Monday, July 30, 2012
Building solid relationships with customers, partners and prospects and being responsive to their needs are critical factors in moving a small IT services business into a firm that’s expanding and growing. Panelists delivered that message here Monday during a meeting of the CompTIA Small Business Owners Community.
“It’s definitely relationships,” said Steve Murphy, IT director for Caltrol, a Las Vegas-based provider of industrial process automation services, when asked about the biggest factor in growing a small IT business. “Who do you deal with and who are your partners? When your customer asks for something, are you able to deliver? This is what helps me build my business.”
When it comes to building customer relationship, “It’s not going to lunch or playing golf,” according to Eric Marcus, owner of Marcus Networking, a Tempe, Ariz. technology and telecom solutions provider.
“Most of them don’t have time to go to lunch or play golf,” Marcus said. “But if you can show them a way to make more money, that’s what they’re looking for.”
Building solid relationships with customers and technology partners can play a big role in helping a small business develop new leads.
“Referrals are probably the most cost-effective way to find new business,” said Frank Picarello, chief operating officer, CMIT Solutions, Inc., and chair of the Small Business Owners Community.
Monday’s session was focused on small IT service companies not operating at scale and looking to grow beyond small.
The biggest challenge for small business owners is figuring out how to grow the business, according to Picarello. He identified three areas that are too often under-utilized by small IT service providers:
- Marketing and sales
- Finance and operations
- Innovation and partnering opportunities
“It is significantly harder to run a small business than a large one,” Picarello said. “In many cases you’re the marketing person, the services person and the delivery person all in one. So if you are doing one thing, you’re not doing something else. And you have to do all these things even if it’s not in your background.”
Steve Thoeny, founder and managing partner of Brook Trout Group, an interactive marketing firm headquartered in Phoenix, told attendees that over 80 percent of small businesses are self-service when it comes to their IT needs. So how does the small IT service provider tap into that market?
“Identify them through their business needs, not their technology issues,” he advised. “Get them thinking about how to perform at a lower cost, with better reliability and higher security – enterprise-level service at a small-business price.”
Thoeny also told small business owners they need to come up with a differentiator.
“What makes you different in the marketplace?” he said. “Help customers understand how to improve their business through technology rather than focusing on technology.