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Unless you can make a persuasive case for a government bailout, chances are
you will have to rely on your market savvy and hard work to turn a profit in
the coming year.

Hard work, of course, is nothing new to the entrepreneurial crowd that makes up
the IT channel, so you’ve got that covered. But solution providers must take
extra care to employ the right business strategies and embrace technology with
real growth potential to have any hope of surviving the economic tempest that
appears likely to last through much of 2009.

With that in mind, here are six tips for boosting profitability in the coming

1. Stick with what you got: Recruiting new customers during times of
economic hardship will take more effort and energy than when things are good,
so while it would be unadvisable to abandon recruiting efforts altogether, it
will make sense to devote more of your resources to doing more for existing
customers. Evaluate what you already are providing for the customer to figure
out what else you can add. If you offer managed services, for instance, are
backup and recovery part of your mix yet? Are you monitoring virtual
environments remotely? If not, this would be a good time to launch new

2. Focus on goals: Remember, customers for the most part couldn’t care
less about the technology. Ask which server runs which application, and you are
bound to get a blank stare. So don’t make technology the centerpiece of your
customer pitch. Focus on the ends, and never mind the means. The customer has a
goal – to streamline billing, boost application performance, secure wireless
connections. Make the case that you are the best provider to deliver on these
goals with proofs of concept and ROI calculations. Use other customer examples
to show value and cost savings.

3. Get holistic: Yeah, it’s an overused term, but here is the deal: For
too long, solution providers have separated products from services in
approaching the customer. This no longer makes sense in most situations. Offer
the customer hardware, software and the services as a comprehensive package to
meet business goals. You can do this by project or, as in the case of MasterIT,
a managed services provider in Bartlett, Tenn.,
adopt it as a business model. MasterIT’s managed services contracts cover
equipment, applications and service, replacing whatever needs to be replaced
along the way, and the customer pays a recurring fee for the complete package.

4. Think green: Your customer wants it, and you can provide it. Over the
past year, the mood among customers toward embracing ecologically friendly
technology changed palpably. While in the past going green was all about saving
money, customers now are also embracing green practices and technologies
because they believe it helps their brand. For the more green-conscious among
your customers, why not put together a green services package? Take advantage
of Intel’s remote control vPro technology, for instance, to cut down on system
power use during off hours, as well as tools like Actuate’s
Sustainability Management application
to propose and implement
eco-friendly practices and technology.