Communicate Your Unique Value: How to Differentiate for Success | Webinar

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Increased customer demand for subscription-based services is placing new pressure on managed service providers (MSPs) like you. When prospective customers sit down to compare their options with technology partners, what differentiates you from your competitors? Do they choose you over everyone else? 

How do you handle the pressure to set your company apart from the competition and showcase what makes you unique?

In this on-demand webinar, our marketing experts Matt Hodkinson, Daniel Welling, and Shannon Murphy uncover the strategies to increase your visibility and differentiate your business in a crowded MSP market.

Key Takeaways: 

  • Why do you need to differentiate from your competitors?

It’s never been harder to command the attention of great-fit prospects and decision-makers. For any sort of offer, ad, or content piece to “stop the scroll” or otherwise grab that attention, it has to tick a few immediate boxes in the buyer’s brain. Anything that the buyer feels they’ve heard before gets ignored - what becomes ubiquitous becomes white noise. 

The message also has to immediately instill that feeling of “this is for me”, which lends itself to a more personal, tightly-niched, and targeted approach, and a deep understanding of the prevalent challenges in their world.

  • How to identify key competitive differentiators for your MSP business?

List all the reasons why people buy from you, before crossing out or deleting every reason that could also be claimed by another provider. What remains are your unique selling points. 

But that’s often not enough. That new and authentic vocabulary you create can completely change perceptions and separate you from any competing solutions provider. 

The pinnacle of this is when you achieve “category ownership” - often thought of as the preserve of those in Silicon Valley, but just as important and achievable for established companies. 

  • How to differentiate your offerings in a crowded field?

Crafting an offer that appeals only to those we can help, communicates fully and vividly how we can solve their greatest (relevant) challenges, and provides sufficient risk removal, that any buyer would feel comfortable to engage, and foolish to ignore.

  • How does differentiation grow an MSP business?

Differentiation unlocks the potential of any marketing channel, so conversion rates throughout the customer journey are maximized, the value of any deal is maximized, and in ideal circumstances, price resistance becomes a thing of the past.

Poor differentiation = leaky bucket

Unique mechanism (part of a differentiated proposition) = systemized delivery, less reliance on the leadership team to make the business run smoothly, typically higher multiples, and greater potential to swerve an onerous earn-out.

  • What myths do MSPs need to be aware of?

Let us take a look at the  “if my competition is doing it this way, it must be working.” 

It’s working for THEM. Being equated to others in your sector, by potential clients, brings a whole heap of expectation and baggage. Price expectation. Delivery process expectation. 

A company that is able to avoid this, and become “Un-pigeonhole-able”, will be able to take greater control of the sales process, and won’t have to pander to expectations set against companies that do things cheaper, or with poorer service levels, or otherwise in ways that don’t conform to your plans, core values, and desires.


Shannon Murphy: 

Hello and welcome to Communicating Your Unique Value: How to Differentiate for Success. I’m Shannon Murphy, Chief Marketer at Zomentum, the Revenue Platform reinventing Channel Sales. Today I’m joined by Matt Hodkinson and Daniel Welling. Let me tell you a little bit about Matt. 

Matt Hodkinson is the "Differentiation Don" and Founder at Total Growth Ownership, helping MSPs and technology consultancies to create a Pipeline Certainty Engine in 90 days or less. They do this by aligning around the true cause of marketing and a new business pain... Positioning. Prior, Matt ran Influence Agents - an inbound marketing agency serving B2B technology companies - for 11 years. He has a total of 25 years in IT consulting.

And of course, let us not forget Daniel!

Daniel started his career in IT in 1995, following a sales track, working for several VARs, and quickly developing a consultative approach to new business, account management, and sales management. This led to him forming an MSP, which after 12 years, he sold in 2014. Daniel has stayed active in the MSP communities working as a mentor and consultant. In 2020 Daniel was elected to the CompTIA Executive Council for the UK Business Technology Community.

Fantastic, thank you both for being here with us! 

Matt Hodkinson:

Pleasure. Thank you, Shannon.

Daniel Welling:

Great to be here. Thank you.

Shannon Murphy:

Awesome. So we’re here to discuss differentiation, which essentially means, we’re looking to make our businesses distinct. We want people to say, out of all of the options out there; this is why you should choose me, right? That's why you will be the obvious choice. So, Matt, I know for you that this very much revolves around the language you use. 

Why should an MSP develop an authentic voice (or adopt a new vocabulary) instead of common business jargon? 

Matt Hodkinson:

Yeah, well, I guess, firstly, it's important to understand why it's important, why we should be doing it. And I think we were conditioned to the current situation, not just the last couple of years, but it's been growing for a while just how noisy the world is. We spend so much time on digital. So largely, I find myself talking about digital channels, LinkedIn, the b2b network, email, and other digital channels; they've just become so noisy. 

And the upshot of that is that attention has been the big currency that's emerged. We have to first generate the attention from great fit prospects, from potential partners and introducers and referrers. And, that's gotten more difficult. It's the case that we're in this space. I know that everybody will kind of resonate with this. And if you do, then pop in the chat and sympathize with me.

