I randomly came across a testimonial video I did last year for Sam Renkema and the SpamExperts team. This video was shot at the WHD Conference (2015). Look forward to seeing Sam and Team there this year!
Happy belated New Year everyone! It has been a busy start to 2016. So, busy that I did not achieve my goal of blogging at least 1-2 times per month in 2015. So, this year I am going to fix that - this is what New Years Resolutions are for, right?
January was significant for me not only because it was the New Year but also it was my 1 Year anniversary at Weebly. It was a great year. Launching the Weebly Cloud Program was an incredible learning experience. Nick and I put alot of hours and time in to building the Program and we are seeing that work pay off at the onset of the year. Some key updates:
1. We have over 130 Resellers on the platform.
2. The common integration method has been API or CPanel/WHMCS bundle
3. Companies that have joined our program include Newtek, Siteground.com, Namecheap.com, Lunarpages.com, and Clara.net.
4. We have a number of New TLD Registries that have joined our Program including Minds+Machines, Top Level Design (.design registry) and DotVegas.
5. We have also grown our Team. We now have Inside Sales support in AZ and more Marketing assistance in San Francisco.
In 2015, we attended a number of conferences and gave a number talks on the top trends we are seeing in the Website Creator industry and the goals we have for our Partner Channel. We will continue to do this in 2016. I feel we are still in the infancy of our launch and that we need to continue to promote our vision and goals within the Hosting industry.
Another big part of 2015 for me was taking some time away from the domain name industry and focusing more time on learning about the website creator business. It has been a wonderful experience. I find this to be a very dynamic industry. Here is a brief list of the top things I learned in my first year working full-time in the website creator industry:
1.You would think that by 2016 that a "website" would be old hat and that everyone would have one. Not true at all. I deal with three main customer types every day:
a) Customers who are not online at all
b) Customers who are using an old CMS and want to move to a more modern CMS
c) Enterprises who are seeing "websites" in a new light and want to participate more deeply in this space (ie building sites at scale).
So, in short, there is alot of opportunity in both the offline market and existing online market.
2. Its amazing how involved users are in their web site. When I worked in the Domain Name space, I was very focused on the initial onboarding process. In other words, a majority of my focus was getting users/companies to register domain names. At Weebly, I am seeing first-hand the other side of the business -- Usage of the domain + website. Once people create their site - they spend the rest of their time building it, investing in it and sharing it. Its great to see this side of the business. It has opened my eyes to the needs of Users, especially the SMB segment who have very diverse needs when managing their site/online store.
3. By the sheer nature of working in the web site industry, a really cool side-effect is that you will also learn a helluva alot about Mobile. Weebly has a solid mobile app portfolio across iOS and Android. I use these apps to manage my own website. I could talk alot more about Mobile - but I will just say this -- I always knew that Mobile was important, but I really just thought of it in terms of Responsive themes. Now, I see mobile in an entirely different light. It is so much more than responsive themes. The coolest thing in 2015 related to mobile that I saw was the introduction of the ability to "create" websites on a tablet. Not just edit the site -- but actually *create* and edit a site all from a tablet. That is a pretty cool advancement on a number of levels.
4. On the same note, by the sheer nature of being in the industry, you will also learn a ton about the App ecosystem. Weebly launched our first App Marketplace in October 2015. This has been another great source of learning for me. The value-add of the marketplace makes total sense to me and I see the value for the customer. What is also interesting to me is how seamlessly these apps can be integrated in to a site. Its amazingly easy. I am very excited to see how our App Marketplace will grow this year. Another related note -- I didn't realize how many Theme marketplaces existed as well. This is also another fascinating business to me.
Lastly, I will end on one final note. In looking back at all the conferences, trade shows, customer meetings, etc. there was always one question I would be asked, "What is your ultimate goal with the Reseller program Chris?" Now that I have a one year under my belt, I would articulate it as follows: When I look around the Hosting Industry, I see alot of web hosts promoting WordPress. This makes sense - it is a great product and it is well suited for Hosts. However, I also think there is room for a simpler, easier and non-coding alternative as well. This is where Weebly comes in. So, when you ask me what is my ultimate goal for Weebly? Its the following --> When a customer wants to get online and create a website, I want them to be able to go to any web host anywhere and be able to buy a weebly site".
