The hosting industry is comprised of close to 50,000 companies worldwide – with 10,000 companies in North America alone – all competing for market share. With few dominant players and 80% of the market consisting of small- and medium-sized businesses, there’s no doubt that the industry has become very competitive.
Enter the Cloud, and now the small- and medium-sized hosting providers are being challenged to change the way they operate in order to compete with the likes of Google and AWS and their extremely competitive pricing strategies.
Cloud is the fastest growing segment in the industry, with revenues forecasted to grow to $95 billion in the next 3 years (up from $55 million). The market is extremely competitive, and now more than ever SMBs need to differentiate themselves in order to compete with the big guys. Do you have a marketing strategy for this competitive market?
Who Is Your Customer?
Your customer may be a new business owner who doesn’t have the resources for in-house physical infrastructure and knows little about hosting. She may be a current customer who is growing her business and looking to outsource her IT department. Or he may have an established company and is moving his IT demands to a Cloud environment. Your customers may have little or no knowledge about hosting, or what they require, so they rely on your expertise to suggest whether a fully managed, managed, or self-managed scenario in a public, private, or hybrid environment is best for them.
Who Are You?
You are an SMB hosting and/or Cloud provider. You supply an array of services, ranging from deployment to monitoring and security. You have a steady stream of customers and you are happy, so why would you need marketing?
5 Myths of Marketing Strategy
If you think that the status quo is fine and that you don’t need a marketing strategy, you’re not alone. Many businesses make the mistake of getting comfortable when things are going well and business is good, but how prepared are you for market fluctuations and competitor threats? Do you have a marketing strategy intact to help you attract new customers and retain the ones you already have? If not, keep reading for 5 Myths Why Cloud and Hosting Providers Think They Don’t Need a Marketing Strategy…
Myth 1: My Competition Doesn’t Have a Marketing Strategy, so Why Should I?
Do you really know whether or not your competition has a strategy in place? Just because you haven’t seen a competitor ad pop up online or received the competition’s latest newsletter, that doesn’t mean that they don’t invest in marketing or plan to in the future. It’s dangerous to use your competitor’s lack of marketing presence as an excuse for you to remain complacent.
According to Internet hosting provider, Q3 Internet, 53% of companies do not have a reason behind their decision to go with one web hosting provider over another. If you talk to business owners who have recently shopped for a new hosting provider, they will probably tell you how difficult it was to wade through the bevy of providers – all of which offer an array of similar, generic services. In an industry with no clear differentiation between hosts, and no clear reason why one stands out from the rest, this is a huge opportunity for you as a hosting provider.
Why? Because there is so much potential market share up for grabs. This is an opportunity to stand out from the crowd of providers and capture potential new business. How is this possible? With a strategic marketing plan.
Before you start planning, ask yourself: What is the key differentiator that sets me apart from my competition? Is it your customer service? Is it your software? Your uptime rate? Determine what makes your company awesome and use this to define your brand. Secondly, ask yourself: How can I stand out from the crowd of thousands and communicate my value proposition with the world? Don’t promise to be everything to everyone, just focus on why you are special. Developing your niche in a well-planned marketing strategy can bring in new customers, as well as help to retain the customers you have.
Myth 2: Social Media Won’t Bring Me Business
Let’s face it, social media isn’t going away anytime soon. Not only is social media a great way to connect and build relationships with your customers, it has become an integral part of most marketing strategies.
According to Forrester Research, 86% of marketing managers surveyed believe successfully integrating multiple channels under a single integrated marketing strategy is critical to success. Nowadays, most effective marketing plans involve some form of social media. It is a good vehicle to deliver your message, complement your content marketing, as well as drive traffic to your website.
If your exceptional 24/7 customer service is your forte, social media is a great place to start a conversation with your existing and potential customers and use the platform to answer questions about your products and services. What’s more, you can quickly respond to negative feedback and turn a “wrong” into a “right.” Nothing says excellent customer service more than an immediate response to an online customer inquiry.
Social media is more than just “Likes” and “Follows” — it is also a way to engage with the public and develop a community with the goal of building brand loyalty with your customers.
Proactive use of social media can be used to locate sales opportunities. By researching topics around business needs and problems, and initiating conversation, you can actually target people looking for your services. Online forums are a great place to find people who have questions about your industry. You can engage in the conversation and offer a solution that may lead to a sale.
If you are just starting out and/or have limited resources, social media is a way to inexpensively reach the masses. With a commitment of time, a well-established social media page can make a young company seem established or a small company seem larger, and all while driving traffic to your website. Used in conjunction with your marketing efforts, social media can help turn “Likes” into sales. .
Myth 3: I’m Too Small — I Can’t Afford Marketing
The opposite is actually true – you can’t afford NOT to have a marketing strategy in place. Marketing is an investment, not an expense; which is a common mistake many companies make. You need to invest in your brand if you want to survive in a highly competitive market.
