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Pitch Me with upitch: Public Relations & Journalist Pitch Discovery App

September 22, 2015 Comments off

upitchThere’s an app for that. If you want to pitch me a story, you might want to try upitch. The upitch service is an app and a website where you can pitch your stories to journalists who use the app. The app is also for journalists who filter your pitches based on content. The app allows journalists to connect via a chat applet with the pitch posting company. Companies can post their pitches directly to journalists who want to see them and journalists can filter the pitch noise to focus in on what’s relevant to them and their beats. It’s a beautiful thing. I’m just surprised, and sorry, that I didn’t think of it.

Every day, I receive at least two dozen PR pitches from various sources for stories to be posted on ZDNet, The Frugal Networker, Datamation, or other venues that I write for. Most end up in my mail client’s Trash folder. Some intrigue me enough to respond with a, “Please send me the announcement (or whatever) under embargo, but no promises.” A minority actually interest me enough to say, “Hey, let’s schedule a call for this.” It’s a public relations person’s job to pitch stories to journalists in hopes of getting their clients some ink on a website or to get a reviewer to review a product. I get it. I’m sensitive to it. Some products, services, and companies just don’t make the cut for my beats. We all have to live with that.

upitch: How it works

There are pitches that just aren’t right for the products and services that I write about. I don’t mean any offense when I say, “No.” Hopefully the PR person hasn’t only queried me for a potential story.

I sometimes say, “No” because of a poor approach, a bad pitch, a company that just doesn’t resonate with me, or for any number of reasons. I almost always say, “No” to pitches that involve companies that use cheap labor locations. It’s just my personal thing.

From the iTunes upitch app page:

upitch is a self-service public relations app (PR tool) for anyone looking to get media coverage, and a convenient and easy discovery tool for journalists to browse and swipe through story pitches and news announcements (or concise press releases).

Brands/People/Charities/Public Figures

Are you launching a product, company, movie, music single, art exhibit, event or maybe just have news you want press coverage for?

  • Upload concise, formatted story pitches and news announcements through the upitch mobile app or at UPitchApp.com on your desktop or laptop
  • Choose your industry and geographical filters
  • Your pitch will now appear on the smartphone or tablet screen of every journalist who is searching for stories in your industry and geographical location
  • When a journalist swipes right on your pitch you will receive a notification and you and that journalist can now message each other directly via upitch instant messenger.

Journalists/Producers/Bloggers

Are you looking for your next news story idea?

  • Log in and choose your industry and geographical location filters
    Start swiping through concise and easy-to-read pitches that are relevant to what you cover
  • Swipe right on pitches you wish to pursue as stories and make direct contact with the person or brand who uploaded the pitch via upitch instant messenger to coordinate the story or to learn more
  • When you wish to end communication, simply hit “End Chat”

What’s not to love about a service that actually helps people connect with journalists who’ll write about their products and services? This is not an app review, but I have to tell you that I love upitch and I’ll be glad, hence this post, when more companies start using it so I can get some great stories that I choose to pursue.

Yes, it’s frugal. Any app or service that can help me do my job in a faster, more pleasant manor is frugal, because I don’t have to spend valuable time skimming through every random pitch that ends up in my Inbox. And I don’t have overzealous PR folks calling my cell phone number that somehow keeps being placed into the Cision database despite my protest and multiple removals.

The upitch app works for me. I like it. I’m glad that someone created this app and this service to better connect journalists and companies that have stories to tell. It’s not that I don’t love my PR homies; I do. It’s just that, for me, upitch works and it works well.

Disclaimer: This is NOT a paid or sponsored article and I’m in no way associated with upitch either financially or personally.

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Technovator XE: Wireless Device Charging

September 14, 2015 Comments off

Technovator XE ProductI recently had the opportunity to interview Technovator CEO, Ivan Chuba about his new wireless charging technology solution, known as XE. The solution consists of a device case, a charging base station, and an app that handles the connection between the two devices.

This is a transcript of that conversation.

