InMotion Hosting: Focusing on Customer Needs

Todd Robbinson, the president of InMotion Hosting, took the time to speak with Abby Johnson from WebProNews at BlogWorld Los Angeles 2011. They discuss how InMotion Hosting is responding to the growing needs of their customers. As website builders and content management systems such as WordPress, Drupal, Website Builder evolve and consequently become more difficult to use.

Abby: This is Abby Johnson of WebProNews, coming to you from BlogWorld in Los Angeles. And joining us right now is Todd Robinson, the president of InMotion Hosting, how are you?

Todd: Good, how are you guys doing today?

Abby: Doing pretty well, doing pretty well. For the second day of BlogWorld.

Todd: Yeah, I’m starting to get a little drained, I’d have to say.

Abby: But it’s a good show, and I want to talk to you a little bit about InMotion Hosting and really why you guys are at BlogWorld.

Todd: Sure, sure. Well we’re at Blog World and we’re are a hosting company and actually L.A. is our home, and so you really got to come out and support everything in your back yard. But of course also, as a hosting company we host tons and tons of blogging sites, everything from your classic WordPress stuff all the way up to some kind of really high end stuff that might be hosting on some really expensive type gear. So, that’s why we’re here, we’re visiting customers, we’re certainly supporting the software and supporting the community in general. That’s a really key thing for us, to be part of the ecosystem, because obviously for us, we are completely vested in all the bloggers out there and anybody who is really trying to start a site to be successful with it. So, that’s why we’re here.

Abby: Good deal. Well let’s talk a little bit about some of the issues involved that bloggers are facing, and up and coming bloggers. There are so many hosting services out there now, so how do they even know where to begin with these types of things?

Todd: That’s a tough question, because of course it really varies. Even for us, we get the question all the time: what is it about you that is different or better, or that if I’m going to get something different from you?

Abby: Right.

Todd: And, there’s a lot of…one, you can start right with the ecosystem side. We’re very vested in this, so we get to see the things that are happening and the things that are changing, and the new things that people are doing or how they are using this different software in a way that maybe even the designer of the software didn’t intend. And when somebody asks us a question “I’m trying to do this, and I’m using this software” and we say “Actually, I know… I think I know where you’re going, but you don’t really want that. You want this thing over here, because we’re kind of unique in the way that we are actually speaking directly to the customer in a lot of cases. The customer is calling us up and they’re on the phone with us, we really have a unique situation where we can guide them to the right stuff.

Abby: But it is very challenging for both the web hosting companies as well as the publishers and the bloggers.

Todd: It’s challenging, I guess you can say, in a lot of ways and a lot of levels. Actually, I’ll use an example that we have inside of InMotion Hosting. So we actively watch the success rate that a customer has after a certain period of time with us. And we start to look… and you say “hey,” it’s not a small number, I won’t share the exact number with you, but it is not a small number and what a lot of it is frustration. They come in and they have a great idea with something they want to do, and this is not first time people. This is sometimes people who are trying it for a second time or a third time, and they come in and they realize that the barrier is just too big for them sometimes. They pick the wrong tool, or they start off with a random builder, or they start off with a bulletin when they really wanted WordPress, or they’re big and they started with WordPress and they really wanted Joomla or Drupal [More Information on InMotion Hosting’s WordPress Hosting, Joomla Hosting, Drupal Hosting plans] or something like that and they get themselves in a bind, up to the point where they say “Okay,” I give up,” and they step away from it. And for us, it’s terrible, but for the community and the ecosystem it’s terrible too. So we watch that, and when that really started to happen, and I guess you could say that’s about a year and a half ago that we started to notice these trends of people confused with the software. Part of it is that the software is a little bit more complicated now, even WordPress, which I love. You open it up and you say “wait a second, what is all this stuff here?” So we’re really actively working to solve that, and some of it are the webinars, the tutorials, the video tutorials are great. [You can find many useful tutorials at InMotion Hosting’s Support Center] You take people through step by step. But sometimes you have to, you’ve got to talk to the person and say “what is it exactly that yo u are trying to do” and “hey, this is the software you want to use,” “this is the approach that you want to take.” Or, “you know what, maybe take a step back and maybe what you want is build a little, tiny site and go market it first and then worry about building something super nice later.” So, a lot of times for us, it’s really unique, because we are speaking directly to the customer.

Well, while we were speaking off camera you were telling us that you guys are constantly working with new tools in order to obviously better yourself, but constantly working on the speed of things too. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Okay, yeah. So you’re looking at how the changes are occurring within the market. So a big concern, well you can say it is a big concern for us as a traditional hosting company, we want people to be successful with tools and software and services that run on a typical hosting accounts. But of course, as those tools get more complicated and even get more and more difficult, especially for late adopters to use, what’s happening is the late adopters are often turning to solutions that are very very specific to them. Facebook is a perfect example. Facebook is actually of course a competitor to web hosting and a competitor to, and to be fair, it’s a competitor to bloggers and a competitor to so many different people, it’s incredible. And turn to that though, we have to look at that and say “why did they do that?” Well, they turn to that in a lot cases because the web hosting experience, and some of the tools we have today are more complicated than what they’re willing to deal with. So for us as an industry in web hosting and a lot of the open source tools that we depend on, you really have to take note of that. You’ve got to be really careful when you’re looking at your software and making sure and say “hey, look, don’t make this thing so complicated that only you get it, right? You’re the only one that says it is totally easy and you just click here, click here and click here.” I do this actually with our designers a lot, so I get really excited about this stuff. What I do with the designers is that after they are done building it and they have this cool software system where it is a bunch of clicks around to do all this kind of cool stuff, I say “okay, great. Now what you need to do is take this, sit down with somebody who is not totally a beginner Internet person, but somebody like your mom. Sit down behind your mom and have her use it.

Abby: Okay.

Todd: And they’ll come in the next day and go “She had no idea what was going on. She started clicking on stuff that wasn’t even clickable, right?”

Abby: Oh, wow.

That kind of stuff. And so I always encourage developers, especially the open source ones, is use those UI techniques and test it on somebody that really doesn’t know how to use those things. So that’s one of the things. So, for us, we are constantly encouraging the ecosystem to make it easy and make it in levels. WordPress is great, and it’s great for a beginner. But now it’s starting to become a little bit more complicated, so it is a little bit more of an entry. So we end up with customers choosing a very different cut down builder instead, which we don’t really like anyways, because it’s hard for them when they do get better. And then where do they go? Now they have to come out of that builder and come into something like WordPress.

Abby: So basically, as consumers have evolved, the companies need to begin to evolve as well.

Todd: Oh yeah, absolutely, yeah. Absolutely. And you need to be really careful, or that software or that service that you had, it can go fast. Absolutely, absolutely.

Abby: Okay, well Todd thank you. Thank you, no that’s great. It is always good for video. Thank you so much for sharing your thought with us.

Absolutely, it’s a pleasure. And I thank you guys for being here and inviting me down.

Abby: Absolutely. This is Abby Johnson with WebProNews, coming to you from BlogWorld in L.A.