Blog | April 28, 2016

VAR Lesson From ASCII Milwaukee: Laser Focus On A Market

jim roddy

By Jim Roddy, VP of Marketing, RSPA

At the ASCII Success Summit in Milwaukee today, C.J. Ezell, CEO of managed services provider PointClear Networks, gave an encore performance of his 2015 ASCII presentation titled “Adding Dental Integration To Your Managed Services Practice.”

Because Business Solutions published a detailed article on Ezell’s talk at ASCII Chicago last year, I won’t repeat that information on our site again. (Click here to read MSP Opportunities In The Dental Vertical from ASCII Chicago 2015.)

I’ll use this space instead to emphasize to solutions providers the value of focusing on one vertical. Ezell is a stellar example of an MSP who focuses on one market and makes a great living doing that. He said today that 95% of his business is rooted in the dental vertical (pun intended), and he’s been focused there since October 2003 – nearly 13 years in one market.

When you listen to Ezell talk, you can’t help but think, “Man, this guy knows the dental market!” It’s also clear how he trounces his competition. Ezell must have said the phrase “we learned” a dozen times during his 25-minute talk, emphasizing how MSPs need to gain market-specific knowledge to become legitimately trusted advisors.

“When you take the time to learn those things, you can speak in an educated manner to the dentist, and that will make them feel more comfortable with you,” Ezell said today. “You’ll stand out from someone else who doesn’t know that market. We can have business conversations with them.”

“And you can’t” was the subtle message to MSPs who don’t specialize in dentistry.

Yesterday at the pre-day portion of ASCII Milwaukee, Kenneth Holley of MSP Prescient Digital, was on stage talking about his success in the lobbying vertical in Washington D.C. Holley’s business is booming because of his combined expertise in cybersecurity and because he understands the specific needs of that very niche market.

You know who isn’t on stage here? Solutions providers who apply themselves horizontally and dabble in every market they can get their hands on. Those are the guys who are small, tend to stay small, and tend to run themselves ragged trying to be all things to all people.

Most of the solutions providers we feature in Business Solutions are vertical specialists. And the successful VARs I’ve met through the Retail Solutions Providers Association (RSPA) are experts in restaurants, grocery stores, or independent retailers. Yes, they’d get their clocks cleaned if they had to propose a solution for a legal firm or an insurance agency, but almost nobody beats them on their home turf. So they do all their business there.

I know it’s easier said than done for a VAR to find a lucrative vertical. As Ezell showed, it took him years to build up his expertise.

But at some point you have to ask yourself if you’re going to struggle to scrape by hitting singles all your life or if you’re going to try to swing for the fences.

The ASCII Success Summit – Milwaukee is being held April 27-28 at the Crowne Plaza Milwaukee Airport. It is one of nine solution provider-focused conferences ASCII will host in North America in 2016. For more information on ASCII, go to