1. Can you tell us a little about you, your team and the company?

I have been actively engaged in programming and electronics for over 17 years, but familiarity with the computer (the legendary ZX Spectrum) and soldering happened early, professionally for more than 10 years. As I remember myself I always like to create something new. My first creations were power supply unit and detector radio receiver, toy car with engines from the tape recorder. First programs were calculator, of course and small games.
I began to observe the development of hardware startups practically with the appearance of crowd funding platform – Kickstarter and Indiegogo. Two years ago I became co-founder and CTO of startup Concepter, one of the most famous products of external flash for smartphones. The idea of creation of new project was appeared a year ago, but I understood that the existing team couldn’t implement new project due to many factors. I gathered a team Technovator who share with me my ideas and ready to new achievements.

2. What motivated your team to develop this technology (Wireless Energy Transfer), how did it all begin?

With possibilities of wireless transmission of electricity I’ve faced 17 years ago, collecting a radio detector receiver. I have often observed how many users often look for a charger cable for smartphones. Moreover, the number of devices increases and all require a power or charger. After this observations – idea of a wireless power transmission creation appeared. A search showed that no existing solutions and technologies.
The first few months of development I have studied materials and different theories and tested features. By the time I realized on how many all is real and what qualification required for engineers who have to bring my assistance. As a result we were looking for engineers who previously addicted to electronics and at least conducted experiments with wireless transmission of electricity and understand the capabilities and solutions. So Roman and Vladimir joined our team Technovator with a good theoretical and practical level in electronics.

3. Who are your competitors and what’s radically new about your solution compared to existing competitors?

There are already companies that work in direction of wireless power transmission, but each team works under own technology and with own specific. I think it’s too early to compare, because they and we do not have finished product. If you compare the prototypes, we have a fundamentally different scheme of work, built on the unique transmitter and receiver.

4. What advantages does your XE product provide to consumers?

Our technology is fully safe for people and all living; the transmitters can be placed in all areas of your home or office, where most of time a user spends with his/her Smartphone. As a result, smartphone is always fully charged, regardless of activity of its use.

5. Is this technology patented?

We constantly improve our technology, changes are inevitable. We have already begun to prepare documents for patents.

6. Please describe the design features and tell us which mobile devices you can use with XE.

Our system consists of two parts: transmitter and receiver. The receiver is an independent module that can be integrated in any device. Firstly, we plan to release case for Iphone 6/6+, and further models. Also we are considering possibilities for integration into the case for other manufacturers.

7. Is this technology safe for consumers health in daily use?

Our technology is fully safe for people, animals, environment and surrounding electronic devices. This technology is originally designed in accordance to requirements of health safety. We have already conducted required tests.

8. Have you received any certificate or confirmation of the safety of this technology?

We are still planning to conduct additional professional researches and tests that would consumers have full confidence in their security. Also we are going to obtain the corresponding certificates.

9. On what distance is possible to charge mobile devices and what is the maximum number of devices can be charged at the same time?

We have reached a distance of 5 meters (15 feet). And we still work on the improvement of efficiency and size reduction, so we do not plan to increase the distance at this moment, but in future, of course. At the same time you can charge up to 2-3 devices.

10. Can you tell us about the actual efficiency and the charging time of the mobile device using the XE system?

Current tests show high efficiency, the obtained figures will be announced later. You can view the calculated indexes in a table below:

iPhone 6/iPhone 6s

iPhone 6 Plus/iPhone 6s Plus

Smartphone battery capacity

1810

mAh

2915

mAh

Average wireless power transfer, max

2.5

W

2.5

W

Average time to full recharge of phone battery by wired charging

1.81

h

2.915

h

Average time to full recharge of phone battery by wireless charging

4

h

6

h

11. How is your startup funded?

Our project is financed by our own resources, but we are going to attract additional funding for our further research and development. Implementation of this project will give great prospects for the electronics industry development.

12. Do you plan to improve the charging efficiency or the distance and what are the prospects of its development ?

We plan to improve our technology, to increase a distance, to reduce the size and maximize efficiency. Today, there are many devices around us that require wireless charging.

