Marketing 101: How To Strategically Pick Your MSP’s Target Clients For Maximum Money And Maximum Growth

One of the core fundamentals I teach is summed up in a favorite quote from my long-term mentor, Dr. Nido Qubein: “Who your customer is today is a piece of data; who your customer should be is a piece of strategy.”

To whom do you want to be a hero? Who has a flexible wallet? Unmet needs? Who is ready, willing, and able to pay a premium for the results you deliver and the services you provide?

A big reason MSPs stay small is they approach their business with the “We’ll take anyone with breath and a buck” strategy. The problem is that a lot of people have BAD breath and ALL they have is a buck.

Now, they won’t say they’ll take anyone, but their behavior reveals an entirely different truth. Look at their client base — it’s rife with low-money, pain-in-the-butt clients who drain their energy, suck up resources, and are NOT true “assets” that can be developed and grown. And now, in this tough labor force, you cannot afford to have a low-money, no-growth client sucking up both your time and your employees’ time.

I have a small garden in the back of the house with limited space. If a plant isn’t producing, is diseased, or is showing signs of root rot, it’s removed and replaced with a productive plant. I don’t coddle it, hoping it will get better. It won’t. I rip and replace.

So, let me be VERY clear: As long as you refuse to STRATEGICALLY clarify WHO your target market is and really dig in to understand them and use that information to construct products, services, and marketing messages that have a strong appeal to them that they will enthusiastically respond to and open their wallets for, your fate is going to be one of commoditization, mediocrity, and poverty.

I hear “bad clients” as an excuse for why MSPs can’t get ahead. They love to blame their current clients for their failures in business: My clients are CHEAP. My clients are STUPID. Often, my clients are stupid AND cheap. I “can’t” get my clients to pay that much. I “can’t” get my clients to take my advice about cybersecurity. I “can’t” get my clients to meet with me to do QBRs.

I “can’t” get my clients to pay via ACH draft. I “can’t” _________. The list is long. Just like bad dog owners, they blame the poor animal for the bad behavior. A dog WILL crap on your carpet IF you don’t train it otherwise. Yes, some train easier than others, but ultimately, you the owner are at fault if the dog misbehaves.

So, let’s start with a few fundamentals:

No. 1: If you cannot describe, in detail, whom you want as a client, you can’t possibly be effective at building a business, period. How can you build a list or write content for your website if you cannot clearly define whom you are trying to persuade? Surely a practice manager at a small doctor’s office needs to be talked to differently than the CEO of a construction company — and trying to broaden your message and approach is the fastest road to failure.

Close up shot of the dart arrow hit on bulleyes of dartboard to represent that the business reached the target  with dark tone picture style. Target and goal as concept.

No. 2: Once you have identified the “WHO,” and ONLY after you’ve identified the who, you can go about building the “mousetrap” that will attract them. It is SO easy to get sucked into focusing on the deliverable over the client. It’s what you know and love. It’s what you think your business is about. But this is not the correct order of things.

If you want to succeed in business, you must be MARKET DRIVEN, which means you first determine the client you want, THEN build the service and business that will deliver something to them they can’t get anywhere else, that they truly would want to buy.

While I’m completely for understanding industry norms and how most others deliver IT, I’m against BLINDLY CONFORMING to such norms.

No breakthroughs come from that way of thinking. You must constantly ask yourself, what will my chosen target market buy? What do they want that they aren’t getting now? Uber was able to take a HUGE piece of business away from taxis because they eliminated a number of irritants people had with rude, smelly, difficult cab drivers. Yes, they have other problems they are dealing with today, but overnight, they stole a giant chunk of business away from the cab industry.

Starbucks crushed Dunkin’ NOT because they had better coffee but because they created the “third place,” delivering an experience where coffee was just part of the equation — NOT by focusing on making better coffee, which Dunkin’ is still trying to promote with their stupid ads with Santa Claus hanging around someone’s house because they have Dunkin’ coffee.

How do you get such information?

Well, demographics are easy. You just have to compile the data about all HVCs and take a look at what they have in common. It might not be number of employees or industry (niche) but age, years in business, type of client served, or technology used.

Psychographics are only obtained by interacting with them on a level that goes beyond fixing computers. You have to have real business conversations with them, asking them key questions such as “What are the top 3–5 KPIs you watch in your business?” or “What are your greatest fears about your industry as a whole?” which is a better way of asking, “What are you most afraid of?” which they may not answer.

You should also read industry publications for trends and subscribe to the social media sites they frequent, reading the threads and conversations they have in their “natural habitat.”

Talk to other successful salespeople who sell to those same clients (just make sure it’s a successful salesperson) but are non-competitive with you. Find out what objections they get and what hot buttons they sell to.

Finally, you have to get out of the “box” you’re in of thinking you’re “just” an MSP. With an open mind, you might find big opportunities for unmet needs within your client base you can work to develop a solution for and profit from.

I’ve often said if the sales letter is hard to write, the product is flawed.

I would add if the person selling the product CAN’T write the sales letter because they don’t know anything about the client TO write it, the CEO and business strategy are flawed.

Here’s a pop quiz to see just how much you really know about your clients. 

I would suggest you think about your HVCs, or “high-value clients” as you go through these questions to see how much you know about them.  If you can’t instantly and confidently say what the answer is, you have work to do.

  1. What are the most common demographics of your HVCs? (These are data points such as industry, size of the company, geographic location, number of employees, type of technology used, clients they serve, etc.)
  2. What are the shared psychographics of your HVCs? (These are things like core values, mindset, buying preferences, value hierarchy, political views, etc.)
  3. What are the most common situations/problems that drive them to seek out your services? (Hint: This should be the focus of marketing communications, including your website. “Are you a _________ struggling with _________?”)
  4. What are their primary goals?
  5. What KPIs are they focused on?
  6. What are the top three biggest problems they struggle with and against in their business?
  7. What trends are happening that affect them either negatively or positively?
  8. What are their buying criteria for what you sell?
  9. How “savvy” of a buyer are they?
  10. What other characteristics make them good clients? Where do they get their information? What associations do they belong to? What conferences do they attend?

Click Below To Download The Ultimate Target Market Worksheet (Completely FREE) that you can use to determine who your target market is based off your current clients OR use it to define the type of target market you WANT to start attracting:

MSP Success Magazine is a print and digital publication dedicated to helping the CEOs and owners of managed IT services businesses build strong, profitable, growth-oriented businesses. Written and published by Robin Robins, founder of Technology Marketing Toolkit, this magazine is uniquely focused on the topics of marketing, client-acquisition, sales, profitability, leadership and personal development.



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