How do you stand out from over 1 million global information service providers? In this article we will discuss the importance of differentiating your business to become unique in this market, with a specific focus on Value Added Resellers (VARs) and Managed Service Providers (MSPs). As the VAR/MSP marketing is exciting and rapidly market, the competition is vast.

With most organisations in the IT channel offering Microsoft 365, and everyone largely advertising the same points there is a clear overlap between MSPs and VARs. That is why it is important to provide your organisation with edges to differentiate yourself from the market, the potential rewards from a unique positioning are obvious. Are you ensuring that you have a unique edge?

Why is it a challenge for VARs and MSPs to differentiate themselves?

We have analysed our partners and their competitors, and we have found that over 80% of VARs and MSPs offer the same services. Whether these services are WVD, Citrix Virtual Apps and desktops, or Microsoft 365, the chances are huge that there are multiple competitors who also offer these services in your area. The vast majority of MSPs market their services and themselves as unique by being “your outsourced IT department” or perhaps by attempting to focus on a key area like cyber security. But we have all seen these points at every single MSP. So a question you should ask yourself:

What makes you truly different from all the other service providers?

Cutting out all smaller service providers with less than 20 employees, here is an overview of how many organisations you are competing with:

MSPS and VARs per country
United Kingdom 8,767
United States 25,086
Netherlands 1,901
France 6,204
Nordics 1,922
Australia 2,111
Canada 1,577
Germanny 6,972

Source: MSPs mapped around the globe by Cloudtango
Source: IT channel mapped by Compubase

The market for VARs and MSPs has only become more congested, with the inclusion of traditionally based resellers starting to offer managed services and managed service providers also turning to Value Added Resellers. Industry influencers have been calling for this change on ChannelWeb for years. This combined with an increasing confluence in supporting flexible working, and with the same services largely being offered to support this it is easy to see the challenges faced by businesses in the channel.

You’re not alone, so how to stand out from the MSP and VAR crowd

One question we have to ask ourselves in this new post-corona teams based landscape, is how is your proposition unique? You can offer a series of licenses where the pricing is publicly available, your competition offers the exact same services in a similar manner to yourselves. How can you stand out from the crowd? Here are some things you can do:

  1. Create a truly unique brand
    Don’t use terms like ‘we are the most secure’, ‘we offer personalised services’ or ‘we are a Microsoft certified partner’. That is not unique. Everybody does it. Go back to the root of your organisation. What are you trying to solve for customers? And what differentiates you from competitors in your area? Try looking at their websites, not to copy them but to learn what not to say.
  2. Change your offering
    Everybody offers the same services. That doesn’t have to be a problem. Most supermarkets offer the same products, yet they differentiate themselves as the cheapest or most luxurious markets. However, some supermarkets also differentiate themselves by only offering biological and organic food. You can do the same. Look what services MSPs and VARs offer in your area and stand out by adding additional services, for example custom API developments, that can help you customers and that add to your brand story.
  3. Coach and train your organisation to stand out with culture
    People love people. We look up at artists, show hosts and sports people. But why? Because they influence how we feel and we want a bit of their identity. Think about pop culture and how many young (and old) people will dress as their idols. In business you can also use this. Create a strong learning and sharing culture. Make sure that your colleagues are experts and that they speak about it. That way people will want to contact you and work with you.
  4. Bundling your services: Are you a supermarket?
    A couple of years ago many MSPs and VARs acted as supermarkets. Customers would come in buy some computers, offer some licences and that was it. However, MSPs and VARs should act as restaurants. You are the expert, the chef. You create a menu where you combine flavours (services) that compliment each other. And we all know a great restaurant doesn’t have a menu with 50 items. They usually offer 3 to 6 different courses. Look at your offering and see if you can bundle your services.

Treading water is not good enough

I’m sure there are some people reading this thinking I have missed the point, I’m not discussing issues relevant to them or their business. But I have to ask, is this because you think you are doing ‘fine’, and is fine enough? This may be enough for retention of your current clientele, but as we all know the business world moves forward with growth, and do you have the opportunity and availability for growth? Or are you competing on the same tired points.

