Gaining an Edge: An Interview With Andrew Schrage of Money Crashers

To gain an edge, web hosts can learn a lot from business owners in other industries. I recently had the opportunity to interview Andrew Schrage, co-owner of Money Crashers Personal Finance, to see how he works to make Money Crashers stand out from the crowd.

WHM: You’re definitely in a crowded market. Who are your biggest competitors?

AS: You’re right – we do face a lot of competition. Some of the other top personal finance blogs in our market include Get Rich Slowly, The Simple Dollar, Wise Bread, Daily Finance, and Consumerist.

WHM: So how have you managed to get an edge?

AS: While we do periodically check in on what the competition is doing, we focus more on identifying and implementing strategies for growth that work for us. We’re heavily involved in social media marketing, and we frequently contribute guest posts to other sites. We focus on producing high-quality content, and we never sacrifice quality for quantity. If we have to go a few days without posting anything because we need more time to devote to an article, we’ll do so.  We have a team of dedicated writers, editors, and other staff members who all possess a strong desire to get ahead. Our compensation structure is based on performance, so the more our staff members contribute or their content does well with our readers, the more they’re compensated.

Stand Out From the Crowd: How a Bootstrapped Company Survives in a Billion-Dollar Industry

The electronics industry is bustling with billion-dollar corporations. Not the easiest area for a young entrepreneur to make his mark, but that hasn’t stopped Jeremiah Patterson.

Patterson is the founder of Taptl, a company that manufactures transparent LCD touchscreens like this:

As you might suspect, Taptl isn’t the only company interested in creating these touchscreens. Patterson’s company is in competition with all the electronics giants. LG, Sony, Samsung are just a few of the corporations that pump millions of dollars into developing the best in electronics. That doesn’t read like a recipe for bootstrapped success, but Patterson’s Taptl is still going strong.

Over the last year and a half, Taptl has developed the 46″ Taptl Noir and it’s set to launch this year.

How are they doing it?

Use Your Weakness as a Strength

“We are small and we use it to our advantage,” Patterson says. “I’ve built several businesses over the past 14 years and the same general theme applies: use your weakness as a strength.”

While operating with limited resources can be challenging, Patterson says that the size of his company allows for more flexibility and a quicker response to the market.

“When you look at large corporations, they have many processes and routines that slow them down, but as a small business, I have the capability to respond to market demands immediately.”

Think Outside the Box

Patterson says that success in business isn’t achieved with money. Innovation is key. And the faster you can innovate the better:

We were initially focusing on a projector-based system, but when we did an event at Fashion Week in NYC, we saw the need for something more sophisticated. I went back to the drawing board and ultimately had the idea to build an interactive transparent LCD product. Larger companies would wrangle with red tape and approval processes for months to make such a radical adjustment, we were able to pivot almost immediately.

Make Allies in the Industry

Don’t be afraid to engage your larger competitors in a conversation.

“Rather than attempting to compete head-on with a billion-dollar company, simply ask them to talk!” Patterson says.

He recommends that entrepreneurs entering a crowded market ally with a trustworthy competitor. For Patterson and Taptl, that ally is Samsung:

It took me about five months of work to finally land a meeting with the Manager of Samsung’s LCD vertical. I used sources such as Jigsaw to get email addresses. I also researched the major distribution partners of Samsung and I was able to get conference calls with the Samsung decision makers.

That led to a meeting with Samsung during which Patterson was introduced to some of Samsung’s unreleased display technology.

“I was dazzled to say the least, and I told them that I would love to integrate Samsungs transparent LCD into a product of ours.”

After that meeting, Patterson was given access to Samsung resources and assistance. Samsung’s engineers and product experts were made available to answer his questions and offer guidance.

Many times, people think corporations are unapproachable, so they never make an attempt. But if you talk to a corporate employee in a respectful manner, you may be surprised at the reply. And if the reply is ‘no,’ then just find someone else in the chain to speak with.

Stand Out

Patterson’s story shows that smaller companies can survive in competitive markets. By taking advantage of the enhanced agility afforded by their size and focusing on innovation, entrepreneurs can outmaneuver the competition and carve out a niche for their company.

The Taptl Noir launches in New York City at the end of August.

