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?
Free hosting is a good idea, you just need to create the hosting plans with different parameters ( quantity of websites, memory, storage, bandwidth, ssl certificates ... ) basic plan is free (min parameters enough to start website ), any further growth - the more they get the more they pay. Also you could offer some free time ( six months to year ) for those ones who are willing to migrate from your rivals' services.
We are based in India, into similar business we not provide services free of cost.
Free service sometime (or mostly) interpreted as unprofessional and low quality. A good quality and professional service can not be free or cheap.
Daphnis Labs, New Delhi.
We have been designing websites and hosting websites since 2006, so we know a thing or 2 about marketing hosting.
However, in general marketing perspective, as other have said "Free" is not ever free. The old saying of "There is no such thing as free lunch" has been heard by everyone, and as such humans have been conditioned to question and not trust "Free" things. 99% of the time this makes sense as there is a catch somewhere along the line but let's assume you are one of the 1%.
The question from any consumer would be "How do these guys make money?"
Let's face it, even a charity needs to make a profit (revenue - income = positive) so you have to be able to explain how you will offer free hosting. This means both your supply side (Internet Connections, Infrastructure, Servers, Security, Management Software, etc.) and overheads (Staffing, Support, Sales, etc) are zero therefore you can offer your service for no cost.
Assuming you can demonstrate this, then you have to also explain how you can offer your time (running the business, supporting customers, etc.), for nothing too? Are you a trust fund kid? Are a multimillionaire and you are just doing this for fun? How do you make a living and pay for your house, bills, and put food on the table if you are not made of money and your offer your service for nothing?
Business owners are not stupid, and they know the cost of living and running a business, so if anyone offers them anything that says "My Costs are Zero, Business Costs Are Zero, hence My Product Cost Zero". Nobody is going to believe you because this does not describe the real world. As the other old saying goes "If something sounds too good to be true, then it is probably not true!".
Websites for most businesses are "Critical" so they cannot take risks. In some businesses their revenue is dependent on it (Hospitality, Online E-commerce, Travel, etc.). No one in their right mind is going to take risks with this element of their business, and people always associate "Free Things" with risk.
Your customers will be thinking "What am I NOT getting?". Is it support, server speed, reliability, IP Addresses with good reputation, storage limitation, usage limitation, etc. All the time that you are saying "Free" they are thinking, “what I am not getting”. The little voice keeps asking this question and the more you explain, the little voice starts to ask "What is the catch?".
You may be offering an excellent product and service at zero cost, but it sounds like it is too good to be true so you lose the trust of the potential customers. People do not buy from people or businesses they do not trust.
You should clearly state what services you are providing for free and also the time frame you will offering and what are costs once the free services are gone.
Server up-time and specification are most important, one would consider while taking a hosting account and what kind of support you offer, please state these very clearly on your website.
You don't seem reliable. "Free" - usually means something is fishy !
When you say "Free" the value is most often degraded. First of all, there is no such thing as "Free" for the provider as he or she plans to seek or recover the investment with the customers down the road.
The consumer may get something for "Free," however, may not be able to seek full value from it by what elements are offered in this "Free" offer of yours.
I completed my monthly maintenance on my vehicle last afternoon and the manager at the service desk said, there is no charge as it is "Free." I then complimented him for the work and asked him permission if I can ask him a quick question. He said of course. I then asked, do you work here for free? He obviously said "No." Then I responded, how does this car company give something for "Free," or "No Charge?"
He blinked and I then shared that you know in the initial sales deal this factor is simply calculated and then pitched as "Free." He then smiles and replied, "There is no such thing as "Free Lunch," which we all hear all our lives.
The moment I started charging my customers, I started getting more respect as well as clear commitment on project success. They now had some skin in the game and I didn't have to chase them and was able to "Pull" them effectively.
Of course, one has to generate a track record and demonstrate the value proposition to be able to "Pull."
Hope you have compiled enough references to be able to garner the "Pull."
