Now that you’re back from the holiday season, it’s important to take a breath before you dive into your 2017 to-do list. Take some time to look back on what worked and what didn’t work last year then, using that insight, develop a 2017 strategic plan or blueprint.
Of course, you should be doing this type of reflection throughout the year (say on a quarterly basis). But it’s easy to let urgent tasks crowd out the equally critical tasks that don’t call out for your attention so insistently.
If you find yourself starting 2017 without a strategic plan, here’s a quick-and-dirty checklist to get you started.
- Review Tickets
Analyze your service tickets over the last year to identify items such as:
- Most frequent support requests
- Most time-consuming support requests
- Percentage of tickets reported by clients versus by automatic alerts
- Percentage of support tickets by client, especially
- Identify the clients with the highest ratio of tickets per user/device and the lowest
- Figure out the “why” behind the stats
There might be a way to automate (or even prevent) the most frequent or most time-consuming support questions. Can a better RMM solution enable your staff to deal with service tickets more easily or do you need to make some changes to your current one?
Maybe too much of your staff’s time is spent supporting out-of-warranty hardware or other non-standard hardware deployments. Think about how you can better use your client onboarding processes to identify and resolve these types of issues that clog up your service desk.
Maybe there are a small number of clients who take up most of your staff’s time, especially compared to the revenue and profit they produce. If this is the case, you need to make some hard decisions about those clients (or worse yes – that one client). If the issues are fixable, take the time to address them with the client now to save your staff hard times throughout the year. Perhaps you just need to restructure their service packages to ensure that you are being adequately compensated for the extra time these clients take. In the worst cases, you may need to consider firing clients.
- Win / Loss Analysis
Review your wins and losses this year, looking for any trends or commonalities – especially if they surprise you. Are you creating a vertical niche without even noticing? Are you losing business because you’re not offering a particular service? Are you getting more referrals than you did the prior year?
Are clients increasingly asking for small, discrete services that you could package as a new complete service offering? One hot area is a more complete security offering. Often, an MSP already offers component services (backup/DR, AV/AM, patch management, etc.) but there could be more value to the MSP if the component services are packaged and marketed as comprehensive layered security offering.
- Sales Achievements
Beyond analyzing individual wins and losses, take time to review your overall sales numbers. First of all, are you meeting your sales goals? If not, you need to stop whatever you’re doing and figure out why not. Does your service offering not match the current needs of your target prospects? Are you not investing enough in regular marketing campaigns but overly relying on word-of-mouth recommendations?
Even if you’re meeting your sales targets, make sure you’re hitting all your other metrics, such as revenue margins, revenue per tech, gross margin per tech, etc. This is the time of year to identify issues and make a plan to fix them in 2017.
Last but not least, evaluate your sales processes. You’ve already done a Win/Loss analysis and reviewed your overall sales metrics. However, take a look at your sales process – especially the sales milestones. How many good prospects go into the funnel but never get through? Again, look for overall trends (both good and bad) to help you improve processes in 2017. Maybe it’s time to get a dedicated sales manager in-house to ensure that your investments in marketing and sales staff and processes are fully realized.
Take a hard look at your sales compensation plans. Do they align with your overall business goals in terms of where you see your future revenue growth and best margins coming from? For example, make sure you’re still not highly compensating sales people for hardware and professional services sales when you want them to focus their efforts on the higher margin managed and cloud revenue streams.
- Marketing Campaigns
Look at your current marketing campaigns and figure out what’s been working and what hasn’t. Even good, effective marketing needs to be reviewed on a regular basis to make sure it reflects your most current messaging and offerings. So, take the time now to identify pay-per-click ads that need to be refreshed; eBooks that are out of date; customer referral programs that could be improved with a few tweaks.
Just as importantly, look at the mix of marketing programs you use and see if you are missing something. Are there regional business events you should be attending to network with local SMB owners? Have you not yet created any email promotional campaigns? Not everything works for every MSP, but you should test a variety of tactics to see what works best for you.
This is also the time to adjust your marketing budget to invest more in what’s been working and pull back from marketing tactics that are no longer bringing in good prospects. However, the right word is ‘balance.’ You don’t want to have all your marketing eggs in just one basket, even if it is a high-performing one.
Take the time to review your technology systems, including but not limited to your RMM and PSA solutions. Is your staff using the systems as effectively as possible? If not, is that the fault of your staff, your systems or you? The answer to that question will tell you what you need to improve.
If it’s your staff, maybe you need to start the year with more training. Or perhaps there are capabilities in the systems (such as automation and policy-based management) that your team isn’t yet taking advantage of. In this case, you need to make sure that you and your Services Director carve out time for technicians to develop and document policies and then embed them into your IT systems. This upfront effort can free up lots of time and resources for your staff to make even further improvements throughout the year.
Sometimes you’ve been using certain systems successfully for a long time – but it’s time to recognize they have reached the end of their usefulness to your business. Some RMM systems just don’t easily scale after a few hundred endpoints. The sooner you recognize the limitations of your current systems, the sooner you can create a plan to evaluate and implement the right IT systems to support your business goals in 2017.
How do you know if the problem is you? That’s easy. It’s when you analyze something on paper, see what the issue is, and continue to say ‘yeah, but…’ As I mentioned last month, some MSP owners have been convinced that switching PSA systems is a Herculean task, despite all the cost and time savings a new solution might deliver. Sometimes, you need to get out of your own way!
- People and Processes
Last but not least, take a sharp eye to your people and internal processes. While it’s important to stay on top of employee performance throughout the year, this particular review should be more about the overall organization of your staff versus how individual employees are doing.
Do you have sufficient staff for each major function? Do you have the right skills sets on board for both your current business and the one you hope to be running at the end of 2017? Sometimes through day-to-day attrition and decision-making, you might find that you have too few dedicated sales staff versus what you need to meet your growth plans. Perhaps you are selling more security or cloud application support – but don’t have the rights skills in your service delivery team.
Equally important is evaluating your processes. These can be as complex as your client onboarding processes to as focused as your time accounting and invoicing procedures. Both can have a huge impact on how your organization meets – or doesn’t meet – your business KPIs.
I know that the beginning of a new year can seem like the beginning of a race – and the starting pistol just went off. However, if you don’t take the time to go through this Strategic Plan checklist, then you could be like the famous hare in Aesop’s fable – generating lots of activity and lots of noise, but at the end of the day, not reaching your ultimate goals.
Want more insight on strategic planning, setting business goals, and hitting the right metrics? Download your free copy of A Winning Hand: 21 Cards to Play for Total MSP Success.