The affiliate program is a pretty universal tool in the marketing arsenal of the web hosting industry there, since the opportunity to bring on new business without a big up-front outlay of marketing dollars is an appealing prospect, particularly for the smaller hosting providers that might not necessarily have huge hosting budgets.
This week, web hosting provider CoolHandle took an interesting step, announcing a new service, Concierge, that sort of treats the company’s existing web hosting affiliate program as a jumping-off point for an advanced package of resources and tools for Internet and affiliate marketing customers. Along with users of its own affiliate program, CoolHandle works with a wide array of affiliate marketers from many of the major affiliate marketing programs.
Generally, we see new or updated affiliate programs emerge in a near-constant flow from the hosting space, in spite of the ubiquity of web hosting affiliate programs, as businesses work to get up to speed on the affiliate model, or to further refine their existing programs.
Web hosting provider ViUX Systems announced this month that it had introduced a new web hosting affiliate program. And late last year, hosting provider A Small Orange updated its web hosting affiliate program to pay out in cash, rather than via service credits.
In December, we ran a feature – starting and running a successful web hosting affiliate program – in which we set out to provide a kind of basic template for benefiting from the enormous community of affiliate marketers out there. In it, Justin Lee looks at many of the key features and considerations of a good web hosting affiliate program.
This week, web hosting provider CoolHandle announced a new package of services built around its affiliate program, one intended to take advantage of the affiliate marketer relationships it already has, and that takes an ambitious approach to packaging services around a particular niche customer need, and designed with the specific goal of advancing the business model of its customers.
“Like many shared hosting companies, we have an affiliate program,” says Ryan Morris, marketing director at CoolHandle, in an email interview with the WHIR. “We have done well with it, but saw a need from many of our partners for other services. We began to really look at our affiliates as partners, rather than just customer referrers. By doing so, we focused our efforts to really help them with their product, service and affiliate traffic. By doing so, we created a loyal affiliate program, as well as introduced these services.”
Along with some more typical hosting services, the CoolHandle Concierge service includes integration with the company’s hosting resources for customers offering software tools to their customers. It also offers services a little further from hosting, including video production and copy writing services. Finally, Concierge offers business services such as outsourced customer service and legal services.
A full description of the services available from the Concierge program is available at the CoolHandle Concierge website. The company doesn’t offer much pricing information for the services publicly (though it does with its hosting services), and the program seems to be more consultative than self-serve.
Many of these services, says Morris, are things these customers might already have been doing on their own, or acquiring from other service providers or consultants. One of Concierge’s greatest advantages for customers, he says, is the opportunity to acquire all of the services in the same place, from the same service provider. The trick for CoolHandle was making it affordable and convenient.
“Currently our plan for Concierge is to offer the services a la carte,” says Morris. “Our Concierge customers can choose what services they need. It really allows them to scale their businesses. By offering individual services, we allow our Concierge customers the ability to pick and choose, scale up and down at their discretion.”
The a la carte decision is actually an important choice, which could have gone along a different path, similar to the VerioVelocity service launched in 2012 by hosting provider Verio, a narrower set of services, designed more specifically around helping hosting customers market their websites via SEO and paid search, though it does also include copy writing. Verio is offering the solution as a bundle, at a price considerably higher than your typical web hosting service, raising an interesting question about whether this kind of proactive bundling can get around the need to up-sell customers on each service.
Regardless of the approach to packaging the services together, Morris says there is a benefit to offering services that are related to one another.
“We really think it’s important to have a product line that has synergy with one another,” he says. “Offering products that fit together makes the end product or service that much better. For example, if we created a hosted product, we would be able to host the product, offer the support on the product, and manage the billing for that product as well.”
Talk back: Do you operate a web hosting affiliate program? Do you work with affiliate marketers, or Internet marketers, outside the scope of your own program? Do you think CoolHandle’s marketing and business services are good add-ons to hosting services? Is this something you could try with your own customers? Let us know in the comments.