 

Tell Me Another One: Using Stories to Increase Sharing

This is Part 6 of a seven-part series on viral marketing for web hosting companies. The series is based largely on Jonah Berger’s book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. The whole series will be collected here: Viral Marketing for Web Hosting Companies. If you find the series interesting, I encourage you to pick up Berger’s book for further information.

Last time we talked about how to increase social sharing by offering practical value.  Today we’re going to talk about the last factor to consider in your efforts to get people talking about your company:

Stories

In Contagious, Berger talks about using stories as Trojan Horses with your message inside. The Trojan Horse was a horse (of course) that the Greeks gave to the Trojans as a gag gift during the Trojan War. The Trojans and the Greeks had been fighting forever and there was no end in sight.

Until one day, when the Trojans heard a lot of shouting outside the city walls. The Greeks were like, “Hey, you got us! You win!”

The Trojans peeked their little Trojan noses over the walls of Troy to see what the Greeks were going on about.

“I think we’re being Punk’d,” said Hector of Troy with an arched brow.

The acoustics of the city were such that the Greeks on the outside could hear Hector’s suspicions and they reassured him saying:

“No, really! We’re heading home. We just wanted to leave you guys this cool horse we made for you! Out of wood!”

There was a psychic chick in Troy, Cassandra, and she saw right through that.

“Beware of Greeks bearing gifts!” she warned.

But that wasn’t really a saying at the time and no one ever believed her anyway, so that was enough to convince everyone that they should totally take the horse.

“All right, well… see ya! We’ll just be heading home then… enjoy the horse… see you in a few years…” the Greeks said as they ran giggling back to their boats.

That night, the Trojans brought in the horse to make sure it matched the upholstery.

“This is so cool!”

“Where are we going to put this thing?!”

“Stop! You’re going to break it, Aeneas!”

They partied all night and passed out drunk. Then, after the last of them was asleep, Ashton Kutcher surprised them all! He jumped out of the horse with a sword and led the rest of the Greeks as they slaughtered all the Trojans. (I know, it doesn’t really sound like much of a prank does it? But it actually led to a very successful TV show for Kutcher.)

Saddling Up Your Own Trojan Horse

Berger writes that we should use stories as our own Trojan Horses (with a message inside instead of sword-wielding Greeks). People are much more receptive to information conveyed through stories and they’re much more likely to pass the story on if it:

  1. offers social currency,
  2. is triggered,
  3. evokes high arousal emotions,
  4. is public, and
  5. offers practical value.

One of the easiest ways to develop stories you can use to increase sharing is to ask your clients for success stories. How have they used your web hosting to improve their business and achieve their goals? Ask them how they use specific features of your hosting. That will demonstrate the benefits of your services while also providing practical value by giving people an idea of how to use your web hosting to their advantage.

Ask them how they overcame hardship or did something amazing with your web hosting (and give them points for it) to evoke high arousal emotions.

Publicity Stunts

If you decide to use a publicity stunt to create a story around your company, be sure that your brand is an integral part of the story. Otherwise, you risk getting left out of future tellings. Berger tells the story of a man who broke into the Olympics and disrupted a high dive competition as part of a publicity stunt. The story spread, but no one was talking about the company that paid him to do it!

Tune in Next Time!

That’s it for today, but for more ideas on how to market your web hosting company, check out Berger’s book Contagious. Also, be sure to check out Part 5 (What Have You Done For Me Lately? Offer Practical Value to Increase Sharing) and come back for an overview of this series where I’ll tie all these concepts together and wrap them in a pretty bow.

If you like what you see, sign up for our free mailing list for exclusive information and resources to help you start, grow, and maintain a successful web hosting company.

* indicates required


(Affiliate links in bold.) 

What Have You Done For Me Lately? Offer Practical Value to Increase Sharing

This is Part 5 of a seven-part series on viral marketing for web hosting companies. The series is based largely on Jonah Berger’s book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. The whole series will be collected here: Viral Marketing for Web Hosting Companies. If you find the series interesting, I encourage you to pick up Berger’s book for further information.