13. What’s your opinion on how your technology will affect mobile industry development?

I believe that our technology will influence on final devices, they can be made more compact with small accumulator without connectors.

14. Are you going to expand the scope of this technology in the future? If yes, in what areas?

The potential of technology lies in integration of receiver into devices. As a result, the devices will no longer require power connector leading to size reduction of the devices. You can use this technology in all areas that related to electricity and charging.

 

Get To Know an MSP: Breakthrough Technology Group (BTG)

July 15, 2015 Comments off

Breakthrough Technology Group, Inc.Breakthrough Technology Group, Inc. – BTG
Managed Telecom and IT Services
Morganville, NJ.
(732) 978-4443
sales@btgroupinc.com

CEO – Jeff Kaplan

May 27, 2015 was a red-letter day for Breakthrough Technology Group, Inc. (BTG) in that it had two major announcements for its new partner programs: BTG Partner and BTG Private Cloud Partner. I spoke with CEO Jeff Kaplan about the new partner programs and BTG’s cloud offerings.

Podcast Info: Length: 26:15 minutes. Format: MP3. Rating: G (All audiences).

BTG Partner Program

The new BTG Partner Program opened to consultants, systems integrators, vendors and agents to offer cloud computing and services to enterprise, and midmarket and smaller businesses.

“When you look at the consulting community, there’s a ton of partners out there who don’t have a recurring-revenue stream and who are looking for the right partner, and the right reliability for their customers,” Kaplan said. “Those are relationships we’re looking to build.”

This program really focuses on the consultant community in an attempt to broaden BTG’s reach into smaller companies and to bring recurring revenue to consultants. BTG is also trying to help those consultants and VARs extend their reach and transform their businesses into a more sustainable format by enabling these new partners to leverage cloud services for their customers.

The program includes three levels for participation:

  • Adviser, which qualifies a customer, and initiates a discussion between BTG and the customer;
  • Reseller Billing Only, which becomes BTG’s client on behalf of the customer in terms of billing; and
  • Reseller White Label, in which everything, from the support portal to answering of phones, will be branded as the partner.

For consultants and vendors who want to use BTG’s infrastructure and cloud services as their own infrastructure, BTG offers a so-called “White Label” partnership where BTG becomes an extension of the partner for customer support. This partnership enables small consultancies the opportunity to offer a wider range of services and technologies to their customers with extended support from BTG.

BTG Private Cloud Partner Program

Systems integrators, VARs, and agents are now able to deliver secure cloud solutions, offer Tier-1 data center, applications and services without capital investment. This partnership program lowers the barriers to cloud solutions business for its partners, which otherwise would be unreachable due to the costs associated with infrastructure, networking, and support personnel.

“Analysts and industry experts worldwide agree that private cloud offers a tremendous opportunity for solutions providers to mitigate risk and deliver a secure, efficient computing experience,” said Kaplan. “Our Private Cloud Partner Program will open new doors for businesses of all sizes and markets by creating supplemental revenue streams, taking their companies to unprecedented heights.”

As a managed services provider, BTG puts itself in the background as the support system for its partners.

BTG’s Cloud-based Offerings

A major pain point for companies is how to manage desktop computing. To that end, BTG offers its AppsAnyplace solution that includes fully managed, hosted, custom virtual desktops and applications. The pain points of desktop computing are support costs, patch management, remote user support, consistent desktop environments, standardized applications, malware problems, and data security.

The standard Desktop-as-a-Service takes care of these issues by hosting virtual desktops in a private cloud environment and taking care of all support, security, and maintenance in the background.

BTG’s Private Cloud services leverage a highly redundant and virtualized security, networking, and SAN storage.

Private Cloud features include:

  • 24×7×365 infrastructure and private cloud management
  • Optional management and monitoring through the OS/Application layers
  • Cloud environment to host client applications
  • Optional replication of data and applications
  • 24x7x365 Help Desk
  • Support for dedicated virtual Linux and Windows servers
  • Application and data security
  • Consumption-based pricing

For SaaSAnyplace, BTG supports dedicated hosted Exchange Server, hosted SharePoint, hosted Lync Server, and hosted archiving & eDiscovery. For its DataAnyplace service, BTG uses Citrix ShareFile to enable users to use data on any device and for easy collaboration.