In an industry that sees price cuts, discounts, and unlimited bandwidth plans, it is only going to get more competitive, especially for the SMBs, which is why this isn’t the time to cut costs on marketing efforts.
Your marketing strategy doesn’t have to break the bank. Investing in marketing doesn’t mean that you have to throw thousands of dollars into advertising. Choose quality over quantity. Invest in a content marketing strategy in conjunction with some PR and pair it with social media to grow your brand organically.
Start small – begin by writing a blog post and go from there. According to HubSpot, blog frequency impacts customer acquisition. Ninety-two percent of companies that blogged multiple times a week acquired a customer through their blogging efforts. What better way to establish trust with your customers than by providing your followers with relevant and valuable information and establishing yourself as a thought leader in the industry.
Just consider some of the free (or nearly free) ways to market your services:
- Content marketing: As we’ve already discussed, high-quality blogs that provide valuable information to potential customers are incredibly effective in growing your business. Post articles on your own blog, or submit them for publication to other blog sites, or industry publications. And don’t forget the publications opportunities on networking sites such as LinkedIn and Slideshare.
- Email: Emails are another effective marketing tool. You can amp up the results by offering useful content or offers to prospective customers through a nurturing campaign.
- Problem solving: Just as you can use content marketing to help build your image as an expert in your field, you can accomplish a similar outcome by providing your website visitors with tools or content to help them solve their problems. Not only will this enhance your brand’s value; it will also increase a feeling of loyalty on the part of your customers, and make it more likely that potential customers will sign up for your services after they’ve been helped by the problem-solving tools you’ve made available to them.
Myth 4: I’m Very Specialized; I Have My Core Clients and They Know Where to Find Me
You have defined your brand and differentiated yourself from the masses, which helps set you apart from your competition. Now you can focus on servicing your core, quality customers. So why would you want to attract new customers? Because you want to stay alive in the in the very price-sensitive market.
Your competition is constantly trying to gain new customers – your customers. Ensuring that you have a plan in place to attract new customers is critical to your success. Rather than focusing on competing with their pricing structures, focus on what sets you apart. According to a report by Emergent Research and Intuit, by 2020 78% of small businesses will be fully adapted to Cloud computing, up from 37 percent in 2014.
When we talk about attracting “new customers,” we don’t mean you have to go too far out of your comfort zone. Just remember two words: vertical marketing. In essence, a vertical market is made up of a variety of businesses that provide goods or services in a specific industry.
For example, if your niche is health care, the vertical market associated with that industry would include companies that provide home health care services, outpatient services, or health care collection agencies.
Likewise, if your niche falls under the finance industry, you should consider marketing to related companies such as credit unions, credit card companies, or accounting agencies. Vertical marketing allows you to expand your customer base, while still maintaining your involvement in the industry you know.
Myth 5: Content Marketing Is Too Expensive
It’s all in the numbers. According to Econsultancy, 65% of companies consider content marketing to be too expensive. But did you know that 61% of consumers say they feel better about a company that delivers custom content and that they are also more likely to buy from that company? That doesn’t sound too expensive now, does it?
According to the B2B Content Marketing: 2014 Benchmarks, Budgets, and Trends—North America report, content marketing is a growing segment, especially with B2Bs, where 93% of B2Bs engage in some sort of content marketing. The same report reveals that 34% of their budget is allocated to content marketing and 58% expect to increase their allocated marketing budget to content marketing in the next year.
Content marketing is exploding and we can argue that it is well on its way to replacing traditional marketing. Defined by the Content Marketing Institute, “Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing valuable, relevant and consistent content to attract and acquire a clearly defined audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Content marketing is a means of creating brand loyalty with your customers, without pushy sales tactics. It’s providing relevant and valuable information for your customers with the goal of engaging with them and, in turn, creating customer retention and loyalty through sales.
Content marketing can involve social media, website blogs, and email newsletters – any medium that you use to disseminate information. In case you still aren’t sold on content marketing, according to Social Media B2B, companies with blogs generate 67% more leads per month on average than non-blogging firms. Worried about the cost? Content marketing costs 62% less than traditional marketing and generates about 3 times as many leads.
So how do you ensure that you are providing your audience with good content?
- Make it relevant – Consider who your audience is and what you think they would like to learn.
- Be consistent – Ensure that your content is consistent with your past, present, and future posts, and that you post regularly.
- Be a thought leader – Tell them something they don’t know – be an industry expert.
- Measure – Use an analytics tool to measure your success.
- Revise and repeat – Always welcome constructive feedback, revise your content marketing strategy when necessary, and repeat, repeat, repeat!
Contact us today to help you get started on your marketing strategy for hosting!