You can almost hear the rumble as companies rethink IT. Awareness of increasing threats from unknown sources … changing requirements … IT staff run ragged trying to keep up.
Last year, the shift to work-from-anywhere combined with the rise in cyber-attacks increased the demands on IT, requiring businesses to re-evaluate their strategies. While these challenges have made them more reliant on technology, businesses lack the resources, time, and expertise required to manage and navigate the ever-changing, complicated technology landscape.
Enter co-managed IT Services, an IT model that provides an extremely flexible, cooperative arrangement, enabling the in-house department to maintain control of its server while leaning on a vendor for various kinds of support.
This unique situation provides Managed Service Providers (MSPs) and Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs) a new opportunity that is presenting with increased frequency.
To effectively market co-managed IT services takes research, however, here is a framework to help you build a campaign to successfully market co-managed IT services. Simply answer the following 10 questions.
Question 1: Who Is The Prospect To Target Who Is Most Likely To Buy?
A big mistake MSPs and MSSPs make in approaching a co-managed IT campaign is trying to appeal to everyone in every situation. The more specific you are in defining who your target market is, the easier it will be to nail the right message.
Within your target companies, the buyer will be either the CEO (or CFO) or the IT Manager. However, any of those players may be strongly for or against co-managed IT. And every person involved has “influencers” — spouses, business associates, investors — who have input that you may not be able to address directly.
Should you focus on the CEO or the IT Manager? What problems are you going to create by approaching one first? If you send a letter to the CEO, will he pass the letter to the IT Manager — who will feel threatened and sabotage your efforts?
Question 2: What Is the Ideal Situation for Your Service to Sell?
If you can enter the conversation the buyer is having in his mind — identify the problem he is worrying about — you can uncover the ideal situation for focusing your marketing.
Maybe your letter to the IT Manager not only zeros in on his or her greatest fear but also includes the ROI information for resolving it. Now the IT Manager not only sees a solution but has the cost justification to take to the CEO.
A better solution is the “Circle of Leverage” approach in which you target both at the same time. The IT Manager will know that he/she is not being left out of the loop, and now when the CEO hands off the letter, there is no surprise and no reason for hostility.
When it’s time for the follow-up phone call, plan to call the CEO first and reference the letter that both the CEO and the IT Manager received.
From there, two marketing packages should be created. The one for the CEO/CFO might question the company’s ability to withstand a ransomware attack and include a list of “signs that you may be pushing your IT Leader to the limit.” The package for the IT Manager might emphasize compliance, overwhelm, and lack of necessary tools. Return on investment information should be included in the packages.
Question 3: What Lists Do You Have?
Do you have a cold list of prospects who either don’t know they have a need or are not aware of your services? Free reports, webinars, and seminars are important for education on what co-managed IT services are. For this group, your Unique Selling Proposition (USP) is less relevant because they aren’t yet informed enough to make comparisons.
A more useful list to target is unconverted leads who are problem-aware but not yet solution-aware. Start with where they are by first talking to them about the problems they have before talking about the solution you offer.
Webinars and seminars developed for the IT Manager might address network documentation or other frustrations. For CEOs, your free reports and webinars might discuss cybersecurity, compliance, and budgets. Be sure to include testimonials in marketing packages. And a website should be available with FAQ and a believable means for justifying the spend.
Question 4: Does Your Prospect Already Buy This Service Or Is This A New Concept?
Maybe you have a list of IT Directors and CEOs who have already bought into co-managed IT and are looking to upgrade to a better system or a more trusted vendor. This is the best list you could have.
Now your Unique Selling Proposition becomes critical to explain why what you’re offering is better than what your competitor is offering.
If, instead, you have chosen a target market for whom co-managed IT is a new concept, then you want to market as you would any innovation: focus on the new solution, emphasize educational lead-generation, and sell it as a replacement rather than as a new-budget cost to the company.
Question 5: What Are The Emotional Drivers?
