If you’re in a leadership role at a managed service provider (MSP) and go to IT conferences to stay on top of platform changes and network with peers, you’re likely already sold on the value of partnering, at least to some degree.

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Invest in Relationship Building

As valuable as certain IT conferences can be, only a relatively small percentage of MSPs have the resources to attend several out-of-town live events like this each year. This is part of why so many programs and organizations try tackling this fragmentation with road shows, like your favorite band going on tour.

The good news, however, is that there are a number of very powerful grassroots MSP partnering strategies that you can do for next to nothing, even if you’re a sole proprietor.

With this right mindset, an entire smorgasbord of partnering opportunities opens up to those managed service providers that (a) don’t think the entire world is out to get them (there are some, but it’s certainly not the majority), and (b) genuinely want to build mutually beneficial relationships with like-minded businesses.

Think of it like building your own IT channel partner program, which can be started with even a modest marketing budget. (Shhh…don’t tell IT channel managers!)

A question like this popped up on LinkedIn a while back, wondering, “What are the different ways in which managed services providers (MSPs) can partner?” Since my answer was selected as “Best Answer,” I thought our blog readers could benefit from this same advice.

For partnerships with other MSPs to be effective and productive for the duration, it’s critical that the sum of each party’s strengths is much greater than what each could accomplish separately.

Focus On Non-Competitive MSP Partnerships

 If both managed service providers are pursuing the same market with the same or very similar services, where's the added value in the partnership? There isn't. Both parties just end up paranoid.

Seek out other managed service providers that don't directly compete with your company.

And if an MSP’s website can’t immediately tell you its niche and value prop, move on. When a managed service provider lacks clarity about its competencies, it cannot possibly be a good partner.

Look for Similar-Sized Partners

While major IT channel programs try to convince MSPs that joining a partner program means that your company is “partnering” with that vendor, let’s be realistic.

Consider Microsoft’s 600,000+ worldwide partners. Can they really all be on equal footing with a Fortune 1000 worldwide powerhouse? Companies like Dell, Intel, Yahoo!, or Ingram Micro could legitimately “partner” with Microsoft.

So when you seek out MSP partners, look for similarly-sized companies. For example, if your company has 10 employees, look to MSPs to partner with that have perhaps anywhere from 5 to 50 employees, not 50,000+ employees.

Add Some (or All) of These 12 Steps to Your MSP Partnering Marketing Plan

So now that you know the big criteria to focus on when seeking out other managed service providers to partner with, what kinds of partnering campaigns should filter down to your marketing plans? Consider adding some or all of these tactics to your campaigns:

  1. Trade guest blog posts.

  2. Make regular guest appearances on each MSP’s podcast or vidcast.

  3. Jointly sponsor a seminar or webinar.

  4. Share a trade show booth.

  5. Barter newsletter or e-mail newsletter sponsorships with each other.

  6. Plan a shared direct mail campaign or solo e-mail blast.

  7. List the other MSP in the partners or affiliations sections of your website.

  8. Add their blog to your company’s blogroll.

  9. Invite their owner to join your advisory council.

  10. Co-author a whitepaper that you both market.

  11. List the other managed services provider as a sponsor on an existing related whitepaper.

  12. Introduce all of your partners to each other informally or by hosting an event. (Note: Even sole proprietors can handle this. Don’t let culinary perfectionism hold you back. Even the smallest MSPs can swing the bill for a few pizzas or a few dozen bagels.)

And just as promised in this post, by combining several of these tactics, you can build your own IT channel partner program for a very modest budget…pretty much, next to nothing! (as the expression says, for peanuts :-)

Also, it kind of goes without saying: You need to keep track of which of these 12 tactics work best for your company and your MSP partners, so you can repeat and double-down on the successes, while paring back on the underperforming efforts.

Expand Your MSP Partnering Program with Non-MSPs 

 While the person who originally asked this question on LinkedIn was honing in on managed service providers partnering with each other, there are a lot of other categories of potential partners that should not be overlooked. Why? Because these potential partners already have pre-existing relationships with the kinds of small business clients that MSPs desperately crave.

So who else should be on your radar for pursuing many of the same, or similar, 12 above tactics?

Trusted technology advisors, including:

  • Cloud Computing Consultants

  • Computer Repair Businesses

  • Direct Market Resellers (DMRs)

  • Network Integrators

  • Software Developers

  • System Builders

  • Trainers

  • Value Added Resellers (VARs)

  • Video Producers

  • Website Designers

Trusted business advisors, including:

What’s your favorite partnering option for managed service providers? What do you think is the most overlooked and underrated? Please share your thoughts in the Comments box below. 

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