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Dropping Retail Services for Wholesale Market

When is it time to re-invent a business as a wholesale Internet solution?

     
8:42 am on Apr 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I feel like I am at a crossroad.

As a small company with what would seem to have great keyword targeting, I am curious about our market focus.

Although our sites are listed in the top of search engine listings for seemingly wonderful phrases, I just don't find that it is paying what it used to.

Am I just being hard on this industry and need to take a vacation, am I barking up the wrong keyword-tree, or do I really need to re-invent myself?

I am pulling my hair out (figuratively) each day with a ton of requests for proposals, but I am finding that people seeking our services are just seeking the "cheapest" way out. I mean, our prospective clients constantly ask for things of us when we know without a doubt that we beat the competition, but they still ask for more.

As I review our services, I see a company with well-rounded offerings, unprecedented support, and below average pricing. However, our proposals seem to go out to deaf ears. If it was just us, fine, it is time to change, but we follow up months later and still find these people "shopping". Is this crazy, is the economy shot, or do I just find the "slums" of the Internet? I mean, when I offer a free trial, they love me, but if it actually has a price, they go cold. More recently, I have been concerned that these "prospects" are just plain broke, and some of them even tell me such.

To give a little background, we are a full-service ISP offering wholesale Internet service, reseller dial-up, managed NT servers, managed UNIX servers, managed RADIUS, (yes, we are #1 at Google for ALL of these keyword phrases). However, I just feel like I would be happier focusing on a strictly wholesale market.

Has anybody else noticed how hard it is to offer great technology to people who do not understand the value? For smaller companies like us, I wonder if it is just a matter of losing patience for non-technical clients with no appreciation of the hard work it takes to keep them on the golf course.

I have tried to recruit sales reps, but that is a sickening proposition, because of the huge gap between salesmanship motivation and the "geekmanship" intelligence quotient (sorry, I don't have a better term for it). When is it time to re-focus, and just work with resellers?

Although our site needs a re-design, we still hear a ton of compliments on how information-rich and helpful the site is to our clients. Plus, our resellers (and their sub-resellers) have all that they need, and request.

Have I just become a tech-snob, or has my market just gone "soft" and been left to people with more talk than action?

I am sorry to spout off steam, but I really wonder if I am just alone here, or if anybody else feels my pain. I don't spend a lot of time in trade associations, and so many competitors (especially locally) act threatened by us. This leaves little opportunity to seek advice. This is why I am asking you ... do you have any thoughts on this?

Come on, somebody be a pal. :-)

Best regards,

Mark

3:42 pm on Apr 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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People don't get it.

<rant> Here is the problem: eLance. You can blame everything on eLance. Well, eLance and people who "think" they are web designers/SEO pros/developers - and use FrontPage and WebPosition Gold. It's sad. Sigh. </rant>

9:15 pm on Apr 8, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Sorry I don't have time for a longer post, but basically the answer is "yes" - Run out and buy the Guerilla Marketer's Handbook - the beginning section has a great little bit on how to position your business different than the others out there. Then use the rest of it to help you think about reaching new people. Basically, take your assets, move them in a different direction than anyone else with the same assets.

Also - take a hard look at your services and WHAT IT COSTS to run each one - and the profit. IS there profit or do they just cover your "salary" + expenses? Then cut and snip as necessary.

Like many of us, I'm sure you started just filling a need or doing something you knew. Well, now its time to stop and look at it as a business - is what you have now something you'd buy, if you were looking for a business?

And - is it just a living, or is it something with growth potential?

I learned early on free = nothing. Get rid of the tire-kickers, then spend the time you did servicing them on the phone yourself calling around for potential new clients.