I tweeted out this week that I had created a website for my barber, Rick Motta (who is a great guy btw). I was in his barber shop recently and he asked me how my new job was coming along. I told him it was great and that I was learning alot about the website creator industry. At this point, Rick started to probe more in to Weebly and ask how we help businesses get on the Internet (or as Rick says, be found on iPhones....I love it!). So I explained to Rick what we do - DIY company, easy to use, drag & drop, build the site, publish. Period. The end.
Now, in Rick's case, he is not plugged in to the Net like the rest of us. Part of this is driven by lifestyle yet part of this is driven by time. Rick runs a busy Barber shop. He literally doesn't have time to build a website. Some interesting feedback from him about his journey on website creation:
1. He hired a company to build his site for $1500. Never built it.
2. He receives multiple sales calls a day to from people promising he will be the first listing on Google but they want big $$$
3. He wanted a site but had no one he could trust to discuss his plans or at least "learn" what was involved
4. He wasn't sure what he should put on his site
5. He had no concept of design or images and that was an issue for him
I could keep going.....but suffice to say that Rick was overwhelmed. This conversation really had an impact on me. In my 16 years in the domain business, this was the very customer we were trying to attract. Rick didn't have a domain name and he *wanted* one. He didn't have a website and he *wanted* one. The value prop was understood but the means to execute on a domain registration and website was still seen as difficult by Rick --- plus, he had already had a bad experience with an agency.
I ended up building the site for Rick. I got the domain name from eNom and the website from Weebly. I knocked out the entire site on a Sunday afternoon.
The experience has really left a big impression on me. We still have a big hurdle to climb in bringing down the barriers of complexity as it applies to domain registration and website creation. We have to keep pursuing the mission of simplicity. This is critical in getting SMBs to be more than a "listing" on Google. That never sufficed for Rick. He wanted his own site - he wanted his shop's personality reflected on his site. A listing will never achieve that.
This has truly been a great experience for me. It has opened my eyes to the real challenges that exist for SMBs to get online -- but it has also allowed me to experience the true satisfaction of a real Small Business Owner being online and happy. And in the end, this is what both the domain + website industry is striving for.
WHD recently published the Keynote chats at WHD USA. Nick and I were fortunate to enough to speak at the conference. Our Keynote below. Enjoy!
It is pouring rain in Chicago this weekend, so I feel it is an ideal time to post some quick thoughts on the recent WHD USA event.
1. The inaugural US event drew about 800 attendees. From my perspective, it was a high quality audience. Great foundation to meet with various execs the the web hosting, telco, and domain registrar space.
2. There was strong attendance from overseas web hosts. I was surprised because I felt most international companies would not make the trip or had attended WHD Global. This was great to see -- biggest country in attendance in my opinion? Latin America!
3. Strong New TLD registry presence. Make sense -- this is a great forum to get exposure to your new tlds to some of the biggest distributors in the Hosting space.
WHD USA was a natural choice for me and Team Weebly. We exhibited, sponsored the main conference party, and presented a keynote on Wednesday. During our keynote session, we focused on some of the key trends we are seeing in the web site creator industry, with a particular focus on mobile. In our opinion, we see the consumer migrating to mobile more and more. One of the key stats we shared with the audience is that 33% of traffic to Weebly is driven from a mobile device. We expect this number to grow QoQ. In addition, we announced that we plan to extend to Weebly Resellers access to our portfolio of mobile apps. This includes iPhone, iPad, Android phone, and Android tablet.
One last note about the recent conferences we have been attending this year --> there are many web site creator companies there as well. This make sense to us. The market is big and the opportunity is big. There are still many consumers offline. There are still more consumers coming online in emerging markets. Thus, we should expect that there would be a number of companies looking to capture this customer. That said, I think it also validates how critical the "web site creator" product has become in the Hosting market recently. Its no longer a value-added service. It has really become a core product for web hosts. In the various meetings we had at WHD USA, I heard this theme repeated more and more.....web hosts are raising the priority of web site creators as a core offering so they can more aggressively compete in the market. Lets face it, if you can provide a great web site building experience for the end user, you are in a great position to upsell email, domain names, and ideally have strong renewals across all of these products.