Last time we talked about how to increase your visibility by making the private public.  Today we’re going to talk about the fifth factor to consider when trying to create buzz:

Practical Value

In Contagious, Berger writes that practical value is “about saving people time or money, or helping them have good experiences.”

Think about the last time you made a decision that required you to gather and sift through large amounts of information. You probably asked one or more people what you should do. And they probably either shared their opinion or sent you a link to a website that helped you out.

So what makes something seem practically valuable enough to pass along?

Jonah Berger, Contagious: Why Things Catch On

How can you apply this to your web hosting company?

Offer an Amazing Deal

The best way to offer practical value with your web hosting company is to offer an amazing deal. In the book Berger goes over the psychology of deals and explains how you can make your deal seem more extraordinary. Here are a few tips:

  1. People consider deals in relative terms. If you normally charge $30 a month for web hosting and offer a deal for $20 a month, it will seem like a a better deal than it would if you normally charged $25. 
  2. Restrictions make deals look better. The exclusivity of a limited time offer makes it seem like a better deal. Put restrictions on your offer (e.g., only offer it to the first 10 new clients or to clients who have purchased a specific hosting plan).
  3. The Rule of 100. If it costs more than $100, tell them the dollar amount of the deal. If it’s less than $100, tell them the percentage. If your hosting is $240 a year, let them know you’re giving them a $24 discount. If you charge $20 a month, let them know you’re giving them 10% off. Either way it’s the same savings in absolute terms, but it sounds better if you follow the Rule of 100.

News They Can Use

Offering practical information is another effective way to increase sharing. Write articles on how to create a website (you can write it with your niche client in mind) and other topics that a web hosting client would be interested in. People have a natural desire to help each other. Give them a way to do that.

Tune in Next Time!

That’s it for today, but for more ideas on how to market your web hosting company, check out Berger’s book Contagious. Also, be sure to check out Part 4 (Increase Your Visibility by Making the Private Public) and come back for Part 6 in our series on viral marketing: Tell Me Another One: Using Stories to Increase Sharing.

If you like what you see, sign up for our free mailing list for exclusive information and resources to help you start, grow, and maintain a successful web hosting company.

* indicates required


(Affiliate links in bold.) 

Niche of the Week: Web Hosting for Web Designers

The web hosting industry is a crowded market. If you want your web hosting company to succeed, you’ll need to find ways to differentiate yourself. One way to set your services apart from the rest is to find a niche. We’ll be covering a different niche each week to help give you an idea of where your company might fit into the wide world of web hosting.

The Niche: Web Designers

Web designers can’t live without web hosting. They’ll definitely need a website and they made need space to host their clients’ sites. They can also be an excellent referral source. 

Some web designers will probably consider BluehostHostGator, or some other company that offers affordable hosting. On the other hand, most web designers are more tech-savvy than your average n00b. Many web designers do their own web hosting, but not all of them. If you build your brand in a way that lets designers know that your hosting is designed with them in mind, you shouldn’t have too much trouble winning them over.

What to Offer

1. Space

Web designers will need space for graphics, content management systems- plenty of room to work. Give it to them!

2. Affordability

You’ll be working with freelancers for the most part and they will be very concerned with keeping overhead costs low. Offer affordable plans that won’t break their budget.

3. Ease of Use

Web designers are tech-savvy, but they’re also busy. They’ll want to focus on their real job, designing websites, not the boring minutiae that happens behind the scenes so make your service quick and easy.

Where to Find Clients

Grab your business cards and go to local area Meetup groups. Introduce yourself and let them know that you offer web hosting. You should be there to learn and help others as well- you don’t want to seem like a human piece of spam. Make yourself useful and you should find that, not only do you win some of your fellow group members as clients, but they’ll probably help you acquire some referral clients as well.

You can also advertise on forums like DigitalPoint and others (here’s a list). But before you pay, make some friends in the forum. You might get some business without advertising. The same goes for LinkedIn groups and Google+ communities.

That should get you started! Be sure to check out our other web hosting niche ideas and, if you like what you see, sign up for our mailing list:

* indicates required

(Affiliate links in bold.) 

