This week the Ulistic team was invited to participate in a press role at the DELL World 2012 conference in Austin, TX. DELL World is the perfect opportunity for DELL PartnerDirect partners and customers to learn more about DELL’s complete solution offering and discuss with executives of DELL on what is happening strategically within the organization.
During a conversation over lunch with a member of IDC team who handles virtualization at the enterprise level, we got talking about maturity levels in business and how IT consulting firms and businesses, in general, go through different levels of maturity throughout their lifespan.
This is especially true for managed service providers and as I reflect back on my own journey I can see the transition and even some transformation periods in my career.
As our businesses grow we must mature as well. Maturity comes with age, we hope. Sometimes it doesn’t but it often does. Maturing in the way we market our managed service providers, the way our website looks, maturing in the way we conduct sales operations and maturity in the clients we elect to work with.
I have come up with five key maturity levels all managed service providers evolve through.
Birth – Everyone goes through birth. The birth of an idea, concept or service is the first step on a hopefully long road. This is the first day you open your doors and launch your business. Some organizations immediately have maturity out of the gate based on past experiences but many start off not knowing much. The birth phase is exciting and stressful, many of us work because we have a passion for it and never take a paycheque. We have a cause and those who support us rally around it.
Growth – During the growth phase, our business starts to develop strategies and vision. We seek help from those who have done it before us and often take any piece of advice that comes our way. We are vulnerable to anyone who says they can help us, genuine or not. Many MSPs will accelerate through the growth phase rapidly and many become stuck. Marketing and sales is very ad hoc with no real strategy. Any opportunities that will bring in revenue are accepted including traditional break/fix clients.
Development – During the development stage, growth continues to occur, however, client selection becomes more selective. We start to qualify who is a great opportunity is but we haven’t become highly specialized yet and we continue to accept any good-looking business opportunity. Processes, procedures and systems start to be implemented, marketing and sales start to become more intentional and focused. Managed Service clients start to outnumber break/fix work, however, break/fix work is still accepted. Client pruning is starting to make room for better, more strategic clients.
Strategic – MSPs who enter into the strategic maturity model are becoming highly professional. Sales and marketing is strategic and planned, key events and communications are planned and not done without consideration for the end effect. Senior management now works with peer groups and CEO groups versus the generic business consultant. Noise from outside is turned off. Executive teams meet daily to flush out tactical movements and continuously focus on strategy. Nothing is done that doesn’t fit into the annual plan. A high percentage of clients are now fully managed and break/fix work is no longer accepted for new clients. Client pruning occurs quickly to weed out those who do not fit into the business model.
Leading – The final stage of the MSP maturity model is leadership. Clients turn towards their managed services provider for CIO-like leadership services, partners are strategically aligned, and marketing and sales plans are deployed and executed flawlessly without hesitation. Vertical marketing and specializations are clearly defined and opportunities that do not fit into the MSP model are no longer accepted.
These five levels of maturity are important steps an MSP must grow through in order to build their business. Some companies will accelerate through these steps while others will move through these levels slower. It is important to go through these steps and mature your business.
Ulistic helps MSPs move through the development process and accelerate through all five steps. Our services are a fit for any MSP and any level.
Stuart Crawford serves as Creative Director and CEO with Sebring, FL and Fort Erie, ON-based Ulistic, a specialty MSP Marketing firm focused on information technology marketing and business development. He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience pertaining to how technology business owners and IT firms can use marketing as a vehicle to obtain success.