How to Run Your Own Web Hosting Business: Part Two

Welcome back to the second iteration of my mini-series, “How to Run Your Own Web Hosting Business”. For those who haven’t read the first post, I’m linking it, since this is one of those things that is probably best read serially (although, referencing after reading is most certainly encouraged!).

Part Two: Almost Everything About Selling

Estimated working time: 24-48 hours. Estimated waiting time: 14-28 days.

In the last post, we talked about a lot of the things that you should do before you open your doors to sell. This post is going to hone in on some of the sales aspects. In terms of working time, this will take the longest, as you should continually be tweaking your site to improve it. This post will consider the content of the website (which is hugely important and often overlooked), the content of your forum offers, and tie up a few bits of miscellany.

This post is tremendously important. In the timespan that this post covers, you’ll go from your first customer, to your first ten, to perhaps even your first fifty.

Website Content

Without exception, every website for small web hosts needs to have several pages designed to make the company identity clear to readers, create a meaningful value proposition, and to encourage leads into sales.

  • Homepage
    • The homepage should contain a mix of all the elements in other pages. It should give the company identity, show the variety of products offered, and have clear places for customers to contact you. It should have everything, but it needs to look organized.
    • A note on sliders. Many hosting companies are using large slider images as part of a recent trend. Sliders can be an effective way to feature products, but sliders are often left out of date (i.e. showcasing a sale that has passed) or broken by unknowing webmasters.
  • About page
    • The about page should showcase the company’s past, present, and allude to the future. If it doesn’t have much of a past, explain the founders’ past experiences in related fields and how he or she just exudes passion for the industry. Future plans can be vague but should not rely on meaningless buzz words like “cloud”.
  • Contact page
    • The contact page should show a contact form to capture an email address. If it is possible, having information for the corporate phone number, email, and also a live chat, acts as an important way to show brand authenticity.
  • Product pages
    • Your product pages should not be generic. In other words, your product page for “web hosting” and “reseller hosting” shouldn’t just be exactly the same but with different packages. Part of the value proposition is showing the differentiation between the packages. For instance, reseller accounts allow users to tap into their entrepreneurial spirits, while shared accounts allow users to play around with cPanel. Furthermore, when you come to offering VPS and dedicated servers, these pages should have an altogether different layout.
  • Blog
    • Blogs are a great way to show that you know your industry, but they’re only good if they can be updated periodically. If blogging less than once a month is not doable, then I would recommend not doing it at all. Remember that WordPress does have a scheduling utility, so you can write the posts in advance and they can always be sent out later (much like this very post!).
  • Legal Info
    • Every company needs to have legal information in place about its services. Particularly two main documents come in handy: a terms of service and a privacy policy. A terms of service sets out the rules (and penalties for breaking the rules) that come along with your service. A privacy policy governs what is done with customer information. Both of these documents are to be followed at all times.

An excellent design and content on the website are fundamental aspects for turning leads into sales. One without the other is useless.

Offers & Strategies

You should begin posting offers on the forums as soon as you can. The offers should be no more than 40% off of retail price (anything more, or a 40% off sale that is run regularly, looks desperate, and lowers perceived value).

An offer is not a mere listing of your products and services but rather is a mini-website (thereby providing information about the company, about the sale itself, and about the products).

A Few Bits of Miscellany

Your first few weeks will be some of the slowest. As such, it is important to invest that time doing things that will come in handy in the future, but won’t be immediately necessary. I wouldn’t have known that these tasks would be so useful if I hadn’t have wished I had done them earlier.

  • Test your billing system to ensure it handles suspensions and terminations properly. This can be a big pain if it does not work properly, as you may need to manually delete hundreds of accounts and fix it later.
  • Start writing documentation for new workers. Yes, the company is small at this point. In the future, it won’t be. Let future workers know your vision by writing it down. Let them know about how they should interact with customers. Let them know about any specific procedures (i.e. is there a specific template or troubleshooting guide that they should use?).

Your Homework

Continue to post on forums and interact with people in the industry. Even though hosting is all about servers, it is an industry that is quite personal and it is important to ensure that you hold a good reputation.

The next part will chronicle the decision to move from a reseller account to a VPS, or to a dedicated server. This is a decision that has been covered many times, but we are going to look at it in terms of how the technology affects the numbers and sales information, rather than the technology itself. Additionally, the next part will consider when it is time to offer other web services, like VPS and dedicated servers.