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What Are The Steps To Properly Brand My New Startup Company? (My Answer)

Posted On August 7th, 2012

Two questions from Brad Ashmore, Practical Technology Services:

1. “Can you provide the steps to properly brand my new startup company?”

2. “What is the best way to find a qualified business partner to join me in this new venture?”

As a new startup, you have a special place in my heart because I’ve been in your shoes. And since you’re a newbie, I wanted to make sure I address both of these questions. First off, my best piece of advice I can give you is to figure out what your niche is going to be. The hardest thing to get rolling is a plain vanilla company trying to be all things to all people. One of the BEST things I did early on in my business was seek out a niche. It took me over a year of fumbling around before I found it, but it was one of the smartest things I’ve ever done. Not only does marketing get easier, but your systems and processes can be scaled more effectively and profits are higher because you become more efficient. You can also become a true expert in delivering one type of result for one type of customer, making your expertise worth more (if you’re good, of course). All of my programs talk about researching your CUSTOMERS first. Since you’re a startup, you have the ADVANTAGE of choosing who you want to make your customer. My hope is that you see it that way and don’t dismiss the wisdom in my program by thinking you can’t use it because you don’t have any customers. You just need to decide upon and research the niche you choose.  Read full article and comment →

An Easy Way To Bring Value To Your Clients While Staying Top Of Mind

Posted On May 16th, 2012

Below is an e-mail I received from long-standing Apprentice Member, Bennett Tavar. Whenever there is a new virus, scam or phishing e-mail that is taking hold, Bennett sends out a “LBS Security Alert” e-mail like the one below. As you can see this is just a simple, text e-mail alerting me (and his clients of course) to the new threat. He’s not sending them EVERY time a new virus appears—that would be a daily job—but only when there is a big enough threat that is taking hold and spreading fast online.  I’ll bet this e-mail took all of 5 minutes to create and send, yet this alone has more value than 99% of the junk newsletters I get with boring, off-target content. If you want a simple and easy way to stay in touch with clients, you’re looking at it. I would suggest that you add on two things:

1. Encourage the people to send this to their friends and staff to make sure they are aware as well, and…

2.  Mention that “as a <<name of managed services>> client, we’re monitoring your network for suspicious activity. However, if you aren’t a <<name of managed services >> member, simply reply to this e-mail for more information on how we can monitor and maintain your network’s safety against these types of threats.”

Additionally, this COULD be a weekly e-mail alert that summarizes any new scams online that could be a potential threat to your clients. Plus, with all the scams, viruses and cyber criminals cropping up, this could be an EASY way to “appropriately touch” your clients (thanks, Peter). Read full article and comment →

The Biggest Revenue Opportunity Overlooked By Most IT Businesses

Posted On December 12th, 2011

Just recently I hired a personal trainer (a.k.a. “Mean Old Luke”). Nothing too surprising here EXCEPT that I’ve been a member of two gyms in this area, one for 2 years and the other for over 4 years—both who sell personal training. Yet neither of them has ever attempted to try and upsell me on any of the other services they offer including babysitting, swimming lessons, tanning and supplements. There may be more services I could list here but I don’t know about them. I’m also a former paying client of dozens of other service-based businesses in this area that I’ve stopped buying from, never to receive a simple postcard, newsletter or other outreach to a) try and get me back or b) figure out why I stopped buying.

This is a HUGE, glaring mistake made by the majority of businesses out there that cause them to leave thousands of dollars in potential sales on the table. That’s why I don’t want to hear any whining and complaining from businesses that “things are slow” when they’ve not lifted a finger to stay connected with their clients. And with social media and e-mail being free, there’s zero excuse for this.

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What You Need To Do NOW To Educate Your Clients About Cloud Computing

Posted On July 27th, 2011

Well, the “cloud computing” fever is hitting a peak as more and more MSPs are jumping on the bandwagon. Apparently the Office 365 release is causing a number of businesses to ask their IT company, “What the heck is cloud computing?”

