Virtual CIOs will prove to be a flash in the pan

The vast majority of businesses – especially small businesses – want to establish real relationships with real people. That’s what drives repeat business, not technology fads.

Technologies, like art and fashion, come and go. Some technologies manage to stand the test of time because they prove to be indispensible, for example, telephony. But others, like a vCIO (virtual Chief Information Officer), will prove to be as popular as bell-bottom jeans and platform shoes in due time for many small businesses that turn to them.

vCIOs appear to be all the rage for many managed service providers (MSP) nowadays. Surf to any MSP’s website and you’re bound to see the acronym vCIO plastered all over it. It’s difficult to understand why this outsourced service has become so popular and apparently desirable across the IT service industry.

Perhaps small businesses are lured by the promise of what a vCIO can potentially do: offer guidance on new IT initiatives, preparing a budget and technology changes, and implementing a business continuity strategy. On the surface, that looks and sounds spectacular. So they shell out funds to any MSP offering the service, and presumably, feel better about it all.

In reality, most small businesses have no need for either a CIO or a vCIO. And those small business owners that think they do, are turning to MSPs that have little to no experience providing a vCIO service of any kind.

The Trouble with vCIOs

True, MSPs are ideal as an outsourced IT department for countless small to mid-sized businesses. Part of that responsibility includes fulfilling the role of an IT consultant and/or manager. Business owners get that. They understand what they’re paying for when they hire an MSP as their outsourced IT support solution.

But when it comes to understanding what the role of a CIO is it’s not immediately understood. Worse, most small business owners don’t know what the “v” stands for in “vCIO.”

The vast majority of businesses – especially small businesses – want to establish real relationships with real people. They may be keen to deploy new technologies and explore new ways to make their businesses more efficient and service their customers better, but they’re not seeking anything virtual beyond a server at best.

Tips for Virtual-Minded MSPs

Competition is all around us. As an MSP, it’s important for you to differentiate your business to get any type of competitive edge you possibly can. But you can’t be all things to all people, and hopping aboard the latest technology bandwagon in a vain attempt to appear unique or cutting-edge isn’t the way to go.

Here are a few alternative ideas for your consideration:

  • Forget trying to provide a virtual presence at your clients’ place of business and be there for them in the flesh. No matter how big or small that client is to your ledger, give everyone the ‘white glove’ service without prejudice
  • Don’t just advise your clients, become their go-to IT department and trusted advisor. Step up and take ownership of all things technology-related and be at the ready to suggest solutions to problems that arise or that could arise
  • Go above and beyond providing good value for the money you and your team are paid. Your clients will recognize the effort and will remain loyal to you. Loyal clients in the modern age are “virtually” unheard of
  • If your client has a modest internal IT team (or if it’s a one-man show), mentor that team or person. Help them grow their knowledge, become more efficient, and recommend things you identify that are critical to their success.

As an MSP, if you truly want to differentiate your business, chew on the aforementioned. Tell your clients and potential new clients why they need you and your team on their doorstep regularly, and not a fly-by-night vCIO service that’s unproven and likely as worthwhile as the notion of the “paperless office.”

Only one in 100 I.T. firms prioritize marketing but all want to increase sales. Ulistic helps managed service providers think and act strategically about marketing to generate more leads. Our team of experienced writers, graphic designers, and professional marketers will engage with your business daily to provide expert marketing materials and advice to help you create a foundation for success. Want to learn more? Visit us at

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Stuart Crawford
Stuart Crawford
Stuart Crawford is an MSP marketing specialist and coaching professional. He is president of Ulistic Inc., a managed services coaching, mentorship, sales and outsourced marketing services firm. For more info call u 716.799.1999 or email [email protected]

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