IT Channel Insider - March 2021


Why Rob Rae Is Looking Out For You Page 4

Here’s What Channel Events Will (Most Likely) Look Like In 2021 Page 3

Branding As A Secret Lead-Generation Engine Page 6

A Big Red Media Production

Letter From the Editor

Upcoming Channel Events

Producers Club Meetings

When: Q1 - Feb. 3–6, 2021 Q2 - July 15–17, 2021 Q3 - Oct. 7–9, 2021 Where: Cool Springs Marriott, Franklin, TN

Big Red Rodeo - IT Sales And Marketing Boot Camp

W elcome to the inaugural edition of our brand- new monthly “news magazine” which we’ve decided to call IT Channel Insider Magazine. My hope and desire for this publication is to fill a void that I feel is missing in the IT/MSP Channel — a magazine specifically for channel companies working with the MSP and IT Services channel. We’ll be providing strategies for succeeding in the channel, profiles of some of the top performers in the market today, and a calendar of important upcoming channel events, along with overall education on what we’re hearing in the channel. Featured in this first edition is a fascinating profile of my good friend and colleague in the MSP channel, Rob Rae. From his days at Level Platforms to his current position with Datto, Rob has always been the #1 top supporter of everything that we do. As you’ll read in the article, it’s not only because he loves us so dearly (although I hope that’s the case), it’s also because of the ROI he’s able to get in working together strategically with us at Technology Marketing Toolkit (and now also at Big Red Media). As a 17-year veteran of this industry (7 years as an award- winning MSP in California and 10 years working with Robin Robins in growing the largest MSP peer group in the industry here at Technology Marketing Toolkit), I welcome your feedback on both this publication and on everything we do here at Technology Marketing Toolkit and Big Red Media. You always have an open line to me directly at This magazine is about you and your success in navigating the channel. I hope you enjoy it!

When: May 11–14, 2021 Where: Rosen Shingle Creek, Orlando, FL

Fall IT Sales And Marketing Roadshow

When & Where: Sept. 8–9, 2021 | Washington, DC

Sept. 28–29, 2021| Dallas, TX Oct. 21–22, 2021| Newark, NJ Oct. 28–29, 2021| Chicago, IL Nov. 2–3, 2021| Las Vegas, NV Nov. 17–18, 2021| LIVE Virtual Roadshow!

Jeff Johnson Executive Director, Big Red Media

For a complete list of channel events, visit


Big Red Media | A Robin Robins Company

Here’s What Channel Events Will (Most Likely) Look Like In 2021

3. 100% virtual “stops” in a series of events (you’ll see this during our fall 2021 IT Marketing Roadshow tour). 4. “Traditional” 100% in-person chan- nel events: Expect lower attendance this year and — depending on who’s planning the event — less engage- ment with decision-makers. Beginning in fall 2021, “hybrid” events will be the “new normal” in the MSP world, so start preparing for that. To capitalize on the full value of events, you need to start planning for this reality now. Ask your team: (1) How will we staff the virtual and in-person events simulta- neously? (2) How will our booth strate- gies differ in-person versus online? Want to be part of the biggest true-hybrid event in the channel? Contact us today to discuss this May’s IT Sales and Marketing Boot Camp with an expected attendance of over 750 MSPs live in-person and over 2,000 virtual attendees participating simultaneously!

the convenience of the online experi- ence now that they’re used to the idea. Virtual events are also traditionally less expensive to sponsor, save travel time, and allow you to engage with deci- sion-makers who normally wouldn’t get sent to in-person gatherings: technical staff, business partners, and other key influencers to buying decisions. With an online component to an event, you get access to these key influencers in the buying process whom you never had access to before. Through June 2021, you can expect al- most all non-Technology Marketing Tool- kit events to be 100% virtual. After that, industry events will begin transitioning into a “hybrid” model, and you’ll start to see events take one of four shapes. 1. 100% virtual events. 2. Hybrid live in-person + virtual events. This is what our mid-May IT Sales and Marketing Boot Camp event will be. (See for details.)

