Newsletter & Blog

Are SMEs ready for the level of service that the big boys are getting?



Well, that’s a big title, but it’s a very interesting question.  There have been a lot of threads on places liked LinkedIn, discussing this very subject, with not many conclusions other than, perhaps, that SME’s are far more concerned with finances than their enterprise cousins, primarily because they operate on much tighter margins and in market places which are very unforgiving.  Or could it be that they have misunderstood the issues that surround Cyber Security and the very serious effect an attack or data loss can have on their bottom line.


When my partner and I decided to leave the larger IT companies and set up on our own, we had a lot of discussion around how we might be able to provide a similar level of service to SME’s that we had been providing to enterprise clients, and whether or not it was possible within a framework and pricing structure that would fly in that market.


To say that the learning curve was steep is an understatement.  It was practically vertical.  We designed a number of services and priced them in a way we thought was fair, given the level of experience and expertise we were bringing to the table.  The first problem we encountered was that they simply didn’t understand what we were talking about.  For instance, we wanted to talk about risk management, targeting their security spend on things that really mattered, having identified IT assets, the threats and vulnerabilities associated with those assets, and the risks to the business that this all brings.  They wanted to tell us they didn’t need any of this because their local IT company, probably a re-seller, had already sold them a firewall and some AV and they were happy with that.


The next problem was pricing.  What we found was that day rates, common in the enterprise, don’t really fly. Neither do open ended proposals.  They are looking for fixed price deals and increasingly, subscription pricing.  One client actually told us not to give him big bills.  He would pay multiple little bills spread over time, but baulk at big bills.  The problem being cash flow, common in the SME market.  This is a real challenge for companies like ours.  How do we make a living charging a subscription rate for a service we may be providing?  This was a challenge that we had to meet, or get out of the market.  We have managed to do just that, and if is making headway for us.


So, in a 2 year time frame, we have re-invented our services and ourselves, twice, at no little cost to things like marketing and web site design.  But it was essential that we do so.  I, personally, have had to compromise a personal principle that would no doubt amuse many salesmen I have worked with in the past, and that is I always refused to ‘productise’ a service, being too much of purist I suppose.  However, I have now done just that and we present our services, packaged like we would a product, and find that our clients are starting to get it.  They like products, they like being able to touch and feel what they are buying.  It’s amazing what playing with my own money will make me do!!


So here we are, about to start on another sales campaign in order to have a full order book after Christmas.  Services packaged as products, partnerships secured with 3 partners where we can re-sell their products, services (although I must point out that those products are sold as software as a service, in keeping with our ethos), but we don’t shift tin.  We are confident that we are now in a position to carry out our original intention and provide services and solutions to the SME market that the larger company are providing to the enterprise, but are ignoring the smaller company.