it’s a short video, PowerPoint presentation, one-pager or another piece of content, you want it to enforce what you’ve been communicating with your clients and clearly show your value. Having a “leave behind” for potential customer meetings, QBRs or general check-ins with existing clients will leave you top-of-mind and help strengthen your message.

“Just using things like the executive summary reports that are capable of being done through Continuum and following up with clients to show them all of the work that is being done on their behalf. It solidifies your role as a trusted advisor and value add to their business.” – Rob Gelsinger, SNS

Why This Matters

For your customers, these hard differentiators provide them with peace of mind that their business and support needs are being met consistently and that you can be that trusted advisor as their business grows and evolves.

For your business, focusing on these three differentiators will help you enhance efficiencies across your team and implement the right solutions. And by keeping your customers happy, they’ll stick around longer (and may even help refer new business), ultimately helping your bottom line. 

Watch our on-demand webinar “How to Differentiate Your Business in a Growing Competitive MSP Landscape” to hear what else Continuum partner Rob Gelsinger and I had to say.

Be on the lookout for part 3, when we'll be unveiling an exclusive surprise…

Ray Vrabel is senior director of strategic partners at Continuum. Read more Continuum blogs here.