Apr
29

The Art of War: How to Get Ahead Against a Sea of Competitors. Part 2

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Yesterday we talked about niches and brands. Both of these two concepts are the lifeblood of a successful company. There is one other area that will strengthen your position in your niche market as well as strengthen your brand. The one area I a referring to is positioning oneself as an expert in their target market.

Position yourself as an expert in your field

You have found your niche market, you have created a brand, now comes the question; ?why should I Host with you?? It?s fine that you think yourself to be an expert, but to the customer you must prove that you are. Once you establish yourself as an expert you shoot past your competitors as far as a ?ranking? system goes. Instead of having one hundred competitors you are now lumped into the experts of your field were you enjoy only ten or twenty competitors, possibly less.

Why is Yahoo Hosting, Verio, and 1&1 Hosting so popular? Why do they get clients when you believe you offer better services? It is because the customer already knows them as experts. Yahoo has been doing this whole Internet thing for years obviously, they know what they are doing. Verio has been catering to business for years they must know what they are doing. 1&1 is a large company, they advertise in the top magazines, so they must be doing something right and therefore they are experts. Success is a means to become an expert, but there are other ways:

Write useful articles. An article is a means to convey data and your interpretation of that data. In other words, you have knowledge about a subject and through that knowledge; you explain how it will help the audience. Writing articles is the basis for developing an expert persona. Make sure the articles you write are informative and accurate. Have your employees weigh in on the articles too. Someone may know something you are missing or they may give you a key element that helps present the information more effectively. Start posting these articles on your site, information sites, blogs (guest blogging is all the rage now), and in forums. Alternatively, use these articles for the basis of a discussion.

Help communities reach their goals. Going back to our example, if you want SMBs to buy your services go to them and help them attain their goals. If a business wants to understand how they can transition from brick and mortar to an online presence, then tell them how. If there is any lessons we have learned from Web 2.0 it is this; branding is a two way street. On the one end, we tell the customer what the brand is and on the other end customers tell each other what the brand is. By helping potential customers without selling them your service, (a simple signature for a forum post with your company?s name, URL, and motto is sufficient) you have the customers telling each other how good you are. Visit forums, blogs, community hubs that focus on your niche and help in any way you can. Put your name out there and you will be rewarded. Not only will you present that you are an expert to the audience, but that audience will talk to each other about how helpful and knowledgeable you are.

Advertise in places were experts hang out. Riding coat tails has worked for decades in many fields, advertising is no different. 1&1 Hosting advertises in the major computer magazines and web sites. By doing so, a potential customer links them with those magazines and sites. PC Magazine has a great reputation and by proxy, their advertisers share in that reputation. Even if you do not have the money for advertising with big names you can still use this principle. Forums, blogs, niche print magazines, niche web sites, places were the experts go can be a place to advertise and you will find that these areas will be a lot cheaper than advertising with the big businesses. To get more bang for your buck, advertise on those places where you don?t have a huge presence (forums you do not post in, blogs that you do not have guest articles at).

Host events that highlight knowledge. Events that bring in other experts shows the audience your pull in the industry. They don?t have to be large events, they don?t even have to cost more than the bandwidth to Host, in fact they might not even cost that much. To make an event you could build a trade show like HostingCon (which would cost you a ton of money) or you can make something much simpler. You have all the information you need if you have been writing useful articles; you have the experts you need if you have been helping communities. All you need is a good web cam, a good audio recording system, and one room with your logo display prominently in the background. Web conferences and podcasting can be your ticket to becoming an expert. Do a little research, practice within your company, and soon you will be hosting your own events that can be broadcast to a large audience, from your Web site or from a site such as YouTube.

Make evangelists of your service. Take a page out of the Microsoft playbook. Microsoft has a group of employees that do nothing but talk about the positives of their company. They are called evangelists and for good reason. These employees know the service in and out and have a very upbeat and positive attitude that is infectious. They praise their company, but do not disparage the competition. They aid the company by positioning it as an industry leader and spread the good news about that company across the Net and throughout trade shows. Now you are probably saying, ?I don?t have the money to spend on employees who simply talk and are happy all the time.? But you do. At first, you will be the evangelist for your company. Take Aussie Bob as an example. The guy is a great figurehead for Dotable, when he is on the forums everyone knows him and he is always happy and willing to help. Make inroads with bloggers. If you can convince several bloggers that your services are the best (and can prove it) they will become your evangelists. This is a grassroots effort at its very heart. It costs no money only time.

These principles can be applied to any industry. Just because I am writing them on the Web Host industry does not mean that are only specific to Web Hosts. In any commercial endeavor you do all of these rules apply with equal meaning. Look at your successful competitors and take note of what they do to succeed. Take that information, applying to what we have discussed here and some day, your competitors will look at how you achieved your success.

Happy Hosting

Categories : The Art of War

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