Recently, I was going through a “brand discovery” process with a new client—the same process I’ve been doing for years. One of this client’s top MSP marketing priorities was to relaunch their website in a bold and striking way, so naturally one of our priorities quickly became nailing down their messaging.
We knew we needed to do more than just “get the word out” about their services. We needed to strike a chord and hit home with their target audience. You only get one first impression, and it’s my belief that resonating immediately is the best way to get someone to do what you really want them to, which is pick up the phone and give you a call.
We eventually came up with what I thought was a great approach to their brand, because it became clear to me that it was a point that this client really believed in himself—that MSPs can provide the best value to small businesses when they act as a fully outsourced IT department. But during our conversation, I could tell that the client was still uneasy. I asked what didn’t feel right, and the client put it simply: he didn’t want to offend people.
My response was just as straightforward: “But that’s exactly what you need to do.”
This client didn’t want to “put off” potential clients of his own that had their own internal IT department. He suggested framing things in a way that stated he could still provide value to them with some type of “co-managed” arrangement.
Respectfully, I disagreed. Now, I’d like to go into more detail about why.
"Fortune Favors the Bold"
As an MSP, part of what you’re trying to do involves getting someone to change the way they think about technology. If someone is used to running their own internal IT department, for example, you can reasonably assume that they’re set in their ways. They’re still seeing technology as something of a “necessary evil” that must be controlled in-house, and they’re not looking at it as the leverage building machine that you know it can be.
Changing someone’s opinion is never easy, especially when it’s been cemented over time. It’s possible—but not through the “path of least resistance” approach. What you really need to do is shock someone’s system—start swinging out of the gate in a way that forces them to start thinking about things from a point of view they might not have considered.
In other words, you need to offend them.
In terms of your messaging, one of the most important things you’re trying to accomplish involves motivating someone to take action. If you’re not taking big swings—meaning, that if you’re not challenging someone’s world view—that motivation isn’t going to be there. You might get people to understand who you are and why you do what you do, but you’ll have done little to get them to actually want to work with you.
It’s equally important to understand that you can’t please everyone, but that’s okay—because that shouldn’t be what you’re trying to do in the first place. It’s far, far better to focus your efforts on the clients you really want to work with—even at the risk of “offending” others.
For the sake of argument, let’s say this client had gone ahead with their “we also provide co-management” messaging angle. Small businesses who were looking for an outsourced IT department—the customers this client felt he could provide the best value to—probably wouldn’t be too impressed, because that message no longer resonates with their situation. Likewise, clients that have their own internal IT department wouldn’t have been offended—but they also wouldn’t be compelled to pick up the phone either, because that would require a decidedly different approach.
So at that point, what does he become? A “Jack of all trades, master of none.” Which, for an MSP, is about the worst position you could be in.
Equally concerning is the fact that if you’re not offending certain people, you’re marketing to them—even if you don’t want to. This client didn’t want to work with companies with an internal IT department in a “co-managed” arrangement. He wanted to focus his attention where he thought he could do the most good. So why, then, does it matter whether or not you offend someone you don’t want to be partners with to begin with?
If you want people to love you as an MSP, you need to be willing to accept the fact that others are going to hate you. It’s just the way things work. But instead of fearing that, you need to embrace it. Let them hate you. Not only is it better than having a weak brand, but it’s certainly better than trying to please everyone and not motivating a single one of them.
MSP marketers know that they’re already targeting a unique audience, so one of the most powerful assets they have on their side are the strong feelings that their messaging can create. Strong feelings can be good or bad, as long as they exist at all. If they don’t, your brand simply won’t matter – it’ll be written off as little more than white noise in an industry that is getting more competitive with each passing day.
Why on Earth would anybody want that?
Ready to Start Offending People? Great, So Am I
It’s my opinion that polarization is a good thing – because it means you’re striking a chord, even if that chord isn’t necessarily in your favor. That’s okay, because for every passionate detractor you’re also likely to create one loyal advocate. The latter will always have a much stronger impact on your business than the former, especially in the long-term.
If you’d like to work on your ability to offend people by playing more towards the types of customers you actually want to work with, feel free to reach out to me directly at Tech Pro Marketing and schedule your one-on-one call so that we can start offending people together.
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