Increase Your Visibility by Making the Private Public

This is Part 4 of a seven-part series on viral marketing for web hosting companies. The series is based largely on Jonah Berger’s book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. The whole series will be collected here: Viral Marketing for Web Hosting Companies. If you find the series interesting, I encourage you to pick up Berger’s book for further information.

Last time we talked about how to use emotions to increase social sharing. Today we’re going to talk about the fourth factor to consider when trying to create buzz:

Publicness

How visible is your brand?

People are more likely to use a product or service if they see someone else is using it. That’s especially true if the someone(s) using it are their friends. In Contagious, Berger talks about “making the private public.”

Observability has a huge impact on whether products and ideas catch on. Say a clothing company introduces a new shirt style. If you see someone wearing it and decide you like it, you can go buy the same shirt, or something similar. But this is much less like to happen with socks.

Why?

Because shirts are public and socks are private. They’re harder to see.

Jonah Berger, Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Unfortunately, web hosting is more like socks than shirts. When was the last time you knew what web hosting company someone was using without asking them? The key to generating buzz for your web hosting company is to make the private public.

Here are four ways you can increase the publicness of your web hosting services:

  1. Install a plugin like Facebook Like Box to allow visitors to your page to see which of their friends have liked your Facebook page.
  2. Offer a cheaper plan to clients willing to display “Hosted by [Your Hosting Company]” in their footer.
  3. Create an affiliate program. Give your clients a percentage of each sale they bring in. This will encourage them to let everyone know they use your company.
  4. Develop (or have someone develop) a social media app that posts status updates on your client’s social feed letting others in their network know what they did. For example, “John Doe upgraded to a silver plan with [Your Web Hosting Company].

All of these ideas could be worked into your customer rewards program (see Create Buzz and Loyalty With Customer Rewards Programs) to encourage your clients to take part in them.

Another important factor to increasing the publicness of your brand is behavioral residue. Behavioral residue is “the physical traces or remnants that most actions or behaviors leave in their wake.” Unfortunately, buying and using web hosting services doesn’t leave much of a trace. Unless you do something about it.

If you create a customer rewards program and offer shirts, hats, stickers, and other branded merchandise you can create behavioral residue and let your clients know they’re important to you at the same time. If you have any other ideas on how to increase publicness or create behavioral residue I’d love to hear them. Leave a comment!

Tune in Next Time!

That’s it for today, but for more ideas on how to market your web hosting company, check out Berger’s book Contagious. Also, be sure to check out Part 3 (What Have You Done For Me Lately? Offer Practical Value to Increase Sharing) and come back for Part 5 in our series on viral marketing: What Have You Done for Me Lately?

If you like what you see, sign up for our free mailing list for exclusive information and resources to help you start, grow, and maintain a successful web hosting company.

* indicates required


(Affiliate links in bold.) 

Tug at Their Heartstrings: How to Use Emotions to Increase Sharing

This is Part 3 of a seven-part series on viral marketing for web hosting companies. The series is based largely on Jonah Berger’s book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. The whole series will be collected here: Viral Marketing for Web Hosting Companies. If you find the series interesting, I encourage you to pick up Berger’s book for further information.

Last time we talked about how to use triggers to stay in your clients’ heads. Today we’re going to talk about the third factor you can exploit to increase sharing:

Emotion

Jonah Berger and others have found that certain emotions can cause us to be more likely to share. Berger did a number of studies to determine exactly which emotions were the most effective and covered them in his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On. Today I’m going to talk about some of those emotions and explain how you can utilize them in your marketing efforts.

High Arousal Emotions

Not all emotions increase sharing. Certain emotions (e.g., contentment, sadness) actually decrease sharing. Berger found that the key is to evoke high arousal emotions. High arousal emotions put us in a state that psychologists call activation. Activation is ”a dimension of experience that refers to a sense of mobilization or energy” (The Structure of Current Affect: Controversies and Emerging Consensus) and, in his research, Berger discovered that we are more likely to share things when we are in a state of activation.

He lists awe, excitement, and amusement as the key high arousal emotions on the positive side of the spectrum. They are contrasted with contentment, a low arousal emotion that will decrease the likelihood of sharing. Then there are negative emotions that increase sharing. Like anger and anxiety. Sadness, on the other hand, is a low arousal emotion that will decrease the likelihood of sharing.

