by Cody McLain, founder of AptHost and PacificHost.
It seems hosting these days is becoming more competitive, and more difficult to acquire more customers. Shared Hosting is really one of those interesting products where it seems once a customer signs up, they could be with you forever. It's almost as if we're all playing a game of Hungry Hippos trying to gobble up as many prospects as possible.
"Here we have a heard of hosts, waiting for the next customer."
So if we're all multi-colored hippos, what does that mean to the prospects we convert to customers? What value, if any do we associate with our customers once they signup?
When I was running PacificHost, I found myself just staring at the numbers and figuring out how to get more customers and grow, grow, grow!
It was only later on that I realized I really needed to spend more time giving a little bit of love to my customers. When you think about it, if you were a customer and you found the host of your dreams, would you ever move just because some other guy offers a cheaper price? Perhaps, but if your clients know what's good for them, they'll remain loyal to your company.
Once I understood this, I realized I needed to assign a higher value to how I viewed my customer base. It's one thing to simply keep track of the number of clients leaving every month (churn rates), but it is a completely separate thing to actually investigate why. While keeping your customers websites online is important, it's also the strength of that relationship between you and the customer that really seals the deal. So I had to ask myself, how I could do this? How could I increase my customer loyalty?
I figured I would first start by looking what how my current customers interact with me. It didn't take much effort to realize the majority of customers only contacted my staff when there was some sort of problem. "My site is down, your service sucks" seems to be something we all experience at one point or another. So why does it seem like we're all playing hot potatoes with our clients?
"No Steve, you're keeping that guy."
Each client is becoming more valuable than the last. If the majority of the interactions our customers have with our companies are negative, then that could affect everything from our reputation, to trust we have with each individual customer. It doesn't even have to be a website down, or a bad customer really. A customer who has an issue uploading a file via FTP creates a bad association between him and his immediate experience with your brand. Great support can't bridge the association a customer might create from experiencing multiple frustrations with your service. (Even if they're of the customers own ignorance, then you should not see it as a problem with the customer, but a UX issue that can be fixed for future customers.)
So, how can we solve this problem? Short from having a better service or a more streamlined customer experience, how do we create some positive exposure between our companies and our customers? Well what if I told you it was something that you could do with no added cost, very little effort and best of all will apply to future customers automatically?
It's called, the Email Marketer Tool
This little feature was added back in version 5.0 of WHMCS. However in my experience the concept behind this tool and just how effective it can be was never fully explained. It was instrumental to the success of PacificHost in so many ways.
I think as hosting companies, we're often afraid to email our customer base. Perhaps we're afraid that they might be reminded that they're still customers of ours and decide to cancel with us. Rather, it's this inaction that helps strengthen the negative experiences our customers have, and this is the opposite of what we want!
Whereas instead of sending them emails only when their website goes down, we could send them emails about how our service is being upgraded, and how it makes their service better with us. Why not run a domain sale, or SSL sale and go crazy! Maybe even LOSE money on domains with no direct ROI.
Why do this?
It increases customer satisfaction (ie: Happiness). Our customers need positive reinforcement. That's really what the Email Marketer tool gives us. Think of it as a tool to help spread more joy and happiness to our customers. They then associate this with their provider and that strengthens the bond with the customer. With enough positive reinforcement we can perhaps override any negative experiences or frustrations our customers experience.
"I think this guy has overdone himself with positive reinforcement"
If a typical customer has neutral feelings, or worse - angry feelings towards our brand, then we might be doing something wrong. That is one issue to address, but regardless many customers experience problems and frustrations at one point or another. Being able to overrule these with positive experiences will create more loyal customers.
So you might ask, how can I use this amazingly simple tool to make my customers happier?
It's quite easy really. Consider who your customers are, and ask what might they expect as a customer of yours, say a week, month or even a year down the road. Who is your average customer that signs up and what kind of positive reinforcement can you offer your customers?
Sending new customers a quick email a few days after they signed up, and ask them how they're doing can work wonders. With that in mind, don't be like everybody else and use a [email protected]
and rather use a personal email, even if all it does is open a ticket. Customers will feel more connected with your brand if they feel like you're trying to reach out to them in a genuine way.
