How A Small-Town Break-Fix Business Increased Our MRR By 281% And Revenue By 117% By Becoming A Real MSP

Shawn And Lisa Brown Genius of the Month Leave a Comment

There’s Nothing More Powerful Than A Single Mom Wanting To Be There For Her Kids

I started my own IT services business in October 2000 for ONE reason…my two kids! Owning my business gave me the freedom to be their mom, take them to school and attend every game and concert. I didn’t miss one.

More motivated and determined than most, while my kids slept, I worked. While they were at school, I worked. While building my business and raising my kids, I even earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and a master’s degree in communication. Problem was, it was all just ME. I was mom, tech, account manager, finance, office manager and maintenance…EVERYTHING.

In 2004, I married my lifelong friend, Shawn, who would join CST Group as our operations manager. For over a decade, we were 100% break-fix, with just a small amount of recurring revenue. Sometimes we had to hold paychecks because not enough money was coming in. We really fell into a spiral of not knowing how to grow.


Shawn and Lisa Brown

But we had one thing: our dedicated customers. Living in a very small rural community in Upstate New York at the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains and just 15 miles from Canada, we had almost no competition. Our customers were like family. And in 2015, we were finally pushed to grow that family.

“I Will Sink Your Business!”

It’s funny how you become comfortable with not growing until the moment someone else lights a fire under you. Back in 2015, we heard from a very successful MSP owner in New York who was hitting a brick wall because none of our customers would even consider moving to his MSP – they were committed to us. Assuming he could be a valuable JV partner, we agreed to meet.

After meeting with him for three solid hours, we were blindsided when he practically demanded, “Let me buy your small IT company.” He didn’t want to partner at all – he wanted our customers! We politely told him we were not for sale. That’s when he got irate and threatened, “Well, if you don’t take my offer, I’m going to sink your business anyway.” That one exchange lit a fire under us to FINALLY become the MSP we knew we were capable of being!

Overcoming Fears To Realize “This Stuff Works!”

As much drive as we had to convert our small break-fix business to an MSP, we were also handcuffed by fears. Fear that my customers who were like family wouldn’t spend more. Fear that they would be offended and no longer want to do business with us. While at Robin’s Rapid Implementation Workshop, we were hesitant to send the 9-Word E-mail. Robin said, “I don’t care. Send the e-mail.”

With that nudge, the e-mails went out. Secretly, we were hoping for just one positive response. But…NOTHING. Frustrated that another marketing effort wasn’t working, we got a call from our office manager an hour later. She asked, “What the heck are you all doing?” She had received calls from at least TEN clients wanting to meet with us! Hearing that news, both Shawn and I let out a big sigh of relief. Maybe marketing DOES work!

That moment began an ongoing commitment to conduct quarterly business reviews with our clients. Using a thorough agenda, every QBR is a one-on-one opportunity to review their systems and their level of cyber security and determine if they are a good candidate for a managed services agreement. As a result of upgrading many of our clients to managed services because that one little e-mail initiated conversations, we grew our MRR in one year from $5,528.06 to $9,614.10 – a 74% increase!

See the marketing examples here!

Everything Robin Asked Us To Do… WE DID!

Because we were finally serious about growth, we bought into everything. We devoured the Toolkit step-by-step because we were starving for the information. We started to build the foundation by creating our target market, writing out our unique selling proposition and fine-tuning the processes necessary for prospecting and bringing on new clients.

We started by “Robinizing” our mess of a website. Our home page now features our picture, a compelling headline that invites new clients, 8 Reasons To Choose CST Group and even a free cyber security report. Our old website NEVER brought in any leads. Now we get form fills and phone calls from serious prospects! To round out our digital presence, today we are very active on social media, including Facebook and LinkedIn.

How The Aspirin Campaign Caused Unexpected HEADACHES That Became LESSONS

Our first direct mail campaign was Robin’s Aspirin campaign. We hired a sales and marketing assistant to help us with list cleaning, mailing 25 letters a week and doing phone call follow-up. After several months of returned letters and no sales, we learned she wasn’t entering the data correctly and lied about making follow-up calls. We let her go after five months.

