Vertical Strategies and Top Vertical Markets

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Vertical markets are a great way to expand your business. Going after more and more clients no matter their industry is also a great way to expand your business. And doing both at once isn’t a bad approach either.

So how do you figure out what to do? As an MSP professional that is really your call. Rather than telling you what to do, we’ll talk about the value, and the protective value, of being a vertical MSP.

A big reason to go vertical is that you aren’t just selling your expertise in managing and securing general-purpose systems. Instead you can make these systems shine in particular industries, such as finance, public companies and healthcare – all three of which require compliance expertise.

Let me ask a simple question. IF you are selling to a college, and have educational expertise, do you have a better chance of sealing the deal than a general business MSP? Of course you do. You have a massive advantage in getting this new business. In a case such as this, would you rather be a commodity or an expert?

Here’s more good news. Once you are an expert in a vertical (or two or three) you have a much better chance of holding onto this business – holding onto your business. That is the protective value.

What vertical is right for you? There are two main issues when it comes to choosing a vertical; it is up to you to decide which one is more important. One aspect is which verticals offer the best economic opportunities, best growth, and are best suited for MSP services. The other – being clear on where your passion and expertise lie.

Oh, there is a third biggie. Do you have a large portion of clients already in a vertical, and could you provide more consulting and services if you knew the vertical better?

Besides these, look at these factors:

  • What verticals have an abundance of clients in your area?
  • Are there verticals that offer larger profit margins such as health care and finance?
  • What is the state of automation in particular verticals, and can you help solve the business and technical challenges?

What It Takes to Go Vertical

Going vertical means having expertise in that field, which helps you consult with vertical clients and be a trusted advisor. The next step in serving the vertical can be bringing new vertical-specific technologies into your portfolio. In healthcare, it could be patent billing or electronic medical records (EMR). In higher education, it could be distance learning or fundraising. In finance, it could be big data, audit support, or CRM. And the technologies get a lot narrower than these.

Is Technical Specialization a Vertical?

To my mind, technical specialization is not a vertical. I view verticals as being industry- or field-specific. However, technical specialization has some of the same benefits as vertical specialization. Some specializations include security, cloud applications, private or hybrid cloud infrastructure monitoring, Business Continuity (Backup and Restore is too broad to be considered a specialty) Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) and Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS).

Best Vertical Bets

There are many great verticals. Three of the most popular verticals for Kaseya customers are healthcare, education and finance.

Healthcare

Healthcare is a terrific vertical because it is an ever-growing field, with many sub-markets, including hospitals, private practices, nursing care and residential care facilities, home health care and others. One of the biggest opportunities is with HIPAA compliance. Small and medium-size healthcare concerns don’t generally understand the technology needed to be HIPAA compliant and how to manage it if they even had it. With IT automation, tight access control technology, and an in-depth study of HIPAA requirements, you could become a trusted and valued partner to your healthcare clients.

Education

K-12 and Higher Education are both terrific markets for MSPs. The MSP selling point here is to offload the constant IT grunt work that keeps educational IT departments from focusing on innovation. MSPs are well-placed to leverage IT automation and RMM to smoothly manage core IT functions, including help desk, security and access control, patching, software updates, and network monitoring. The vertical aspect comes in when you embrace specific education needs. These can include alumni relations, curriculum systems, CRM, library support and more.

Finance

The MSP’s relationship with finance firms usually starts with IT compliance.  Relevant regulations can vary depending on location and sub-vertical, of course.  But the essentials – discovery of all IT assets, continual monitoring for SOP compliance, tracking and recording of all work, etc. – remain the same.  Even better, the MSP is a finance company’s best friend when a compliance audit comes around. That because careful monitoring and rich real-time reporting that MSPs are often equipped with lets finance companies pass these audits with ease.

App Dev as a Service

If you feel comfortable in the world of programing, you can offer Application Development-as-a-Service. The neat thing is the world of programming and app dev has changed dramatically. For decades there were technologies such as fourth-generation languages that promise you could program without programming. It didn’t really work. Now we have real progress. Visual and model-driven development means that you can develop pretty robust apps without writing a lick of code. You aren’t going to write the next version of Excel, but you can get a lot done with these technologies. This is particularly true for mobile apps where visual and model-driven development really shine.

Another breakthrough is Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS). This is a broad complex field of technology, so we’ll give you the short course. Basically PaaS replaces the entire software and hardware infrastructure you need for software development with a cloud service. This way, developers only worry about developing. Some PaaSes include the visual and model-driven development environments making it easier to develop and then iterate programs. The PaaS can even host the program if you choose.

In the End

In the whether you go vertical or stay horizontal is your decision. MSPs work terribly what hard, and what keeps most of you going is passion. The same is true for verticals. There may be a terrific vertical opportunity in your area, but if you aren’t interested in the field, it is tough to make it work.

How Kaseya Can Help

Kaseya has a full suite of tools to make you a better MSP, whether you are horizontal, vertical, or a bit of both.

Kaseya also has a number of resources to help you learn more about verticals.

In healthcare, check out  “Why Healthcare IT Requires Strong Authentication.”

If you are interested in banking, you may want to read  “Banking IT Systems Management Challenges and Solutions.”

And for those that care about retail, we have “Best Practices in Retail IT Systems Management.”

dougbarney

Doug Barney was the founding editor of Redmond Magazine, Redmond Channel Partner, Redmond Developer News and Virtualization Review. Doug also served as Executive Editor of Network World, Editor in Chief of AmigaWorld, and Editor in Chief of Network Computing.

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