WordPress has transitioned from a blogging platform to the number one online publishing software in just 11 years. Today almost a quarter, 23.6%, of all websites are running on the open-source platform.
WordPress has become a default digital publishing tool for all kinds of business, including media companies.
The platform’s rapid expansion has opened the door for a group of web management startups that arefocused on provoding WordPress support services. WP Engine is one of the leading companies in the space.
The US startup that has recently opened an office in London announced on Wednesday that it has raised $23 million in funding to fuel its international growth.
Hot Topics met its CEO Heather Brunner, who explained how they provide WordPress support services and what it takes to earn customer trust.
Hot Topics: How does the process of running a web site look behind the scenes?
Heather Brunner: There are a lot of things going on there. Running a website on my own, I have to ask myself what servers will I put it on, what level of traffic am I going to have and what software and operating system am I going to use?
Also I have to think about what tools I will need to create the actual site and how they will help me to keep it up to date and optimized for the intended audience.
That is really where WP Engine comes into play and takes that burden away from our customers by providing WordPress support services.
We provide them with a cloud-hosted platform, they can put their web sites on it and we then take care of it.
We update security rules on behalf of our customers. We also whitelist what we think is a safe software to run with WordPress and blacklist harmful and under performing plugins.
HT: How many web sites are you providing WordPress support services to?
HB: We have around 300,000 active web sites across 27,000 customers from 128 countries. We have a wide variety of clients spanning: financial services, large media sites and corporates. companies.
HT: Why do you think WordPress become so popular?
HB: For the last 11 years it has significantly grown and now it hit its tipping point, when more and more businesses see it as an alternative for building their own site.
First of all, they choose it because it is free. The operating system itself is open source and the software is free. I would say that WordPress is like Lego: you can build anything with it. Your world is unlimited and it is really easy to pull things together.
It creates a thriving ecosystem of technology that helps to design more tools for business people, marketers and site developers to take advantage of.
The high adoption of WordPress is also driven by generation. Some of those in their 20s or 30s might already have experience of running their blogs or sites on WordPress and when they join a marketing team of a large brand, they bring it with them.
It’s now not only a quarter of world web sites that run on WordPress, but if you look on the top 1 million sites, you’ll find that half of them – 49 per cent, are powered by WordPress.
That means that it is not only growing in its dominance over the web but it also drives sites with really high traffic. It is a pretty exciting opportunity for us and, of course, for the entire ecosystem.
HT: How do you cope with the competition in your field?
HB: It is a very dynamic environment, where customers have a lot of alternatives for WordPress support services, even an alternative of doing it themselves with WordPress directly. Our main goal is to be a company that our customers can rely on and enjoy doing business with, that is what really motivates us.
We want to deliver an incredible technology at every price point, it doesn’t matter if you pay us $29 or thousands of dollars a month – we want to be known for innovative technology and fantastic customer service.
Last month we won our first Stevie award for our customer experience and that was a great honor for us. It means that we are really good at what we do.
HT: What do you need to build customer trust?
HB: Trust is definitely something that you earn over the time. When you start to build a relationship with your customers, their first question will be “are you credible?” They need to know that you have an expertise and capabilities to solve their needs, that is the first check.
The second is respect, which you can build by customizing your service for their needs. Then to go to the next level of trust you have to keep your word, always. So not only do I respect you, but when something goes wrong, I know that you will not break your promise and handle things in a transparent way.
In our business things will go wrong: servers will fail, hardware will fail and networks will fail too. But if you simply say that, look, this happened and we are really sorry, this is what we did to fix it and this is what we’ve learnt from it – customers really appreciate that.
You should be honest if you make a mistake, that is one of the most important things in personal relationships and definitely in business ones.
The last level of trust is advocacy: am I willing to associate my brand with your brand? Will I recommend your service to others? The more customer advocates you will have, the higher your net promoter score will be.
So, what we really want to do at WP Engine is to go from credible to respected, then to trusted and finally to have our customers as advocates.
HT: What inspires you to do your job?
HB: Creating an environment where people really love their job and making people proud of what they do is one of the most incredible gifts one can have.
Sometimes people come up to me and say that they want to bring their wife or mom here to thank myself and our founder for opportunities they have and for the job that helps to pay their mortgage.
To me these are the small things that are touching people’s lives in an everyday way. That is what gets me out of bed everyday – knowing that we are creating a platform for people to grow and to do better for themselves and for their families.