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Michael Drake sees the managed services provider role primarily as that of an evangelist.

That’s why Drake, founder and CEO of MasterIT, spends a lot of time trying to figure out how to attract customers to the managed services model. The 20-year channel veteran understands that acquiring customers under this new model requires relentless legwork to find customers and to communicate to them in terms they understand.

Last week, MasterIT, an MSP in Bartlett, Tenn., gathered 61 Memphis-area businesses to pitch them on the managed services model, through which MSPs take over some or all of their clients’ IT functions. As a result, the company collected about 15 business leads from potential clients interested in engaging with MasterIT under a managed services arrangement.

How many of those leads ultimately translate into revenue-generating business is anyone’s guess at this point, but even if it’s only two or three, the time and effort Drake and his staff put into planning and staging the event will have been worth it.

Drake certainly was pleased with the results, and if he had his druthers he would put on some kind of event monthly to attract more business, he said.

Drake understands that if his company is to succeed in the managed services business, it must relentlessly promote itself and the model to potential clients, he said. But the pitch has to revolve around terms that customers understand. So not once during MasterIT’s event last week was the term “managed services” uttered, said Drake.

“We just talk about proactive IT services and turning IT from firefighting to fire prevention,” he said.

The customer doesn’t care about nomenclature. The customer cares about results.

And when it comes to managed services, results come down to network uptime and the employment of technology that allows the customer to achieve business goals cost-effectively and productively.

When engaging new customers, MasterIT leaves nothing to chance. The solution provider first conducts a thorough assessment of the computing environment and makes recommendations on updates, upgrades and replacement. The company even gives customers the option of letting MasterIT retain ownership of new equipment. The customer pays for the equipment’s use but doesn’t have to buy it.

MasterIT is an instructive example of a solution provider that gets it when it comes to managed services. When he decided to give managed services a whirl, Drake deduced he needed the right marketing and financial approach, tools and service offerings.

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To get the technical expertise, he concluded MasterIT would need to deliver on the promise of the model; he partnered with Memphis-area IT services firm Wisetech, which had the right stuff to build a palette of services that include remote monitoring, management and data backup, and hosting.

For a platform to deliver the remote services, Drake turned to Ottawa-based vendor N-able Technologies, which about a year ago made a significant investment in working with partners to transform themselves into MSPs. N-able had learned the hard way it needed to do this after some early challenges with partners.

Drake founded MasterIT in July 2005 and opened for business about a year later. The company has since acquired 14 clients, and with Drake determined to continue evangelizing the model; it shouldn’t be long before that number doubles.

Pedro Pereira is editor of eWEEK Strategic Partner and contributing editor to The Channel Insider. He can be reached at