I’ve often wondered: what if Julius Caesar had been more aware of the unrest and negative sentiment building in the Senate? What if he’d had a little bit more information? Of course, we could go on about the “what ifs”, especially with an event that occurred over 2000 years ago. But had Caesar observed the trends around him, it’s possible that he would have gone on to rule the Roman Republic for many more years.
Caesar’s unfortunate demise can be used as a lesson for any MSP business owner; industry intel could be the key to keeping you safe from sweeping changes.
Of course, there are times that you’ll have to do a little bit of digging to get that information. But market research is time-consuming, and often very expensive. To help you stay on top of competitive and industry trends in managed IT services - without getting too bogged down in the details - we’ve compiled a list of quick tips for you!
Identify Your “Need to Knows”
Identify what you really need to know, and focus your resources on those key things. Do you repeatedly go head-to-head with a specific competitor? Keeping tabs on their actions are probably a key priority for you. Are you mostly interested in staying ahead of the pack on the latest managed IT service offerings for clients? You’ll want to stay informed of any updates or products vendors are introducing into the marketplace.
Track Trends with the Right Tools
Setting up Google Alerts on key names and companies is one of the easiest - and a somewhat effective - way to keep tabs on any major news. There are methods to customize and fine-tune your alerts so that you’re not being bombarded with updates that may not be of any value to you. Still, using Google Alerts is not the most efficient way, since it does takes time to sort through the alerts.
Another way to get the information to come to you: subscribe to industry newsletters. Many MSP publications like Business Solutions Magazine have subscription lists, and are a great way to get a pulse on big industry trends. I’ve found the After Nines blog, especially the “5 Technology Observations,” to be a great resource as well. Editor Joe Panettieri provides a very readable, daily post that highlights big goings-on in tech, sprinkled with great commentary.
Use Targeted Resources
It’s no secret that some resources are more reliable than others. It’s also easy to get bogged down by multiple voices all shouting different things at you. Just like with identifying your “need to knows,” you need to stay focused. Pick and choose sources that have a reputation for being accurate and relevant. It might take some time to figure out which ones are the best fit. The Wall Street Journal, while a highly-trusted source of national and international information, doesn’t always report on local business happenings. If you operate in a very small geographic area, you’ll need a local resource.
Along the lines of geo-targeting, look at how your competitors have optimized their websites for local searches. If you're an MSP operating in Atlanta, for example, you may want to include your city in your page title (the first thing Google crawls) so that your website appears ahead of competitors on the results page when prospects search "msps in atlanta georgia."
Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can all be great sources for competitive insight. Many companies share and post information about upcoming events and major milestones on their social media pages. You’d be surprised at some of the things you can learn just by following a company - or a competitor - on Twitter. It may not be the most comprehensive, in-depth info, but it does give you a quick snapshot of who’s doing what (and where, and when!). Consider also customers who may be unhappy with competitors' services and tweeting it or expressing their frustration in a LinkedIn group. It may be that your service would eliminate the pain points they're experiencing, and you can then feed that input to your Sales team!
Set A Balance
There’s really no way to know everything that’s going on in the industry or amongst your competitive set at every possible moment. Figure out how much time you’re willing to dedicate to doing research, and stick to that. It’s easy to fall down a rabbit hole and spend too much time looking for information instead of on your core business.
Don't let competitors and March 15th creep up on you this year. Like the old adage goes, "keep your friends close, but your enemies closer." You can learn a lot from your competitors: how they word their service offering, how their customers feel about their service delivery, etc. One way to make sure your MSP rivals don't pull out ahead is to stay immersed in all of the latest industry buzz. In the end, you'll be able to rise victorious.
So of course we have to say it: Beware the Ides of March!
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