After a recent conversation I had with Hilltop Consultants, a 19-employee MSP that's projecting 32% revenue growth this year over last year, I was reminded about something that being so close to the industry has caused me -- and maybe you -- to overlook: Most MSPs are very alike. Most MSPs focus on remotely monitoring and managing customers' networks, and they sell networking, security, and backup and disaster recovery solutions and services as part of their core offering. Jim Turner, founder and president of Hilltop Consultants, saw his company falling into the me-too trap of looking like other MSPs until a couple of years ago after he was introduced to master MSP CharTec and enrolled in CharTec Academy, a two-day hands-on MSP training class that includes practical tips from CEO Alex Rogers and CharTec’s vendor partners.
"The biggest takeaway from the training was that too many MSPs look and act the same, which causes their offerings to be viewed as commodities by their customers,” says Turner. Upon his return from the academy, he added two new practices to his business to better stand out from his competitors. “First, we started selling HaaS [hardware as a service], using CharTec’s BDR [backup and disaster recovery] appliances,” he says. Turner has to admit, however, it wasn’t until sometime after initially selling HaaS that he started to really appreciate its value after he lost a deal to a competitor that had rolled a business-class firewall — which normally costs around $1,500 — into a customer’s service-plan proposal, causing Hilltop to lose the bid. “About a month later, we went up against the same competitor, bidding on a job that was four times larger than the first deal.” Knowing what he was up against, Turner included a HaaS BDR and business-class firewall in his service agreement, plus he added one additional differentiator that’s become part of his standard service contracts.
A second new business practice Hilltop Consultants added is loaner equipment. “With every service agreement, we let prospects know that we’ll provide them with a loaner laptop, iPad, projector, or air conditioning unit any time they need it,” he says. Of all those options, which one do you suppose customers most often take Hilltop up on? Hint: It’s not the iPad. “Throughout the summer months, we’ll have customers whose AC systems fail in their server rooms, and they’ll reach out to us for our loaner, which is a 17,000 BTU unit on wheels,” he says. “This special perk saves them from hours of downtime, and to my knowledge, no other MSP offers this service. Plus, even if they don’t use the loaner service, it’s a great conversation piece and lets clients know we have our act together, and we’re prepared to take care of all their IT needs.”
For more tips Hilltop Consultants is employing to standout from its competition, be sure to check out my full interview with him, titled: "Get Your Managed Services Act Together!