Next stop for Team Weebly is the Internet Retail Conference and Exhibition (IRCE) in Chicago!
Here are some pictures from our keynote at WHD USA - enjoy!
As I have previously stated, I love Periscope. My intention is to use it to conduct informal industry interviews. Well, I finally got the first interview under my belt. We were just at WHD USA and Soeren agreed to by first victim, I mean "guest"!
Video interview below -- enjoy!!
This year Odin (formerly Parallels) changed the format of the previous Parallels Summit shows for a more intimate, smaller, yet high-quality attendee conference. The show was hosted in Seattle not far from their HQ in Renton, WA. I was excited to attend the show for three main reasons, (1) connect with several customers, prospects, and industry folks, (2) meet with Odin to learn more about APS2 module development, and (3) reconnect with my eNom.com colleagues (when I was at eNom, I lived in Seattle, WA for 5.5 years). Happy to report I was able to achieve success in all three categories! So, lets review the highlights.
As part of our launch plan, I knew we had to build several modules to ensure that Resellers of all types could adopt Weebly. We have already launched a CPanel plugin and our WHMCS plugin will be ready by the end of May. The next stop was an Odin module. My main question was should we build both a Plesk module and an APS module? Both could be necessary because historically most shared hosts used Plesk as their main control panel. However, as Odin evolved, they introduced APS and there seemed to be wider adoption of this platform by both hosts & telcos. In the keynote session, Birger highlighted the new features + user flow of APS2. It was great to see the new direction Odin is heading in driving cross-sells and easier automation. My biggest take-away from the keynote, chats with Odin, and attendees in general is that we should focus on the APS2 module. Over time, if we see larger demand in our channel specifically for Plesk, then we can turn our focus to building a Plesk module. But for now, it is clear to me that APS 2 is the long term platform and big partners like Ingram Micro are already running their cloud marketplace on it. Another great takeaway from the event was learning about all the various vendors out there that are doing APS development on behalf of Odin. Lots of good options for VARs should they not have the staff to build the module on their own.
2. Partner focus
Odin is definitely ratcheting up the partner focus. The new format of the show is a big sign of this new approach. Smaller crowd but lots of focus from Odin on the needs of ISVs, VARs, etc. As someone that is building our own Reseller network, I share the same philosophy about taking great care of our key reseller partners. Odin is going beyond just supporting these key accounts. They are very focused on their customer's product feedback, usage of APS, problems they see in the channel, and suggestions for improvement. It sounds like an obvious approach - but most companies can't execute on this type of laser focus on key resellers. I definitely want to incorporate this customer philosophy in our approach to Reseller development, growth, and support. Another key observation is how this focus is shared at the very top by Birger down through the entire organization. For those of you who know me, you know I am crazy about providing excellent service to partners. My stretch goal here would be to host a Weebly Reseller event at some point.
3. Industry feedback
In my discussions with various industry folks, there was one major common denominator - improving the upsell. This was a constant topic in the hallway conversations. It makes sense. Look at the profile of these companies in attendance - large shared, VPS, dedicated, cloud focused companies. Hosting and managed services is their core focus. Upselling to them is enabled through control panels like APS2. Thus improvements in the sophistication, intelligence, and ease of upselling in to these panels, is critical. Everyone is looking to increase ARPU. The panel has become a critical tool for success now -- it is definitely no longer a "nice-to-have". In my last Weebly for Hosts blog post, I talked about how we are going expose "Elements" to our Resellers so they can upsell their own products in the Weebly editor. Our goal here is to better enable our Reseller partners to sell more VAS and make their customers more "sticky". Just like APS, we also believe that when a customer is in the Weebly editor, this is an excellent opportunity to present highly relevant value-added services. These conversations reinforced my belief that we are going in the right direction by offering this functionality to our channel. I even more excited our Elements launch in 2015.
In summary, it was a great show. My best achievement was that I got a selfie with Michele, Blacknight. Now who would've guessed that was possible!