Founded in 2007, Breakthrough Technology Group (BTG) is a managed services provider that supports mid-market enterprise customers, through the use of advanced technology and telecommunications.

Start Your Own MSP Business with Pulseway’s SaaS Enterprise Server

July 14, 2015 Comments off

Pulseway Enterprise ServerPulseway SaaS Enterprise Server
Pulseway
Pricing

Pulseway’s new SaaS Enterprise Server enables small Managed Service Providers to leverage the cloud for system and service monitoring, real-time alert notification, and granular remote management of a diverse array of operating systems and applications. If you’ve ever wanted to go into business for yourself as an MSP, there’s no better time or no better software to get you there.

When you think of managed services or managed services providers (MSPs), you might assume that they’re all staffed by dozens or perhaps hundreds of people working around the clock to support their customers. That might be true for a small percentage of MSPs, but did you know that most MSP businesses have fewer than 50 employees? The MSP space is growing at a double-digit pace and some MSPs report triple-digit growth. And this isn’t a trend that just began with the introduction of cloud technologies, it’s been growing at or near this rate since 2000. Smaller MSPs see higher rates of growth than their larger counterparts do.

From the MSPmentor 501: 2013 Edition:

Generally speaking, the largest MSPs continue to enjoy success, but in many cases annual growth rates for large MSPs have slowed to single-digits. The fastest-growing MSPs are those that successfully blended mobile, hybrid cloud and application-level management. Also, many of the top-rated MSPs are thriving in extremely targeted markets – such as the hedge fund vertical.

If you think that the MSP market is saturated, it isn’t. In fact, it’s far from it with these kinds of reported growth numbers. MSPs that deliver great service at competitive prices have the most success, even in markets or locations that appear overcrowded.

With Pulseway’s SaaS Enterprise Server, not only can you setup monitoring and alert notifications for a variety of systems, services, and applications, but you can also manage those systems from any device, including mobile devices via Pulseway’s secure apps.

For more videos that demonstrate Pulseway’s mobile management, check out the Pulseway YouTube Channel.

With Pulseway’s service, you can monitor and completely manage Mac OS X, Windows, and Linux systems. You have fully control over each operating system within the same interface. And you can monitor and manage desktop or server systems. Heterogeneous environments are no problem for Pulseway.

You can configure custom monitoring, alerting, and management for all your systems either through the easy to use Windows application or by editing the /etc/pulseway/config.xml file on Linux and Mac OS X systems.

On Windows, you can optionally select to manage the following advanced services:

You can also manage notifications for host status, ping of various other hosts, storage, website availability, and SSL certification expiration.

Download the Pulseway agents and get started right away with the standard, free option or you can take the 30-day free trial of the SaaS Enterprise Server.

Pulseway’s friendly interface and quick setup are perfect for consultancies and MSPs who want to offer a wider range of services, remote management, and real-time monitoring for their customers. There’s no lengthy training required, no huge licensing fees, no datacenter equipment maintenance, and no hassles or long-term contracts to prevent you from adding Pulseway to your toolbox.

  • Run command line commands (All operating systems).
  • Run PowerShell commands (Windows).
  • Carry on real-time chat with users.
  • Logoff the current user or lock the desktop.
  • Restart, Shutdown, Power off, Suspend, or Hibernate the system.
  • Enter Maintenance Mode.
  • Perform Windows Updates.
  • Uninstall software.
  • Manage security settings.
  • Kill or restart processes.
  • View Event Logs.
  • View disk space and browse filesystems.

