A vendor partner is a business that offers products, solutions, or services meant to support and enhance the offerings of a managed service provider (MSP). These partners provide the technological backbone that enables MSPs to deliver impactful services to their clients. However, with many options on the market today, you have to evaluate vendor partners correctly to pinpoint the right one for you. There’s a six-step process to find your ideal MSP vendor partner(s).
1. Consider Your Business Needs & Vision
To choose a suitable vendor, consider the ones that align with your current services while future-proofing your business too. Instead of vendors that take a one-size-fits-all approach to their offerings, prioritize the ones whose services are tailored to your market. With this, you’ll make sure that the vendor partner you choose complements your services, and you’ll foster a healthy environment to innovate and identify new market opportunities.
A few ways to ensure vendors and clients are aligned include:
- Assess Your Current Offerings: Examine your current managed service offering to see where you lack resources, tools, or expertise and note these as areas a vendor can fill. Then compare them to vendor solutions to see which vendors can fill those gaps.
- Forecast Your Future Needs: Think long-term. Talk to the vendor about their future roadmap, infrastructure capacity, how they handled past growth, and how they respond to market changes to see whether they’re scalable and adaptable enough for you.
- Know Your Customers: Assess your customer profiles to understand your customers’ businesses, industry nuances, and unique needs. You should be sure that what the vendor offers will be valuable to your present, ideal, and potential customers.
The vendor you choose should not only fit into your current landscape but be also a reliable partner for the future, ready to adapt and grow alongside you. They should offer services that’ll add value to your customers’ use cases and be adaptable to your constantly changing needs. After assessing how aligned a vendor is with your needs and vision, assess how well the vendor collaborates with MSPs.
2. Research How They Collaborate with MSPs
The right collaboration between MSPs and vendor partners ensures that both parties get value from the relationship. For instance, while an MSP may enjoy enhanced services, a vendor may get expanded service reach without direct marketing efforts. For a most productive partnership, aim for a vendor partner that has well-defined partner programs, an advisory board, and great support mechanisms.
More specifically, here’s what you should look for in vendor partnerships:
- Assess Each Vendor’s Channel Program: Ask whether the vendor has an official, clear, and structured partner program. Are the partnership tiers clearly defined? Do the programs offer performance-based incentives? Is there marketing and sales support?
- Seek Vendors with Advisory Boards: Having advisory boards shows vendors are receptive to partner feedback and open to evolution. These boards facilitate two-way communication, trust, and innovation as insights are gathered directly from partners.
- Examine Vendor Resource Allocation: You want a vendor who goes beyond their offering. Ask whether the vendor offers training and certification programs to equip MSPs. Look for training, marketing aids, and other support mechanisms.
Having both an advisory board and an official partner program shows how intentional a vendor is to have a true partnership and how receptive they are to feedback. Vendors that go a step beyond offering a product or service will add real value to your MSP and set the stage for mutual growth. Open dialogue and collaborative problem-solving programs accelerate decision-making and pivoting and foster a great atmosphere for innovation and flexibility.
3. Ensure Financial Compatibility
Next, make sure that the vendors you’re considering are in line with your budget and your financial goals. Besides evaluating the cost, take responsibility for understanding the vendor’s financial health. Assess how financially stable they are, and get to know what kind of potential returns they can offer. This will give you insight into the reliability and long-term viability of a vendor.
Three ways to determine financial compatibility include:
- Set Clear Budgets: Always understand your financial boundaries before considering partnerships. Find out whether the vendor’s pricing aligns with your financial capabilities while considering both upfront and potentially hidden fees.
- Probe the Vendor’s Financial Health: Research the operational history, investor backing, and fiscal health of vendors by reading reports, asking the vendor directly, and checking vendor and news websites as well as platforms like Crunchbase.
- Understand the Vendor’s Return on Investment: Beyond upfront costs, consider the potential ROI the vendor can offer. What tangible and intangible benefits does the vendor have? Can they add value to your client retention and growth?
A financially compatible partnership ensures sustainability. In addition to the tips above, get to know whether vendors’ payment terms are flexible enough for you. Also, understand how they’ll potentially impact how you price your services. Examine them for solutions that can improve your operational efficiencies and lead to cost savings in the long run.