How Can a Web Hosting Company Stir Up an Emotional Response?

Easy. There are a number of hosting-related issues that cause clients to be anxious. Here are just a few things your potential clients might be worried about and how you might use that to win them over:

  1. Data Loss. Show them that, if they sign up with you, their data isn’t going anywhere.
  2. Hackers and Viruses. Explain the security measures you take to assure them that their data will be safe with you.
  3. Losing Business (if their site goes down). Provide detailed uptime data.
  4. Going Out of Business. Show them how you can keep them afloat through affordable prices or some other feature.
  5. Moving to Another Web Host (if the one they’re using goes out of business). Tell them how long you’ve been around or how well you’ve planned for the future. Let them know you’re not going anywhere.

And, on the positive side,

  1. Get them excited about the possibilities for their business if they sign up with you. What services to you offer that they can’t find anywhere else? What will that mean for their business?
  2. Share amazing success stories from your clients.
  3. Make them laugh with an article or a video related to your company.

Sit down and brainstorm for a while. Figure out how you can play on them to make your current and potential clients want to spread the word about your company.

Tune in Next Time!

That’s it for today, but for more ideas on how to market your web hosting company, check out Berger’s book Contagious. Also, be sure to check out Part 2 (Get in Their Head: Using Triggers to Remind Your Clients to Buy) and come back for Part 4 in our series on viral marketing: Increase Your Visibility by Making the Private Public.

If you like what you see, sign up for our free mailing list for exclusive information and resources to help you start, grow, and maintain a successful web hosting company.

* indicates required


(Affiliate links in bold.) 

Get in Their Head: Using Triggers to Remind Your Clients to Buy

This is Part 2 of a seven-part series on viral marketing for web hosting companies. The series is based largely on Jonah Berger’s book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. The whole series will be collected here: Viral Marketing for Web Hosting Companies. If you find the series interesting, I encourage you to pick up Berger’s book for further information.

Last time we talked about the six factors that encourage sharing:

  1. Social Currency,
  2. Triggers,
  3. Emotions,
  4. Publicness,
  5. Practical Value, and
  6. Stories

and explored how to create social currency in your web hosting company by using a customer rewards system. Today we’re going to talk about the second factor:

Triggers

[A]ccessible thoughts and ideas lead to action.

-Jonah Berger, Contagious: Why Things Catch On

Triggers are cues that bring your product to mind. Berger’s research shows that an effective trigger can make someone more likely to perform a desired action. In the book, he describes how he exposed a group of college students to a slogan that included the trigger “dining-hall tray” and encouraged them to put more fruits and vegetables on said tray. That group ate 25% more fruits and vegetables than a group that saw a slogan without the word “dining-hall tray” in it.

Finding Effective Triggers

So how do you find a trigger you can use? First off, don’t rely on To be effective, a trigger shouldn’t be associated with a lot of idea already. The fewer the better. Berger describes it as being like a cup of water with a hole poked in it. With just one hole, there’s a strong stream of water going in one direction. The more holes, the weaker the flow.

To find an effective trigger, you’ll need to answer the three W’s.

1. What’s your objective?

First you have to determine what effect you’re attempting to trigger. Signing up for a web hosting plan? Upgrading their account? Spreading the word about a new deal? Your objective will determine your answer to the other two W’s.

2. Who’s your target audience?

Who do you need to reach to succeed in your objective? Consider your target audience and the sorts of situations they’re in on a regular basis, the objects they come across frequently, and the places they go. Maybe your audience is web designers and you want them to think of you every time they sit open the software they use to edit their web page, for instance.

Your trigger should play off one or more of these cues, because if your audience is Eskimos and your trigger is green grass, you’re not going to have much luck.

3. Where do they need to be?

Your trigger should be based on a cue that will take place as close to the point of sale as possible. If you want them to go to your website and click “Upgrade” then you don’t want your trigger to be something they’d come across on the drive home from work when they can’t do anything about it.

Brainstorming

Answer those three W’s and then sit down for ten minutes and write down potential cues. After ten minutes, take a look at those cues and come up with ways you can incorporate that into an advertising campaign or your service itself.

Using Triggers as a Slingshot

What about using your competitor’s ads as a trigger?