From a technical perspective, Pulseway’s management capability gives you deep insight into your monitored systems. From command line interface, to service management, to filesystem access; you have it all at your fingertips, literally, with Pulseway’s mobile app. You can stop, start, and restart services. You can issue commands at the command line with any operating system. On Windows, you have the added capability of being able to issue PowerShell cmdlets. You can apply Windows Updates to Windows operating systems. You can update Linux systems via the command line. And you can connect via RDP to your Windows systems for a full graphical desktop-level experience.

“It is an invaluable tool to follow up on alerts from our monitoring system while on the road – no need to connect via VPN and log on to the troubled server. The support for Pulseway is awesome.”

Brian Hansen, System Administrator / eBay

Pulseway is a frugal choice for MSPs and consultants because you don’t have to spend a lot of money to setup your own infrastructure, you don’t have to hire a team of support people to monitor and manage it, and you don’t have to worry about some crazy licensing scheme that extracts all of your profits from your business.

Pulseway is enterprise monitoring, alerting, and management for all your computers that allows you to monitor 24x7x365, receive alerts, respond to problems no matter where you are, and from any device.

Get To Know an MSP: Kalleo Technologies

May 5, 2015 Comments off

Kalleo TechnologiesKalleo Technologies
Managed IT Support Services
Paducah, KY
(270) 908-4136
info@kalleo.net
sales@kalleo.net

CEO – Doug Truitt

Kalleo Technologies (Kalleo) CEO, Doug Truitt, and I had a good conversation about his company, its history, the company philosophy, and its services. First, is Kalleo’s interesting location: Paducah, Kentucky. Paducah is a centrally located city that’s surrounded by universities and other industries. Paducah was a strategic location during the American Civil War and remains as a significant railroad hub today.

I can’t really relay Doug’s philosophy better than he can:

After many years of being involved with IT organizations large and small we found that the traditional IT vendor to client relationship was fundamentally flawed. That relationship, typically referred to as a “break-fix” model of IT support, provides little incentive for the IT vendor to prevent clients from experiencing problems.  When something breaks, the client pays the vendor to fix the problem.

We believed – and have subsequently proven – that proactively managing your network always costs less, always improves systems’ uptime, and always improves the IT vendor to client relationship. Kalleo Technologies’ proactive, flat rate approach to IT support ensures our goals and incentives match those of our clients. Because we charge a flat rate for service, we make the same amount of money whether things are running smoothly or whether they are breaking. If things are breaking, our costs go up and our profit goes down, incentivizing us, as your partner, to keep things running smoothly.

Next, is Kalleo’s flat rate philosophy. I really like the Kalleo flat rate approach. It means that you pay a flat rate to engage Kalleo Technologies’ support, but only pay that flat rate whether or not things are broken. For example, you pay a flat rate for January and nothing goes wrong, but in February, there’s major patching to be done or there’s a new virus out that require a lot of hands-on time–you pay the flat rate again for February.

It’s a win-win situation, because regardless of your situation, you know how much you’ll be charged each month for service. And just because you’re being charged without anything being “broken” doesn’t mean that Kalleo isn’t doing anything. They still work in the background, making sure that your systems are updated, patched, and functioning normally.

Peace of mind and proactive maintenance are invaluable to any company. You must realize how important and significant this “behind the scenes” work really is to the smooth operation of your company and its computing assets.

Kalleo’s Support Model:

1. Proactive Maintenance
2. Help Desk Support
3. Rented A/V
4. IT Toolset
5. Vendor Management

Finally, Doug’s team isn’t interested in taking over your IT department, they’re there as staff augmentation, which means that they serve your company on-demand. For example, let’s say that you have a project that requires 20 FTEs working for two weeks–a desktop operating system upgrade for 500 employees. You have four employees in your IT staff. As a managed services provider, Kalleo’s team could come in and execute that migration without disturbing your employees or your full-time staff.

And Kalleo isn’t just a regional provider either, it has customers all around the country including Hawaii. Obviously Kalleo is setup for remote support, so that you don’t have to wait for someone to drive or fly to your location for break/fix, patching, or regular maintenance.

Kalleo Technologies focuses its efforts on three primary verticals:

  • Medical
  • Government
  • Transportation

Kalleo can handle large company IT augmentation and large projects as well as day-to-day support issues.

