emailing on phone
This is how you hustle

Recently, the company that provides hosting for this website experienced some technical problems and my website went down. This was rather frustrating, and I sent them a Tweet to ask them to please resolve the issue. Before they even responded to me, I suddenly had this email in my inbox.

I saw your tweet to JustHost about your site being down.

I wanted to reach out to see if you would consider moving over to PeoplesHost? I’d love to speak more about any issues you’re experiencing, how PeoplesHost can help resolve those issues for you, and provide a level of support that you expect as a customer.

I have full confidence that we’d be able to provide a much better service. I’ll be looking forward to hearing back from you!

I was impressed. They were clearly monitoring when their competitors had technical issues via their announcements on Twitter. They knew that this would be a time of intense frustration for their competitor’s customers, and they could probably poach a good few of them by moving in and offering a solution.

One thing that really stood out was how they didn’t just offer to help fix the problem I was experiencing, but they demonstrated that they went above and beyond when it came to customer support – something that hosting companies can be horrible at. Here was my response.

Thanks a lot for reaching out, I really admire your hustle – great idea to provide a solution when one of your competitors makes a serious stumble.

I had never heard about PeoplesHost before I received your email, but I’m currently on your site, and when I switch hosts in a couple of months, this email will definitely factor into my decision-making process.

The big lesson that has come out of this for me is to be much more aware of what my competition is doing, and to have an action plan in place for when they inevitably make a mistake. I can envision such a plan looking like this:

  1. How are your competitors likely to stumble?
  2. If they do stumble, how do I find out? Will they announce it publicly, or will it be more subtle?
  3. How do I find out which of my competitor’s customers are experiencing frustration, and how can I get in touch with them?
  4. How do I craft a message to those customers that will resonate with them strongly enough to make them switch over to becoming my customers?

It might not always be as straightforward as following your competitor on Twitter, but I think it is well worth planning ahead for situations like these, so that when your competitor does stumble, you’ll be there to seize the baton from their faltering hands.

Addendum

I checked my spam folder a couple of minutes ago and found that I had received another mass email from a hosting company imploring me to switch over to them. I deleted it. Sending one email that is tailored to my current situation and addresses me personally will have more impact than a thousand sent out at random.

Final Addendum

I ended up posting this article to Hacker News and it sparked quite a lot of debate. You’re welcome to read through it yourself, but I thought I’d add the comment which the company that got in touch with me left.

Hello Everyone,

Instead of responding to comments individually I wanted to make one comment (and one comment only) to the responses to this article.

This is ONE of many strategies PeoplesHost employs to acquire customers. To address some questions or concerns others have mentioned in the comments made earlier:

– The blog post is authentic. Jack is someone we reached out to earlier today. He responded by complimenting the hustle and giving him inspiration to write that blog post.

– This is a manual human process and not automated or in bulk. Monitoring social media is a very tedious and timely process that we do on a daily basis.

– Yes, there are many who disagree with this approach as well as many who don’t. We receive an equal share of people who respond in a positive light as well as those who call us ambulance chasers.

– Yes, no (hosting) company is perfect. Every hosting company will experience some sort of outage, disk failure, etc. at some point in time. It’s inevitable and we understand that. When an event like this occurs, the web hosts should communicate and be honest with their customers base, which often times isn’t the case. Customers are given the run around, canned responses, and shown a facade on social media that support is actually responsive when in fact all other support channels (live chat, phone, and tickets) the customer is left hanging where the public eye doesn’t see.

Many of the vocal people we reach out to on social media are people who aren’t receiving the support they deserve as a customer. These customers are taking to social media channels because they’re receiving no updates or responses to their requests; it’s their last resort to motivate their current provider to help them. For example, tickets going left unresponded to for many days. That’s unacceptable and customers deserve better service. Many times, these customers are on their last string and ready for a move.

We understand that many of these targeted people run their businesses online and it’s their livelihood. This is our livelihood too and we truly show our customers that we value them and their business..we wouldn’t exist or be in business if it weren’t for our customers. We’ve built a solid foundation of customers and built the company off the premise of exceptional and personal support.

– Some will see it as spam and others won’t. We target these customers online who are 1) publically pleading/crying for help 2) have their domains listed on their profile and 3) have no private registration on their domain. This allows us to find their information in the public WHOIS database (again, it’s a manual and timely process) and reach out via email, twitter, or directly on their website’s contact form.

– We are not desperate and have a very healthy customer base. Our reviews speak for themselves.

– Many of you may or may not know how competitive the hosting landscape is or how the industry works. Larger conglomerates (I won’t name names) spend upwards to $200+ to acquire shared hosting customers via paid search, affiliates, and reviews.

Generally speaking, most consumers don’t understand that the “review” sites they trust and rely on are getting paid $200+ for any referral sent to the hosts listed on their top 10 charts. These charts are solely based on who (which hosting company) is willing to pay the most for a referral and/or which host converts the best earning that review site or affiliate the most commission. We simply thought of a new way to target customers in a way that doesn’t break the bank.

With that said, it is very enlightening to see other’s thoughts on the subject in a public forum.

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Computational biology PhD candidate at the Australian National University. I love writing (both articles and software), learning more about the world around us, and beekeeping. I also write for BioSky.co

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6 thoughts on “This is how you hustle

  1. Hi Jack. Interesting article. Just a piece of advice. Please darken the text on your website, the low contrast makes it difficult to read.

    1. Thanks a lot, it’s interesting because there are some people who have reacted really negatively to this tactic, but I honestly thought it was a novel way to potentially gain new customers.

  2. I don’t like this approach at all, to be honest. If you have competitors, as most businesses do, then, by all means, keep an eye on them and aim to offer a better product. Make yourself heard, and stand dominant in the market. But specifically capitalizing on their downfall seems like an underhand tactic; it’s a cheap dig. I also can’t see it doing a company’s reputation much good when it becomes apparent that they employ this strategy. I’m comfortable with being ruthless in business, but not cheap.

    1. I think you’ve made a fair point, although I would argue that if I was earning money from this site, then its not just an unfortunate stumble by a company, but then failing to fulfil their contracting costing me money.

      The key thing for the company that contacting me is that they really need to live up to their promise of providing better support.

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