From The Editor | September 20, 2013

From ASCII Austin: Marketing Advice For VARs And MSPs

Jim Roddy

By Jim Roddy, Vantiv

ASCII Success Summit

“Do your customers see value beyond the contract?”

That question opened Jerry Koutavas’ presentation at the ASCII Success Summit in Austin, TX, and he then proceeded to deliver specific actions solution providers should take to ensure they could soon answer his question with an emphatic “yes!”

Koutavas, president of The ASCII Group, who hosted the mid-September conference, talked for nearly 30 minutes on the topic of “Staying Relevant: Branding & Marketing Yourself As The IT Expert.” I hope the attendees were listening; only about 5% of the room raised a hand when asked if they employed an in-house marketing professional.

Koutavas offered several golden nuggets I think VARs and MSPs should embrace to improve their marketing results:

Establish Authority. Message yourself as the IT expert. Two examples of how to do this are to seek out speaking engagements at local events and industry conferences, and to get certified and promote your certifications through press releases.

Provide Quality Content. If you neglect to dedicate resources to effective content creation and marketing, you will lose mind share and market share to your competitors. Solution providers should frequently produce and distribute case studies, white papers, and blog posts on topics of interest to their current and prospective customers. “Don’t just do one-and-done,” Koutavas said. “It takes time to establish your authority.”

Take First Steps First. You don’t have to develop and execute a full-speed marketing plan in the next 30 days. These four actions are not huge time suckers and will get you moving in the right direction:

  • Write your professional biography (approx. 200 words) and launch it on your company website along with a professional portrait photo.
  • Register as an IT expert at Every day, you will be emailed a list of IT-related stories journalists around the country are assembling. You can respond to their requests and possibly be quoted in their article. (I subscribe to this service – it’s free and it works!)
  • Speak at a Toastmasters event. Eventually, you will be called on to speak at other events.
  • Join ASCII and take advantage of the brandable newsletter they create for use by their VAR/MSP members.

Contribute to Business Solutions Magazine. I’m not listing this for self-promotion purposes – Koutavas went out of his way to mention this to the approximately 80 VARs and MSPs in attendance. BSM and ASCII have teamed up in an effort to provide real-world peer content to solution providers. ASCII members have volunteered to share their expertise through articles on the Business Solutions website. The first submissions for this effort are Managed Service Myths Break-Fix VARs Believe by Doug Grabowski, Jr. of the Grabowski Group and Ways To Use PSA Reports To Improve Your Business by Vince Tinnirello of Anchor Network Solutions.

After your articles are posted online, you can email that link to customers and prospects. This will show them you’re a leader in your field by virtue of being published by the leading industry magazine.

The ASCII Success Summit was held Sept. 18-19 at the Hilton Airport Hotel in Austin, TX. For more information on the event, go to