Feb
04

Tech Specs: What is the Answer?

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Yesterday we discussed the problems associated with tech specs and web hosting. The main problem with tech specs in web hosting is the vast bulk of the customer has little to no knowledge of anything found in the technical specifications and has no desire to learn them.

When we talked about the difficulty of selling Web Host plans, including the difficulties in defining the true value of a Web Host plan that actually represents a non-tangible, unfinished Web site, we concluded that test driving a Web Host plan is all but impossible.

Since I teased everyone as to why I say test driving is difficult; saying I will explain later I might as well explain why I think it is a problem. First off, there is a problem with compatibilities. Let’s say someone started with a host who offers ColdFusion and so they programmed there in ColdFusion then decided to switch to a cheaper host. Well, the inclusion of ColdFusion normally means a higher cost so chances are good the lower cost plan does not have CF and therefore when they port it over, it doesn’t work. They have to start over again or find yet another host only this time (more savvy) find a host that offers CF. Or maybe someone has a site that is ready to go, uses WordPress, so fairly standard for any Unix based host. They go to move it and are hassled with a variety of problems they don’t know how to solve, which also includes the modules they might have used and importing database information.

These problems add up and only compound frustrations with finding a web host, whereas with a car you get the keys and go. Web hosting; not so much.

You can’t just drop your old Web site off and hop into a new one and drive the new Web Host plan out of the lot. It may take a day of effort to get it up and running or a week (if things really get screwy) and while these problems are going on, the site is losing customers, traffic, maybe even links and SEO rankings. Even if the web developer was smart and used a secondary domain name, put in a back up database got everything working, figured they like the web host so swapped the DNS records over and got it running as the primary site, problems can still occur making you wonder is choosing a new host worth the hassle? Therefore not a true test drive.

So there are two ways to get around a lot of these problems, however both require effort. There are no silver bullets in this industry, what I present is merely a logical path based on the facts at hand. In order to implement them, you also need to figure out a way around some of the problems each answer gives.

First the failed method, though maybe I should say work in progress. It hasn’t necessarily failed as yet, but it is not really gaining any traction or making anyone’s lives easier. So the first method used was categories. It was based on familiarity found in places like the car industry such as sports cars. Sports cars carry like types of features and performances. A web hosting category such as Budget would have set parameters such as less than $14.95 (when the standard was first enacted). Since then it has dropped to less than $4.95… oh how times have changed.

And that was the start of the problem. The standard for the categories were never really pinned down and agreed upon. Mainly because many of the plans various companies came out with could be identified into multiple categories. The Ford F-150 is a truck… there is no way anyone can say it’s a sedan. However, you can have a Budget/VPS/Blog Plan. How would classify it? Well in all fairness you would have to say well it fits in the Budget, VPS, and Blog categories, adding to the confusion. What should have helped to concentrate audience wants and needs into a simple grouping of plans ended up increasing the confusion. Also there was a lack of unity in the dissemination of this information. Web hosts of the day didn’t understand the need for classifications. They didn’t understand that by making the customer’s life easier it would help in increase the customer base. How much faster would the adoption of web sites been if the customer could understand basics of a plan by looking at a category standard badge of some sort, in the same manner as cars or milk or a million other products?

With the advent of tagging and tag clouds, I am going to assume that categories will continue to be a non-issue, which is a shame on many levels, but no sense it dwelling on the spilled milk… simply blame the dog and be done with it. 8-D

Now the second method for surmounting the problems of web hosting. Actually this shouldn’t come as a surprise to those I have done some consulting work for, or for those who have gone to some of the conferences at HostingCon, or read various industry pundits. Instead of selling a product that is not really a product or selling a list of features, instead sell a solution.

The main reason this will work is because there is no assembly required on the part of the customer. Your average customer can tell you with remarkable clarity what they need, regardless of whether or not they know the features. A business might say I want to be able to sell stuff. An individual might say I want to start a blog. These are wants, with a problem (obviously I can’t sell stuff right now, how do I sell stuff) and you have the solution, buy this and you can start to sell stuff. Take this package and you will be able to blog. A customer has no need to remember any extemporaneous information and no need to learn new skills and vocabularies.

Now I had said there are no silver bullets and this is still not a silver bullet. The web host still has to figure a means to show value and a means of comparison to competitors to prove worth (though this could be considered optional). It also is more based on niche markets. A company already focused on a niche can use this method far easier than a company who provides everything. Also the features for a solution still need to be worked on, but that comes from learning from your current customers; what they use, what they don’t use, etc.

So in closing, I just want to say make it easier on your potential customers. Give them the tangibility of solution based services as opposed to tech specs. Like automobiles, still list the tech specs, but do not make them center stage. On a side note, if you want to solve the blank canvas problem either offer to help them build their site, or better yet form partnerships with web designers.

Although no dogs were injured in the writing of this blog there was one cat that was plotting world domination.

Categories : Marketing

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