It’s no surprise to anyone in our industry that the email hosting world is a competitive place. I’ve mentioned before how competitive of a space it is, how the big boys can overshadow the market, and reasons why I believe we can survive (and win) with such thriving competition.
But now, things are moving faster than even I thought they would. For example, Microsoft is about to launch their suite of “Live” services. That is a threat. Google and others will probably follow suit. So I’ve been forced to do a lot of thinking as to how we’re not only going to survive in the face of growing competition, but how are we going to win.
First of all, here is my disclaimer: I respect the hell out of Microsoft, Google, and all of the big Internet companies. Contrary to what anyone thinks, Microsoft builds some of the best software in the world, Google’s search engine is second to none, Yahoo provides great media services, etc.
Our goal is a lot more modest. We just want to be the #1 email hosting company in the world. Here is how we’re going to work on achieving that goal in the face of increasing competition from the biggest software companies in the world (most of this is nothing new):
We’re going to continue to further strengthen our focus on email hosting. Its always tempting to branch off into other areas (like web hosting), but we’re not going to do it. We believe that by focusing on one thing and doing it really well, we’ll be able to compete with anyone in the market no matter how big or well financed they are.
Think about it… everyone in our organization from executive management to software development to customer service and support goes to work everyday thinking about how to provide our customers with better email.
Do you think Bill Gates and team think about email hosting all day, every day? What about Sergey and Larry? What about big web hosting companies, telecommunication firms, and internet service providers? I don’t think so… in fact, knowing how big companies operate, I’d bet anything that you’ve got to go multiple layers down into all of these organizations to find anyone that even knows what they’re up to in the email hosting space. Do you want to trust a company with your mission critical email system when most of their organization doesn’t know a thing about it?
As much as we love building awesome software, we’re a service company first and foremost. Providing the highest level of service and support to our customers is part of our DNA. When you get started in a basement and every dollar counts, you learn quickly that customers are important—each and every one of them.
Microsoft, Google, and others may be able to meet or exceed us on the software side, but they’re not going to beat us on service. It’s just not part of their DNA. With mission critical email, service is important. It doesn’t take long to realize that.
I still don’t believe that the thousands of service providers throughout the world are going to bow down to the big boys. They’ve lived with basic email offerings for a long time but as the big boys continue to raise the bar, the market is going to have to respond. Service providers simply cannot let their email hosting customers slip away. Once they lose the email accounts, they’re most likely going to lose the domain name registration as well.
Once they lose the domain name registration, they’re most likely going to start losing a lot of the value-added, revenue-generating services that keep them in the game. What is viewed by many as a commodity service, email is becoming one of the most critical service offerings on the web—service providers will realize that soon enough and we’ll be a great partner, waiting in the wings.
The reseller market has been great to us over the years and I believe that as the big boys continue their push into this space, the reseller market is where we’ll continue to thrive.
Most of the time when you hear me talking about our strengths you’ll hear me talking about our people. We’ve got an awesome team and we work really hard at improving it with every new hire. But, when we’re talking about competing with companies like Google and Microsoft, I think it goes without saying that we need great people to even play in the game. Google, Microsoft, and the rest of the bunch hire the best and the brightest in the world. If we don’t aim to hire the same caliber of people, we’ve already lost.
Now don’t get me wrong—as these companies further inch their way onto our turf, they’re all going to have some level of success… maybe even lots of it. As one of my sales executives likes to remind me, “nobody ever gets fired for picking Microsoft.” I’m sure that can be applied to a lot of big companies. But I think times are changing. I think service is king and specialization is going to win out. I hope I’m right.
– Written in Little Rock, Arkansas