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Robert Dutt wrote a great article last week on branding and marketing your MSP.  Mr. Dutt hit the nail on the head when he said that many times MSP companies are shielded by or, in some cases, hide behind the brands of their partners.  To echo one point in the article:  “Brand the snot out of everything”.  I couldn’t agree more. Mature MSPs don’t need to hide behind the brands of their partners.

I had the opportunity to sit down with BJ Farmer, a leader in the Houston MSP market, to talk about branding a few weeks ago.  Farmer’s MSP, CITOC, is rapidly moving up the MSP Maturity Matrix. Everything has a process; systems are in place, and CITOC’s brand is front and centre to the point where Farmer has removed all partner brands from the CITOC website.

Colin Knox, CEO of PASSPORTAL, a leader in password security for IT firms, calls his brand a “badge of honour” that MSPs should proudly display on their websites.  Knox goes on to comment “PASSPORTAL is something MSPs can really use to separate themselves from the ones that fail to take password security seriously. The PASSPORTAL brand creates trust in end clients that their IT firms take the security of their passwords seriously”.

Where is the compromise?  I agree with Mr. Farmer that partner logos take away from your personal brand; however, having strong partner ties can lead market development funds (MDF) your way or even vendor-led training for your staff on the vendors’ latest technologies .  The key here is balance.

Here’s how I leveraged my vendor partners when I ran IT Matters, my Calgary MSP, and some strategies that I share with my coaching clients at Ulistic.

  1. Determine who your strategic partners are.  Strategic partners are those vendors whose names are instantly recognized by your clients.  Some organizations that fall into this category are Microsoft, DELL, HP, Cisco, etc.  These are the partners that will boost your credibility immediately.  Strategic partners are the ones you go to market with right away.
  2. What other companies could be considered strategic partners?  There are other key vendors that may not have immediate name recognition with your prospects or clients, but they offer services that are required by the market.  These may include phone systems, firewalls, backup appliances and many others.
  3. What partners do you rely on to help deliver services?  These are your PSA, RMM and MSP help desk services. In my opinion, they mean nothing to your end clients and have no place in your marketing. Do get me wrong, they are important to your business, but their names offer no value to your prospects or clients. So, you must brand their services as your own with corporate brand instead of theirs.  Great example is how Calgary IT provider CTECH brands their support offerings as their own especially their 90 second support offering.

Blake Schwank of Colorado Computer Support, who deploys Autotask Taskfire to his education industry clients throughout the state of Colorado, brands the Autotask service as his own.  Autotask is a critical part of his business, but to his clients, Autotask is a name that has little or no meaning.

My recommendation for many MSPs out there is to lose the vendor logos at least from the main pages of their websites.  The main page is for you to demonstrate how your business makes a difference.  Vendor logos have no place robbing valuable real estate on your website.  Put these on a subpage or work them into your services page.

Work with your strategic partners and determine go-to-market strategies that you can brand, but leverage their names.  Remember, the clients want to work with you, but they may need the comfort of knowing that you are a Microsoft Gold Partner or a DELL PartnerDirect member because these are brands that they know and trust.

Carefully pick your badges of honour, like the MSP in my final example did. Macon’s Infinity Network Solutions has a newly revamped website on which visitors see  the logos of local charities, community associations and other organizations that actually mean something to those in Infinity Network’s community.  Those are great badges of honour.

Balance can be achieved by working with your strategic partners to determine what works best to help you, your business and your partners achieve the highest level of success possible.