On SME businesses:
a - Seek Referrals
b - Generate Testimonials
c - Have a Website that is SEO'd
d - Generate a great profile on LinkedIn
e - Ask your network for contacts after you deliver something
f - Watch for people who are browsing your profile on LinkedIn
g - Look up LinkedIn Profile Optimization Techniques when you have some leisure.
I did several of these things and am able to seek customer pull over time. It is never too late to do this now.
Chris - i have a different view on this subject.
Web hosting is a very crowded space, one needs to be patient, sell aggressively, create a brand image, mindshare. That's when one sees success.
Being free isn't a wrong model. Google searches, emails, maps are free, but its one of the revered company on earth.
I suggest, if marketing doesn't work start locally and start meeting companies. sell them on the value prop. Start small, be patient, grow your footprint. Nothing is easy. Things take time.
Thanks ~ Subs
Hi Chris, My guess is that it sounds too good to be true - so most people won't believe it. Charge an amount that is half of what your competitors charge. See if that gets noticed.
Free beer...you know what you're getting and what it will get you. Free hosting...hmmm...what am I getting and what does that get me? What's your differentiator? What are you offering that I can't get elsewhere? Pick a target use case, develop the persona, and go talk to them about their hosting needs - what are they not getting that they need? That's your differentiator. Provide the service they want then market to the use case identified above.
Hi, Chris. Unfortunately, the "free" aspect is probably the source of the problem, especially if you're targeting businesses. Free is sometimes thought of as being inferior. A business is less likely to take a risk on a service that is free, and will prefer to go with something they have to pay for. I would suggest coming up with a pricing plan that has packages with different levels of service. Let the businesses decide which features and price would be best for them, and let them sign up. If you want to offer free as part of it, offer the first month of hosting for free, or something along those lines, and charge a monthly or annual fee after that. A structure like that is more likely to attract the businesses you're looking for. I hope this helps!
I had a look at your site which looks great by the way but didn't see the "free" option.
From my own perspective and experience, as a developer who also provides post-development hosting, I look for a host who provides the most value for money, solid technical support, AND supports the latest technologies.
For years I have used Rackspace Cloud Sites at $149/month (US), $5 for each 100MB of MSSQL Server storage, and unlimited MySQL databases because they provided great support, performance, easy deployment, and email hosting for as many sites I could deploy within that service level (in terms of disk space allotment, bandwidth, CPU cycles).
However, I am slowly and painfully migrating away from them to Azure services simply because Rackspace runs a "medium-trust" environment which does not support the most basic Visual Studio 2013 WebForms or Website project. Which means I now have to stand up an email server on a virtual machine and administer that as well ... ughh!
Hope that helps and good luck!
Free hosting? As a consumer will think, what is the catch? I would rather spend for something of value than get something for free, thinking why?
Today, there is no such thing as Free-free.
Put a price on your service.
If it is really for free, there must something more to it?
What market are you targeting? I believe that is going to be significant and will help with your marketing strategy.
Usually when we take on a client who is having this problem it is due to the effectiveness/credibility of their online presence. Now-a-days, websites & social media profiles act as a company's resume and gatekeeper for potential new business.
You can add credibility to your company via press, testimonials, case studies, introducing the team, and expanding your social media network.
"Free" can actually scare away the owners of small and medium businesses, I suggest you do one or more of the following, all of them is even better:
1- create a better wording for your homepage, this is the first page web spiders will land on when crawling the internet, this will increase your SE rankings
2- create interesting hosting plans, and keep "free" as a plan for young kids and students
3- enlist your business on professional social medias, like LinkedIn, and invite everybody you know to "follow" your company's page
4- keep posting updates on the home page (if you have a place for that) and on your linkedin page, and don't put all the news you have in one shot!! if you don't have much of updates, try posting one every other day, this will keep your followers engaged, SE use these information also for your ranking.
5- look for SMB groups on LinkedIn and announce your business there, and announce something really special to the first (let;s say 500 clients) for example, maybe a lifetime registration of a domain name (I mean you offer with the plans dedicated to the first 500 clients a domain name for free, and it remains free for as long as the hosting remains at your servers)
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!
Management Systems Consulting, Inc.
(Where nothing is free!)
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.
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.
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.