I wanted to post an update on my progress with the Weebly for Hosts Reseller program. Nick Dellis describes what we are doing as a "start-up within a start-up". I could not agree more. It has been an amazing experience launching a Reseller program from the ground up. Q1 was all about the "launch". At WHD Global (Germany) we accomplished this goal with the official announcement of the program and onboarding of Resellers.
So, how do you maintain momentum post the launch?
This is where the real work comes in. I wanted to share several things I am doing to keep momentum in the Channel and take our Program to the next level.
1. Follow Up!!!!!
In the month of April, myself and the team followed up on 1,000 leads collected from WHD Germany. This is not an exaggeration. We collected 1,000 leads and made sure we responded to every single one. In addition, I posted details of the conference to this personal blog and the Weebly.com blog. I am *huge* believer in follow-up. There is the natural follow-up of emailing/calling customers you have met at the conference. But I want us to go beyond this. Thus we focused on the following in April:
- Detailed blog posts outlining our experience at the conference and what we learned. Distribution of these posts across twitter, FB, and LinkedIn.
- We did a video interview with the WHIR and also distributed this video to customers + posted on Weebly.com and gave it social media love.
- Invested in key customer visits. Most shows are quick hits. You cannot go deep in these meetings (not enough time). Thus we made it a priority to visit key customers interested in the service and deliver a full presentation of Weebly.
- Took what we learned from customers and either a) updated the API, b) scheduled new drops c) made adjustments to our documentation/site. We then emailed these customers back directly informing them that we made changes based on their feedback.
2. Don't stop -- keep running!
WHD Germany was Step One. To keep the momentum going we want to ensure we continue to sponsor and attend the upcoming key conferences this quarter. Thus we are attending the Odin Summit next week. Then we are going BIG at WHD USA and exhibiting at IRCE. As I have stated in earlier posts, I am a big believer in these shows. But the key is you need to have a plan. We take exhibiting very seriously and we definitely have a plan. This is key to driving ROI. The other key component of the conferences is "speaking". I love public speaking and I will take every opportunity to speak about what we are doing with Weebly Cloud for Hosts. So, at WHD USA we will be delivering another keynote. We learned alot from our first keynote in March and we will be updating our upcoming keynote as a result -- the major focus of our keynote will be "Mobile" and the impact it is having on the web site creator space (Wed @ 10:30am, WHD USA, join us!).
I am also continuing to write posts for the Weebly.com blog. Next one will be posted next week while I am at the Odin conference.
3. Keep Customers First
The one thing that is constant about launching this Reseller channel is it is hectic. The team is super busy. I love being busy and working in hectic environments. However, it easy to lose focus in these type of situations. For me, the customer is always first. They are my priority each day over everything else (conference planning, meetings, etc). I personally believe it is very important in the early stages of this launch that we keep the customer top of mind. I am working to deliver on that goal in three ways:
1. Same day response. If a customer needs help and has questions on Weebly, my goal is to respond to them that day.
2. Every day we need to be improving the onboarding process for new customers. We want a seamless process that easily allows customers to learn about Weebly, enroll in the reseller program, and eventually go live. We have a great team supporting this process and they share this goal. Since March, we have made several improvements to the process that are showing results now. We need to keep this a priority and continue to view this work as a "customer first initiative". Closely related to this, is ensuring the tools are working as designed for existing Resellers. If not, we collect feedback and make changes.
3. Constant Iteration on Integration Tools. The main way Resellers work with Weebly is via API, CPanel, and soon to be WHMCS. Since Q1, we have received feedback on our Cpanel module and our API. I treat this feedback as a high priority. It is a simple philosophy. If you cannot leverage our tools, then you cannot effectively sell Weebly. As a result, this feedback is critical. When we launch WHMCS at the end of May, we will have the same approach - welcoming feedback and ensuring fixes get in the queue for the next production drop.
To date, we have 50+ Resellers enrolled in our program. Namecheap just launched their App Store and we are very thrilled to be a part of it. I look forward to working with more partners this quarter. It has been a super-busy year, but it has been 100% educational and exciting.
Look forward to seeing everyone at the next industry conference!