But, if you get these daily connection requests on LinkedIn, that's what I call the "Connect and Pitch strategy," where they're not just inviting you to connect, but they're dropping in a very big and obvious, size nine boot pitch for their business at the same time. And it's kind of like, I haven't even met you yet, what are you doing? And so that's the kind of mentality that a lot of marketers are taking. And a lot of business people are taking on different roles as well, trying to be a good marketer and use this platform because they think it's going to be the answer to their lead generation woes.

And, the way to stand out is, first off, I guess, by not using those lazy tactics and not jumping in with those size nines and proposing marriage on the first day. But it's to instead adopt a language that is going to generate the right attention. It's got to be contextual, it's got to be relevant, it's got to be attractive, it's got to stop the scroll if you've heard that sort of terminology. If people were to see it in their LinkedIn feed or in their Facebook social feed, it's got to be the kind of thing that would stop and make them pay attention. 

And, one of the first things that we have to do as business people, as marketers, as salespeople is to make your prospects feel that 'this is for me,' that's going to happen in a split second, 'this is for me,' I need to pay attention to it. And then you can start the conversation from there. And what's not going to work is old language - is the stuff that they've seen elsewhere. 

“The first thing that we have to do is make your prospects feel that 'this is for me,' I need to pay attention to it.”

And sadly, the situation is typical with MSPs that we're not very good at. We're saying the same thing as everybody else. We tend to lead with features, we lead with outcomes, we lead with products quite a lot of the time, we get this stuff fed to us by the vendors quite a lot of the time. And that's not going to help. We got to start talking about other challenges, we're gonna start talking about the things that are going to resonate with a particular target audience. And that's how we're going to generate that attention.

“Start talking about the things that are going to resonate with a particular target audience. And that's how we're going to generate that attention.”

Shannon Murphy:

Awesome, awesome. So, I think that also gets into - we want to stop the scroll, we want to be unique. I think, Daniel, would you mind talking about that a little bit? In terms of like, how we're making our pitch unique like you are our career sales guide expert, who knows what we need to make their ears perk up? I think, again, language and grabbing their attention.

Daniel Welling:

Yeah, it's interesting that Matt mentioned straightaway LinkedIn. Yeah, LinkedIn is a fabulous tool. As far as I'm concerned, as a salesperson, it basically takes at least one or two, maybe even three phone calls out of the process that we would have had to make otherwise. But it's also played totally bare that you've got to make that first connection request at absolutely on point. 

And if maybe you had 30 seconds on a call beforehand, now you've got two or three lines to make that impact. So you've got to be mentioning something absolutely unique to them and their business using their language, their terminology. And, I guess, even if you can zone straight into the pain that you know they're likely to have, that hopefully you know and understand from dealing with other clients in their situation. Therefore, you just got to be totally niched and targeted, and personalized, when you make that first approach.

“You just got to be totally niched and targeted and personalized, when you make that first approach.”

And, then you've got to follow that all the way through every other sales engagement. So we need to really build that sort of trust, that the prospects know that you really do understand what their pain is, and therefore, you know, how to help them.

Shannon Murphy:

Yeah, absolutely. And I've heard you say before, that is why, niching can be important, right. So that you can demonstrate and show that you understand their problems. So I think in terms of the language that you do want to use, right, in some cases, we want to use some of their jargon, some of their acronyms, some of their terms, underline those pain points, right. But yeah, you're a big fan of niching, if I remember correctly, or no?

Daniel Welling:

Yeah, absolutely. Although, if you're going to a niche, you've got to have really more than one niche. As far as I'm concerned, in order to deal with the reliance on a particular industry, especially having emerged from COVID times, if you are overly exposed to one particular marketplace then you could have been very hurt. But if you had a number of niches and they're subtly different, hopefully you're playing the odds sufficiently well to get that sort of resilient business model. 

But yeah, absolutely. The niche doesn't have to be a traditional industry vertical, it could be a type of business. It could be a geographical niche. Just something that, if someone were to approach me and say they work with MSP consultants who live in Marlow, then I'm an MSP consultant, and I live in Marlow. So this is perfect, we've got to meet and have a coffee. And we've got to go and have a coffee at the bar and grill because I know the Bar and Grill. So you know, there's an immediate closeness. 

Whereas if someone came to me saying, I deal with consultants in the UK, perhaps we should go and get a Starbucks. I'm gonna be less interested. To be fair,

Shannon Murphy:

Yeah, it's crazy how much regionalization can actually grease the wheels of business relationships, right? Even for me, I can work with anybody around the world. But I still find that those relationships can be stronger. That outreach, you kind of get more response for people, say for me in Massachusetts, right.

So, we had somebody asked about this, I think, normally hold questions to the end. But I think that this is important based upon our conversation around language. So Matt, you were saying the old language won't work. Could you please elaborate on what you mean by old language? Good refining question there.

Why does the old language not work anymore?

Matt Hodkinson:

Yeah, it's anything that's a well-trodden release. It's the ubiquitous language that we find on the vast majority of digital properties on marketing collateral. It's anything where your prospect has any chance of saying; I've heard that somewhere else before. So I think we're in danger sometimes, even just in the way that we describe our business. I mean, one of the things I'm trying to champion is really compelling, intriguing, exciting. If we can even get their response to that question, what do you do, because at some point, we're going to be able to network again, we're going to be at those BNI events and networking events in the real world. 

