I was lucky enough to have some time last week to catch the round table discussion over on WPBacon about managed WordPress hosting. When you have two little boys (5 & 2) constantly tugging at you, it can be hard to do these things!
Did you get a chance to catch it? It was pretty cool.
If not, I’ll give you a quick rundown — the panel included brass from various managed WordPress hosting companies like Pagely, MediaTemple, WPEngine and Flywheel. They talked about, you guessed it, managed WordPress hosting.
The conversation had a candid, but upbeat tone, with friendly banter going back and forth. I have to say that some of the ideology and stories behind these hosting companies is actually quite interesting.
When it was over, there was a huge take-away for me that reinforced something that I’ve been thinking for a long time as it relates to discovering your niche market — something that as entrepreneurs we often overlook, but that could be a game changer for anyone running an online (or offline) business if executed properly.
What was it? Pain.
Uncovering Your Customer’s Needs
If you are in the business of selling something, and having trouble discovering your niche, let me give you some advice that I wish someone gave me once upon a time: stop selling it.
You don’t need to sell anymore.
What you need to do is uncover your customers needs and magnify their pain points. Once you do that, you don’t really have to sell anything. Your customers will eat from your hand like a bird if you can help solve their problems, or in the case of this article, their perceived problems.
Aside: If you’re a WordPress developer or freelancer who designs WordPress websites for a living, you might be interested in this article I saw the other day, that talks more about this. If you have time after reading this one, take a look. It could change the way you price your products and services.
In that article there were a few lines in particular that resonated with me. Something like this:
Just remember, when there is a problem worth solving, the value/cost of your product or service is limited only by the depth of their problem(s), not a commoditized number.
Discovering your niche, or creating one
Step back for a second and think about this — what started out as a niche service first created by Pagely, morphed into a real (and very lucrative) marketplace based on the premise that it’s so hard — nearly impossible, for the average person to manage a fast, secure, and reliable WordPress install.
But is it really that hard? Last time I checked, you can login to a cPanel and install WordPress with the click of a button.
Install WP Super Cache, turn it on and use the recommended settings, and your site is now being cached for improved page load.
As far as keeping the site up to date, well, WordPress notifies you in the dashboard when there is a new version available for update. Again, another click of a button.
And if you are comfortable with command line, you can run a few scripts that will do all of these things for you, within seconds.
Despite the simplicity of all this, managed hosting has literally exploded in the past few years, with new providers entering the market just about every year, and existing ones creating managed solutions to keep up with their new competition.
The direction of the WordPress hosting marketplace has changed dramatically, and we can now only predict where it will go in the future.
To be fair, for some people it is next to impossible to do the things I described above, and my intent is not to make these hosting providers out to be selling snake oil. I think what many of them offer has tremendous value. If I didn’t know how to do most of this stuff myself, I would most certainly be using a managed host.
Finding or creating pain, and then magnifying it
What I’m really trying to do is to get you thinking about how this huge shift took place.
During this interview, Joshua Strebel, founder and CEO of the very first managed WordPress hosting company Pagely, said he spent his entire first year in business educating the market on the benefits of managed hosting and why it was so important to get your site off that shared server, and move it over to their managed platform.
I have to give Strebel some major props here, because not only was he first-to-market, but I know exactly how hard it is to try and convince people that quality is almost always more important than price. More on that in a second.
The other managed WordPress hosting companies should pay some serious homage to him for that. If they already have, they should do it some more.
He spent a lot of time and resources on essentially creating this niche market, by showcasing the awesome features of his platform, and by virtue, magnifying the shortcomings of shared providers. He created pain in the minds of his customers and eventually capitalized on it.
In a price slashing, commodity world, he ultimately turned a luxury into a tangible benefit that would solve his customers problems right now.
Other hosting companies followed suit and the rest is history.
How is this applicable to discovering your niche?
Discovering your niche is not easy, but if you can find a problem worth solving, it will make life much easier for you.
How can you serve your community/users/customers? What problems can you solve for them?
Can you transform a luxury, or commodity into something that people need and are willing to pay more money than similar products for?
I learned a lot about this from my experience in the insurance industry. To many people (maybe everyone?) insurance is a commodity. Here’s the thing though, it’s not.
People think it is though because there are 4 or 5 huge insurance companies (not naming names but you probably know who they are) who continuously spend millions of dollars on Super Bowl commercials and other ads, essentially brainwashing people into thinking that insurance is all about saving money.
That’s the message in that industry right now. Who can give the the absolute lowest, rock bottom price? That’s all that matters right? Wrong.
The entire purpose of insurance is to transfer risk. It’s that protection should be the message, not just slashing prices. Those companies are sending the wrong message, and people are feeding right into it. It’s up to every other insurance company or agent to try and sell against that and prove that it’s about more than just a number. That is an extremely difficult thing to do, and it’s an everyday battle for a lot of people in that industry.
This is precisely what Joshua Strebel spent an entire year doing.
Companies were literally giving away hosting for years and he had to convince the masses (without any kind of seed money) that it’s the quality — not just the price that’s important.
Don’t just sell what’s in front of you
Probe. Ask questions. Have meaningful conversations. Get to know your prospects and customers and that’s when you can identify how you can help them. That’s one of the first steps in discovering your niche.
People always say you make way more money when you’re doing something for the love of it, and not thinking about the money. Same thing applies here.
Uncover and solve a problem, while playing up your competitors weak spots. The money will follow.
Don’t just copy everyone else
Copying people just makes this process more difficult. Sometimes discovering your niche means doing something that no one else wants to do, but guess what? That’s okay. If you can find happiness in doing it and help people in the process, you can do big things.
I damn sure didn’t grow up wanting to be in the insurance industry but it paid my bills for a long time and I really enjoyed helping people in the process.
In fact, I was able to find my own niche by offering some products and services that almost no other broker was offering. As a result, I cornered the market and made a good living doing so.
So not only might you discover your niche by doing something that few others do, or want to do, you could create a market, and that is a very powerful thing.
At the end of the day, when you can find a problem, while magnify the shortcomings of your competition (politely or not), you’re no longer pushing a commodity or trying to oversell a luxury, you’re providing a necessity.
What are you doing (or not doing) to carve out your place in this world? Let’s talk about it!