One of the main reasons today’s businesses love emerging technology is that it makes them more agile. In a world where change seems to come faster every day, agility is defining survivors and leaders. So how agile is your web or app hosting firm? Your own survival depends on helping customers achieve the agility they need.
By now you’re aware – perhaps painfully so – that the web and app hosting tech category is undergoing significant change. Your customers don’t look the same as they used to. They may not even be the same businesses. In their five-year market forecast issued last fall, 451 Research warned providers would have to re-think their market positioning.
So, out with the old and in with the new. But what?
Understanding the nature of change is a good start. If you’ve been following our blog, you know we’ve been working our way through key trends 451 Research identified as they apply to web and app hosts. We’ve also been passing along hints and tips on taking advantage of these trends. Now it’s time to look at how you can turn agility into opportunity.
Market trends have made it clear your traditional key products/services are no longer on-point or even necessary for a growing number of your customers. In response, 451 Research says “hosts in the web and application market are seeing success by targeting specific customer types, and building products around relevant business outcomes (an e-commerce transaction or a service call), rather than the infrastructure building blocks.”
Strategic change: repositioning
Many small businesses don’t understand how their technology works. They don’t really care. What they want is results. Simplicity. Reliability.
We’ve made this point in past articles because it cuts to the bottom line. Your bottom line because you can’t be profitable unless you know what customers want and need and provide exactly that. Their bottom line because partnering with you ensures they have exactly what they want and need to pursue their core work.
So stop thinking of your hosting business as a seller of services or products. Redefine yourself as the Best Choice Working Partner for your customers. You’ve always hoped to build long-term relationships with customers. Today, and moving forward, that becomes essential.
If your customers are changing, you need to change with them. What else can you offer to make your business indispensable for existing customers? Who are the prospects you are best able to serve? How can you help each one improve their use of technology to grow their business?
Who should you target?
- Small businesses in your chosen industry/niche.
- DIY website tool users – many extremely small businesses are just now creating websites, having previously relied on social media and review sites for marketing. You can help them by offering new DIY products, either directly from your company or as a reseller. You could offer packaged applications or services that help develop, manage and/or support everything from websites and social media presence to content marketing.
- Website designers who work with small businesses such as your targets. Help them manage and monitor their clients’ sites, provide support when needed.
Strategic change: bundling applications and services
Small businesses are turning to cloud-based solutions not only for their website, but for email and search marketing, e-commerce, social media and financial tasks such as billing and bookkeeping. The more applications they use to improve their daily business management, the more complex and redundant they’re finding their administrative work. E-commerce alone requires SSL certificates, shopping cart, order management, payment processing and site security.
Help customers choose the right tools and manage them seamlessly, and you’ve just relieved them of a major barrier to productivity. Plus they still need your help for back-up, file sync or coordinating communications apps for instant messaging, collaborative working, etc.
The specific services and/or products you bundle will depend on your target businesses. Restaurants have different needs than medical or legal practices or creative professionals.
Strategic change: consulting
Prospects and existing customers ask you questions all the time, don’t they? You have knowledge and experience they do not, so they turn to you for advice. They trust you. Why not capitalize on that? Actively promote your availability as their “resident resource.”
Never assume your audience understands how valuable you are, or the number of ways in which you offer value to them. Your recommendations are particularly valuable, because without that advice customers often don’t know what products and/or services they even need. Or how to bundle them for greatest effectiveness and best pricing. Consulting with you saves them money, and it can make them money, too.
Strategic change: partnerships
You don’t have to create all these products or perform all these services yourself. Establish collaborative or reciprocal agreements with complimentary firms. Helping your customers connect with what they need underscores your resource value. At the same time, you can gain new customers when your partners promote your services to their clientele.
For example, Spiceworks periodically promotes cooperative partnerships that could benefit their subscribers. This one is between FusionStorm and Dell. How could you and your vendors/partners pull together to grow your companies?
The trend toward increasing market segmentation can be a door-opener for your web and app hosting company. Think of it a roadmap for strategically reinventing your business. Adapting will keep you agile and strong. So when the next trend emerges, you’ll be ready to take advantage of that, too.
Check out more blog posts:
- Could Managed Services Be Your New Services?
- The Future of Web and App Hosting: By the Numbers
- Characteristics of an Ideal Cloud or Hosting Provider