And at some point, somebody is going to ask you, and if you're the type to just say, we provide IT services. And if you're a little bit niche, you could say we provide IT services to the healthcare sector, it's still a bit "meh". And, we're fighting what I call 'meh'saging, and just trying to give something that is intriguing, that is still relevant, and is highly contextual to what you do. 

So it's not about creating something that's just going to grab the attention. And then you have to kind of jokingly say, 'No, we don't really do that.' It's kind of like saying, Oh, I'm a skydiving instructor. And then they say, really? Because they're going to get excited about that. It's kind of got 1000 questions that immediately think of skydiving. And then you say, ‘No, not really, we do cloud migrations.’

So, I'm not deriding anybody that provides those services, of course, which is going to be most of you. And the fact is, it's the language that we use to describe the outcomes quite often because that's what people are going to be more interested in. I think we default to what we are or how we pigeonhole ourselves, rather than what we deliver and what we do - the transformation, the outcome that we deliver for our clients. That's really what they want to hear.  


“We default our messaging to what we are rather than what we deliver and what we do - the transformation, the outcome that we deliver for our clients. That's really what they want to hear.”

They're interested in what you do. In fact, they're interested in what you can do for them. And so my challenge around that is, yes, new language novelty, something that they wouldn't have heard somewhere else before. And I gave the example actually in the practice, we did this recently with a cybersecurity consultant. And of course, cybersecurity is one of the most ubiquitous terms. And if you were to say that you do cybersecurity, you'd immediately get lumped in with 1000 other people, in fact, probably more like 50,000 other people. 

So, the idea is what language we can use. So, there are a few firms out there that are using language like threat detection. Well, that's different, it's a little bit more niche. But there are still quite a few firms using that term. And then even better language, perhaps, is threat intelligence. It implies that we're being a bit more proactive around threats and cybersecurity. It's not just about detection, but it's also about knowing the root cause and what we need to do about it. So it's creating a perception.

And there might be a handful of people using that sort of language. And then we arrived with this particular client. So this term threat immunity, which nobody was using. You can do a quick, cursory Google search for a phrase search. If something comes back with no results for that kind of thing, and it's still relevant to your business, then it can be a really good way to start the conversation. 

It's not about telling the whole story, because of course, there's not too much information in threat immunity or threat immunity specialist. But it creates enough intrigue that it starts a conversation. And that's the thing, what a lot of MSPs and MSSPs are missing right now is - how do we start that conversation? How do we get the attention so that we can get into those conversations with people who would be a good fit for us as clients? And that new language is what's going to do it for us?

Shannon Murphy:

Absolutely, I love that take. And I'm even like that one, of course, our marketing brains go to, copy on the web page and things like that. But in terms of how we could actually take that to your networking example, something that you said that made me think about this, if somebody said, oh, you know, I offer? I offer what was the term?

Matt Hodkinson:

Cloud migrations? 

Shannon Murphy:

No, no, sorry, that immunity and just escape threats? 

Matt Hodkinson:

Threat Immunity. Yeah yeah.  

Shannon Murphy:

But you know, I do XYZ and offer threat immunity, right. Like that is the kind of attention grabber. Do you say that kind of fits into this technique? Because somebody might say, oh! What's threat immunity? Right? Instead of, oh! I'm an MSP that offers services to healthcare. I know I don’t want to ask you any follow-up questions to that because I know exactly what that means, right?

Matt Hodkinson:

And that's the point. You've been pigeonholed. And what we do as human beings is when somebody tells us ‘cybersecurity,’ then what we do is immediately try and find an example of somebody who we are familiar with that fulfills that role. So if, for example, I'm looking at the likes of Trend Micro, for example, and their cybersecurity products and solutions. And I might be familiar with that. And then somebody tells me, they're in cybersecurity, my mind will go to Trend Micro, and all of the assumptions I'm going to make based on that.

Now, if you've got a completely different proposition to Trend Micro, then you've lost me already. I mean, I've made these assumptions, price points, the structure of the business, kind of services and solutions, everything else. So we want to make ourselves ‘un-pigeonhole-able’ essentially, this is a new language again. So there's your example, we've got it, we've got to make it impossible for us to do that.

So, one of the main benefits and this is where it's gonna land, I hope, with many of those who are watching and listening. We lower the price resistance because we've got nothing to compare it to. And wouldn’t that be a great outcome just from this call if you can use the new language to break down the price resistance in the conversations you're having with your target audience? But that's got to be a fantastic thing to do.

“Wouldn’t that be a great outcome just from this call if you can use new language, to break down the price resistance in the conversations you're having with your target audience.”

And this is where I think, that is one of the side benefits. And what we're really talking about here is making it so that we can't be a commodity, that the business doesn't go to the lowest bidder, because everybody looks and sounds the same. And the only thing that we've got left to compare on is price. We want to eradicate that completely. And that's why this language is so important, I think.