4. Consider Vendor Expertise & Legacy
A vendor with deep knowledge, vast industry experience, and a solid track record bolsters your reputation in the market. Such a vendor will also provide insights, best practices, and solutions based on their years of experience in the industry. Consider vendors who have stood the test of time to become or remain experts in the market as they are experts in their sectors, are reliable, and are committed to growing and evolving.
A few approaches to help you in your assessment of vendor expertise and legacy include:
- Target Niche Markets: Does the vendor have deep expertise in the sectors you target? If yes, they can open doors to niche markets as they’re well-positioned to provide solutions fine-tuned to unique needs in your sectors.
- Consider Proven Track Records: Look into the vendor’s industry history, successes, and failures. Through case studies, client testimonials, and industry recognitions, you’ll get insights into aspects such as their reliability.
- Value Adaptability: Research the vendor’s history of product enhancements and pivoting and their vision for the future to learn how committed they are to staying ahead of the curve. You can use case studies, whitepapers, customer feedback, and reviews.
An experienced vendor won’t just help you grow and innovate; they’ll also help you navigate challenges in your market. If you’re in an industry with strict regulations, the vendor can make sure you’re compliant. These advantages can help you earn the trust and confidence of your clients.
5. Learn About the Vendor’s User Experience & Integration
Vendors to consider most are those that offer seamless integration with solutions like storage and security tools. This is because seamless integration becomes all the more important to your clients’ user experience as managed services become more complex. A good vendor will also deliver intuitive solutions that will be easy for your end users to understand and use, leaving them satisfied with your services.
To gauge the vendor’s approach to user experience and integration, think about:
- Simplicity and Onboarding: Are the vendor’s solutions user-friendly and easy to integrate? Complex solutions tend to frustrate users, affecting adoption rates. You can study verified user reviews and documentation to gauge the ease of use.
- Compatibility: How well do the solutions mesh with your existing tools and platforms? Consult the vendor on how integrable their solutions are with your current stack, and check their integration lists for tools you currently use.
- Active Support: Just because a tool is intuitive doesn’t mean it needs no guidance. Talk to vendors, go through vendor websites, and read user reviews to get information on their attitude toward support. Prioritize a vendor with a proactive approach.
Remember, you want a vendor whose services are designed with the user firmly in mind. You also want to minimize disruptions and inefficiencies that your users may experience. Be sure to find out whether the vendor offers support for integration challenges. After all the previous steps, finish your research by taking a hands-on approach to vendor offerings.
6. Dive Deep into Their Offerings
This step has you move beyond surface-level impressions to get a first-hand feel of the depth, adaptability, and potential of what’s being offered. You’ll be testing a vendor’s value proposition, which makes sure you get a partner that’s truly aligned with your needs. This gives the vendor a chance to prove they can walk the walk and prevents you from finalizing a vendor based on pitches and superficial features.
Three tried-and-tested methods of getting firsthand experience are:
- Demo Sessions: Participate in live demos to understand the vendor’s solutions in action. Ask the vendor to simulate specific scenarios that mirror your operational challenges — this will reveal the solution’s real-world applicability.
- Trials: Sign up for a trial to test out the solutions in a controlled environment, free of sales pitches and theoretical benefits. Where possible, invite some members of your team to get different perspectives that you may overlook.
- Open Feedback Channels: How you relate with the vendor during a trial period can be a precursor to your partnership’s future dynamics. See how they respond to constructive criticism, test their support channels, and have detailed discussions post-trial.
During demos, examine user experience aspects like intuitiveness, responsiveness, and ease of use. Also, explore how customizable the vendor’s offering is and take note of any integration challenges and hiccups during trials. If possible, test or simulate the solution during peak loads or high-stress conditions to know how it performs under stress. Then confidently communicate your doubts and expectations to the vendor after demos and trials and get their responses.
Bottom Line: How to Choose MSP Vendor Partners
Choosing the correct MSP vendor partner requires research, alignment, and forward thinking. In addition to the steps above, you can consult peers, the vendor’s existing partners, and experts in your industry to get a holistic view of the vendors under consideration and make an informed choice. Finally, compare a few vendors to make the best choice for you and your clients. For more on how to set up a thriving business and serve your audience, check out our tips to improve your MSP.