How to Start a Web Hosting Business with $50,000.00 USD available in funds: Marketing – Part II
This is the second part of our new marketing guide for new web hosting businesses. Getting a new web hosting business of the ground requires superior marketing skills. Make sure to read both parts of this article series.
7) Link Building and Advertising
Text links are an important piece for online marketing. They can be used for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) only or they can be used for advertising purposes or for a combination of both. Be careful that you only buy text links on websites you consider valuable. Just because a link is cheap to buy, does not mean it will provide you with the value that you need. Build your link buying advertising strategy around industry and service related websites. The closer the topic of a website you can buy advertising on is to your own, the better the value you get. Be careful when buying text links in general. A large jump in links to your site in a very short time can be seen as "SPAM" by search engines and might raise some flags. It is better to start slowly and then to increase the incoming links over time. What is a good ratio for a brand new site on a brand new domain name that has never been used before? Personally I would recommend to start with like 10 links for the first 4 weeks and then slowly increase the threshold to 15-20 links per week for the next 6 weeks. After that a threshold of 25-40 links is appropriate. Keep in mind that we plan for the long term and that we want to make sure search engines do not punish you for link building.
If you buy links there are three additional items to consider. Google Page Rank is important as it gives you a hint of how good your search engine marketing efforts are working out. Don’t become obsessed with Google PR. But – don’t ignore it either. Try to buy link advertising on sites with PR 3 to PR 6 – with an average on PR 4 or 5. Don’t go too high (= too expensive) or too low (= not enough value). Also, pick the right keywords for links to your website. The keywords should match important search terms that customers might use to search for web hosting services on a search engine. The third item to consider is the period of time a link will be up. Forget about anything less than 3 months unless the linking sites offers huge traffic and your link is in a highly visible spot. Buy long-term (3-12 months) or even buy permanent links. The longer a link is pointing to your site, the more value you will get. It also protects you better against price increases.
Offer your customers free stuff to increase loyalty and to motivate new signups. I’d recommend to stay away from offering free hosting or free domain names. Too much hassle and the wrong kind of customers get attracted. Use the incentives to build your brand maybe. A good example would be to offer a free T-Shirt and Baseball cap after 90 days. Of course the T-Shirt and the cap should wear your logo and URL. Customers will wear them and give you free advertising. Use incentives often in the beginning when starting a business and less often when you are established and word of mouth advertising drives sales (the ultimate goal).
9) Word of Mouth
You might have heard this before, but word of mouth is still one of the most effective ways to promote a business or product. Why? People trust people. You trust a friend who recommends "product A" more than if a sales associate at a store would tell you the exact same thing in the exact same words. And this is true for many things in life. Word of mouth advertising is one of the most powerful tools to grow a business and it is very affordable. Affordable as in "free" is what we are talking about. Got a customer? Treat him or her like a King or Queen. Go the extra mile, step up to the plate where needed, provide world-class customer service, and word of mouth will come naturally. You can motivate customers to recommend your services, too. Do it in a polite and conservative way though to make sure they do not feel pressured.
10) Banner Advertising
Get a few flash banners designed for your website and hosting packages. Pick at least a 468 x 60 and a 728 x 90 banner size + maybe a 120 x 600 banner to start out with. 3 banners should cost no more than $100 to be designed. Find some websites that offer banner advertising and book some campaigns. Make sure you are picking the right audience. You will probably have to pay by number of impressions. So, be prepared for that and budget accordingly. Keep in mind that a customer has to see an advertising up to 9 times to get the message and to check out the offer.
11) Local Advertising
Local advertising can be very effective. For the start, join your local Chamber of Commerce and become an active member. Maybe even find the opportunity to be a speaker and present a helpful topic. Don’t pitch your services too much. Maybe talk about eCommerce security, SSL Certificates, abd website security. If people see you to be an expert, they might associate that with your business and sign up. It is a very effective tool.
Pick the smaller, local community newspapers for business card size advertising and save money. Run at least 3-4 week campaigns. These smaller newspaper in local communities can often be much better to reach customers. There are usually less ads compared to larger newspapers and your ads might be more visible. See if any competitors are doing the same. Get feedback from friends and neighboors on those ads to see how they appeal to Joe Average. Then design your own and fine-tune them for better success.
Sponsor a local high school sports team or a band. Your name will be on stadiums, tickets, flyers, and other places. It’s less about pitching the product, but to build a brand name. Show up at some games, cheer for the team, build up contacts (parents, etc.) and create a "network". This has proven to be a great tool for marketing. Have the team’s play schedule print on a calendar or a refrigerator magnet. Make sure your domain name / business name is visibly placed on the final product, but not too pushy. Hand them out to the team and they will happily distribute them to family and friends.
These are just some marketing tips for you. Be creative, don’t be too pushy, but be persistent. Some marketing efforts will pay off immediately, others will take weeks or months. Keep in mind that you plan for the long-term. Over the time of 12 months you should expect to spend $20,000.00 of your existing funds + to re-invest some of the money you make from sales. I recommend to allocate 10% to 15% of each sale for future advertising. Plan your advertising actions for at least 6 months in advance and make sure you have sufficient funds in the budget to go the entire year. Review your marketing efforts at least once a month and make adjustments. Having the 6 month plan does not mean you should wait 6 months before you correct a mistake.
Find Part I here.