Shannon Murphy:

Absolutely, absolutely. I think a show of hands for anyone who has felt like you have to do that, which is when you're networking, right, that somebody is like, oh, so I know somebody who does something similar, do you do that? Right? I mean, I work as a marketing consultant. But again, I have to differentiate myself by deconstructing what they already know, and how they're going to compare me. And again, yes, on price, if you're not the cheapest option, which I don't think anybody in this room wants to be, then you're fighting.

It's interesting, the competition is actually just the mindset of what they already know, and how much value they associate with that. Yeah, James said that he has been through that. So I think it's a pretty common problem. So, what would be your take on that, Daniel, in terms of articulating what makes our business unique? How would you take that from, like a sales angle, give us those superpowers.

What Makes Your Business Unique, in a Sales Point-of-View?

Daniel Welling:

I don't have that superpowers. But for me and for most salespeople, you want to arrive at a sales engagement with the prospects in the right place to be receptive to a sales process and sales engagement. So I want someone properly prepared, so that effectively I can work on the report and we can get to the sort of that trust stage. And therefore, it's got to be super appropriate, though, we were there at the right time. And we understand their needs, and we mirror them.

And as a result, we can be much more effective at getting them through to the next stage.And, I guess that the next stage always for a salesperson is that the next activity as we work towards closing. So sometimes we can close straight away, sometimes the only thing we can close for is the next engagement or to speak to the next person. And all of that pre-work absolutely greases the wheels for us to do that.

“For most salespeople, you want to arrive at a sales engagement with the prospects in the right place to be receptive to a sales process and sales engagement. So sometimes we can close straight away, sometimes the only thing we can close for is the next engagement or to speak to the next person.”

Shannon Murphy:

Yep. Yep, absolutely. I think I've heard you say that we just always be closing. I mean, we know and love that one. But I think it's also always gathering intelligence, right, using that conversation to always be pulling at these items. 

And I think that's part of, even if we go back to LinkedIn, the subtle beauty of it when you know how to construct a conversation appropriately, it's not rushing to overwhelm them with information about yourself. And it's not kind of demanding, like a list of questions. Like you're interviewing them, right? It's that cadence, like a tennis match, back and forth to gather information from them, right.

Daniel Welling:

It is naturally inquisitive, all the way through - tell me about what's happening to you. All right, and on what seems the implication of that. And, how did that make you feel? And what's going to happen next? And just to be, as you say, Gavin information and quality information all the way through is absolutely critical.

Shannon Murphy:

Awesome, awesome. So something that I wanted to talk about, we're leaning a lot into differentiation with marketing. And of course, that translates to our pitch with sales. But Daniel has some great experience in helping MSPs with acquisition. And so, I thought that might be a really great angle for us to explore as well. How do you feel that differentiation helps to enhance the value of an MSP business and make it attractive for acquisition?

How does differentiation grow an MSP business? How does it make it attractive for acquisition?

Daniel Welling:

Sure. I guess, the key thing really is a business that is good at acquiring new customers, for which it needs a very high functioning sales and marketing function. It’s going to be worth so much more than a business that isn't able to generate new customers. And, I refer to them as self healing businesses. So, we're all going to lose customers, death is a natural part of life, and everything has a natural beginning and end. 

So when you come to sell your business. If effectively you're setting a static set of customers, the buyer is going to look at that as something that's going to be diminishing over time, they’re buying a withering plant. Whereas, if you've a plant that's got the ability to continually regenerate, grow new leaves. grow new flowers, then that's something that's going to have a much longer life and therefore a much higher value.

So getting this part right is so important. Not only to grow the business to a point that it meets the demands and requirements of the shareholders, but also, when you come to exit, it's just going to have a much higher multiple.

Shannon Murphy:

Awesome. That's fantastic. Matt, did you have anything that you wanted to add to that?

Matt Hodkinson:

Yeah, that’s absolutely what it's all about. Any acquisition is going to be dependent on the ability to refresh that pipeline and keep new blood coming in when it comes to new business. One of the things I've noticed a lot of the MSPs that I talked to, and then that we work with, are at that point where they've grown the business by referral, and by their own network quite often as well from previous corporate life or some other existence.

And typically, the referral world can be quite unpredictable. Even with the best referral strategy in place, it's very difficult to predict when the next deal is going to arrive. And so growth to the current position in a lot of MSP businesses has been more by luck than judgment. And any acquisition, any acquirer is going to be looking at. Yeah, what is the marketing function contributing to the pipeline to sales? So that's one side of it. But I think the other side, part of our differentiation process is about unearthing what the unique mechanism is for delivery of the transformation, the service, the solution that you sell. 

“Even with the best referral strategy in place, it's very difficult to predict when the next deal is going to arrive. So growth to the current position in a lot of MSP businesses has been more by luck than judgment.”

And this is where you've got the opportunity, even if you're a Microsoft partner, for example, I know there's a roundabout at last count 64,000 members of the partner network. Now on the face of it, they could all be selling the same, if not very similar solutions from the Microsoft suite. So, how do you differentiate that? Well, everybody's doing it in a different way. Everybody is providing the delivery and has their own unique mechanism, as we call it, to deliver that transformation to get them from where the client is now to where they where they want to be in the future, that future pace.