If your web hosting company is a David up against a Goliath-sized marketing budget, you can use your competitor’s advertising campaigns against them. If there’s something memorable about their advertising, take it and turn it on its head in a way that supports your brand. Berger explains how an anti-smoking campaign was able to do this to equalize the effects of their deeper pocketed competitors (tobacco companies).

The anti-smoking group ran an advertising campaign that played off of the Marlboro’s Marlboro Man campaign. There were two cowboys sitting on their horses, shot in a way similar to the Marlboro ads, but instead of saying anything about Marlboro it said “Bob, I’ve got emphysema.” That way, whenever anyone saw a Marlboro ad, they were triggered to remember the no smoking ad and that smoking can cause emphysema. This is called the poison parasite defense.

We have labeled this maneuver the Poison Parasite Defense because it consists of two elements, one poisonous and one parasitic. The poisonous component is the presence of effective counter information that undercuts the opponent’s assertions. The parasitic component is the presence of retrieval cues that bring the counter information to mind whenever recipients are exposed to those assertions.

-Robert B. Cialdini, The Poison Parasite Defense: A Strategy for Sapping a Stronger Opponent’s Persuasive Strength

In the Poison Parasite Defense, Robert B. Cialdini (Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University) states that an effective defense against a better funded opponent must develop a persuasive counter-message and deliver that counter-message in a way that can be easily recalled when necessary (i.e., when presented with the competitor’s message).

Is there anything that stands out in your competitors marketing? Turn their ads into triggers for your own brand by taking that something and creating an ad campaign around it. Then target that ad to your potential clients through a Facebook, Google AdWords, and a LinkedIn campaign.

Tune in Next Time!

That’s it for today, but for more ideas on how to market your web hosting company, check out Berger’s book Contagious. Also, be sure to check out Part 1 (Create Buzz and Loyalty With Customer Rewards Programs) and come back for Part 3 in our series on viral marketing: Tug at Their Heartstrings: How to Use Emotions to Increase Sharing.

If you like what you see, sign up for our free mailing list for exclusive information and resources to help you start, grow, and maintain a successful web hosting company.

* indicates required


(Affiliate links in bold.) 

Create Buzz and Loyalty With Customer Rewards Programs

This is Part 1 of a seven-part series on viral marketing for web hosting companies. The series is based largely on Jonah Berger’s book Contagious: Why Things Catch On. The whole series will be collected here: Viral Marketing for Web Hosting Companies. If you find the series interesting, I encourage you to pick up Berger’s book for further information.

The web hosting industry is growing but competitive. While there’s room for newcomers, startups shouldn’t have any illusions. Web hosting is not a get-rich-quick scheme.

As we’ve mentioned before, in order to be successful, a web hosting startup will need to find ways to differentiate itself from the competition. To that end, I’m writing this series on viral marketing for web hosting companies. This seven-part series is designed for web hosting companies of all shapes and sizes. Anyone can benefit from low-cost viral marketing.

Part 1: Create Buzz and Loyalty With Customer Rewards Programs

In Contagious: Why Things Catch On, Jonah Berger, professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, takes a scientific approach to determine why some things are shared more than others. It’s an easy-to-read primer on creating buzz and encouraging word-of-mouth advertising.

Berger writes about a number of businesses that entered crowded markets and found a way to rise above the rest. And not just exciting brands. Even seemingly boring products like blenders have been the subject of successful viral marketing campaigns.

Berger includes other examples- from bars and restaurants to coffee and cereal- to make it clear that your product or service doesn’t have to be inherently sexy or cool to generate buzz. The key is to find (or create) something about your business that provides some combination of the following elements:

  1. Social Currency
  2. A Trigger
  3. Emotion
  4. Publicness
  5. Practical Value
  6. A Story

In Part 1 we’re going to talk about the first piece of the viral puzzle.

Social Currency

One of the factors that plays a role in whether or not something goes viral is whether or not it offers social currency. A product or service offers social currency when it makes the person talking about it look good. Telling your friends about a funny new video makes you look cool. Posting a picture of your new American Express Black Card makes you look like a successful dude (and kind of stupid). Berger recommends three ways to build social currency:

(1) find inner remarkability; (2) leverage game mechanics; and (3) make people feel like insiders.

