Magazine Article | August 14, 2014

You Probably Aren't As Unique As You Think

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By Mike Monocello, editor-in-chief, Business Solutions magazine
Follow Me On Twitter @monocello

What makes you and your company different? Is it your people? Is it how much you care about your customers? Is it all the training you have and industry certifications? Is it the solutions you offer?

I ask this question during many interviews with solutions providers. Despite the interviewees being in earnest when they answer, their responses are seldom original. That is, they really aren’t very different. Most likely, your company really isn’t that different from the competition.

At one of our Channel Transitions conferences early this year, Alex Rogers, CEO of CharTec, brought up this very topic during his keynote presentation. He asked people to shout out what made them different. Someone shouted out “our people!” Alex paused and looked the room of VARs and MSPs over. “This guy here says his people are better than yours. Who else has something special?” Someone shouted out “our knowledge!” Rogers again surveyed the crowd. “This guy says you all are stupid compared to his team,” he said. People started to get the point, and a murmur spread throughout the crowd.

His point was that everyone in the room thought that what they had was better than everyone else. The reality is that most are the same. As a quick aside, I do think that the people who attend events like ours are probably a little more unique and well-rounded than those who don’t. Clearly, to attend an event, you’ve got to have the time, money, and hunger for knowledge that many others don’t. But I digress.Subscribe to Business Solutions magazine

While attending CompTIA ChannelCon in Phoenix last month, one of the speakers mentioned how many MSPs fall into a trap of thinking that, because they are unique in being an MSP, they are different enough to win business. The reality is that there are now a lot of MSPs offering backup and recovery services, remote monitoring, and security solutions. Many use the same vendors. So what’s happening? Despite a fancy acronym that sets MSPs apart, it seems history is repeating itself, and many have fallen into the classic IT differentiation method of lowering prices rather than figuring out how to truly be different.

So what can you do to truly be different? I don’t think there’s one thing that you can do. It’s a combination of things. If I were starting up a business again, I’d strive for the following: I’d hire self-starting employees who can carry a normal conversation (not techno-nerd stereotypes who stare at their feet when they talk) and ask customers probing questions. I’d survey customers often to receive feedback on when we were doing a good job and a not-so-good job. I’d spend more time talking to customers about their business and daily challenges versus the technology I can offer. This would include all employees to get multiple perspectives from the users. I’d attend every industry event I could to learn about the latest trends, and, more importantly, talk with peers about what they’re doing to succeed and avoid failure. I’d package services into bundles that were designed to reduce potential risk, worry, and pain for my customers. I’d provide regular reporting to customers to give them peace of mind and reassure them of my value. I’d be proactive in communicating to them when IT trends hit mainstream media (viruses, tablets, etc.). Finally, and most importantly, I would only stay in business if I had the drive to continue to grow personally and make the company better on a daily basis. Perhaps your market conditions call for considerably more or less to stand apart from your competition. Maybe you need to do completely different things. In any case, you should first recognize that you probably aren’t as unique a company as you think, and second, take the time to understand what actions you can take to stand apart.

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