Daniel will attest to that kind of sales terminology, getting them to visualize where they want to be - this Nirvana like existence after you've delivered the result. And your process is what gets them from where they are now, over any obstacles they might perceive, to that future state. And ideally, faster than they could ever do for themselves, or any other solutions provider could do it as well. So that unique mechanism is a really strong asset as well to increase the asset value of the business. 

If anybody has read the book, and this is a recommendation, by the way, “Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You” by John Warrillow. And it uses the example, it's a great story. It's written as a kind of narrative of a professional services business owner, who has a mentor who's advising him. First off, he's got zero value in his company that he's been spent the last 15 years working on and then gradually gets him to implement the steps to add the value necessary to get to a sale, in the future. One of the steps that is part of this process is about having a visual, having a process and selling that. And selling that process, something that is your proprietary possession, if you like. 

That is unique to you is a really strong way to differentiate your solution. And again, to increase the asset value of the business is something that is more repeatable is going to impact on your pipeline, but also the consistency of delivery, understanding throughout the business about what it is that you do and how you achieve it. And that translates to your conversations with any prospects as well. So yeah, I think it's really about that fresh blood in the pipeline, as Dan says, that unique mechanism can't go far wrong.

“Increasing the asset value of the business is something that is more repeatable is going to impact on your pipeline, but also the consistency of delivery, understanding throughout the business about what it is that you do and how you achieve it.”

Shannon Murphy:

Awesome. Awesome. I love that. And so I want to talk about something that I feel like comes up inevitably, well, you've already addressed it that way. Everybody's doing the same ‘meh’aging, right? It's very Matt! 

And I think a lot of that I've just noticed as a career marketer is people, especially business owners, you have so much going on and when something does come across to your attention, especially in your inbox, oh! look! my competitors are doing this, right. There are many marketers that get forwarded an email or an e-book or a blog when somebody else wrote. And it's because the boss says, Well, why aren't we doing this? 

I want us to take a look at “if my competition is doing it this way, it must be working.” Can you guys define the dangers in this type of thinking? I think not just for marketing, but for business as a whole.

Let’s Debunk a Marketing Myth - “If My Competitors Do It this Way, It Must Be Working!”

Matt Hodkinson:

I'll take it first, Don, if I may. I think the first thing is that pigeonhole ability, because people will have preconceptions, based on your competitors about your price level, the way that you deliver and their unique mechanism, perhaps is what they're using as an anchor to understand how you do things, which is doing you a disservice. And generally, just that you're mimicking somebody else if you do that, there's always the idea as well, just because it appears that everything is rosy over there on the other side of the fence. That is not always the case.

And I know from experience that there are larger, faster growing businesses out there that are doing some fantastic stuff on the socials. And perhaps, they keep pinging up in your Instagram feed or wherever you spend your time online. And it gets annoying, because you kind of like, why is that not us? Why aren't we getting all this attention? Why do they get wider? Why are they doing this and that? 

But the reality is, they could have a business that's losing money hand over fist. You're not going to be able to look inside the books and see what's going on. They might have a toxic culture where everybody hates working there. So first off, that whole grass is greener, isn't necessarily so. What I think we need to focus on is really, let's look in our own wheelhouse, let's make that as great as it can possibly be, let's have some fun along the way, let's create our own identity, let's create our own category. So, why worry too much about what they're going to do. 

Until, this is the only reason I think you should be paying attention to competitors, is when you want to go and steal market share from them. Because let's face it, I know from experience in the MSP and MSSP world, if you're taking on a new client, typically you're stealing them from an incumbent but to say stealing maybe they've already ended the relationship they're moving from something else. It's very rare that you're their first ever IT services provider or IT managed service provider. 

“The only reason I think you should be paying attention to competitors, is when you want to go and steal market share from them.”

So, there is a reason for that, now a lot of it already happening is organic, it's natural. They've fallen out because the communication was terrible. Or maybe they suffered a breach or some other catastrophic technical problem. That is just inexcusable, maybe they've come to the end of a contract and that's a break point where they're considering budgets and things like that. Maybe they've outgrown their existing supplier, they've got you know, they're such a size now and those guys don't understand the kind of enterprise needs perhaps that they know they now have.

So I think it's important not to, as I say, just that the market share stuff can steal away from them but in other every other respect they pay too much attention to what competitors are doing because when you truly differentiated yourself you're in a category of one anyway and again you won't be pigeonhole-able.

Daniel Welling:

Yeah, I mean I have to say I agree with a lot of what Matt says there. You have to, I guess take inspiration with a certain filter on it. You know, why reinvent the wheel? If something is working for someone else and you can validate that it truly is working rather than just perception. But equally, if everyone jumped off a cliff, you're not probably going to want to jump off the cliff too. So, sometimes actually taking an alternative position is actually useful in that pigeonhole ability, 

But yeah, to give an example, something that feeds back into the business value. Position is, what your policy is in terms of contract length. So, you might go to a prospect and sell on the basis that you don't tie your customers in. So they have ultimate flexibility. And maybe you say, it's a month, three months, six months, whatever. That the trouble is, that can be appealing to a prospect that has concerns or wants to keep their options open. But when you come to them wanting to sell, that customer is part of your overall business enterprise value. Buyers are going to look at that and say, well, all of your customers could give three months notice and walk away.

