Web hosting basics: How to succeed as a one-stop shop
Web hosting, like many other industries, has companies focused on niches within the marketplace and others that provide the proverbial one-stop shop. There are companies concentrating on specific technologies such as dedicated servers or companies targeting a select audience such as software developers. And then there are those that try to cater to all ends of the market.
In fact, every industry has examples of niche providers and one-stop shops. Think of the automobile industry as a parallel. Toyota would represent a company that is looking to cover all ends of the market, while someone like Porsche only sells to a certain segment. In financial services, Citigroup provides everything from banking, credit card services and loans to consumers up and down the spectrum while Goldman Sachs focuses on higher net worth investors only. The debate isn’t really which approach is superior, but rather, what does it take to succeed in each?
In hosting, there are not many companies that focus on end-to-end services and those that are doing it successfully are far and few between. What then are the keys to succeeding as an end-to-end hosting company?
First and foremost, hosting companies need to have a range of services that a growing customer can move up to without having to seek out another service provider. They need upgrade paths and various options. Basic shared hosting services are a start, but a company will also needs to provide semi-dedicated and dedicated hosting to accommodate for customers seeking more capacity, reliability or control.
Hosting companies need to be sure that they also have the technologies and procedures to migrate customers along the different lines of service seamlessly and uninterrupted. Customers will not tolerate downtime and your reputation will suffer if you continually botch the process of moving customers up the value chain. It won’t be any good to upsell customers if you can’t transition them properly and efficiently.
Overselling is something that many hosting companies engage in, but should be avoided at all costs. A true end-to-end provider does not have to deceive its customers through overselling. Rather, it should have the scope of services that meet a wide cross-section of potential customers and let that speak for itself.
Bear in mind that having the all the technology is still not enough. Hosting companies need to provide customers with the proper amount of customer support. Don’t pay lip service. Do everything you can to hold that customer’s hand through the entire process. Talk to them and listen to their needs so that you can find the right solution for them.
Take on all technical aspects of the hosting process. Your customers, for the most part, are not interested in technology. They are good at the business they are in and your job is to enable them to concentrate on it without having to be distracted by technology worries. This is your value proposition. You save them time, money, headaches and the pain of having to find and relocate their data to a new hosting provider.
Maintain a dialogue with your customers. In order to know when and how your customer’s needs are changing you have to be in touch with them and communicate on a regular basis. And you have to educate them too. Educating your customers is something that is often overlooked, but is a core component of the hosting provider’s job. Hosting companies have to relay to their customers in understandable, non-technical terms why they might need to move up the value chain. If they don’t understand, or worse, can’t find you, when will they ever maximize your value as an end-to-end provider?
Being an end-to-end hosting provider is not an easy thing to do in a market that is increasingly specialised and segmented. But those hosting providers that can combine the right end-to-end mix of packages and maintain the requisite levels of customer support will have a great shot at prospering in an underserved market opportunity.