My guest today is Sitima Fowler, co-founder and co-CEO of Capstone IT, a managed service provider headquartered in Rochester, New York. Sitima is something of a celebrity in the Rochester area: She hosts a video series called Rochester Rockstars, she writes a column for the local paper, she’s involved in the local community — and she does all this to drum up business for her MSP.

Does it work? You bet. Under her leadership, Capstone has grown to three locations, 42 employees, and about $6 million in sales. She talks to us today about her powerhouse marketing tactics, including the celebrity campaign but also a few other really interesting and effective techniques.

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That’s later in the show but first, there are a couple of other Frankly MSP things I wanted to talk to you about. First is Frankly MSP Live, taking place Jan 2020. Do you have your ticket yet? Because Early Bear pricing is going to be done soon but there’s still time— if you grab your ticket before June 1, you can still get $100 off.

The next thing I wanted to mention was a new edition of the Frankly MSP Brain Trust. The Brain Trust is where we pull together 4 MSP and business experts, they each chip in 2 hours of personalized consulting, and we give away that 8-hour consulting package to one MSP.

The winner of our February Brain Trust was Jason Watts, co-leader at a six-person MSP in Tasmania called Neveco Business IT Solutions and he described it as a “fantastic opportunity.”

We’re now running a second Frankly MSP Brain Trust, where you can win time with Arlin Sorensen of ConnectWise (consulting on strategy and planning), Jacqui Murphy from Auvik Networks (consulting on marketing and business development), James Bier of VAR Staffing (consulting on hiring and team building) and Richard Tubb (consulting on operations and growth).

To enter to win, all you need to do is go to auvik.com/brain-trust and complete the entry form.

1 Thing (#MSP1T)

In place of our 1 Thing segment, where we usually hear from an MSP about 1 thing that’s made a difference in their business, I’ve decided to include a clip from a special Brain Trust episode. This is Richard Tubb talking about 1 Thing he recommends MSP leaders do.

[04:07] Business leaders need to take a good hard look and ask if they are the person to take their business to the next level.

[04:27] What do they need to learn? Being a good technician only takes you so far. You need to learn management skills, how to be a better leader, and how to be a salesperson.

[04:58] It can be uncomfortable to stretch into these different roles.

What’s your 1 Thing? What idea, strategy, tool, book, process, thing made a real difference to your MSP career or business. Put another way, let’s say a new MSP walked up to you at conference and said, “I’m just getting started in this space. What advice can you give me? What’s worked for you?” and you can only tell them 1 thing. What would that 1 thing be?

Tell us in a voice memo and email the recording to [email protected] Not only could you be podcast-famous by being featured on the show, I’ll also send you a Frankly MSP t-shirt. They’re pretty cool and I want to give them away!

Be Slightly Famous, Close Lots of Deals: Interview with Sitima Fowler

Sitima Fowler Capstone IT podcast interview

Sitima Fowler, Capstone IT

[06:28] Sitima’s husband started the business in 2003. Sitima is an electrical engineer. As she saw Capstone develop, she realized she could take the plunge and join her husband in the business.

[07:40] She joined in 2006, but she didn’t know how to make the phone ring.

[08:33] She started reading everything she could about sales and marketing.

[08:59] She went to a conference by Robin Robins. She learned how to sell the value of managed services and how to market to pain points.

[09:42] They have now grown Capstone to over three locations, 42 employees, and $6 million in revenue.

[10:26] A lot has changed in the industry since Sitima started in it. One shift has been the move from a reactive break-fix model to a fixed fee model.

[10:44] Another is how the expectation of responsiveness from an MSP has really jumped. People expect things immediately.

[11:38] And a third change is that even small businesses are looking for CIO-level guidance from their MSPs.

[12:11] Sitima heard American Pickers host Mike Wolfe talk about how becoming a mini-celebrity with his TV show helped his business take off. Sitima decided to become a mini celebrity in her local market. She started the Rochester Rockstars video series, which showcases local business leaders.

[13:28] Because of that series, she’s had the local TV station and newspaper reach out, she gets asked to speak at events, and more.

[13:55] Now when she walks into a prospect’s office she already has credibility.

[14:09] Cold calling wasn’t for Sitima. The celebrity campaign was worth the time and effort to get the meetings and close sales. Being a visible thought leader in her community really helps close deals.

[15:38] She also does joint venture relationships with other vendors and service providers. When a trusted advisor brings in a lead, it has a higher close rate.

[16:34] Capstone has a blog and invests in having good content their prospects will be interested in. They also do seminars, send direct mail, and cold calling as well.

[18:51] When you buy a list, the data is often inaccurate. They find businesses that just aren’t on any lists by driving around the city’s business parks, taking note of the signs, and Googling the companies to learn more.

[19:52] The key to success with joint ventures is finding out what motivates the other company.

[20:44] Some companies want money, some want leads.

[22:23] Every business and person wants to touch their clients more and show that they care.

[23:26] Turning other businesses into your salesperson is the best.

[23:50] Start with goal setting and know what you want to achieve this year in terms of revenue. Once you’re crystal clear about what you want, then you can create a plan to get there.

[24:28] 80% of your time should be focused on sales.

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