Our second marketing hire was sufficient in list cleaning, but we were still not getting appointments. After listening to her calls, we realized she wasn’t making the calls correctly, if at all. This wasn’t working. We quickly realized nothing would change until we embraced the truth: THIS WAS OUR FAULT. Robin warns not to hire a marketing person and expect them to be a successful appointment setter. It’s two separate jobs.

So, we followed Robin’s advice and hired an appointment setter last July. THAT was our turning point for direct mail marketing! We added the Closer Look campaign to our repertoire and began sending 25 Aspirin and 25 Closer Look letters each week with PHENOMENAL RESULTS! Our new hire converted 10 appointments in November and 11 in December. Right now we have 20 HOT LEADS on the whiteboard!

Check out the EXACT marketing examples here!

Bulletin Board–Worthy Newsletters That Our Customers Anticipate And Read! 

We personalize and create our printed newsletter in-house every month. To make it stand out from a sea of boring mail, we put it in a bright green envelope. Then we send it to all our existing customers, prospects and unconverted leads. I’ll never understand it, but our customers LOVE getting that newsletter from us. Because we live in a small town, it’s one more marketing piece that makes us feel like family.

On several occasions, when I’ve visited customers’ offices, our newsletter is on display. Sometimes it’s tacked onto their bulletin board. Other times it’s right on their desk. They look for it, read it and even share it throughout the office. While we haven’t gained a new client specifically because of our newsletters, I know they have been impactful in keeping us top of mind with existing clients.

Our “Genius” Shock-And-Awe Box Helps Close Deals

“Simply beautiful.” That’s how I would describe our Shock-And-Awe box. After receiving our Shock-And-Awe box, a recent prospect told us, “This box is GENIUS!” We agree! We design all the enclosed contents ourselves, which include a testimonial book, “12 Ways To Protect,” “The Entire Package,” “Qualifying To Be Our Client,” our Bill of Rights, 100% guarantee certificate, FAQ, our printed newsletter and a few gifts like pens, gadgets and candies.

We have nailed down our process to send our Shock-And-Awe box immediately after a prospect schedules an appointment. Then, when we arrive, they typically have the box in front of them and have already reviewed the material. For warm leads, we send matching folders containing some information about us. To tie into the Aspirin campaign, on the front of the folder, it reads: “Technology Headaches? OPEN ME.”

Discovering Our Ideal Target Market Was A Turning Point

We first focused and invested heavily in targeting the construction market. We were sending a ton of Aspirin letters to this market and even attended a construction and building event in Orlando. Unfortunately, we haven’t yet seen a nickel from that industry.

Then it clicked. Before starting CST Group, Lisa had worked for a local municipality as their data processing manager. As a result, she knows the software that municipalities run, the problems they face and their cyber security and compliance needs. As soon as we switched our focus to target local municipalities, we started getting leads, appointments and even new clients! That was a significant turning point for us.


It took us a while to adopt the mindset of “rinse and repeat” no matter the results. You can’t throw your hands in the air after three weeks and say, “Well, this isn’t working, let’s try something new.” Rather, stick to the campaign, but figure out WHY it isn’t working.

For us, hiring the right appointment setter made the night-and-day difference in the results from our direct mail campaigns. In our pre-TMT lives, we would have assumed the campaign was doomed long before we’d figured out what was broken. Don’t give up! Keep working at it until it works for you.

We’re Not Your Typical “Geniuses” – Marketing Takes Time 

We’ve read so many of these Genius of the Month articles where after 90 days, they doubled their MRR and exploded their profitability. However, that wasn’t us. We attended Robin’s Rapid Implementation Workshop in May 2019, and while we’ve been doing everything asked of us, we are just now moving forward with impressive results!  

Even after bad times (Covid), bad data, bad hires and bad attitudes, we pushed through and didn’t quit. We grew our MRR by 74% in 2019 and again by 50% in 2020. When we look back at our 2018 numbers compared to today, we have increased our MRR by 281% and our total revenue by 117%! Of course, we can’t take all the credit. Our Accountability Group has guided us and supported us through it all. If you don’t have a team of people surrounding you like these peers, you are missing out on an incredible experience.

Additional Resources: Get the complete case study along with the actual marketing pieces our Genius of The Month used by clicking here.