There is story of David and Goliath where Goliath would come and
challenge everybody - "is there anyone amongst you who would dare to fight against me?" Who would dare to fight against him? He was a giant, there was nothing one could do to humble him.
David saw the situation in a different manner. Whatever he threw at
Goliath it was sure to hit him. In the end we all know that David
did win. The internet is also huge.
Here's another story from the Indian Epic Mahabharat where once
Dronacharya takes the Pandavas to the forest to test their skills in
archery. He hung a model of a bird on a branch and asked each of them,
one by one, to take aim at the bird and tell him what they saw. He
first called Yudhishtar, the eldest of the 5 brothers. Yudhishtar
saw the entire cosmos of which the earth was a part, then a tree which
was a part of the earth, and finally a bird hung on the branch of the
tree. Dronacharya asked him to sit down. One of the brothers, Arjun,
could see only the eye of the bird, and nothing but the eye. He shot
the bird right in the eye cause he could see nothing but his target.
While the internet is huge and global, when it comes to marketing the
old rule apply - The customer is the
king. He is an individual and has his needs well defined. The
internet maybe the Goliath, but each customer is the bird's eye.
The challenge for the webhost is thus in finding the bird's eye.
need to create plans which suit the customer's needs rather than just
focusing on things like price, uptime, reliability, support and so on
which are all important. At the same time all decent webhosts today can
offer similar plans , prices, guarantees and support.
A few years back we did some research in the selling aspect of the
industry. Our first reaction was that the cheapest host would do well.
Or it would be even better if the cheapest host offered the best
features and the maximum bandwidth and diskspace. Finally, we concluded
that the largest host would be the cheapest host with the maximum
bandwidth and diskspace, with the greatest support and this host would
have ads all over the place. This may actually work out for many, but
the Return of Investment (ROI) may take more than a life-time.
The webhosting industry comprises mostly of SMEs. For them huge
investments in marketing may not be the best solution. Yet, there are
many webhost who have grown from a reseller hosting system to a few
thousand servers within no time. And interestingly none of the hosts we
studied were actually selling cheap. They all focused on the right
target markets. They create a niche market for themselves.
One webhost focussed only on resellers and called it private label reseller programs.
They gave out more diskspace and bandwidth and charged a higher value.
Their benefits - lesser customers, higher cash turnover and lesser
support requests as the resellers looked after their own customers.
Another webhost focussed on
webmasters only. Webmasters generally have more than one site.
Hosting is not their prime business and they want an affordable
solution. Also, as most webmasters are tech savvy what they needed more
than regular support is a community where they can interact with
various other webmasters. Needless to say that these hosting companies
did grow fast.
It did not take long for the clones to come and soon such plans became
a standard in the industry. Webhosts are again facing the same
challenge on howto effectively market. One approach webhosts can take
is to focus on certain services of
hosting only. Such as email
only hosting. This would be
useful for people for whom email is very critical. They may prefer to
have the emails on another server which is exclusively for emails only.
So even their main site goes down, they'll still receive their mails.
Another good example could be backup
hosting only. Here the webhost would backup the entire data of a
website on regular intervals.
Webhost can also focus on certain
languages and software which are very
popular. Not many hosts offer Java Servlets, Postgresql, Zope,
etc.. Zope only hosting for example
would surely lead all the Zope developers to use as well as recommend
the Zope community a webhost who specializes in Zope hosting.
With broadband getting cheaper by the day, webhosts can now truly
expect the market of application
hosting to get popular. There is a whole new market of large and
small corporate who would not mind keeping their data is secure
networks. All they need to do is log into their servers and access
their data from anywhere in the world. They would be looking for
applications such as Compiere
or a groupware where they can access, share and store the data on the
net. Corporate would not mind paying a premium for such services. The
webhosts have to assure security and reliability in such cases.
Adding value to what is being
offered to the customer would always interest the customer is taking
services from the webhost. A webhost can offer hosting with certain software pre configured for use.
Take a look at Postnuke for example. The latest version of postnuke has
had over 39,000 downloads in just about 40 days. All the customer needs
to do is change the logo of the site to his logo and start writing.
hostnuke has taken the
initiative and offering postnuke hosting. Their plans are not cheap.
But because they specialize in postnuke hosting, most customers of
postnuke would prefer to be with go with hostnuke.
One can offer
hosting with a postnuke, gallery and phpBB forum all bundled into one.
This gives the customer more time to focus on what he wants to do with
his site rather than spend time on how to implement a CMS system or
Sites like hotscripts.com have a
section which lists the popular software.
Some good ones to offer with hosting are ikonboard, eZpublish, phpShop,
Zope, A-Cart etc. After identifying the right software one can
create scripts to automate the installation procedure and thus reduce
the time to execute new orders.
And finally, one need not go and put in a lot of money for advertising
with search engines or webhosting directories. All the webhost needs to
do is advertise on the selected software's home page and be present on
their forums/mailing lists.
Amarjyoti Krishnan heads bobcares.com, a tech support company for webhosts and ISPs. He is the co-founder of Poornam Info Vision Ltd., a software and IT services company which specializes in Linux based solutions for Webhosts and ISPs. Poornam Info Vision is an ISO 9001:2000 certified company with a team of over 100 engineers.
Amarjyoti is a Computer Engineer based in India and has over 7 years of experience in the hosting industry. He has spoken and written extensively on the subject. His articles have been published both online as well as in print in magazines.