Start With The Who: Picking A Lucrative Target Market For MSPs

Robin RobinsMSP Marketing

I love this phrase. The seven words that give you the single biggest competitive advantage in business pricing and marketing is “start with the who, not the what.” This principle is pivotal for entrepreneurs, especially those in the MSP (Managed Services Provider) sector.

When we start a business, it’s easy to fall into the trap of focusing on what we’re going to sell. We often look at what we’re good at, what others are doing, and try to emulate their success. We consider the services they offer, their pricing, and their sales techniques. However, this approach can lead to missed opportunities because it doesn’t prioritize the customer.

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The Mistake Of Starting With ‘What’

Most small business owners, myself included, initially focus on what to sell. We look around at successful models, admire them, and try to replicate their services and pricing. However, this approach is a mistake. The real question should be: Who is the customer we are trying to serve? Who has a flexible wallet? Who has unmet needs? These are the questions that lead to a successful business strategy.

If I were to start another business today, I would begin by identifying an audience that I can connect with—an audience I am passionate about. For instance, I love entrepreneurs and successful people. My first step would be to find out what they need and want, then tailor my services to meet those needs.

Benefits Of Starting With ‘Who’

Understanding your target audience influences every aspect of your business model, from pricing to marketing strategies. Knowing your audience helps you create products and services that are specifically tailored to their needs, making your business more attractive to them.

Choosing a market segment that aligns with your interests and passions is crucial. For example, you might hear that construction companies are spending a lot on IT. While this might seem like a lucrative market, if you don’t like working with construction people or know nothing about the industry, it’s not the right fit for you.

Identifying Your Ideal Customer

When picking a target market, consider both demographics and psychographics. Think about who you want as a customer and what you can offer them that would be interesting. It doesn’t have to be something radically different; it just needs to be tailored to a specific type of person.

For example, fast food restaurants like McDonald’s and In-N-Out Burger both serve food, but they cater to entirely different audiences. McDonald’s has a unique delivery method compared to a health-focused restaurant that serves organic salads and smoothies. Both are fast food joints, but their target markets and how they deliver their services are vastly different.

Practical Steps To Define Your Target Market

  1. Conduct Market Research: Use surveys, focus groups, and data analysis to understand your audience better.
  2. Audience Segmentation: Narrow down your audience to a manageable and specific segment.
  3. Analyze Demographics and Psychographics: Consider the age, gender, income level, interests, and behaviors of your potential customers.

Implications For Marketing And Sales

Your chosen target market affects your entire sales and marketing approach. For instance, if you’re selling break-fix services to very small businesses, having a storefront might be crucial because customers want to walk in and talk to you. However, if you’re targeting larger organizations, your marketing tactics would differ significantly.

Understanding your audience’s challenges and preferences helps in crafting tailored marketing messages and sales tactics. For instance, the CEO of a hospital has different concerns compared to the owner of a small real estate firm.

Challenges Of Targeting A Broad Market

Trying to serve too broad an audience is often ineffective. For example, a postcard campaign targeting 30,000 small businesses in a geographic area with a budget of $5,000 will likely have a low response rate. A cold list is hard to convert because it lacks the necessary repetition to make a dent in the market.

Different businesses have different needs, budgets, and concerns. Sending a generic message to a diverse audience makes it challenging to resonate with anyone specifically. Therefore, it is essential to narrow down your target market and tailor your marketing efforts accordingly.


The key takeaway here is to always start with “who” your customer is. This approach determines your business model, the services you offer, how you package and price them, and your entire marketing strategy. By focusing on your ideal customer, you can create a business that is not only successful but also fulfilling for you as an entrepreneur.

Remember, you can’t boil the ocean. Targeting a specific audience and tailoring your services to meet their needs is the path to success in the crowded MSP market.

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