So perhaps, even if the rest of the market is talking about no tie-in. Perhaps, you could take that as the alternative position and say, well, we don't tie-in but we provide commitment to our clients around price, availability and sustainability of our service. So again, Matt probably has insight in terms of the language to use, but instead of it being a negative- we're locking you in, it's so, we're providing you a commitment. I would say, if everyone else is saying no commitment, then I want to be different. Just because I want to be different.

Shannon Murphy:

Yeah, I think you and I even talked about, as far as contract links go, maybe offering a low commitment. But we don't want a whole book of clients like that, because that can affect our desirability for acquisition, right? So being clever and flexible about it to say, okay, maybe it's a three months trial, at which point you can exit at any time, but with the client, the contract is for a year. Right, things like that I think, it's all about how you present your terms. Right?

Daniel Welling:

Yeah, absolutely. And I guess, it's for every business to work that out for themselves in terms of what I mean, picking in the early days of my business. Again, I say I had an MSP, but we didn't call them that. I think it was only around the time of exit that I started to use the term and became aware of the term MSP, before that we were IT services businesses. 

And, as such, we've learned a lot of this as we've gone in terms of what works well and often having multiple options as well. Because it's very difficult to find one policy that fits all of your niches or all of your full breadth and width of your client or state.

Shannon Murphy:

Yep, Yep, absolutely. So I want to think long term, right? Like, you're different until you're not. So how do we evolve our message with our customers needs, and to meet the demands of our business?

How Do You Evolve Your Message to Meet the Demands of Your Business?

Daniel Welling:

Yeah, I'm going to take this one first. But I guess from a commercial perspective, the MSP would be doing this through regular feedback and touchpoints with their clients.

So certainly, I'm an advocate of having regular technology, business reviews or quarterly business reviews, if they're quarterly - MBRs if they're monthly, and really ensuring that you're feeling the pulse of the client in each one of those engagements and then gather it again - sales gathering information, feeding it back to the business and then making sure that you're constantly evolving what you're doing for the client to predict what their next need will be. And, therefore defending against hostile interest.

“Ensure that you're feeling the pulse of the client in each one of those engagements and then gather their sales information and feed it back to the business.”

Shannon Murphy:

Relationships have hostile interests, this is like a war romance movie, I don't know.

Daniel Welling:

Maybe there’ll be a sequel. 

Shannon Murphy:

Pearl Harbor over here. I don't know. Matt, what's your take on this?

Matt Hodkinson:

But, I’d agree. I think just keeping a finger on the pulse of the industry and the target sectors that you're going to be dealing with, is imperative. But, in terms of how to do that, we recommend using some sort of diagnostic, I think, as MSPs, we kind of default to this IT audit, generally there we'll go in and we'll see what the current situation is. And that's obviously going to drive the prescription if you like, there's solutions that you'd best going to help with their challenges. But I think we can go further than that.

Well, first off, don't call it an IT Audit. Everybody does, and it is an old language. So come up with an identity that's going to help you. But it works in two ways, really, because it's giving the prospects a really good sense of where they're at, it's going to inform them, it's going to educate and help them but also he's going to agitate the problem, which is going to work in your favor, if you're then going to present a solution and a proposal to them. But at the same time you're learning about what's going on inside their business, but also inside the sector and inside the heads of your target audience.

“Give the prospects a really good sense of where they're at, it's going to inform them, it's going to educate and help them but also he's going to agitate the problem, which is going to work in your favor, if you're then going to present a solution and a proposal to them.”

Now, yes, that informs your approach, in terms of ongoing differentiation is staying ahead of the game. But it also informs you as to what kind of content is your market craving. So if you are in that mindset of, 

  • What does our next blog need to be? 
  • What does our next video need to say? 
  • What does our next social post need to talk about? 

Then that's the kind of insights that are going to inform your approach and help you to produce more content, thought leadership, and to connect with your audience in a really big way as well.

So it's kind of the same answer, but I think it bears repeating. It's got to be that diagnostic, listening to the market, and having a business as agile enough to recognize that you need to be a living beast, it can't just be, your template, your business, and then three, four years later, it's the same thing. It's got to evolve in certain ways, if you do want to stay ahead.

Shannon Murphy:

Awesome, awesome. I love that. So, sort of wrapping up with what we think our closing thoughts are for the audience, when they're starting to build a strategy around differentiation. What's the first exercise they should take themselves through, because I think this is sort of something that you have to take, if you're not working with professionals, take a moment, sit down at the desk, kind of be alone, pen and pad and start getting some ideas together of how you want to present this different image.

What’s the first exercise our audience should take themselves to get started building their strategy? 

Matt Hodkinson:

Yeah, I think first off, ask yourself really honestly. Have you arrived at the best possible value proposition for your business? Do you have a really deep understanding of your buyers, their needs, the jobs that they have to do day-to-day that they're currently having friction points with. Because they can tell you their challenges, they can tell you the problems that you might be able to help solve, but that requires a certain level of self awareness that your prospects don't always have. 