One could even go one step further and use a service like L-Mail offered by QIQ. It integrates with WHMCS and can send out personalized snail mail to your customers. This allows us to create even a deeper connection with our customers. How do you feel when you get a simple letter from a company you only deal with online?
Why not create a reward program for being a loyal customer? One not necessarily motivated by how much money we get from the customer, but by how long they're customers. By showing customer loyalty you're building a relationship with every single one of your customers without having to do much more then write an email and click a few buttons.
Apart from building relationships, what's another great way to use the Marketing Tool for?
We all live by what I call the "reciprocity rule". This is where when we do something for somebody, we feel more compelled to give back and return the favor. This has been used to influence people for as long as humans have been around.
Most customers wont take surveys, and even then it can be hard to get anything useful out of them. If you're offering a free iPhone to your customers in exchange for taking the survey, how many of them are going to just click around to get through it as fast as possible and therefore mess up your data?
With every email you send to your customer, you can take that time to ask for their feedback, but only do so after you've given them something of value.
But how can I give value when I just offer hosting?
We all typically think of discounts and promotions. Ever get those customers that get mad when they find a sale or a coupon on an item that they paid full price for?
When it comes to existing customers we could offer discounts on domains, SSL certificates or even go a step further and reach out to our vendors. See if they can offer our customer base a discount off their service and offer it as part of their participation. In essence, the more we make our customers feel special, the better they're going to like us.
Maybe spend a few hours putting an e-book together on how your customers can do SEO for their own sites? Maybe create a screencast on how to optimize the configuration of WordPress? Or just offer customers a simple $2 account credit for taking a survey.
Surveys give us another way to look at our company from the customer's perspective. How did they signup, where did they signup, but more importantly - Why did they signup? Understanding this allows us to mold our brands in a way that will appeal to our customers we find our brand appealing to the most. This ultimately helps us dominate our market base and grow at a more effective rate.
I leave you here with an example of an email I created for my customers a while back. Over the next few months, our positive reviews increased, and the number of angry customers decreased, despite our uptime remaining consistent.
The world of hosting is one of the most densely competitive industries in the online world today. It is extremely important to differentiate from everybody else. With a realization that most customers don't want to move, if we can improve those positive experiences we can grow our companies more effectively and have a customer base filled with lovers, not haters.
About the Author
was the Founder of AptHost and PacificHost. After starting both companies from his basement, he went on to grow them into ventures generating close to $1m in annual revenue with customers in over 100 countries around the world. Today Cody consults Fortune 500 companies and has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur and other Major Publications. Visit www.BuildaHost.com
to learn more from Cody on the ins and outs of building a successful hosting company.
Posted by Matt on Monday, December 8th, 2014
With under 2 weeks to go until the cPanel Conference: Hands On Houston 2014, we're busy preparing for our favorite conference of the year. And this time, we're doing it in style!
At Booth #1 (we thought we'd make it easy for you!), visitors will get the chance to get Hands-On with all of our newest developments. They will also get the opportunity to meet and chat with members of our development and support teams, take away some cool swag, and have a free beer on us, each afternoon from 2:30 to 4:30pm!
For the first time ever, we will be demonstrating our all-new cPanel and WHM automatic sign-in integration, which provides a simple and secure way to manage staff access to all your cPanel servers. Plus, the latest version of our Responsive Client Area Theme, designed to be mobile and tablet friendly, is also set to make its public debut in 6.0
So much more than a new theme, the new client area also puts more power in the hands of third party module developers than ever before. If you develop a module for WHMCS, we'd love to show you all its new capabilities. And since we're also looking for launch partners, be sure to speak to us about ways you can get involved!
In addition, we'll be showcasing the new and improved Domain Lookup, a functionality that increases the opportunity for domain sales by providing your customers with intelligently populated suggestions when they search for domains. This is powered by our good friends eNom who will be in the neighboring booth.
