Sales & Marketing and Web Hosting
If you are running a website for a business, especially a primarily online business, you will need to market and sell your products and services online. Your website itself is the center of that effort.
Your web hosting decision should be made based on which company will provide the best platform for your website — that is the most important thing that your hosting company can do to assist your sales and marketing effort. However, many web hosting companies offer additional tools and services to boost your sales and marketing.
Sales, Marketing and Advertising Tools
Below is an overview of common tools and services offered by hosting companies, along with links to more in-depth guides about each. It is usually a bad idea to make your decision primarily based on these extras — the core web hosting service is the most critical. But if they are available, there’s no harm in going ahead and taking advantage of them.
AdWords and other advertising vouchers - Google AdWords is the largest and most popular search marketing platform available, and allows marketers to promote their services only to those people who are actively searching for similar services. Many web hosting companies provide coupons for $50 or $100 of free AdWords credit for new accounts. This is one of the most common web hosting marketing freebies, and you should definitely take advantage of it.
In an attempt to monetize their own searches, many other search engines offer their own search marketing platforms - generally with less searches (and lower costs per click) than Google AdWords. Advertising on the Bing and Yahoo! search engines is available through Bing Ads. Ask.com also has a search marketing platform, as well.
While many hosting providers offer free advertising coupons to new customers, keep in mind that most search engines will only honor those coupons for first-time advertisers. If you are moving your existing site to a new provider and have done an AdWords campaign in the past - your site may not be eligible to redeem the free coupon from your hosting provider.
Announcement Lists / Email Lists - One of the most powerful online marketing tools is an email list of current, past, and potential customers. You can use it to send announcements about special deals and new products, or just to provide ongoing value to your customers in the form of informational articles and advice columns.
Some web hosting companies provide the tools you need for managing marketing email lists and sending out bulk email. This is especially helpful because email marketing is subject to the rules of the CAN-SPAM act, and you need to make sure that your email forms and confirmation system keep you in compliance.
Merchant Account Support - A merchant account is a bank account that provides support for accepting a variety of payment types, particularly credit cards.
Merchant accounts can often carry large fees, especially if you don’t have very much money in them. Additionally, not all merchant accounts work very well with online forms or with all web applications — some banks and credit card processors are simply more or less tech savvy than others.
Many web hosting companies, especially those that cater to small businesses and eCommerce operations, have partnered with a Merchant Account provider to offer their customers low-cost Merchant Accounts. Besides the savings, the other advantage of these partnerships is that the web host has (in theory) vetted the merchant account provider, ensuring you that they can fully support online transactions.
Credit Card Payment Gateways - If you are going to sell products or services on your website, you will need a Credit Card payment gateway. Paypal is one option for this, but the fees can be very high compared with other credit card processing options.
Some web hosting companies have partnered with credit card payment gateway providers to offer special discounts or other deals to their web hosting customers. Often this is accompanied by specialized integration tools to make it easier to connect your eCommerce solution to the payment portal.
PowerPay - PowerPay is a name-brand online payment gateway that allows its customers to accept a wide variety of payment options. It has special solutions available for small businesses, non-profit organizations, retail stores, and financial institutions. It can even be used by a company as both their online and in-person payment gateway.
Some web hosting companies provide special discounts and plug-n-play support for PowerPay.
OpenX - OpenX is an ad-management service that provides both self-hosted Ad Server software and also an ad network. Many web hosting companies offer one-click installation of the Ad Server software, which also includes the potential for integrating with their Ad Exchange platform.
phpAdsNew (OpenX Source / Revive Adserver) - This is an Open Source ad server software application. It was originally called phpAdsNew and then OpenX Source when development was taken over by OpenX (OpenAds). In 2013, the software was sold to a team led by some of the original developers of the software, who now maintain the project under the name “Revive Adserver.”
SEO Tools & Services - Search Engine Optimization is one of the most powerful advertising methods available. But it isn’t something you can just buy your way into — you have to produce a lot of great content, get people to share and link to it, and make sure your website is well-structured.
Some hosts have partnered with SEO consulting firms to provide advice, assessments and SEO tools to their customers.
Sales And Marketing Tools - Other Considerations:
How Can I Grow An Email List For My Website?
Email addresses are the holy grail of online marketing campaigns. When a potential customer or current customer invites your email marketing messages and company updates into their inbox, you could be on your way to creating a customer or site visitor for life.
There are several ways for both online retailers and bloggers to entice their site visitors to give out their email address. For online retailers, one of the most common ways is to start an online rewards club. With a rewards club, most companies provide exclusive discounts, fast and free shipping, or early access to exclusive products.
Online publishers and bloggers often find the best way to collect email addresses is to have a product giveaway with swag donated by one of their advertisers. Another common way for publishers to acquire emails is to promise to send the latest articles to readers as soon as they are published.
These are just a few of the ways websites can acquire the email addresses of their site visitors.
What email marketing providers should I consider?
Some of the industry-leading options include iContact, MailChimp, Aweber, Constant Contact and Vertical Response. These major email marketing service providers offer affordable monthly plans based on list size and/or the volume with which you send emails.
Similar to the online advertising programs, many of these email marketing providers have special introductory rates and programs for new subscribers. Consult with your hosting provider to see if they have any special offers for becoming a new email service provider.
Also see: eCommerce hosting - for more info and to compare hosts offer specialized plans that cater to online business.