From solution providers to marketing executives, all are in agreement on one thing: Marketing is not the channel's strongest point, but it should be.
Just because a business provides the highest quality technical product or services doesn't guarantee them success, solution providers and marketers told CRN. However, a good marketing campaign can set an MSP apart in an increasingly competitive and congested marketplace, they agreed.
"If you look at the channel, that's why most of the channel never breaks the million-dollar mark," Robin Robins, author of the Technology Marketing Toolkit and an IT industry marketing expert, told CRN. "They don't know how to market, No. 1. They can't get out of the tech world; they don't know how to make that leap from the tech who does the work to the CEO who runs the company."
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What it all comes down to, solution providers said, is that marketing isn't necessarily in the same skill set, or mind set, of the often technically oriented channel.
"What you have is an inherent difference between the way people approach things. You can be technically proficient but lack the skill set to effectively market your business," said Jeanne Hopkins, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Continuum.
Marketing is an area of business that smaller resellers, in particular have "historically struggled with," said Jamie Ferullo, sales director of the SMB business unit at Ingram Micro. The cloud has enhanced this change, Ferullo said, because it is mostly a marketing-driven sale.
The problem is that there isn't always a very organized approach to getting more customers, said Dima Kumets, product manager at OpenDNS. Kumets said that he has seen a variety of sources for MSP client growth, from referrals to marketing. He said he knows some businesses that are very connected in the community so referrals work well for them, but more often than not, he said, marketing comes into play.
However, Robins said that can't work forever. The bottom line is that in an increasingly competitive marketplace, MSPs need to learn to distinguish themselves through marketing and form a more concrete business-growth strategy, Robins said.
The key to getting effective marketing, Robins said, is to know your business and know your client, which means knowing exactly what the client wants and how the MSP can provide that to them.
"If they don't, they're forever going to be in these competitive situations working for crumbs," Robins said.
NEXT: What Can MSPs Do About It?