That's not all. There'll also be a number of exciting and informative sessions hosted by members of the WHMCS team:
1: WHMCS: Then and Now, a Prolog for WHMCS v6
WHMCS and the hosting industry have seen many changes over the last few years. This talk will highlight some of WHMCS's experiences during that time, how they have affected the WHMCS v5 series, and what they mean for the v6 series and beyond.
2: Best Practices for Deploying WHMCS
WHMCS automates critical parts of your business, its important that you deploy and run it in a way that ensures your business will succeed. In this talk we will discuss best practices for deploying, customizing, and updating WHMCS for current installs and future proofing your installation for the upcoming update system. We will cover security best practices, hardening steps, deploying a staging installation, testing updates, understanding WHMCS's version numbers and change log, automated deployment, and high availability concerns.
3: Tailoring WHMCS to Fit Your Business Workshop
Every business is unique. In this workshop, we'll explain how you can tailor WHMCS to fit your specific business. We'll develop a custom module and demonstrate how to use action hooks inside the module to adjust the workflow of WHMCS in order to better suit your business needs. Then, you'll see how to extend the module with some of the new user interface extension options in our upcoming release. At the end of the workshop, a team of WHMCS developers will answer questions about how they would use hooks, modules, and theming to solve your real world problems.
Don't forget to stop by and hang out at Booth #1
! We look forward to seeing you.
Posted by Matt on Friday, September 19th, 2014
An update to iWHMCS is now available to download from the Apple iTunes Store. This update addresses usability and bug fixes reported in the initial Version 2.0 release earlier this month.
The changelog is available @ http://changelog.whmcs.com/iWHMCS_V2.0
To find out more about the iWHMCS app, please visit www.iwhmcs.com
*Please note: It may take several hours before the update appears in all Apple iTunes store locations.
Posted by Matt on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014
We are pleased to announce the release of WHMCS 5.3.10.
This update contains general maintenance updates for the 5.3 series of WHMCS.
As usual, we are making available both an incremental upgrade version containing just the changed files for those upgrading from the latest current version V5.3.9 and a full release which can be used to perform a new installation or update an existing installation regardless of previous version.
Both of these are available to download from the downloads page below.
Please refer to the release notes for specific information regarding this release and details of any template changes that are required.
This release also contains the updates necessary to the ResellerClub module to ensure privacy protection can still be provisioned when ResellerClub begins charging for Privacy Protection for WHMCS sub-resellers on Monday, 22nd September
. If you intend to set a price for Privacy Protection inside the ResellerClub Supersite, you will need these updates.
Posted by Matt on Tuesday, September 16th, 2014
This is being provided as a public service announcement and any queries should be addressed to your domain registrar.
On 15 September 2014, EURid will launch its new registration platform. Thereafter, newly registered .eu domain names will no longer expire at the end of the month but rather at the end of their registration term, calculated in years starting on the registration date and ranging from one (1) to ten (10) years. Domain names registered on 29 February will always expire on 28 February.
This change has been incorporated into new versions of the .eu Terms and Conditions and .eu Registrar Agreement, which will go into effect on 15 September, when the new registration platform is launched. New versions of these documents in all languages are available below.
For existing domain names - those registered before 15 September 2014 - registrars have been given the option to apply the new expiry date approach or to keep the existing system whereby domain names expire at the end of the month.
The default option, which sees domain names expire at the end of the month, will apply to all registered domain names whose registrars do not indicate their preference by 15 September 2014.
As is already the case, transfers will not change the expiry day but will add an extra year to the registration term of a domain name.
For further details, please see the original announcement @ http://www.eurid.eu/en/news/jul-2014/new-expiry-date-eu-domain-names-15-september-2014
Specific to ResellerClub Users
There will be a maintenance window for .EU registrations of 3 days starting today, 12th September 2014 through 15th September 2014. During the downtime, it will not be possible to perform any transactions on .EU domain names with ResellerClub. As a result:
> New registrations will be queued and processed once the downtime is over
> Any system changes/renewals/transfers will fail and will need to be resubmitted when the downtime is over
For further details, please refer to http://blog.resellerclub.com/2014/09/04/eu-registry-downtime-notice-changes-to-eu-lifecycle/
Posted by Matt on Friday, September 12th, 2014