On Differentiation and Story Telling

by, Adam Bogobowicz, Sr. Director of Product Marketing, Parallels


This blog is a response to the most common question that I and my marketing team receive from small and growing hosters: “I do not know how to make my business different and unique in some way. How do I differentiate my products and services?” 


Your business is differentiated not by what you sell but by what people buy. What you sell is finite, can be described as a set of features, an object or a service with a price. What your customers buy is changing, unique to each buyer and differentiated not by feature and prices but by the unique set of problems it solves for the customers. It is your customers who differentiate your business not your products.


But you still sell a product. And if you are a shared hoster you sell hosting services … and if you are like most shared hosters you sell them in 3 flavors.

  • ·         Bronze, Silver, Gold
  • ·         Small, Medium, Big
  • ·         Starter, Preferred, Professional 

Each of these flavors describes a set of resources (memory, accounts, websites counts). If you navigate to pretty much any shared hosting websites you will find a carbon copy of these. All the offers are focused on product and feature level differentiation.


But your business is not a carbon copy. Your customers are choosing a “medium hosting package” to start a business, get a blog for a church, or to create a site for a favorite cat. They are doing it in their neck of the woods, their living room and on their couch and not on-the-generic-internet. 


So sell a Bronze website hosting service but differentiate it by telling the story from your customers’ perspective. Find out who is buying from you and why and tell their story. You are making a difference in their lives that is worth paying for so it is also worth talking about and sharing.


The simplest way to tell a story is through a simple blog. Many larger hosters do it quite well and you can see good examples on Softlayer site at http://blog.softlayer.com/softlayer/ or Rackspace at http://www.rackspace.com/blog/. My heart though goes to GoDaddy and Bob Parsons’ blog at http://www.bobparsons.me/index.php?ci=78114 . Nobody in the hosting industry has more personality than Bob and, in my opinion, the success of GoDaddy was singlehandedly driven by the differentiated persona that Bob was able to create.


Another very powerful way of storytelling can be done through the voice of the customer. Here you have a choice of testimonials and more formal case studies. My personal favorites, however, are customer- written blogs. They have more depth than testimonials and are less corporate and dry then case studies, and when the customer writes the story of their business it comes from the heart.


If you can do both – create stories in your own voice and supplement these with the voice of your customers, you will be making a truly inviting narrative.


Telling your customers’ story will give you another advantage. Story telling is a personal thing. One learns as much about the storyteller as the story.  And this story will be told by you and will therefore be unique and made specific by your voice and personality. It will be your first step to creating a brand for your business and making your business remarkable i.e. one that people will remark on.


Let me know if you find these blogs useful. Write back, argue if you disagree. I want to hear from you. You can always email me at adambo@parallels.com