Sometimes inflection points arrive when you least expect them. Rewind to the IT Nation conference in November 2010. During a lunch break I happened to sit next to Peter Sandiford, CEO of Level Platforms. Sandiford mentioned that he continues to read and enjoy MSPmentor but he politely added that the site was losing its focus. I took his feedback to heart... but I also had a secret I couldn't share with Sandiford at the time. Fast forward to the present and I think my chat with Sandiford also provides some healthy, timely reminders about MSPs maintaining their own focus -- especially while finalizing plans for 2011. Here's why.

Looking back, I think Sandiford was concerned that cloud computing coverage was starting to dominate the MSPmentor site. We can't ignore cloud. But on the other hand, MSPmentor's best-read stories involved business management, sales, HR and go-to-market blogs. Our best-read piece in November was a sales compensation guest blog from Nimsoft VP Phil LaForge. So, we're going back to our roots on MSPmentor -- introducing far more of that business-centric coverage. We'll continue to cover cloud computing on MSPmentor as well. Let's face it: Cloud is central to the managed services discussion so we'll cover it on MSPmentor, purely from the MSP perspective.

But if you want to live-and-breathe cloud from every perspective -- vendor, VARs, MSP, cloud services providers, etc. -- we've got something new for you: Talkin' Cloud. During my IT Nation lunch with Sandiford, I nearly let the Talkin' Cloud secret out of the box. But I remained mum, gathered the feedback and assured him we'd have some "focus" answers for him soon.

Know Your Niche

Even though we're a media company I suspect we share some common traits with small MSPs. Each time we launch a new site, we take our core expertise (blogging, content and integrated media) and focus on a new, niche market. Our core expertise never changes -- but we "stretch" in new, closely related directions: Such as video an forums.

MSPs should do the same. I keep reading about VARs and MSPs that want to get into the health care vertical yet they know nothing about health care. A far wiser approach: Take what you already know (say, Microsoft Small Business Server or Exchange) and figure out how those skills apply to new delivery models like the cloud. In other words, stick with what you know ("email") and stretch into a related market (collaboration, unified communications, etc.).

Oh, and start reading more business-related content. I remain a loyal reader of Inc. and Entrepreneur. And we'll be applying their SMB-type advice to the managed services market throughout 2011. Thanks for reading.

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