The term “SMBs” encompasses a variety of companies with unique capabilities and challenges. How can web hosting platforms tailor their services to such a diverse client base?
As any online business knows, building a robust and in-demand web presence doesn’t happen automatically. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), in particular, have to be intentional about every choice they make in setting up their website, keeping the end user in mind every step of the way. This means that, in turn, the hosting providers they rely on have to be intentional about catering to the needs of the communities they want to serve.
Here are a few overarching principles that web hosting providers must keep in mind if they want to win and retain SMBs as clients — and help those clients thrive by winning and retaining customers.
The Importance of Knowing Your Audience
SMBs can be a tricky audience to target broadly, as they come in a variety of forms and with a variety of needs. Hosting platforms need to be informed about the range of their clientele and use questions to guide their service. What types of SMBs will they cater to? In what industries? What features are they developing specifically for e-commerce businesses versus agencies? What about large versus small teams? The list of factors goes on.
Whatever the answers, know that one size doesn’t fit all clients when it comes to services tendered. Providers should design packages with personalization and customization front and center. It’s in their power to make each customer and business feel as unique as they are.
Setting Customers Up to Succeed
Reliability is the most important and visible feature of a website hosting platform. But it isn’t only about what customers can see. Providers need to make optimization a priority on both the front and back end – keeping both end users and developers in mind – and stay up to date on best practices.
These practices can include setting up billing workflows, migration and integration tools, and boilerplates to streamline companies’ content processes; enabling flexible and diverse deployment to create separate servers; and continuously reviewing code to locate backups, bottlenecks, and other weaknesses.
Meanwhile, the team members responsible for building infrastructure and app security should design to fulfill the cardinal functions of detection, prevention, and recovery. All three are essential to the safety of customers’ websites and the information stored on them, from foreseeing issues that have yet to occur to acting quickly on issues that arise and troubleshooting retrospectively to reduce the chances of an issue recurring. Support services need to be available 24/7 to help business owners identify, monitor, solve, report, and debrief on problems – and don’t forget feedback avenues that give the platform’s internal processes the chance to improve.
Last but not least, while the job of “developer” exists for a reason, it’s also wise and worthwhile to tap into end users’ innate creativity and desire for participation. Hosting providers can add DIY features to empower their clients, and their clients’ customers, to actively imagine and diversify their offerings. A host that helps customers to branch out, hone new skills and become developers themselves is well on its way to cultivating business relationships that last.
Hit the Trifecta
A hosting platform’s purpose is to be easily managed, highly reliable, and cost-effective. Many hosting providers hit only two of the three. But platforms should strive to be a triple threat.
As companies’ internet presence becomes ever more sophisticated, so will their interaction with their customers increase in complexity. The platforms that enable them to function have a special obligation to be vigilant of these evolutionary trends and active in supplying commensurate packages and tools. An open platform that gives users control and choice, that offers support to them at all times, and that doesn’t break the bank – this is the ideal service.
Suhaib Zaheer is the SVP Cloudways Operations, DigitalOcean.