Advertising master David Ogilvy said: “When you advertise fire extinguishers, open with the fire.” Draw attention first to the problem. What is your target market frustrated by? What is the anxiety? What is the pain? What are they afraid of? Who or what is the enemy?
Remember that there will be a stronger emotional connection for the IT Manager. The CEO will be concerned about making a smart financial decision, but the IT Manager will be concerned that his or her job is on the line.
Question 6: What Is The Carrot? What Is The Stick?
Typically, the need to avoid pain is a bigger driver for people than a positive motivation.
Spend time considering what the carrot and stick are for your target market. What are the benefits of deciding in favor of co-managed IT, and what are the threats if they don’t? Most people in marketing have been trained to think in terms of features and benefits … but this question goes beyond that and will be more effective for your campaign.
CEOs primarily care about stability, profitability, and growth. Your “carrot” arguments will show how co-managed IT services support those three. “Stick” arguments point out the risks. Your free report to CEOs might include text like this: “Over the last 10 years, companies have been forced to spend more money on IT because of cybersecurity and compliance, which have put increasing pressure on your IT department. But it doesn’t make sense to spend a lot of money in building up your IT department if you will still lack the skills to respond effectively to a ransomware demand. Co-managed IT services can ensure that you have the tools, personnel, and systems you will need — at significant savings compared to going it alone.”
For IT Managers, the carrot might be sharing the growing IT burden. The stick might be the looming cyberattack or a catastrophic data erase.
Question 7: What Objections Do You Have To Overcome?
The goal of your campaign is to be ahead of the objections before they arise. If you’re approaching a CEO, he or she may fear that bringing in a vendor will only compound the problems and increase costs. How would you counter that objection?
If you’re approaching the IT Director, you may encounter defensiveness around fears that your goal is to expose incompetence or lax practices.
As you prepare your campaign, consider these points of possible objection:
- Where might your solution be stalled or blocked?
- Who are the people with the problems?
- Do they understand that they have problems?
- Who is afraid of losing control? How can that fear be addressed?
- Is the cost justification clear?
- Is the IT Manager fully on board? Is the C-Suite on board?
- What are the fears that might get in the way?
Question 8: What Are The Common Questions Your Prospects Will Have?
The best questions are the ones your prospects are willing to ask, because then you can address them. But there may be unspoken questions blocking progress to the sale. For example:
- What is co-managed IT?
- How does it work?
- Who is it appropriate for — and who is it not appropriate for?
- Is this really necessary? Can’t the company do this on its own?
- Can this wait?
- What does it cost?
- Can I get it cheaper somewhere else?
- What could go wrong — and how would that impact me?
- Why should I trust you?
Be sure you answer “frequently asked questions” in your free materials and on your website. For example, every prospect wants to know about cost. A good answer, printed in the materials you give them, is: “It depends on the situation because we customize each plan based on the needs of our specific client. But we can tell you that typically it is 90% cheaper than hiring your own IT department and building it out.”
Question 9: What Offer Will Get You In The Door?
This is a big question you must consider. Your marketing’s job is to get you in the door, so what is the easiest road in? The more possible ways you can get in the door of your prospect, the better because if one door closes, it gives you another way in. You want to sell co-managed IT, but maybe the door that gets you in is a cybersecurity assessment or an educational seminar for CEOs. If those don’t work maybe it’s a dark web scan or a user documentation webinar. For bigger accounts, you always want to be thinking about what’s another way in.
Question 10: What Media Is the Most Effective Way to Communicate with the Buyer?
What media offers your best chance of connecting with your prospective client? Do you have a working email address? How about direct mail? Should you use telemarketing? Is there a JV partner who could help?
For example, if you are targeting CEOs of hospitals, that particular audience is not going to respond on Facebook. You want to identify the type of media that will be most productive in reaching your target market.
Now is the time to adapt and capitalize on this emerging opportunity so you’re better equipped for what’s to come. Do your research. Build this modernized IT relationship model into your offerings. And use these ten questions to build out your co-managed IT campaign so you’ll be better positioned to address your market’s needs.