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Web Host Homestead 1) Talk on the PHONE with the customer 2) Make Services Easy and Feature Rich

By Ramon Ray
March 27, 2006

Homestead Technologies is a web hosting company focused on helping small businesses build web sites as simple but as aesthetic and functional as possible. Justin Kitch, CEO, co-founded Homestead in 1997 during the time when building a web site was still not that easy for "anyone" to do. At that time, as I recall, many web developers who knew how to code in HTML made a good living from building basic web sites.

The hot buzz word now is "citizen journalism" where anyone can publish a blog for the world to read. Well Justin was thinking about the web being a social change agent before hip bloggers thought of it.

To that end Justin created a tool (and now Homestead has several tools) which make it easy for anyone who knows how to use Microsoft Word to make their own web site. Thankfully Homestead's gone beyond the basics and is also making it easy for customers to create chat rooms and sell online and so much more.

MAKING CALLING CUSTOMERS PROFITABLE

One very interesting thing that Homestead does is call its new customers on the phone to introduce them to the Homestead service. I asked Justin if he could sustain being able to call each new customer. Justin explained that while many companies think calling customers is an EXPENSE, Homestead sees (and has the statistics to prove it) calling customers as REVENUE GENERATING.

When Homestead calls its customers a) it develops a strong relationship with them b) it can help them stay as customers beyond the 30 days of free hosting c) it can find out their other needs and sell them on additional services to help them grow their business.

Out of the thousands of customers who sign on to Homestead for the free 30 day trial, Home Stead converts hundreds per day to paying customers - Justin knows that calling customers pays for itself.

Another thing Homestead is adding is a dedicated account manager program. Normally when you call your web host or any other company you speak to whoever answers the phone. With Homestead, businesses will be assigned to an account manager who will work with them directly.

ABOUT HOMESTEAD's WEB BUILDING TECHNOLOGY

Homestead offers over 2,000 prebuilt web sites, broken down into industry segments, that a customer can choose from. When building your web site you can use Homestead's hosted tool, Site Builder Lite which requires no software download but uses special "Ajax" programming. Although you are using a web browser the experience is similarly fast to using a program you would install on the computer.

Homestead's Site Builder tool is software you download to your computer and can be used to design your web site without being connected to the Internet. When you are finished designing your web site or making changes simply upload the changed web pages. The later tool offers far more control than Site Builder Lite.

ONLINE MARKETING

One of the newest offerings Homestead has developed is Search Light a service which will help small businesses increase their visibility to online customers. Homestead has brought together the top 30 web sites (including Google, MSN, CNN, New York Times, Ask, Cnet, About.com and others) and will manage your pay-per-click advertising campaigns.

Sure you can do a PPC campaign on your own via Google for example - but do you have the time and experience to ensure you are getting it developed properly. Guess what - there's more to life than Google, there's many other web sites (such as the 29 other ones that Homestead has selected) and I KNOW you don't have the time to place advertisements with all of these web sites and/or to pick the ones that your audience is most likely to be visiting.

Using Homestead's service, you choose the advertising package you want Homestead chooses search engines for you, Homestead researches keywords, Homestead creates advertising copy for each search engine, Homestead manages keyword bids and budget, Homestead optimizes keywords and advertising copy and Homestead consolidates bills into one statement!

Imagine if you had to do all of this yourself!

A Homestead SearchLight consultant will review the contents of the your website, determine the business category and target geographic area, generate a list of relevant search keywords, and create the online text ads for you.

Search Light comes bundled with a 30 minute phone session to help you optimize your web site better and convert browsers into buyers.

What does Search Light cost: $30 per month (minimum 3 month contract), $30 setup fee. This guarantees you 20 clicks per month. Other levels of service cost $50 and $99 per month. Premium categories such as Alcohol& Drug Counseling, Attorneys, Automotive, Bail Bonds, Contractors (Gen, Plumb, Roof,) Credit/Debt counseling, florists, Hotels (Motels/B&B), Insurance, Landscaping, Locksmiths, Physicians (Chiro, Dental,Cosmetic) Real Estate & Mortgage, Restaurants start at $80 per month and up.

HOMESTEAD EMAIL - HMAIL

Most of us use an email program such as Microsoft Outlook, Eudora or Thunderbird for our email. Of course millions of us also use Gmail, Hotmail or Yahoo (which I don't recommend for businesses as you don't have your own domain name).

Homestead's new email offering, "Hmail" has a beautiful and full featured interface. Which, like Google's Gmail, groups your email conversations into threads. From within an email message you can bring up your calendar or a map and other details such as Fedex tracking and etc.

Justin said that Homestead is not limiting itself to only web hosting type applications but one can expect it to offer intranet, scheduling and other solutions as well.

COMPETITION

When building and/or updating your web site, there's several choices you have to make. 1) Do you use a web developer or build it on your own 2) If you build it on your own then do you buy your own web hosting service and build the web site using Microsoft Front Page, Dreamweaver or CuteHTML 3) Or do you use an online service, such as Homestead, Microsoft's Office Live, Yahoo or a number of other services to do it. If you want just a web site and the basics I guess there's many services that would do you just fine. But if you want feature rich services and tools offered from one place and you want someone to PICK UP THE DARN PHONE or EVEN BETTER to CALL YOU - you don't have that many choices. Many of these new services hide their phone numbers and cross their fingers hoping that you use their email tool or even better (for them) their online knowledge base.

It's refreshing to know there's still old fashioned little house on the prairie like companies, such as Homestead, that believe in the telephone yet still use advanced programming techniques and PPC online marketing services.

I was happy to speak with Manvinder Saraon, Homestead's, Vice President, Marketing and Business Development who was formerly with Intuit's Quickbooks team.