At a minimum, you need to be talking to your clients about what cloud computing is, and how (or if) it can help their business—even if you aren’t offering a full- blown cloud solution yet. Hear me loud and clear: If you don’t take steps to educate your clients and at least TALK to them about what’s going on, you risk losing them to a competitor who WILL. That’s not to say you have to have a solution ready for them to buy right now—although in some cases, you will have clients who want it and want it NOW. But at a minimum you should be acting like a reporter—investigating the pros and cons and separating the hype from the facts to deliver a well-researched, professional opinion. Don’t forget, that’s a HUGE part of the value you bring to your clients. Read full article and comment →

Do You Expect To Lose?

Posted On May 7th, 2010

Years ago when I was selling high end technical training to IT professionals for a living, the biggest sales objection I heard all day long was, “If my employer isn’t going to pay for it, I’m not going.”

As the owner of an IT services company who employs these folks, this may not come as a shock to you. In fact, many of my clients relay the same problems with their techs – not only do they want you, the employer, to pay for the training, but they expect time off from work to go so it doesn’t interfere with their personal lives. Incredible.

When I started selling coaching and training materials to managed services business owners I often found the same resistance – which didn’t surprise me all that much. But what DID surprise me was the reason why.

It wasn’t because they couldn’t afford it (which is what they would give as a cheap, easy excuse in an effort to make me go away). It wasn’t because they couldn’t find the time – again, a poor excuse fired offhand. (What sane person would say they don’t have the time to make more money…really?) And, believe it or not, it wasn’t because they didn’t think my program would work; they often were convinced it would. The REAL underlying reason in almost every case was that they didn’t believe in themselves. They didn’t believe that they could implement the strategies successfully. They expected to lose.

How incredibly sad is that? Read full article and comment →

Wow, Another Year Over…

Posted On December 27th, 2009

..and a fresh, new exciting one about to begin. Although I think it’s a bad idea to only ―check in on how you are doing once a year in January, I can’t help but be a bit more reflective at the end of the year looking back over the events that have happened and asking myself three things:

  • What did we do RIGHT and want to do more of?
  • Where do we need to improve?
  • What mistakes did we make, what did we learn, and how are we going to use this information to improve next year?

This is a helpful exercise to conduct after every major event, client project, sales call, etc. As a team we do this as a practice after every event, and it’s incredibly valuable. And, as the owner of a business, I think we ought to do a deep dive every year to reflect back on these things. So, what do I think we did right? Several things–as reflected by our 30+% growth rate in a tough economy. For me, here are the biggest lessons I’ve learned:

1. Being willing to do what’s right instead of what’s easy. There aren’t many things in life that will put you in a ―damned if you do, damned if you don’t‖ situation more than running a business.  As entrepreneurs we’re pulled in many different directions and often have goals that conflict or compete with one another. Do you work late every day to turn around a sales slump and sacrifice some of the time you would have invested in your family and health or do you put more focus on your family and health, and run the risk of not being able to make payroll, ending up with heaps of stress and anxiety over financial troubles? Tough call, and a good argument could be made for either side.

But you have to choose what’s right and best for the long haul and then follow through on your decision. This is why having a vision for your life and your business is so important; you need vision to be able to make the tough decisions. I firmly believe that trying to ride both camps gets you killed. Like the indecisive squirrel in the middle of the road – you get hit by traffic going both ways. Better to pick a side, stick with your decision and focus on muddling through the temporary problems and setbacks that will arise. Although I’m very much an ―and person rather than an ―or person, the reality is that running a business requires sacrifice. Sometimes short term, sometimes long term; but thinking you can do it ALL, all the time is just not realistic.