Can a web hosting company do that? Of course. Here are some ideas on how that could apply to your web hosting company:

Finding Inner Remarkability

What about your web hosting is striking or worthy of attention? If there isn’t anything, is there something you can do to add a remarkable element to your service? Berger discusses a number of companies that created inner remarkability. Two of the best are a steakhouse that offered a $100 cheesesteak and and a blender company that posted videos of a blender blending surprising items on the internet.

If your web hosting plans are pretty generic, Have you considered making them less generic? Or offering a particular plan that can’t be found anywhere else? You can focus on a particular group of people (bands, politicians, etc.) and by offering services that cater specifically to them, you can win their loyalty and set yourself apart from the crowd.

Try to come up with a remarkable hosting plan, a remarkable feature (maybe tech support that shows up at the client’s house with a thermos of coffee and two mugs to sip on with the client while they work), or a remarkable deal.

Leveraging Game Mechanics

How can you add an element of gaming to your service? Try a points system. Award your clients points for buying domain names through your company, for upgrading to a new hosting plan, for autorenewing their service, and any other favorable action. Then give them something in return for the points (e.g., free upgrades, free domain names, a free month of hosting). Make it easy for your clients to share that they were awarded points or something free by integrating social media sharing tools into your website.

Making People Feel Like Insiders

Why stop at rewards? Offer a tiered-rewards program that recognizes power users. Sort of like a frequent flyer miles type of deal. The longer they’re with you, the more upgrades they buy, etc. the more points they earn as they move into higher and higher tiers.

Then, let your clients use those points for a free month of service or something like that. If you offer hats, shirts, and things with your web hosting company’s name on them, you’ll not only be winning their loyalty, you’ll also be getting your company’s name out there.

You can also create a member’s only area of your webpage that provide weekly or monthly content with advice for your users (that will be particularly effective if you selected a niche and can offer information- even interviews with relevant people- that will benefit them specifically).

This rewards program will easily dovetail with the points system mentioned above and- if done right- it could be remarkable! How’s that for infectious marketing?

Tune in Next Time!

That’s it for today, but for more ideas on how to market your web hosting company, check out Berger’s book Contagious. And come back tomorrow for Part 2 in our series on viral marketing: Get in Their Head: Using Triggers to Remind Your Clients to Buy.

If you like what you see, sign up for our free mailing list for exclusive information and resources to help you start, grow, and maintain a successful web hosting company.

* indicates required


(Affiliate links are in bold.)

Beat the Big Boys With Local Tech Support

There are a number of ways you can set yourself apart in the web hosting industry but the most important service you can offer might just be tech support. And the best part about it is that, unlike many areas of web hosting where the larger companies have an edge, offering local technical support is one of the few areas where the major companies can’t compete with local companies.

That’s because offering local tech support is something you can do that the major web hosts just can’t afford to do. Especially gigantic hosts like Bluehost and HostGator. They just have too many clients.

The Impact of Accent on Customer Satisfaction

Accents make a difference. Studies show that clients are less satisfied when technical support is provided by someone that they perceive as having an accent. Political consultants have found that this bias doesn’t stop at foreign accents. Regional accents can have an affect as well. Customers prefer to talk to people who sound like them.

People like to know that they’re getting help from someone in the neighborhood. Someone they could go see in person if they wanted to. In fact, if you’ve got an office, why not invite your clients to stop by for a cup of coffee when they’re having a technical support issue? Or have someone stop by their house. Let your capable staff handle their issue in person and see if that doesn’t generate some buzz for your company.

The Political Factor

Then there’s the widely held sentiment that companies that outsource anything are hurting the country they operate in by sending jobs overseas. Whether that’s true or not, it’s a good reason to make it clear that your company is 100% staffed by locals. You’re creating jobs in your community, while your competition couldn’t even find Main Street.

The Opportunity

While big web hosts can’t afford to hire technical support providers in every state, you can. In fact, you can provide technical support from the very city your customers live in.

So sign up for a Bluehost or HostGator reseller account and offer the technical support they can’t afford.

(Affiliate links in bold.)