Most channel companies are itching to get back to in-person events this year. Others have already written off 2021 and don’t plan to do in-person events at all. Whichever side you fall on, here’s an insider’s view on what MSP events will actually look like in 2021 so you can plan accordingly. In-person events WILL come back in 2021. Throughout most of 2020, Technology Marketing Toolkit and Big Red Media were just about the only companies in the channel doing any in-person events (nine in total). Yes, they had lower attendance compared to previous years (~60% attendance), but there were definitely some MSPs that we couldn’t keep away. Moving forward to live events in 2021 and beyond, any event worth anything is going to have a virtual, hybrid approach. It’s important to come to terms with this now because it may still be true long after we close the books on COVID-19. The fact is that many MSPs will gladly trade the benefits of traditional in-person attendance for


IT Channel Rock Star Profile

The Strategist Why Datto’s Rob Rae Is Looking Out for Al l of Us T here’s no talking with Rob Rae without his enthusiasm for what he does becoming on the channel right now.” Some of that, he says, is due to headlines. “But it’s also the result of two decades of exponential growth.”

The words “channel” and “MSP” are “close to being household words,” Rob shares. Most of all, though, attention equals vulnerability — to both bad actors and bad press. But what channel vendors are really curious about, at the end of the day, is how things are going to change in the coming year after a highly-turbulent 2020. Rob is in a unique position here because unlike many companies, Datto didn’t slow down as much as it might have. “We looked at the landscape,” he says. “And it was grim! But the more we thought about it and leaned into the things we knew were a given, the clearer the picture got.” The biggest “given”? “Hybrid is the name of the game from here on out, from now until eternity,” Rob laughs. “If you’re selling at a channel event, you’re going to need a strategy for virtual as well as in-person. It’s just not optional anymore.” Rob’s coming at this from the events side of the house as well as the vendor side. At the end of last year, Datto threw their massively successful MSP Tech- nology Day event on our very own BigRedVirtual platform, while they were still coasting on the high of a very successful IPO. Or, as Rob puts it, “It was a busy few months!” And it put into stark relief many of the lessons from 2020. Many vendors had a chance to cut their

evident. But the way he defines “what he does” goes way be- yond his official job title as Se- nior Vice President of Business Development at Datto. It’s clear that he has an eye on the health of the channel as a whole, having watched it grow from his early days with Compaq and then with Level Platforms. “What I really want is to build trust,” Rob says. “When we all trust each other, we all benefit.” It’s work that the pandemic has made difficult because, according to Rob, “Trust is built by looking someone in the eyes.” But when asked what he’s going to do to continue that work, he doesn’t hesitate. “Online or in person, I’m going to do what I always do: Expose wounds on stage.” It’s a dramatic image, but an accurate one. Anybody who’s seen Rob’s personal blend of honesty, vulnerability, and energy come together on stage knows he doesn’t hesitate to point out issues that affect the whole channel or to offer the passion needed to overcome those challenges. “When executive leadership puts itself out there and encourages the channel to come together and solve community problems, we all benefit.” And that’s good because, as Rob points out, “There are a lot of eyes


Big Red Media | A Robin Robins Company

channel) unwinds, and there you’d be surprised. It may seem like an enigma that the guy who jumps on stage with- out qualms and whose adventurous ca- reer is an open book is, in fact, so private about his home life. But in this way, Rob Rae is a true introvert. He’s also a chicken keeper — the one hobby he opens up about — and has nev- er lost a bird to predators in five years of doing it, a feat any farmer would love to boast about. But in many ways, Rob’s home is the channel itself. “I love what I do, and I love this industry. And I’m very opti- mistic about the future of our space. I feel like we’ve grown up together after experiencing growth that nobody was forecasting.” Rob wants the best for everyone, just as siblings want the best for each other even as they compete. “It really is like a family. When you see people leave, they often come back. If you ask them why, they’ll say that they missed the close ties and the family aspect of our space.” “I’m very optimistic about the future of that space,” Rob says. “There’s still so much room for this family to grow.”

