I recently caught up with my friend and mentor, Karl Bryan. Karl is a software developer and entrepreneur. His website, Focused.com, helps business coaches grow their businesses.
In a far-ranging interview, we talked about navigating the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing to be successful. Here is a closer look at our conversation and the lessons learned.
Focus on the Tactical
Bryan encourages business owners to use this time to focus on the core components of their business. The work right now is direct and needs to be focused on delivering what customers need.
“Right now, it’s time to get tactical. It’s not time to get overly strategic,” Bryan said.
Often, Bryan said he’s asked for specific advice about the next moves. He said the key is to have a sound business plan and follow it.
“They ask me, ‘What should I do?’ I always turn it back around and say, ‘I can’t answer that question until you tell me what you want,'” he said.
Often, the answer is related to wealth. Business owners want to earn money. The problem, Bryan said, is one of scale. If businesses focus on selling widgets for $1 each and want to make a million dollars, that’s a lot of sales. Besides, there’s the need for massive amounts of infrastructure — sales and marketing, inventory, distribution, and dispatch. By shifting to a larger unit of sale, your business can focus on selling fewer higher-priced products and services and reduce the burnout and amount of support structure needed to turn a handsome profit.
How Can I Increase Opportunities When Businesses Are Slashing Marketing Budgets?
The pandemic and economic collapse are a double whammy for many managed services providers. What can they do amid an economic downturn to drive revenue?
“You need to get out there,” Bryan noted. Facebook and other social media platforms are an ideal marketing opportunity. Facebook Live webinars do not need to be overly produced and can be done quickly from your home office. It needn’t be too complicated either. Start with three bullet points of things to share.
“Just get on there for five minutes every single day and do your magic,” Bryan encouraged. “Online value comes in two forms and two forms only: education and entertainment. … Try to be a little bit entertaining. One of the things you’ll find is that you will get more entertaining and more comfortable with being entertaining. The trick is just damn well to do it right.”
You can also blur the lines between personal and professional. If your business website page is pretty simple, don’t be shy about doing this outreach via your personal Facebook site. Blending the two helps garner more interest, more likes, more shares, and more potential clients.
“(There’s) a huge opportunity to build your business and build relationships right now that you otherwise couldn’t have. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram … these platforms are just free,” he noted.
How to Market Effectively
Bryan and I spoke about the power of advertising and marketing and the opportunity it presents when done correctly.
“For some reason, people have this crazy misguided interpretation that advertising is a bad idea,” Bryan said. “It’s the smartest thing in the world you can learn to do, in my opinion.”
Now is not the time, we agreed, to shy away from marketing. I noted that during the pandemic, I’m focused on building content that’s already generated new business. People have time today to listen, reflect, and respond to your content. If it’s high-value information, it will drive new business for your business, too.
After hearing my results, Bryan enthusiastically supported the approach.
“Stuart knows that doubling down on marketing is a better idea than scaling back and shoving his head in the sand where everybody else is. He’s doing a podcast every single day during these tough times. And what did he follow that up with? ‘I’ve already started to see results,'” he said.
“You heard it. He just told you. … I am surprised not even a little bit,” Bryan continued. “It will work for you too. But my question is — will you do it?”
How Can Our Business Differentiate?
Sometimes, a contrarian point of view is the right move for your company. Bryan calls it the unique selling proposition. He used the example of daycare. How can your daycare business get inside the head of your ideal customer — the mom or dad that’s dropping their child off for 8 hours every day.
It means understanding what motivates those parents. In the case of daycare, parents want to know their children are safe and cared for. Now, as the owner of that daycare, consider installing a web watch system where parents can see their children anytime. If your daycare business has a web watch system and your competitor doesn’t, where will those parents entrust their children?
In the MSP space, it’s about thinking differently. That means identifying the industry sectors that are not getting all the latest buzz and focusing on their IT needs. It means having quarterly check-ins with each client to make sure everything is going well. Doing the things your competitors are not doing sets your business up for long-term retention and success.
How Do You Improve Cash Flow in Uncertain Times?
During these challenging times, it’s essential to look at your MSP expenses and see where you can drive profitability. For example, many MSP business expenses right now do not have as many travel expenses. Knowing your break-even point and what expenses you can cut right now.
A good rule of thumb? “What don’t you need? If it doesn’t bring in a client and it doesn’t keep a client, it can probably go,” Bryan said. “When I say ‘probably,’ there’s a 90% chance it goes.” Also, look at negotiating with lease-holders and other large ticket items to see if you can reduce your spending rate.
These are incredibly challenging times. But as Bryan said, it’s also a time to double down on ways to grow and innovate your business.
Speak with Ulistic today to learn more about our business development, marketing, and sales services for managed IT service businesses. https://www.ulistic.com
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Stuart Crawford serves as Creative Director and CEO with Sebring, FL 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.
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