One of my biggest fears with getting into web hosting was the question of how was I going to compete with the big players. You’ve got your GoDaddys and Bluehosts and Sitegrounds. These types of hosts are massive and as a result their pricing is LOW. Very low. It’s not uncommon to see a hosting plan for $1.99 per month. There was no way I could offer that tier of pricing and make a go of this hosting thing. So as an independent web host, I’ve had to get creative with marketing my product to show why my prices are worth paying. I’ve been building my hosting company for a long time and here’s the top 3 ways I’ve found that I can be competitive with the larger hosts.
Of the three competitive advantages of independent hosts, this one can be the hardest to sell to customers, but it’s worth mentioning. Server density is a term used to quantify the number of websites hosted by one server. It is not uncommon for a host to put hundreds or even into the thousands of websites on a single server node. (Hence the $1.99 price point) Now, a good host will keep this number reasonably low as so not to “oversell” a server. Each website on a server is competing for resources and while most of the time, many small websites will have very few hits, a spike in traffic on one website can affect all the other websites on that server.
Now it should be noted that if you are simply reselling hosting packages as your hosting model, then this selling point does not apply to you as you are not in control of server density. But if you are using VPS or dedicated server hosting, here’s where you have an advantage as an independent host. If you are just starting out with hosting then you have a very low server density! Use that to your advantage. Granted, this may change over time as you gain clients, but I learned early on to milk that position for all it was worth. Now, the reason this is a hard point to sell to customers is because it’s hard for most people to understand. Many times your potential client will just see the price. Where this competitive advantage plays out the best is when a potential client has been burned by a slow and unresponsive oversold server. I’ve gained a number of clients who, unfortunately, had to learn the hard way.
Providing a personalized customer service experience is probably your best shot at gaining clients. When I sit down in a proposal meeting with a potential client, I sell this point hard. Sure, the bigs guys tout their 24/7 support, but what they can’t offer is a one on one relationship. I personally have met each one of my hosting clients and they know that when they need support, they are going to get me. Many of them have my personal cell phone number and can even text me when they have an issue. There are plenty of ways my clients can get a hold of me when they need me:
- They can open a ticket. I use WHMCS as my billing and ticketing portal. WHMCS is the industry standard for self-hosted billing.
- They can call toll free. I have a toll free number that is provided by Vitelity. (This is only a couple of dollars per month)
- They can call or text. I utilize Google Voice for this. Here I have a dedicated local number linked with Google Hangouts. If someone texts that number, its comes straight to my computer and cell phone without giving out my personal cell phone number.
- They can email.
Support of Local Business
I think if we’re honest, we all appreciate the convenience that Wal-Mart brings the world. Being able to find so many products under one roof is pretty incredible. However, I don’t think any of us like seeing small businesses go under because they were undercut by Wal-Mart’s prices. Web hosting is the same way. There was certainly a time when I appreciated the $1.99 hosting price point, but now that I’m trying to compete against it as a small business, it grieves me that those cheap prices even exist out there. But all hope is not lost. To some people, supporting local business is important. For some people, buying from the local farmers’ market is infinitely more desirable than shopping at Wal-Mart. Those are the customers we want to find. Customer who believe in supporting local business and are willing to pay a little bit more in order to do it.
Do you have a small host advantage that you’ve found to be helpful in selling your service? Share it in the comments below.
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