Free hosting, no takers, what am I doing wrong?

As part of launching my business I have tried to get the word out. The business is around web hosting something I am passionate about. I've decided to give out free hosting but still am not seeing the uptake I was hoping.
Any ideas on what I need to do to get the message out to Small and Medium Business's?

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5

"Free" has no value. If I am getting something for "free" I assume it is not exactly what I want that is why I do not have to pay for it. Worse, there is some sort of catch I missed when getting it.

Offering a free month or 90 days provides a discount on a hosting service that I normally would not get. That I would buy as a customer. You could also bundle the hosting with some other services and lower the price. Either way I think both might work better for you.

It is all psychology, just like when there is a new and improved product I have to ask what was wrong with the original.

Hope this helps.

5

Hosting is a commodity these days. As a web designer I became a var and branded a white label hosting product as PragmaticWebHosting. Ultimately, it wasn't worth the hassle. It meant more to my customers to be hosted by one of the big names in the business. I let the hosting business go and have been happy with the decision to use HostGator.

4

Without seeing your entire message or process, it might be hard to pinpoint the issue in your process. Free can work for certain audiences, but the people you are going to attract with "free" as your main message are going to be bargain shoppers and cheapskates... probably people you don't want because they won't have a need for hosting services, or any other services I noticed on your site. Depending on how you are packaging your offer, free could work with web hosting provided it is put with a service such as paid for web design... i.e., Let Penden Solution Develop a Fresh and Engaging Web Presence for Your Business and get 3 Months Free Hosting. Another way to use "free" is to develop a free report, i.e., Top 10 Mistakes New Businesses Make in Developing their Web Site and Picking a Credible Hosting Company, and How the Wrong Host Can Cost Your Business Thousands in Lost Customers! -- You would want to develop some solid research so the report actually provides value and is not seen as a marketing gimmick by the receiver... you can always have space at the end that talks about you, your company, and how you help them avoid the 10 mistakes you just mentioned. The other option with this strategy is to develop a whitepaper with case studies and market that for low cost... this is called a funded proposal... people buy the low cost report (to help you "cover your development costs") that actually provides value based on the topic, and you get a lead that will read your report and see you possibly as an expert on the topic. The whitepaper can be marketed to corporations to solve a problem they face, or to Chambers of Commerce, or business networking groups... again solving a problem that is common among them, with your info spot at the end.

3

Hi Chris, tempting but " RISK" is written all over it. Serious businesses will not opt to host with hosting companies which offer it free. Simply because it sounds like a honeybee to attract spammers and scam-sters. Apart from this, serious SME's would know that issue of Security will entail costs and if some one is offering it free, security will be compromised. I'm not assuming. That's a fact. If you really wish to promote Web-hosting services then the correct way to market would be:
a) Integrate services- emails etc
b) Offer hard disk space which is better than the existing norms.
c) Do mention Security features
d) Do mention Risk mitigation strategy- i.e. back-up's and SLA's.
Web hosting is not the same as other business. It involves other people's business and therefore people would tend to scrutinize it much more closely. I would probe it very deeply.

2

A successful "free hosting" campaign will largely depend on your target audience and exactly what you're offering. Considering Godaddy, Hostgator, and the like onboard new customers at pricing less than $5/mo, it's likely that offering a similar service for free isn't compelling enough to go with a less established name.

If your target audience is the developer crowd or those with more advanced needs (dedicated servers, private cloud infrastructure, etc.) then you might need to change your marketing approach to be more in-line with what your prospective customers are looking for.

2

The problem with "Free" is that most people see this as "cheap" or you have some alternative revenue method such as placing ads on their site.
You may want to try a method of offering a free year of hosting to the first 20 people. This shows you have a plan behind it and that people who are quick can get a great deal. If you really want, do a random drawing of people who sign up in the first year to get "limited lifetime hosting" where you define exactly what is included. You want to draw in people but don't want have someone monopolize your time and resources.

Second: Many large companies offer cheap hosting due to economies of scale. To compete you need to offer something they don't such as specialized hosting etc.

2

Hard to comment on an unknown. giving product away does not work always. It sounds intriguing ...but not if you are uninterested in your product. Marketing takes lots of thought, and care. hip shot cures rarely work. (I know as I had the best VC in the US all name brands promoting giving away product (sort of Gillette model for selling blades or consumables.....). It does not work. you must have unequivocal cost justified benefit. If it is 'convenient or more convenient than now" then you have to translate that into motivation to buy your service or it will never fly.

2

Free does not always mean free. What do I as a consumer give up? Are there any risks with what you offer i.e., spam, privacy, etc.) Also there is not enough in your question to give a better answer.

2

Good comments from others. The market is very competitive and 'free' is a relative term and oven with poor connotations. You often get what you pay for or less these days so your 'free' offer is possibly met with scepticism.

Try offering 'discounted' instead of free; for a period of time. How do you plan to make a profit in your business model? People, me especially, are leery of 'bait and switch' you so often find with these 'free' internet offers.

Let's face it, you are competing with Google and others who offer 'free' services on the Net. You MUST offer VALUE; even if it is free!

Cheers,

Skip Stein
Management Systems Consulting, Inc.
(Where nothing is free!)

1

I actually think you are going about it the right way. In my experience, the way to get the best customers is through word of mouth. If your product is good, people will try it out and like it. Those same people will then recommend you to people they know and THESE are the best customers to have because they came to YOU. I'm not saying another marketing strategy wouldn't hurt, only that this is a good way to go about it.

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