So you can often experience an earthquake a lot by just using clean questioning, and again, using that diagnostic part. But I don't want to repeat myself. I think one of the things you can do is, yes, we get it drilled into us, we need to have a target buyer persona, we need to understand the triggers and the pains and the ambitions and the goals. The next thing I would do is and this is you know really something actionable, I guess that I would encourage you all to do is - go and take a look at your current language.

Go and take a look at, I mean, there's a great author called Andy bounds. He's over here in the UK and talks about language. And he wrote a book called "The Jelly Effect" a few years ago, he advocates printing off your website. So I know we're going to kill a few trees in the process. So make sure that you're offsetting all of this, but print off your website, take a red highlighter and a blue highlighter. Anytime you're talking about yourself, color it red, anytime you're talking about the customer, their needs and challenges colored in blue. And if there's too much red there, then there's a problem. 

“Print off your website. Anytime you're talking about yourself, color it red, anytime you're talking about the customer, their needs and challenges colored in blue. And if there's too much red, then there's a problem.” 

I think that's a really good kind of actionable thing to do. But on that point of the market and understanding them. We also talk about - 'Are you targeting the right people?' Dan spoke about niching. Yeah, these are actually right, you don't want to niche and then find out in a pandemic that actually now that you're working solely with hospitality and travel businesses that you don't have a business anymore. So it's more about segmentation. It's not about saying that your entire business only works with a small section of society. It's about saying that when we market when we reach out to people is going to be within that particular segment. 

First off, understand that segment is going to be a good proposition for you and there are four kinds of key things to look out for.

  1. Do they have pain? Do they have ‘a’ pain that you can help to solve?
  2. Are they targetable? So could you, for example, go into LinkedIn Advanced Search and just get a filtered list of the people that would be the best possible fit for you based on function, seniority, location, industry, size of business, all of that type of stuff. Are they targetable? Can you reach them in whatever way possible? Do they have money to spend? So, are they holding the purse? Do they have some sort of authority when it comes to budgets on what you have?
  3.  And then lastly, are they in a growing market? And I think sometimes we forget this when we're chasing prospects in a particular sector, because we've got experience or because we think that they would be a good fit for us, but we haven't really considered Are they under pressure within their own industry to sell? What's the knock on effect? And that can have a big influence on how primes they are to become a customer of yours? 

So I would say, actually take a look at your audience, are they the best fit possible? Do you have that value proposition really dialed in, and then take a look at your messaging and try to create a new language, a new vocabulary that gets the attention you deserve?

Shannon Murphy:

Absolutely. Daniel, any final thoughts?

Daniel Welling:

Yet, ditto what Matt said. But, perhaps taking it on to the so - now you're in a sales engagement with the personal people that you've ended up in front of, keep the qualification going. If you're looking at buying a house, it's location, location, location, when you're in a sales process, it's qualify qualify qualify, because things do change from the start of the sales engagement or process to the end. 

So, perhaps the person you've been talking to that you've got great rapport with, and they had money and they had a problem, and they had decision making, perhaps they're about to move roles before the sound is complete. So you've got to keep digging for what's gonna go wrong next, that I need to proactively counter. 

And, the final sales force on this would be about continually trying to get commitment from them for the next stage. So who else is going to be involved in this decision? When are you going to arrange a meeting with that person and ask to talk about it? When am I going to walk you through the detailed proposal? And so on and so forth? So qualify, qualify, qualify! And, commit commit commit! Commitment, commitment, commitment!

Shannon Murphy:

I love getting that upfront contract after every conversation terms of next steps, right? Yep. And Matt, that was spot on regarding potential clients and evaluating your website through your language. I think that was a fantastic exercise super hands on, you want to get out the markers whatnot, go. Go for it. Right.

Matt Hodkinson:

Maybe do it online. Maybe do it on Photoshop and save the tree very nicely. 

Shannon Murphy:

Yeah, ink all that stuff? Yeah. But absolutely, right. I think there's a common theme here across both, which is that we're having conversations where we want to learn as much information as possible about our prospects, right? And take that into a message that really means something to them, and use it, right.

We're talking about how to differentiate yourself. But at the end of the day, you need to kind of almost spin that into anything that's public facing is talking about them. That is something that I counsel people on repeatedly for any marketing materials. If you're talking about yourself too much, you've lost them. But you can reformat things appropriately to lead with what matters to them and be like, ‘Oh, and by the way, we do that.’

Matt Hodkinson:

It's never too late.

Shannon Murphy:

So at this point, we're going to go to Q & A. I will just be giving you guys a little bit of information in terms of what we offer. There we go. 

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And then finally, you might not have heard but I'm telling you now, last week we announced that we had an acquisition of a Belgian company called Goolash, where we can help you now with your license reconciliation and billing. Automating that whole process for you and taking those hours away. So really, our value at Zomentum has always been about a holistic end-to-end platform that allows you to move faster and kind of leave this sales stuff behind. And we're just continuing on that journey. 

Speakers for webinar

Some resources that our guests have put together for you today, you can check out Mr. Welling in a variety of places,,, and msp-navigator. He also put together a great guest blog for us that's on the Zomentum site. And, he walks you through evaluating some of the ‘Managing Your Finances wisely as an MSP owner.’

