By Adam Bogobowicz, Sr. Director of Product Marketing for Service Providers, Parallels
Just like I normally do, last Friday I went to Big-Bob’s-Cuts for my quarterly haircut. During the haircut Bob and I usually have a conversation about his IT infrastructure. I like to keep an eye on changes in the small business IT, and it keeps Bob away from discussing his gout problems.
On previous occasions it was a short conversation, just about matching the trim time, since Bob’s IT was composed of a cellphone, a notepad (made of paper) and a credit card reader. But not this Friday, as Bob apparently has decided to join the 21st century.
Even before plugging in his trimmer, Bob proudly announced to me that he went online! At this point I fully expected that he would have an account with a local hoster and a website in a shared hosting environment with a big picture of Bob and his phone number. But I underestimated Ralphy, his 16 year old nephew.
If you are a hoster you must be thinking that Ralph got Big Bob’s Cuts into a VPS or a cloud server, installed Panel software on it and using Application Marketplace installed all the apps needed for Bob to conduct his business online.
Well, not exactly. Apparently brought up on iPhones, Facebook and Xbox, Ralph does not know anything about hosting, panels or SMB applications. Instead Ralph created a full SMB IT infrastructure for Bob out of an iPad and a few SaaS services he found via Google.
First Ralphy got rid of the Bob’s notepad with services from https://www.schedulicity.com/ (well not really, notepad was still there …) and at the same time got Bob’s Cuts into an online catalog of services. Next he took care of in-shop payments by attaching a card reader to an iPad https://squareup.com/ which also got rid of all the paper (except Bob’s notepad) in the shop.
But that is not all; he then used http://www.bigcommerce.com/ not only to setup a website but to also setup a store featuring Bob’s famous $3.99 shampoo and shaving cream bundle. I am a bit skeptical of success for this venture, but hey, it costs $25 / month, so it breaks even with just a few dozen sales and he already got one after my shopping spree. $3.99 is a really good deal, you should try it out.
I wrote this blog because I finally understood why small businesses are not buying (more) apps from hosters. They do not need or want apps. Instead small businesses are choosing solutions to their business problems on the web. Solutions not separate applications that may or may not work together.
SaaS providers are a serious challenge to our industry and we cannot ignore them or pretend that they represent a different market. These companies exemplify precisely how the one trillion dollars of SMB spend will be distributed.
So far from ignoring, traditional hosters need to learn from them and incorporate best ideas from these new players into how we conduct business online. Here are a few things that I see hosters should borrow from the likes of Bigcommerce and Schedulicity.
- Focus on small business problem you are solving and not on memory, CPU, cores or storage. Do you think Bob or Ralphy care?
- Make it simple. The SMB IT admins are sons and nephews much more often than paid-by-the- hour system integrators. If Ralph cannot set it up for Bob, your business prospects are limited.
- Showcase your solution. Go to schedulicity.com and see the home page of this service. It is not about hosting. It is all about customers. Go to Bigcommerce.com and see customer stories on the home page. And read my previous blog on differentiation. What Bigcommerce is doing is differentiation through customer stories. Brilliant.
Full disclosure, Bigcommerce.com is using Parallels Plesk Panel as infrastructure for delivering its solution and Parallels is not associated with the other two solutions mentioned.