Recurring engagements have changed the business and now MSPs and VARs that have modified their businesses to reflect those changes need a solid brand to stand out from the crowd. And there is a crowd. More former engineers are hanging out their shingles and calling themselves MSPs than ever before. With the advent of remote monitoring and management software, the ease of template-based web development, and fast access to freelance creative help, MSPs believe they can piece together an ok brand to approach potential customers.
Yet for firms with experience that want to set themselves apart, a strong, clear, consistent brand is a must. Brand development for MSPs and VARs can be complicated. In the channel we communicate with a variety of stakeholders and must walk a fine line of being different without appearing to be unapproachable.
Firms with solid understanding of who they are and what they offer have some advantage but the greatest leverage is held by firms that understand who it is they’re selling to and why that person (or people, in the case of buying teams) would purchase from them as opposed to their competition.
What You Should Know About Brand Development for MSPs and VARs
Here’s a quick rundown of how to address these and other challenges related to developing the type of brand that truly stands out and reflects the power an effective MSP or VAR business brings to each technology solution engagement:
Know Your Audience: This remains the foundation of all marketing but with branding, firms must pay special attention to this portion of the process. Here’s why: You’re communicating a message with your brand, whether that’s your logo, the names of your offerings, your web design, and other design elements. When you send your message, you want to make sure it’s resonating and telling the right story to the right people.
Also, brand development is a collaborative process, which lends itself to sometimes being contentious. When you start with a common baseline – your potential and existing customers – you’ll be able to bring difficult conversations back to what really matters, communicating your value to grow your business. The elegant part of this is no one can argue with a customer focus for a brand. When you start with this approach, everyone wins.
Know Your Focus: What exactly is it you’re communicating to your customers? To stand apart, you’ll want to focus on what makes your firm unique. Do you focus on a particular vertical? Are your engineers certified with a particular vendor? Do they specialize in a particular type of deployment or technology? Some firms find this part of the process limiting and want to cast as wide a net as possible. Resist that urge and focus on what makes your firm different from all the others in the market. Many MSPs and VARs develop a regional focus.
Know What You Aren’t: Though you may not include this in your messaging, it’s important to have a core understanding of what your audience may need but what you don’t provide. This opens up possibilities for partnerships, referral arrangements, and other business building opportunities for your business even when you’re not in the position to directly provide products or services in a particular area for your customers.
Know Your Story: This is one of the most compelling parts of brand development for MSPs and VARs and can be the catalyst for innovative taglines, logos, color variations, web design, and product descriptions. When you have a strong understanding of your story, you can communicate it throughout everything you create for your firm’s brand (internally and externally). For instance, did your firm begin in a garage and end up growing to take up an entire building? Did your first/best salesperson wear a certain color that s/he was known for among clients? Taking those details and including them in your branding can make a huge difference when presenting your company to the world.
It’s not about what you say about your firm that matters, but what others say about your company. Consider conducting listening sessions. Chat with your top customers and drop in a question such as, “What sets us apart for you?” or “What makes us unique in your eyes?” The answers to those questions could be the basis of your brand campaign.
Know Your Style: Branding is a balancing act. Stand out too much and you just might lose an important, game-changing sale. An overly conservative design may blend into the background and never catch a prospect’s interest. To strike the right balance, review what you’ve already done. Take a look at what’s already out in the market. What are your competitors doing? What catches your eye? When you have a good understanding of your aesthetic, begin to formalize the color combinations and tag lines that best reflect the tone of your business.
Know Your Value: Success stories are the foundation of any strong brand. What have you done for others in your industry? If you have quantifiable results, show them off with case studies, client quotes, and better yet, testimonial videos. Reviewing the great things clients have said about you and the things you’ve done to create results is a powerful way to clarify the value you bring to each client engagement.
What’s Included in a Brand Refresh
We give a brief overview of brand development in this post, but here’s a closer look at what a brand refresh looks like for an MSP or VAR business.
Style Guide – At the core of any brand refresh is the style guide, holding all the specs and branding information that guides the content of both your printed and digital collateral. The decisions you make about color, logos, imagery, and fonts should still live here in this document.
Print Collateral – This usually includes client-facing printed items such as brochures, data sheets, spec sheets, and case studies. Some firms also print out their battle cards in various sizes for salespeople to have handy during sales calls.
Web Design – As you refresh your overall brand, be sure to include a new look for your website, this includes web copy. Your site is the digital face of the brand and may be silently turning away customers. When your salespeople are in communication with a lead, one of the first things they do is view your firm’s website. Is it really telling the story you want it to tell? It is truly communicating the value you bring to each client engagement? If the answer to these questions is ‘no’ you may be silently turning away ideal customers.
Logo Design – If you have more than 10 years with the same logo, consider re-vamping what you have. The logo is the visual representation of what your firm stands for. If it’s outdated, prospects will believe that’s a reflection of your approach to technology solutions. Simply updating the look can set your firm apart from other IT companies that have had the same look for an extended period of time.
Product/Service Descriptions – To reflect the changes in the industry, consider giving all of the content you’ve created a comprehensive review. Names of types of technology changes due to acquisitions. One recent example is Cisco changing the name of its messaging tool Cisco Spark to Webex Teams due to its acquisition of Webex years prior. As these vendor changes take place, use them as the opportunity you need to give the rest of the copy an added boost. This is especially relevant if you’re moving from one-time or periodic sales engagements to ongoing services that produce monthly recurring revenue for your firm.
Tagline – Many vendors use taglines but MSPs and VARs that want to set themselves apart can also employ this smart marketing tool to grab the attention of existing and potential customers. Taglines are a fast and efficient way to summarize all that’s great about your brand. Firms usually update these every 10 to 15 years as well.
Positioning Statement – This is an internal part of your brand and serves as a rallying point for those in your firm to clearly explain who you are, what you do, who you serve, and how good you are at it. It’s a slightly extended version of the tagline.
A brand refresh, as you can see, is a major undertaking and really shouldn’t be done with only internal resources. To have a fresh look, a firm needs a fresh perspective. That’s why progressive firms partner with third-party providers to help them gain insights into what truly makes them great and sets them apart from the rest.
If you’re looking to breathe new life into the brand of your MSP or VAR business, consider starting a conversation with us at Presh Marketing Solutions. We’ll provide keen insights based on our solid understanding of the IT channel and how MSPs and VARs can benefit from the rapid changes taking place in the industry.