the pandemic — and they did so in a safe manner. That’s huge.” But the game-changer is TMT’s Big Red Virtu- al Software, which allows for secure, channel-focused events of all sizes. “There hasn’t really been anything like this platform before,” Rob tells us. “It enabled us to do things with our MSP Technology Day that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise, even though it’s stuff that channel vendors expect from in-person events.” And that’s something else he wants us all to remember: In-person is coming back, probably sooner than we think. For that, his playbook strategy is to hit it hard with a dedicated events team. “They aren’t salespeople or marketing directors who usually sit in an office behind a computer. Their job is events, and they keep what they hunt. We get rid of the chairs and tables and engage with everyone.” And the sponsorship spots and other back-end planning make sure their brand appears often and in different places. It’s been a winning formula for Rob and Datto, and others are catching on. The Keeper of the Channel (and His Chickens) You might ask how a man with this much passion for his work (and the

teeth on virtual events last year, which will benefit them in the year to come. But in order to really take advantage of virtual events, a vendor is going to have to be a strong strategist — something Rob already excels at. The Trade Show Tactician Rob will tell you that he “only got on stage when [his] boss decided he wasn’t gonna deal with one more heckler, ever,” but there is nothing accidental about the way he works an event or trade show. “I’d always watched what worked for others and what didn’t,” he says. “Why was that vendor everywhere this weekend? How did this strategy succeed or fail? Over time, I developed a trade show playbook.” Central to that playbook is taking events seriously. The fact that he always gets Datto (and every other company he’s been with) to invest in Robin Robins’ top sponsorship spots is actually a back-end strategy: “Robin runs national events. That investment maximizes exposure and guarantees we don’t go home from any show with anything left in the bag.” It’s an investment that pays dividends every year, Rob says, but never more than in the past 12 months. “First, TMT is the only company that managed to throw serious in-person events during

Rob Rae, presenting on the main stage at the 2018 IT Sales And Marketing Boot Camp in Nashville


Why Branding Is So Important (And How to Use Your Branding Dollars as a Secret Lead-Generation Engine on the Cheap!)

L et’s debunk a popular myth: Having a splashy logo and tagline is not good branding. And without good branding — which is how your company is recognized —money spent on trade show booths, webinar appearances, and other mar- keting goes to waste. The IT channel is a tightknit commu- nity. Nobody is going to approach, never mind work with, a company they don’t know. It’s too risky! And in the crowd- ed MSP market, you can’t afford to waste ANY marketing spend.

The landing page is where you need to be super clear about what you want the lead to do, which means having a similarly clear strategy on your end. A strong “call to action” with a juicy offer is always better than a “learn more …” soft sell. You also need to be tracking . In 2021, there is no excuse to not track views, ad clicks, and leads. This data is literally money, telling you what’s working and where you’re just wasting advertising dollars. The last secret for today is to diversi- fy your media. You need to think about offline marketing as well as online solu- tions. Take TMT for example: We market via digital ads, social media, and email, but we also use print advertising. And as you know, event marketing — the oldest kind in the book — is also a huge part of what we do. If you want more, we didn’t just pull these branding secrets out of thin air. We’re experts at building brands and even offer branding packages, starting as low as $1,500 per month. If you need a hand with your brand, get started with your sales rep or with our office.

advertising. Ads are most effective when they’re backed by a company with a killer list. At the same time, your ideal buyer is more likely to trust you if your branding and ads appear in a venue they already have faith in. So, what happens when your target buyer clicks on your ad or goes to your advertised website? Does it take them to a custom landing page optimized for lead capture and that encourages them to engage with your brand? Or does it just drop them off on your homepage with no further interaction? Are you at least getting an email address from them? Or better yet, getting them to opt into a lead funnel that nurtures pros- pects until they’re ready to take action.

