How to Start a Web Hosting Business with $50,000.00 USD available in funds: Marketing – Part I
Building the infrastructure of your new web hosting business was the easy part. Everone can swipe a credit card and buy some stuff with a shopping list in one hand. But getting the first sale and customers, that is the hardest part. To start from scratch good marketing needs to be involved. There will be short-term marketing steps and long-term marketing pieces. You are looking at online marketing options and offline marketing opportunities. Finding a good mix that gets you going quick, but builds marketing and brand value in the long term needs to be found. It is almost an art to do this and many web hosting startups fail to succeed. The most important rule is: do not start while your website is under construction. Nothing hurts a business more than turning customers away due to the website looking like a large construction zone. Be patient, but build your plan of action.
1) Yahoo Directory
You will hear different opinions, but overall getting your website listed in the Yahoo Directory (not the search index) is an important piece when it comes to marketing an online business. Even Google pointed this out (inofficially though, but Google does not give away any keys to the castle that easy …). So, check out other web hosting listings in the Yahoo Directory, write your own description, submit your site, and pay $299.00 for a one year listing.
$299.00 one-time (every 12 months, but for this project we consider this a one-time expense)
2) Link Building via Forum Signatures
Viral marketing has several forms. One is to become an active member in forums. You are not going to SPAM the forums with a link to your website. Make normal, but content rich and useful postings. BUT – setup a signature first. Check the forum rules to make sure links are allowed in signatures. Use a conservative approach with the signature text. Remember – your postings shall catch the attention, not the signature. Once people see you as a member that provides value and makes good postings, they will check out your signature link because they might trust you. Make it a habit to visit 5-10 forums each day and to make about 10-20 postings per forum. But what forums should you use? Well, you can visit forums like Web Hosting Talk, but it’s like selling pregnancy tests to pregnant women – it won’t be that effective. Visit webmaster and web design forums instead. Those people have websites and are always in need of web hosting. Make friends and maybe get referrals that way. Using forums for marketing has shown to be very effective if done right. Spend about an hour or two per day doing this.
3) MySpace.com Marketing
You think that MySpace.com is only for teenagers? Think again. MySpace has become much more than a meeting point for teenagers. Check out the groups and see if you find some that match your target group. Join MySpace, design a nice looking profile, join groups, and be active. Don’t SPAM just yet. ;-). MySpace marketing is another viral form of marketing and you should be treating your "friends" as such. Remember that you want to build long-term success.
This one is quick and will probably not help you in the first year. Still – submit your website to the appropriate category at DMOZ.org. Then walk away and forget about it.
5) MSN and Yahoogroups
Very similiar approach to the MySpace.com marketing. Join groups and become an active, but valuable member. Check out how others present their websites and links, profiles and homepages. Then carefully implement a similiar system. Again, do not SPAM. Treat this as a long-term marketing tool. Spend about 1 hour a day for MySpace, MSN, and Yahoogroup marketing.
6) Target Group / Niche Market
The marketing approach so far has been cheap (cheap as in affordable) and time was your main investment. It was also kind of broad, but that is alright. The goal was to get going and to build long-term value. We are now at the point to better define a niche market and then to start advertising towards that niche. Define your niche market. But how? Do you have any special interests that eventually build a good foundation? If you are already an expert in a certain niche, you can use that knowledge to cater that niche and use your reputation and knowledge as a bait. Do you want to go local and mainly work with local businesses that you can visit in person? Build upon those kind of things and identify your niche. Something you feel comfortable with working.
Please read on in Part II of this new marketing guide.