We have all been in situations with people where they tell you there are no complaints, and then we all have a decision to make. Is no complaints the position you want your end clients to be? Or do you want to ensure your clients are always in possession of the best solutions and service at all times, and thus being open to emerging technologies and solutions? These are the clients who refer your business, not the clients who are simply fine with their service. People who know you are going above and beyond for them will spread the word.

Shouldn’t we always be looking to improve?

We are all well aware that cloud is the future. With a number of forward thinking IT channel partners staying to focus themselves on managed cloud services, we know there is the availability to shine here.

Scalability and accessibility are becoming key elements of importance in the IT channel, with cloud providing these in abundance the transition to ‘Managed Cloud Providers’. Some are even saying cloud is the biggest thing for IT since the 80s. This advancement directs and follows end clients, end clients are requiring cloud solutions but there is often difficulty in implementation and thus a partner to help with this is often beneficial.

However, some organisations are simply attaching cloud to their current services, hoping they are covering their bases. But this factors into the initial problem of separating oneself from the crowd.

Although cloud services will need to be implemented alongside traditional services, this does not mean that the cloud is a simple complimentary offering. It is a key element of your future business practices and one must ask themselves what direction are they going in?

Jerry rigging your services

The usage of Microsoft Teams as the one stop shop for pandemic working has come to dominant the market. However, this poses the same issue for MSPs as before, there is a lack of distinction between organisations in the channel, and there is only so much business a company can generate from working with Teams.

This is beside the problems associated by simply working with teams, ignores front line workers among others. These people simply can’t work all the time from teams as they have to use specialised applications for their work.

Why over 170 MSPs and VARs in the Netherlands offer Workspace 365?

Many of our MSP partners have found the answer to complete their story and create a unique offering in Workspace 365.

Not as a replacement, but as a compliment to their existing services allowing themselves to demonstrate how they differ from the crowd. With our self-branded, self-owned approach, our MSP partners offer a service that is truly theirs in a world of repackaged services.

Considering you can offer the exact same services and solutions, now with the added value of a tailored workspace software to bundle everything together. Also something that is noteworthy, as of our latest update Workspace 365 is integrated within teams!

Through collaboration with our existing MSP partners we have integrated within Microsoft Teams. To allow workers using teams to have an all in one digital workspace within the framework they are used to. Understanding that for some partners they have moved in a direction where Teams is taking the lead, but they still want to provide more for their end clients and seek the commercial benefits for an edge in this section of the market.

Microsoft Teams

Help is here!

As discussed we are seeing a clear transition to the cloud, and this transition has been visible for a number of years. Our previous blogpost from 2018 saw an only increasing trend of SaaSification, as well as the increase of BYOD and flexible working. The long term health of your business should also be a concern, with talking points like Nothing left to manage? It’s also obvious to everyone what changes have happened since 2018, and the continuation in these trends is just as obvious.

Alongside the previously pointed out issues in differentiating one MSP from the other it is clear that options need to be explored, and also that there is a multitude of solutions for these issues. Perhaps finding out more about Workspace 365 could solve some of these issues, and would mean this blog does not need to be cited three years from now as a cautionary tale of the past and what could have been.

Instead of listing off a series of features, benefits and locating the value in Workspace 365 (single sign on, incorporation of legacy and cloud software…), it is always possible to reach out to myself directly for an introduction and demonstration of the Workspace, where we can have a direct conversation on the unique needs of your business and end clients.

With our partner boost program we can even discuss how Workspace 365 can help you to move into the direction you may be wanting to go with your business as well. You can always arrange a call with yours truly to discuss how Workspace 365 can add uniqueness to your proposition.

Workspace 365 Partner Boost Program Explainer

Robert Parker

Robert Parker

Opportunity Spotter UK

If you have any questions about Workspace 365, contact me!