I would like to thank everyone who participated in yesterday’s webinar “5 Keys to Creating a Disaster Recovery Plan for SMBs” and express my thanks to Datto for making it possible to share this important information. We had over 600 small and medium businesses register for the webinar. Upon registration, participants received a “Risk IQ” test that I developed as a self-assessment tool. We began the webinar by reviewing each of the ten questions in the test with some surprise answers. Such exercises can help to raise awareness that we tend to under-estimate risks. At the conclusion of the webinar, participants were invited to use a free tool from Datto that helps to calculate the hourly cost of a business disruption. We also made available a checklist of steps to get started on the way to business continuity planning. And, of course, we are available, along with the managed service providers, to help businesses implement their continuity plans. The webinar was recorded, so participants can go back and re-watch it as often as they need to do so, and offer this resource to their employees and future hires. If you were unable to participate in the live webinar, please register here and you will be given a link to the recording and all of the free tools that were made available. And be sure to listen to the accompanying podcast for additional information.
Marketing the offering of a managed service provider (MSP) is challenging. No one wants to think about the unthinkable – a disaster that would harm the business into which an entrepreneur may have invested years of effort and considerable personal savings. And even if the decision maker at a small or medium sized business is willing to think about hazards that could harm the business, capturing his or her attention will not be easy, given all of the immediate, competing demands on limited time. The marketing effort requires patience and persistence just to begin the dialogue with the small or mid-sized business (SMB).
Let’s say that you have made it past the gatekeeper, and secured an appointment with an IT or businessperson authorized to take decisions to invest in business continuity measures. This is a valuable opportunity. To make the most of it, I recommend the following best practices to build a relationship that will result in your becoming a trusted advisor to small and mid-sized businesses:
Exercise care, as the MSP often suffers from what is known as “the curse of knowledge”. You may think that because you know something, everyone else does, too, but that may not be the case. You may not realize that information you share may be misunderstood, a near universal experience. The attorney, for example, frustrates the business owner for using more Latin words in his communications than English ones, leaving contract negotiation behind an inscrutable wall of foreign legal terms. The same can be said about the work done by technology experts. So it is best to communicate information, particularly information concerning computer information systems, in plain English, free of technical jargon.
You know the facts and figures, but the SMB probably does not. You surely have information about the incidence of various threats to SMB’s, such as economic losses arising from computer downtime, for example. It can be helpful to share these with SMB’s in the form of a helpful infographic. Provide a sufficient amount of information to inform, but not overwhelm, the business owner.
Case studies are compelling and can help to better understand the need for business continuity measures. I learned this when I updated the second edition of my book Prepare for the Worst, Plan for the Best: Disaster Preparedness and Recovery for Small Businesses. I included short one-paragraph case studies on small businesses impacted by various threats. I provided just enough information to teach a memorable lesson, but not so much as to overwhelm. When the business manager for a medical practice reads the case study of the real-world example of the doctor’s office that lost valuable patient medical records because of a power outage, he nods his head in agreement and is more receptive to the information being shared. In the years since the first edition of my book was published, I have collected small business case studies (with the written consent of the business owner to share or publish these studies) covering a range of SMB’s across all geographic regions, all industry types and all threats and hazards. You should do so, too. Case studies move facts and figures into common, everyday experiences.
Be careful not to communicate any information that could be construed as fear-mongering. I refrain from scaring people with extreme threats that are probably unlikely to happen anyway. I am careful to point out that I recognize that my experience of 9-11 was a statistical outlier; however, the elements of the hazards arising from 9-11 (power outages and temporary lack of access to my regular place of work, for example) are very common and thankfully I was prepared for them. Cable television news networks increase their viewership by broadcasting vivid images of severe disasters; this approach can be counterproductive for business continuity measures. People just become numb to these threat scenarios and don’t like to feel that they are being scared into making an investment. Always have a business-like, pragmatic tone in your communications with SMB’s. You are not looking for a temporary boost to viewership; you are looking to build a long-term relationship.
Provide helpful information to your clients that exceeds the requirements of closing a sale. By sharing helpful information with SMB’s, even when such information will not advance the close of the sale, you become a trusted advisor to SMB’s, and not just a “sales person”. I learned a variation of this lesson after my book was published and I reached out to journalists covering the small business sector. I often pitched story ideas on timely topics relevant to SMB’s, topics they have not considered and which topics were completely unrelated to small business risk management – the subject of my book! I would refer them to expert sources to inform their reporting. After they fainted and woke up (they are used to p.r. firms pitching them self-serving material), they worked with my information. I would estimate that about 19 of 20 story ideas I packaged and pitched had nothing to do with small business risk management or advancing sales of my book or my business. They began to come to me for information and that led to long-term relationships. If you learn of new emergency evacuation information in your community, why not pass it along? It supports business resilience, even though it is not directly related to closing a sale.
I will be sharing these and other approaches to small business risk resilience in an interactive webinar offered by Datto’s and scheduled for February 4, 2015 at 2:00 p.m. EST. To register for the webinar, please click here. Upon registration, you will receive a “Risk IQ Test” to see if your framework properly estimates the risks to which small businesses are exposed! We will begin our webinar by sharing our findings and conclude our webinar with resources for follow-up support and a blueprint that small businesses can use to begin simple measures to protect their businesses. I hope you will join us!