You can stay connected to Kalleo Technologies through social media at:

Among Kalleo’s extensive list of services, it offers proactive maintenance to ensure your users are up and running all the time, 24 hour monitoring, automated maintenance, remote multi-level Help Desk support, anti-virus support, optimized support tools, and vendor management.

Managed services providers (MSPs), such as Kalleo Technologies, offer companies a leveraged IT sourcing model that is often less expensive, more responsive, and better equipped to handle large projects, special support issues, break/fix, and after hours support than an internal staff is. MSPs employ a variety of IT experts, from help desk personnel up to architect-level professionals, to assist your company in migrations, projects, upgrades, and regular maintenance activities.

IBM_logo

This post was brought to you by IBM for MSPs and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s PivotPoint. Dedicated to providing valuable insight from industry thought leaders, PivotPoint offers expertise to help you develop, differentiate and scale your business.

Go Fish: A Technology Journalist’s Torpedo Term

April 25, 2015 Comments off

gofishIf I tell you to “Go Fish,” you’d better do so and realize that there’s something awry with the product in question. I’m warning you about something and you should use your Google powers to find out what it is that I’m trying to tell you. I rarely resist telling and writing my opinions, which should be refreshing to you as a reader and as someone who wants to be educated on a particular technology, service, or company.

Allow me to explain.

As a technology journalist, product reviewer, technology writer, columnist, podcaster, videocaster, and full-time “in-the-trenches” technologist, I look at hundreds of products, services, and companies every year from one angle or another in the context of testing them for their print worthiness. I draw on my many years (20+) in this business to make those determinations and I do them with great discernment and caution. I consider it my duty as a journalist, as a writer, and as a fellow technologist to give you honest answers and assessments of those products, services, and companies. You might not always agree with me in those assessments, but know that they are honest and they are well thought out on my part.

The reason that I’m posting this is that I’m asked pretty often on Twitter, on Facebook, on LinkedIn, and through email if I’ll evaluate a particular product, service, or company. Most of the time, it’s for potential inclusion in an article or in a review. That’s the way it works. Public Relations professionals, company representatives, and interested parties ask me to look at something because they want attention for it. For those that deserve it, I’m more than happy to help out in that effort. However, there are those that don’t deserve it for one reason or another and I don’t bother with them. I don’t normally ‘pan’ a product, service, or company unless it’s something so vile, so dangerous, or so ridiculous that I have to do so.

yardstickThe Rules:

If you ask me if I like product X, service Y, or company Z, and I do, then I’ll tell you that I do. I also tell you why I do. I’ll probably also suggest that you read my articles about that product that you can easily find using your Google powers.

If you ask me and I simply direct you to an article, then it’s a signal that you should ponder it more extensively. It’s not a no, but it’s also not a yes. It’s rather a “You should look into it further and draw your own conclusions.”

If you ask me and I tell you to “Go Fish,” then brother or sister, you should beware. ‘Go Fish’ doesn’t mean that I’m telling you to go jump in the lake, but it does mean that I’m telling you that either I’ve looked and decided not to touch or I’ve looked and am a hater. In either case, you should proceed with caution. You should use your Google powers and search for “Ken Hess Product X” without the quotation marks, where ‘Product X’ is the product, service, or company in question.

Endorsements and Reviews

Just so you know, I’ll never endorse a product that I don’t like. If I like a product and would recommend it to a friend or colleague, then I’ll endorse it. That goes for reviews as well. If I review a product and give it a great review, it’s because I genuinely like the product. I recommend most of the products I’ve reviewed to other people. For example, my wife’s boss was looking for a cover for her iPad mini. I reviewed the Dux case by STM Bags back in January 2015. When she asked, my wife and I recommended this case to her. She promptly bought it and loves it. See how that works?

pet_rockNow, if she had read the review first and purchased the case based on my review of 10/10, and been unhappy because I didn’t give an honest review, that would ruin my credibility with her and with anyone else who read it and bought it. However, we loved the case. My wife uses it on her iPad and won’t ever use anything else (probably).

