Standing Out in an Overcrowded Market: How to Differentiate Your MSSP
The demand for MSSPs is skyrocketing, according to Statista, and the global market for managed security services will be more than $64 billion in 2026.
At the same time, MSSPs are competing against each other for clients and, at least superficially, essentially promoting the same or similar solutions, services and acronyms (XDR, EDR, ZTNA, AI, ML, UEM and dozens more.) To acquire new clients and help retain existing ones, MSSPs must present a clear, compelling and unique value proposition that differentiates their offerings in the vast sea of similar offerings.
Overall, everyone in your MSSP’s value chain — from your software vendors to your own engineering, support and business development teams and even your clients — can play key roles in building an exceptional service and communicating your value to prospective clients.
The MSSP Marketing Funnel
To discuss market differentiation, it’s useful to understand where and how positioning and differentiation activities are incorporated in the client acquisition process. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid learning sales and marketing lingo, the “marketing funnel” is a simple model for the different stages through which a prospect passes on their way to becoming a client.
For MSSPs, the marketing funnel and associated activities may include the following:
- Awareness. Prospects know that your organization exists and have at least a rough understanding of the services you provide. You want to be at the top of their mind as soon as they consider a new MSSP.
- Engagement. During this phase, prospects are actively seeking more information about your services to see if your organization can meet their needs. The goal in this stage is to provide the right amount of information in the right format to move your company onto the short list of vendors asked to provide demos, estimates and/or proposals.
- Consideration. In this stage, prospects are usually evaluating a small number of MSSPs. Your team must present a compelling and cost-effective solution that demonstrates how well your services will meet or exceed their needs.
- Conversion. At this stage, your business is one of the final contenders and hopefully you’ll be awarded the contract. But if the prospect chooses another MSSP, don’t go away mad: professionally and politely, ask if they’ll provide feedback on why they chose the other company. If the reason was something like “the CTO went to school with the technical lead at the other MSSP,” there’s probably not much that your team can do. But, if the reason is related to services, pricing, platforms, support, or even the sales pitch and proposal format, your team can incorporate that constructive feedback into the sales process to improve future client acquisition activities.
- Advocacy and loyalty. Satisfied clients are always your best advocates: real client references and testimonials boost awareness, increase engagement, and can drive both consideration and conversion. At some MSSPs, new client contracts include an agreement to participate in a case study after six months. This is an excellent opportunity to ensure that clients are happy with their results, and to gather the content and testimonials for a success story that drives awareness and engagement. To encourage clients to participate in case study and testimonial programs, some MSSPs may provide a small discount or additional benefit as an incentive.
The following are a few strategies to help MSSPs differentiate themselves in a crowded market.
Establish Thought Leadership
Some MSSPs focus on search engine optimization (SEO) to ensure that their name is among the first results on common searches, but keyword-based SEO alone can only go so far. Your organization must continually demonstrate your security knowledge, skills and savvy across multiple media including blogs, webinars, industry sites, white papers, podcasts, solution guides, evaluation guides, conference workshops, social media and more.
Establishing cybersecurity industry thought leadership supports client acquisition (awareness and engagement) and retention (advocacy and loyalty), and also backs SEO efforts with relevant and meaningful content.
Engineers, threat researchers and other technical professionals are invaluable for providing this kind of expert content. In addition, software vendors should be able to provide thought leadership materials about their technologies that complement the added value that your team delivers.
Address the Cybersecurity Skills Shortage
The growing gap in skilled cybersecurity practitioners is well known, and some estimates indicate more than 750,000 cybersecurity positions in the United States were unfilled in 2022. Prospective clients are likely to ask how your organization will ensure sufficient staff to meet their needs and provide business continuity if key personnel depart.
A compelling answer to this question should include the following:
- Employee headcount and retention. Know how many analysts, engineers and other security personnel are on staff, and what percentage have been with you for more than a year or another benchmark that demonstrates that your company is stable and that staff are happy to work there.
- Staff onboarding and ongoing training. Because the market for managed security services is expanding quickly, your organization is likely growing as well. And, of course, security threats and prevention technologies are always evolving and improving. Demonstrating a commitment to training and professional development shows that your team will continue innovating to stay ahead of new threats.
- Client-specific documentation and knowledge capture. Staff turnover is a fact of life, especially in the rapidly growing cybersecurity industry. To reassure prospects that staff changes will be seamless and invisible, discuss the ways that their platforms, policies and practices will be documented internally and shared to support continuity as your organization grows.
- An explanation of how your services reduce administrative burden. Intelligent security automation — including prevention-first models that proactively eliminate threats — can reduce the need for staff intervention. (More information about prevention-first models is located below.)
Your software vendors should provide your team with the same kinds of information to ensure your prospects’ peace of mind about support for the technologies that you offer.
Focus on Prevention-First Models
A robust prevention-first model offers many tangible benefits that can help differentiate your MSSP in the market. Preventing attacks before they start increases client security, and the number of thwarted threats is an important client satisfaction metric that can support awareness, engagement and consideration activities during client acquisition.
Prevention-first models even help address the cybersecurity skills gap: you can assure prospects that your security teams are focusing on continuous security improvement instead of responding to a constant stream of alerts.
Deliver a Standout Migration and Onboarding Experience
Businesses dread the disruption associated with launching a new security solution or changing MSSPs, and a reputation for seamless onboarding can be a differentiating factor. In addition to documenting your team’s discovery, planning and implementation process, provide client references, testimonials and case studies to bolster your reputation.
An ideal software vendor will provide your team with assessment, planning, migration and training materials to support seamless and frictionless new-client onboarding.
Choose Software Vendors that Support Your Efforts
Your organization’s success depends on selecting vendors that offer exceptional technologies and support: your cybersecurity software vendors should offer your team the same depth of service that you offer your clients.
To help your MSSP succeed, seek vendors that provide the following:
- Leading-edge technologies and research to continuously improve client security.
- An AI-backed prevention-first model that neutralizes threats in milliseconds so your team can focus on more complex and strategic activities.
- Thought leadership activities and materials that help your team communicate value to your prospective and current clients.
- Seamless onboarding for new staff at your MSSP as well as for new hires on their own team so new members of both organizations can hit the ground running.
- Ongoing training so that your team is always ahead of the curve on tools, threats and technologies.