Monday, March 21, 2005

Hosting Provider=Wagon Manufacturer

I saw a picture from the days of the California gold rush in the mid 1800's. It showed a train of wagons loaded with potential prospectors stretching as far as the eye could see. It dawned on me that the people who really made out in this rush were the wagon manufacturers.

Hosting providers have the opportunity to provide the wagons of the emerging trends in enterprise collaboration. They can provide the platforms for collaboration on the Web. The people who will purchase these wagons are trying to do the following:
  1. Make their teams more effective. Tools needed might include Wikis, CRMs, project management tools.
  2. Provide online customer support. The tools needed include forums, blogs, chats, databases, and email auto-responders.
  3. Engage users and prospects. These require all of the above, plus content management systems, email marketing tools and custom tools to manage community rules and build trust systems.
All of these can be provided by hosts in an Application Service Provider (ASP) model. The company that can deliver these solutions must have Web application development ability plus hosting and management capabilities. Some of the business models include:
  1. Sell Bandwidth, site hosting and server management
  2. Sell hosting and management of emerging collaboration servers such Horde, Citadel, Enterprise Teaming, Novell Hula and OPEN-XCHANGE? Server
  3. Sell monthly subscription to individual software modules running on the host's servers: Wiki, project management, forums, blogs, chats, database, etc.
  4. Sell custom development and integration services.
All you need to complete the mix is the strategies that make these tools work for these tools. This is my domain. The sales process isn't "So you want a Wiki on your site? That'll be $10 per month." Instead, the sales process is "So you want your team to be able to turn customer documents around faster? We recommend a Wiki integrated with email and password security. That'll be $10 per month per user plus a few hours of our application developers. We can provide training for a small price as well." You're applying a strategy to your customer's problems. The business trend is this: online marketing is more and more about conversations and less and less about sending messages. 40,000 blogs are being started every day. This is how customers are collating, digesting and disseminating information to prospects. Companies need to join the conversation. Hosting companies can enable these conversations.

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