This is also why it takes me longer than most people to do reviews. I use the product. I don’t just open a box and mess with it for a few minutes. I put the product or service through its paces. I’m not an ‘unboxer.’ When I tell you that a product is good, great, or awesome, you can believe that my experience was just that. As always though, your mileage may vary, but I do my best to give you an honest look.

I love cool technology. I love great products. I get genuinely excited about products, services, and companies. For example, I’ve written several times about a product and company called 2X. It’s an incredible product that’s easy and fun to use. Parallels (another company I’m really excited about) bought it.

I write about my experiences with products and services. I actually use the products that I review. If I wouldn’t use them or if they don’t live up to the marketing hype, I don’t review them. For example, a company sent me a product for review and I was super excited about it and couldn’t wait to show my son. When he came over the next day, I brought it out to show him and during my demonstration, part of the product broke. He tried to fix it. I tried to fix it. I told the company about it and they offered to replace it, but I said no. I just wanted them to know that it had broken and it shouldn’t have. I didn’t abuse it; it just wasn’t made well. I didn’t post the review. It was a $99 item that didn’t last 24 hours under normal use.

torpedoThe Bottom Line

I write about technology. If I see a technology that I like, I write about it. I don’t have to be prompted, prodded, or coerced in any sort of way. I don’t write about everything I see. Some things I prefer not to mention because I don’t like to give bad reviews. I write about technology that is innovative, creative, important, intriguing, disruptive, or a combination of those. If I haven’t written about it, either I haven’t looked at it or I have and I’ve decided against writing about it.

You can ask me (please do) if I’ve seen something or taken a look at a product. If I have and I like it, you’ll know it. If I’ve looked and decided not to touch it, for whatever reason, please heed my advice and go fish.

@kenhess

MSPs, How Do You Get The Word Out?

April 19, 2015 Comments off

Get the Word Out!At the recent (March 26 and 27, 2015) MSPWorld keynote, Charles Weaver, CEO of MSPAlliance (The International Association of Cloud and Managed Service Providers, established 2000), discussed how alliance members should beef up their marketing efforts. And if the CEO of the MSPAlliance recognizes that there’s a gap, there’s clearly a gap in getting the word out to potential customers about their services. Traditionally marketing to potential customers meant direct mail, targeted campaigns, cold calling, email distribution lists, billboard ads, referrals, magazine ads, and online ads; but MSPs have found that generally speaking most of these methods are ineffectual. Historically MSPs have mostly relied on word-of-mouth referrals to bring new customers into the fold.

What does work for MSPs in getting the word out about their services?

Of the many different marketing strategies, referrals, blogs, email marketing, Requests for Proposals (RFPs), and cross selling offer the best returns to MSPs. Although referrals are very good in converting connections into sales, the number of them is very low. For an MSP to be successful, it has to launch a multi-front marketing campaign.

Referrals

Referrals from current customers seems to be the number one method of attracting new business for MSPs. The reason that MSPs hold referrals in such high regard is that this type of business prospecting has a high rate of return and has a very low cost to the MSP in terms of financial outlay and time required for the sales process.

Making a referral network work is a fairly easy task. Ask your customers if they could refer your services to at least one company in their customer base or within their sphere of influence. As your network grows through referrals, continue to ask for referrals from each new customer.

However effective, this type of organic growth is slow and requires some relationship nurturing to assist and to fuel the process.

Blogs

Blogs, especially guest posts in a corporate blog by customers, are effective in increasing customer base. Potential customers can read about how other companies have solved similar problems using your services and expertise. That gives the reader an immediate connection to your business and your solutions that can help them.

Sphere of Influence – a business network where companies or their officers or principals have some expressed or implied influence over others because of mutual trust, a working relationship, a partnership, or out of respect between the parties.

What you don’t want a blog to be is a pure sales pitch or a marketing tool. You want to be sure to inform and educate your reader about how your services have increased sales, streamlined processes, made it easier to buy, increased customer service, or boosted profits.

