Special Reports

Beyond Managed Services

Your clients often need services that go beyond what you offer in the traditional MSP role. So, look around: Is there untapped revenue sitting right under your nose?

Even in the best of economic times, companies fight hard for new customers. Cold calling, slicing margins razor-thin to create attractive introductory deals, agonizing over SEO strategy to make sure your company is visible to every potential client — none of it is fun, but all of it is necessary. Or is it? What would you say to the idea that untapped revenue sources are sitting right under your nose?

That's exactly what Brett Jaffe will tell you. As CEO of IT4, an MSP just north of Boston, Jaffe has spent the last 18 months repositioning his company, moving it from straight managed services to providing services beyond IT. Although expanding his customer base is always a goal, Jaffe has been successful expanding the number of services his company offers existing clients.

"It's a hundred times easier to get an existing client to spend more money with you than to bring on a new client," explains Jaffe. "Of course, there's a limit to how much they'll spend with you; but the goal isn't to get them to spend more than they can afford. The goal is to take money they're already spending on other services and see if you can do a better job providing them."

Looking for ways to transition his offerings from IT-only, Jaffe's decided to get into the business side of things. For IT4, the most popular new services have been marketing, graphic design, and even administrative work. In Jaffe's experience, business-related services not only increase potential revenue from each client, but also increase customer loyalty in a market that's otherwise becoming increasingly commoditized.

"I'm not saying IT spending is going away, but do you want to make a small percentage on selling hardware and get the projects when you can, or do you want to generate some kind of value-based revenue with your clients so you have an ongoing relationship, regardless of what's going on in the industry?"

How do you go about launching new services? First, assemble your resources. Jaffe treats each category of service almost as its own division, even if there are only one or two people handling those services. "We're looking to provide as many different services as possible — as long as we can do it properly," he says. "We won't take on anything that isn't within our field of expertise."

Credibility is also an issue. "You can't use the same resources to do multiple things. If you have an engineer, you can't take that person and make them an Internet consultant or an advertising consultant because then you start losing credibility. No, it's better to bring on additional staff in different business areas. The social media guys are social media guys. The client doesn't ask them, 'Hey, while you're here, can you also fix the server?'"

Next is to help your customers stop thinking of you as just IT. Some companies will find it easier to break out of this type-casting than others. "I don't feel we've been type-cast as IT-only. It was really more a matter of customers not being aware we offered other services." Jaffe was able to leverage IT4's success providing technical services. "If you're doing a good job with IT, you've been doing it for them a long time, you've built the relationship, they're going to trust your judgment when it comes to other parts of the business."

When those pieces are in place, you're ready for a pilot program that you can eventually showcase to other customers. To test the waters, IT4 started with a customer in the insurance vertical that needed help with its internet marketing and social media strategies. IT4's internet marketing team redesigned key landing pages with one thing in mind: capture customer information. They also added live chat to the site so the insurance company's sales reps can initiate chat with site visitors.

The result is that potential clients find it easy to interact with the company, and made the company can easily reach out to potential customers. "They have top listings everywhere. They're blogging every day. The site is generating almost 500 new potential customers a month, of which they're closing about 30 percent," says Jaffe. "This was a company that was spending a lot of money on marketing and advertising. With us, they weren't spending any more, they're just spending it differently and more effectively."

Jaffe likes providing these new services. "With the social media and internet marketing work we've done, there's an absolute, direct return on investment. When you're driving revenue to the company, all of a sudden they want to spend more money with you."

About the Author

Christa Ayer is a freelance technology writer based in Seattle, Wash.

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