I was in New York this week with the Weebly team. While there, I did some more testing with the Periscope broadcasts. I thought my walks to and from work might be interesting for people to view (especially since our office is based in the Flatiron District, which is a cool part of the city). Couple things I have learned from my NY broadcasts:
- Periscope only saves the videos for 24 hours. After that, they are only available on your camera roll. So, basically, when you see my periscope links on Twitter, if the 24hr window has passed, the video is removed from the Periscope App. My thought is to post some of these videos to my blog after they get deleted from periscope (thus allowing me to continue to share them).
- I was surprised how many people tuned in to these broadcasts (about 50-70 people). I guess "Walking in NYC" is a pretty good topic. Ironically, I just noticed that NY Times just ran a series of articles this week on walking in NYC. So, I guess that validates this broadcast! Article is here.
- When you watch the videos below, you will hear me responding to questions from people on Periscope who are tuning in to my Broadcast. Unfortunately you cannot see these comments/questions on my video stream because the comments are not saved once the 24hr period expires. Comments can only be viewed live or for 24 hrs after the video ends and is available on the periscope app only. After that, the video is saved in your camera roll sans comments.
One last point -- the way I plan to use Periscope is to conduct informal interviews with industry folks. I'll promote it on twitter, broadcast it, take questions, and then add the final interview to my blog (where it can be viewed at any time).
I wonder if Periscope will ever allow users to save videos forever on the periscope app.
Summary of videos below
First video below is my walk from the Weebly NYC office to my hotel.
Second video is the next day - my walk from the Weebly NYC office to my hotel.
Third video is the next morning - my walk from the hotel to the NYC office.
When it comes to social media, Twitter is the end game for me. Twitter is the sole service I use on a daily basis. Facebook is a distant second. When Twitter announced the acquisition of Vine, I immediately started trying it out and still use it today (although not as frequently as I thought I would). With the recent acquisition of Periscope, I had to test the service and find out what all the fuss was about. Here are my top highlights from my usage to date:
1. Without sounding to cliche, this really looks like a game changer. My first test-run was to simply watch other people's live broadcasts. Its kinda weird at first but then as you narrow in on your own followers or start stumbling on interesting topics/feeds, its fun. The ability to comment during the video and watch the "broadcaster" respond to these questions in real-time is cool.
2. When you "like" these videos, you simply hold your finger on the screen and a stream of "hearts" start bursting out of the right corner of your phone. Pretty funny. But after a while, the novelty wore off and it doesn't seem to really add a huge amount of value to the video. I did notice that after I did my first broadcast, Persicope tells me how many "hearts" I generated. Yawn.
3. Speaking of broadcasting, I was in Paris when I first started broadcasting my first periscope videos. Periscope asks me to create the title. So I used "Walking in Paris". I was amazed at how many people joined the stream. After literally 1 second people we were watching me walk in Paris. One contributor to this is that I did allow Periscope to post to my Twitter feed that I was broadcasting live and that you could join "right now" to watch. Regardless, I was still surprised at how many people were on the broadcast within the first minute.
4. So, lets continue with the "Walking through Paris" video. One of the most frequent comments from people as they watch your video is "Say Something". If you are not talking during your broadcast, people start commenting right away --> say something!! say something!! Another thing people do is make rude comments. I guess this is to be expected. But Persicope should figure out a way (if possible) to prevent obscene language from being posted to your videos. Its problematic for two reasons: One, it takes away from the positive vibe of the broadcast. Two, these broadcasts are saved. So, when people swing by later and watch your Periscope reruns, these obscene comments are preserved. Its not something I want "saved" and "repeated" for my followers. As a result, I deleted all videos that people dropped F-bombs on.....
5. In total, I shot about five broadcasts in Paris. When I logged in to Periscope later that day to view all of them, I realized that Periscope does not have a central "account" within the app that allows me to review all my videos. I guess I simply have to go through my twitter feed to view them again? If this is incorrect and there actually exists a place to view all my broadcasts in one area, please let me know.
In conclusion, I found Periscope to be pretty amazing. I really love the real-time feel of the service and I like the immediate interaction with other Twitter users. Personally, I want to use Periscope to conduct impromtu interviews with industry folks I know. We'll see how that goes...
One final point --> I love the fact that periscope houses all the videos on the ".tv" TLD. VeriSign is loving this!
UPDATE: Ironically Periscope pushed some changes to "comments" today via TechCrunch here