Xchange 2020: Storytelling Can Help MSPs Score The Right Business

Partners should tell their story by identifying their audience, introducing themselves as the guide, and spell out how their plan will transform their customers' businesses, says Mary Stanhope, founder of iMarket2.

Storytelling isn't about making up a message, but clarifying what makes your company stand out and how you can help customers, said Mary Stanhope, founder and principal consultant of iMarket2, a Boston-based firm that helps businesses better tell their stories to win more business.

Stanhope founded her firm two years ago to help MSPs better target the right audience and in turn, solve problems for end users.

"There's a lot of vendor content out there," she said. "What sometimes gets lost is your message, your value, and why are you different from someone else."

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To create a framework for a good story, partners should follow these three steps in order: identify your audience, what they want, and why can't they get it, introduce yourself as the guide with a plan to move forward, and then spell out how your plan will transform the situation, she told partners at Xchange 2020.

Start by identifying the "hero" in the story. Spoiler alert: it's never you, Stanhope said. It's always the customer.

"By starting a story and [having the story] be about them, immediately, they want to hear more," she said.

Keith Nelson, vice president of technology for solution provider Vistem Solutions, Inc. (VSI), said that working on his company's messaging not focusing on the firm itself will be important. Right now, the firm's message is that it automates business processes for customers, Nelson said.

"I like the idea of moving away from a 'Me' or 'Us' message on our collateral and not just saying, 'here are all the things we do and the awards we won.' Instead, focusing on how people can apply what we do to enhance their businesses," Nelson said.

VSI, an Irvine, Calif.-based solution provider, has several large clients, including the International Longshore and Warehouse Union on the West Coast, and also works with hospitality customers. From a sales standpoint, VSI's messaging is clear, but working on its story from a marketing standpoint on the company's website is the next step, Nelson said.

"Clients that deal with us tell us that our message isn't really what we did for them," Nelson said.

The second step in storytelling, said Stanhope, is being the guide. By leading with the hero -- the customer -- it sets the stage for the partner to come in and be the guide.

"Once [the customer] is connected to the story, now you can come in and talk about yourself enabling their success and having a plan to move forward," she said.

Which brings solution providers to the last step; ending by talking about the benefits of the transformation and make a proposal to either talk more or move into workshopping. Have a plan to keep the momentum going and making the end goal a part of the story, Stanhope said.

When it comes to storytelling, many IT professionals are also too close to their own solutions, which doesn’t make communicating about these offerings any easier. Start by boiling down the message if it contains too many buzzwords or technical details, Stanhope said.

"Think about the things [in the message] that are industry specific and then think about a different way to say it," she offered.

Another important part of storytelling is showing and not telling. Use cases, for example, are a great way to show an audience how to use your technology, Stanhope told partners.

Lastly, if your message is too broad because you're trying to sell everything to everyone, narrowing the message will help the audience understand the type of company you are and how working with you will give customers access to something they don't have, Stanhope said.

"You may want to sell here, but where are you selling today that's been successful? Is it within a customer size solution, or managing IT? Come up with that sentence from those pieces, and it won't come out right away," she said. "You can even run it by people in your circle that aren't in the business, like friends and family, because it should be a clear message."