Make your blog entries about the customer and not about you. Provide real data and real customer testimonials where possible. Numbers speak louder than marketing fluff. Keep posts concise by telling a compelling story in 750 words or fewer. Post new blog entry URLs to all social media outlets to gain a diverse readership.

Email Marketing

Email distribution lists, whether created from correspondences or acquired by rental from a list broker are often a good source of prospective customers. The return rate is typically not what one would expect from such a contemporary medium. The rate of conversion is even lower. Expected rates of return are in the single digits and conversion rates are in the single digits of those returns.

The upside to email marketing is that it’s inexpensive, even if you rent or buy lists. It’s also an excellent method of getting your name in front of a lot of business influencers whether or not they buy anything from you. It often takes several iterations of a message to receive one positive return.

Rather than creating generic email messages touting your products, it’s often more effective to create a newsletter and distribute it via those lists. Newsletters aren’t seen as spam and potential customers read them with enthusiasm. To make your newsletters a welcome Inbox addition, include industry news, links to your blog entries, and information about your company and its services. Don’t make it to “salesy.” You want people to see it as having value and not just as an opportunity to deliver unwanted pitches for your services.

Optionally you can setup an opt-in/opt-out mailing list for your customers or website visitors.

Requests for Proposals

Requests for Proposals (RFPs) can be used to acquire new business by entering into competitive bid situations. RFPs often require some moderate amount of effort to create a sale because of the bidding process and submission of detailed information about your company, its leadership, its capabilities, delivery times, Service Level Agreements, and related information.

Sometimes the bidding process is lengthy (months), but the dollar amounts are also higher for these types of agreements.

Cross Selling

Cross selling is one of the most effective methods of gaining new business for MSPs. It involves selling additional services to existing customers or entering into cross promotional agreements with other vendors. Cross selling is a low cost marketing method because you’re selling to a customer who’s already bought into your services. Return on investment is very high.

Cross selling deepens the vendor-customer relationship and builds loyalty for both parties.

Social Media

Although relatively new to the marketing scene, social media selling has become one of the hottest new marketing strategies for all businesses. MSPs can ride this wave by engaging its current and its potential customers in conversations via social media. Feedback, ratings, and testimonials are all very powerful drivers of new business.

Tweet blog post URLs, post to your Facebook page often, ask for guest posts on your blog and Facebook page, engage your customers via LinkedIn, post your blog URLs to LinkedIn, and to all LinkedIn groups of which you’re a member. You have to use social media to your advantage. Check in when you’re out to lunch with a customer and tag him or her on Facebook to let everyone know that you’re entertaining a customer.

Start a conversation on Twitter with your customers. The easiest way to start a conversation is to ask a question. Gain followers by using relevant hashtags and posting often to all of your social media sites. Follow all of your customers and their customers. Follow influencers, thought leaders, and technology journalists.

Media

Use media connections and technology journalists to your advantage by scheduling interviews to be posted on their outlet sites. Use social media to promote those posts once their published. Public Relations and brand marketing firms can help you connect with the correct people for your business.

Upstream Partnerships

Your upstream partners can also send a steady flow of traffic to your site and to your attention. Your upstream partner should give you qualified leads that will help expand and extend your business. A good partner will offer you training, significant hardware and software discounts, marketing assistance, and some visibility as to who your customer base is. Leverage your partner’s resources to grow your business. Remember that a partnership works in both directions. The more you engage your partner, the more your partner will engage you and your business.

If you’re an MSP that offers top notch services to your customers, you need to get the word out. First, start in your network by asking for those referrals and then expand by putting some simple, time-tested marketing techniques to work for you. You can continue to grow your business year over year by applying marketing pressure in the right places. And don’t forget to engage your upstream partner to help with your growth because it benefits both of you.

IBM_logo

This post was brought to you by IBM for MSPs and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM’s PivotPoint. Dedicated to providing valuable insight from industry thought leaders, PivotPoint offers expertise to help you develop, differentiate and scale your business.

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