And then Matt is supplying you a Pow Wow, if you want to sit down and talk with him about your language, get some advice. He has a QR code that you can use. I've gotten mixed results. I couldn't get it to work on my phone, my team could so I've also put the Bitly link here for you. 

So with that, let us get over to our Q and A. 


Question: How do you use threat detection or immunity when you're having a conversation to explain what we do?

Matt Hodkinson:

That's a bit specific and that was an example. Yeah, Carlos. So what I recommend you do, really simple framework we use but you don't need any sort of templates or anything, just draw out four columns. And in the leftmost column, always come up with the white noise, ubiquitous, old language that you would hear anywhere that to describe what you do

And I say if you have an area of specialism like cybersecurity, that would be your well trodden language. And rather than just kind of try and jump to the end and say, here's our new language, it helps to take a step two approach. So what is a better or less frequently used but still highly revenue relevant term that describes cybersecurity.

So in the example, I said that threat detection was an example of that. Still quite widely used, but not quite as ubiquitous and white noise, if you like, as a cybersecurity. Thing, Try and Improve on that, what is an even better term. And an example of that was threat intelligence, lesser used, fewer results on Google and there's only a handful of companies really talking about it. 

And then in that fourth column, you can probably come up with something that is similar. One of my favorite resources is for Go there, find synonyms for the words that you would typically use, and try to find something else. And the combination of the words that you use, and that you find, if you do a phrase search in Google.

And if you find few or no results, and certainly none in your sector or your industry, then you've pretty much arrived at some new language that if you start to use it, it's going to create enough intrigue. And again, it's going to do well to kind of make you un-pigeonhole-able. So that's the ultimate aim of that. So I hope that's useful.

Shannon Murphy:

Yeah, I, I love that. Everyone, if people didn't stay for the q&a, they're gonna be sorry. Because I love when you can give somebody a real exercise, like, just start creating the four columns, do this brainstorm.

So and just a reminder, we are sending out the recording. I had that in the q&a a few times. So that is something we always do for you guys.

Matt Hodkinson:

That's a good sign if you want to watch it twice.

Shannon Murphy:

Yeah, I thank you. We appreciate it. And then also related to copy, right, you're bringing them through this exercise. 

Question: Do you feel it's more important to come through as genuine and personal in your copy and messaging?

Daniel Welling:

Yeah, I mean, I guess we talk a lot about being unique. And one of the key unique elements of everyone's business is the People. So as much as we said it earlier the sort of No, Like and Trust and the old cliche people buy from people. 

If you can inject personality character and granted some people won't like everyone but you know, it's better to be yourself and put yourself out there, And therefore be a little bit vulnerable in doing so, the reward may be that you know, you get that extra connection, that extra reach that you wouldn't have done if you'd have been a little bit more guarded. So you definitely have a little bit of personality.

Matt Hodkinson:

Also, you attract more people that you get on with and have a bit of fun with and enjoy working with. And that's the thing, and I get what you're saying about Dan as well. 

I mean, we were on a call earlier this week with Paul Green who I know, few of the attendees might know on the call. And, he's got a certain vocabulary, I think it's fair to say, and it's not everybody's cup of tea or coffee, but he's going to attract more people who can get him who understand that appreciate it. And, it's a great filter for anybody that you really don't want to we're gonna jar within a certain way. So it's authentic, it should be a given that. I recognize it's not always, but it's a really good way to be.

Shannon Murphy:

Yeah, absolutely. I think people do that due diligence when they're clicking through your About Us, and they're reading about the founder and the story and how this came to be. And I think you can infuse those personal details in there. 

People want to know who they're working with. And the great point is that I think sometimes people wonder, ‘Oh, is this too much?’ I'm like, there's this hesitancy or lack of confidence. They don't want to know all these things. But you're actually going to find your crowd that really resonates with them. And anybody you repel, you probably won't want to work with them anyways.

Matt Hodkinson:

Well, let's face it. I mean, what we're all trying to do is a great way to build a tribe and build a community. We'd love to be able to dig into that, to be able to generate all the business you ever need, whether that's referrers channel partners, whether it's clients themselves or prospects. So we're only going to do that if we're authentic if we connect with people and forget that connection. And yes, it starts with a bit of intrigue and novelty and everything to get into that conversation. But you've got to back it up with your true self.

Shannon Murphy:

Yep. Yeah, absolutely. So we think that is mostly it, that we had in terms of follow-up questions. So I want to take this time to thank everybody for being here, both our fabulous guests who are dropping the knowledge and everybody who stayed on the line with us. Definitely, a great rousing session, high retention on here, even if our crowd is a little quieter in the chat.

But I appreciate you all being here. We will be sending out the recording, as well as we usually put out a transcript blog with some key takeaways. So if you're interested in that, be sure to check back on the Zomentum blog in about a week.

All right. Thank you all. Appreciate that. 

Please feel free to message me on LinkedIn if you have any other ideas for sales and marketing topics that you would like to hear about as well. These are chats that are made with you in mind. So please feel free to use me as a resource so that we can get together some more experts to address the issues that you care about. All right. Thank you, everyone. 

Matt Hodkinson:

Thank you.

Daniel Welling:

Please take care.