Over this year I’ve had to make several tough calls that I knew weren’t going to put me on the ―most popular list. Looking back, perhaps you’ve been in the same boat. But I also knew that letting things continue on their current course of action would end up causing even more strife and problems, and would not be in line with our ultimate vision and core values. Yes, there were risks and costs tied to the actions and decisions made, and some short-term losses. But looking back, my only regret is that I didn’t make those decisions sooner. My procrastination only made things worse and now more than ever I believe that long-term damage from comfortable inaction is far worse than decisive action.

2. The ability to hire, retain and grow true “A” players is crucial. While this has always been a no-brainer, I can honestly say that I understand it more than ever today and I will be putting a huge focus on this area in 2010 as we continue to grow at a fast clip and continue to strive towards our BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals). Nothing is more painful, more exhausting and more damaging than having the wrong people on your team. In meetings with clients, the one topic that is a constant area of problems, gripes, disappointments and trouble are those around employees. And while Michael Gerber’s E-Myth is the utopian dream for any entrepreneur (that is, having a business so well documented and systematized that any half-whit can run it), the reality is that one bad employee can quickly undo any system or process no matter how well documented.

But in addition to this, the BIGGEST lesson for me has been this: if you are trying to directly manage more than 3 or 4 people, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Earlier this year, I discovered I was a genius with helpers – and I think all small businesses start that way. But at some point you will need to start developing leaders within your organization; people who understand the company’s mission, vision and goals, and who can get results, make good decisions and solve problems on their own. I have those people in place now and it is making a world of difference. Perhaps you are in the same place right now. If so, my advice to you is this: make finding, hiring, and growing the right people a major focus in your company, and never settle for good enough simply to fill an open seat, no matter how desperate the situation. Also, constantly look for great people–always be hiring. The worse time to look for a new employee is when you desperately need someone.

3. Develop immunity to criticism. It’s been said that the higher you climb in life, the more your butt hangs out (I forget who originally said that, so sorry I can’t give credit where credit is due). And if you read the books of highly successful people, one of the common themes is this: develop thick skin. But how do you determine the difference between fair criticism and unfair attacks?

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How To Score Appointments And Sales With Bigger Clients

Posted On August 21st, 2009

7 Fundamentals To Successfully Sell To Bigger Accounts

  1. Approach prospects with CONFIDENCE. There is nothing more detrimental to the sales process than appearing needy, nervous or insecure.
  2. Start at the TOP.
  3. Never forget that you are dealing with PEOPLE and that EMOTIONS are driving their decisions regardless of how big or small the organization. The key drivers are:
    • Fear
    • Ego and Competitiveness (desire to be #1)
    • Wanting to feel important; make smart decisions
    • Avoiding embarrassment
    • Greed, turf protection and the desire for self-preservation
  1. Have a clear, strong, and quantifiable VALUE PROPOSITION that is meaningful to a C-Level decisionmaker.
    • Position yourself as a business consultant not a “techie”
    • Know what the NET benefits are if a client engages with you
    • Know why a prospect should choose YOU over any and every other option (USP or key differentiators)
  1. Never limit your touch point to ONLY ONE PERSON. Almost ALL decisions in larger companies are made by a group of people.
  2. RESEARCH your prospects carefully to know:
  • Who their customers are and what they do for them
  • Who the potential decisionmakers and influencers are
  • What industry trends are affecting them
  • Who their competitors are
  • What significant changes or initiatives are going on
  • What’s HOT in their industry right now
  • What’s controversial in their industry right now
  1. Remember, not everyone will see value in what you do or be ready to engage with you right away; the worst they can say is NO.

3 Execution Steps:

Step 1: Define Your Value Proposition And Key Differentiators Read full article and comment →

Marketing Your Managed Services Business

Posted On August 15th, 2009

 

 

An Easy To Implement Marketing Strategy That Will Help You Close Large IT Managed Services Sales, Faster And Easier
By: Robin Robins, Author of the Managed Services Marketing Blueprint
Are you a managed services provider that wants to land larger contracts? Do you lose sales because clients think your managed IT services are “too much money” or because of sticker shock?