This content originally appeared in the form of an online discussion with Cloudways Director of WordPress, Robert Jacobi. You can catch that replay here or in the Digital Agency Owners Facebook Community.
Most folks just pay for hosting like any other utility. Why not turn that cost center into a revenue generator?
As an agency owner, entrepreneur, and hosting executive over the last 20 years, I’ve seen the hosting industry dynamic completely do a 180-degree turn. Back in the “olden days” having a hosting provider that was up and running for your site, and providing the support you needed, became a premium – with premium pricing.
Over the years, the basics have become expected and frankly, a commodity. Top-tier providers promise all sorts of 9s for uptime, as well as 24/7 support. Because of that, agencies have many more opportunities to shop around.
Where do you fall on the spectrum of hosting?
The new distinguishing hallmarks are the software solutions easily available for agencies. You can choose restricted sandboxes of hosting (managed hosting with guardrails on what can and can’t be installed), wild west hosting (get a “box,” manage the “box,” run the “box”), and setups in between.
Each of those has pros and cons. As an agency, you should be looking at what your technical and internal customer success staffing resources are to handle a variety of situations.
You’ve figured out where you fall into the spectrum of hosting. Now what?
There are still a bunch of options to choose from. Now we enter the partnership continuum. At one end is the affiliate program: get a link, share a link, and make some money. It’s completely automated and hands-off. Many folks think this is partnering. It’s not. There is really no relationship.
Partnering is building a one-on-one relationship between an agency human and a hosting human.
This is the bedrock of everything to follow. Here are the basics:
- Direct contact
When I say direct contact, I don’t mean just an email address or hanging out on Slack. These are great tools for the day-to-day but I firmly believe that a partnership has a human connection.
The agency and host must each have the other’s direct contact information. In my world, that means I have your mobile number and you have mine. If we need to talk, we talk. We don’t need to be reachable 24/7 but I should be able to say, “can you talk in 15 minutes? I’ll call.”
- Domain knowledge
Domain knowledge sounds very open-ended in the hosting world. Hosts can power any type of site, but not all hosts have staff or resources, or experience in what you as an agency are trying to accomplish.
If there are regulatory concerns in your industry, you should be able to have someone who understands those spaces. If it’s e-commerce, they understand payment processing issues. And so on and so forth.
My favorite, and in my head the pinnacle of the partnership relationship is skin-in-the-game. That means the host and agency each have dedicated resources that have financial consequences.
Partnerships are still business arrangements, and it’s not whether you trust one another, it’s above validating commitments. Agencies can commit to selling / promoting a partnership. Hosts can do the same. We can go into all the marketing aspects, PPC, blogs, webinars, etc. You get the idea
Where does the growth come from for an agency you may be asking?
The economies of scale are all in the host, the megaphones that hosts have are going to dwarf most agency marketing budgets.
- Be the go-to agency for a specific market
- Stay up-to-speed on what the host has in its pipeline/portfolio
- Get a piece of every bit of recurring revenue – you should own that business as much as a sales associate would at the host – upsells should accrue to you
You are the magical evangelist for the host – and they know it.