But with the following three branding secrets, you can turn your brand into a low-cost advertising method that gener- ates leads and enhances everything your company does. One of the first hurdles is getting eyes on your brand. But which is more valu- able: 10,000 general page views or 500 views from decision-makers at MSPs? For example, our paid Membership Dashboard only gets 2,200 visitors each month, but those visitors are the exact clients our top sponsors are looking for: motivated CEOs of MSPs looking to grow their business, get educated, and spend money to improve their compa- nies and their bottom lines. It all comes down to where you’re


Big Red Media | A Robin Robins Company

Double Down on Marketing: Marcus Lemo- nis’ Keys to MSPs Thriving During a Crisis When you face adversity, you need advice from people who have already overcome diffi- cult circumstances. Marcus Lemonis, now a big name in RV and outdoor equipment sales and a well-known television personality, is familiar with hardship: He was left on the doorstep of an orphanage in his native (and war-torn) Lebanon as an infant. Lemonis has persevered through mental illness, suicide attempts, and the other things people don’t usually talk about. To him, it’s all fuel. And he sees a lot of potential for MSPs, even with today’s hardships. In this article, he sits down with us and explains what you’re doing

For the busy (and who isn’t?), here are the key takeaways from the most popular articles in the MSP Success Magazine. Be sure to pick up a copy or follow the links to read the full version of anything that sparks your interest — there are always tips and tricks that we didn’t have space to put here! How to Create Clients for Life by Building Better Relationships When you don’t have a regular touch with cli- ents, they lose value. One of the best ways to have a monthly touch with clients, whether you’re doing business right now or not, is to put out a targeted print newsletter. Dan Kennedy traces 50%–70% of his private clients to his newsletter readership, and MXOtech founder Joanna Sobran says her first year of newsletters brought in $360,000 in multiyear contracts. Newsletters help with retention (incidentally, MXOtech boasts a 98% retention rate) and the hard-copy medium gets a lot of attention in our mostly digital world. The Biggest Ways MSPs Burn Profits No matter how much you spend on marketing, you might as well light the money on fire if your company doesn’t follow through by collecting every lead it can. Right now, the average MSP gets six leads a month — but that’s after burning 20% of the people who contact them by never following through. We did the math, and at that rate, you’re losing over $50,000 a year. Get a friend to be a “Secret Shopper” and fill out your web forms, send your company emails, and call the phone numbers you list. You’ll quickly see if your systems and people follow through, or if you’re just lighting potential profits on fire. 5 Money “HoneyPots” Find More Profits, Clients and Sales Right Now After a crazy unstable 2020, these 5 “Honey- Pots” shouldn’t be ignored. You will have to work harder than ever to tap them, however. What are they? 1. Keep your best clients happy. 2. Revis- it unconverted leads. 3. Double your sales and marketing efforts. 4. Go where the money is. 5. Be more diligent about capturing and following up on leads. Sound tricky? We tell you exactly how to

right, and wrong, during the pandemic.

InTech Solutions Becomes One of the Fast- est Growing, Most Successful Cybersecurity IT Firms in Pennsylvania Pennsylvania is not a small state, but InTech co-founder and CEO Leia Shilobod has managed to take her company to new heights despite stiff competition. She credits her success to knowing what business owners actually want and looking at IT security solutions from a client’s perspec- tive, in addition to meeting the purely technical challenges. In this article, Leia talks about com- pany values, the good of the channel as a whole, and the importance of IT compliance in keeping government contracts. How This Husband and Wife Duo Built One of the Most Successful IT Services Firms in New England With $100 and a Unique Ap- proach to Stellar Service Build an IT company with a hundred bucks? We didn’t believe it either until we talked to Eric Shorr, who did exactly that from a dorm room back in 1992. An early proponent of getting a business advantage through LANs, Eric’s venture really took off when his wife, Lisa, came aboard. Now, Secure Future Tech is one of the fast- est-growing and most highly awarded IT firms in New England. If you’ve ever wondered how to cater to both small businesses and enter- prise-level giants or how people skills can make you serious money, these two have the answers.

do all of those things in the full article.


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