Thinking bigger

Thinking bigger by HalonaCoast

I think Seth Godin’s is my favourite blog. His posts are short, concise and usually thought provoking. Seth avoids the mistake of writing too much, too often, and writing crap just to keep the content flowing.

Today Seth talks about thinking bigger. It’s got me thinking about StraightPress.

I host a handful of WordPress sites for family, friends and so on. Every time a WordPress update is released, I manually go through each site, run a backup, apply the update, then test the site. It’s a time consuming process, but it’s important to keep the sites secure. The sites are on my server, so security is my concern. It’s a bit like brushing your teeth. Important, but not always the highlight of your day.

This is where the idea for StraightPress was born. If I can manage a handful of sites, why not manage a few hundred sites, and generate serious economy of scale? Like a professional tooth brusher. We’ll come round to your house at 6pm every night and give your teeth a professional clean. Great I thought, here’s a business I can build that meets my criteria.

Recently I read the excellent book Scientific Advertising (pdf) by Claude Hopkins. The book was written in 1923 and is as relevant today as the day it was penned. It really is an inspirational read. It’s a book about caution, practicality, being realistic. It’ll never inspire you to create Google, Apple or Twitter, but like insurance, it will keep you safe, sensible and secure.

The book makes an excellent point about toothpaste. The author makes the point that tooth paste is easier sold on account of its beauty enhancement than its disease prevention. I do believe that is true. Offering a product that enhances, improves, enriches is a much easier sell than a product that prevents.

Why do you want your WordPress site kept up to date? One of the most important reasons is security. Preventing problems. But that’s not a great selling point. New features is another important point. WordPress 2.6 added post revisions. Every time you save a post or page, it creates a new version. So if you mess something up, you can easily go back to an older version. That’s a very powerful feature.

My question is, how do I think bigger? How do I shape StraightPress so the offering is oustanding, remarkable, notable. What can we offer, around WordPress hosting and management, that would make people sit up and say “Damn, I want me some of that”? I don’t have an answer today, but it’s a question that will be on my mind until I do.

3 thoughts on “Thinking bigger”

  1. I think the answer is … support.

    Real professionals at the end of an email or phone, to answer your questions. In today’s ever more outsourced, pre-packaged, system driven world, real human intelligent support is a rare thing. I think nowadays, that might actually make our business remarkable.

    I know that when I signed up with rsync.net, it was because of the support. The idea that there was somebody at the other end, with more knowledge than me, who would help me solve problems. I felt reassured that there was an expert on hand if I had a problem.

    I think that’s what we sell. I think that’s what will make us different.

  2. G’day, as someone sluggishly slow with moving my blogstuff out from the big G, a few things that come to mind for a probable future WordPressist:

    * consultancy on the available plugin space, e.g. what out of the box solutions exist for displaying my Flickr photos (or twitter or any random shareable service out there). Complete with installation and support for the chosen solution thereafter (technical, administrative, heads-up on new developments based on my formerly specified requirements)

    * support for the “curious developer” – for tweak-happy bloggers would be nice to have someone more experienced (as you obviously are!) to make sure everything still works after playtime.

    * domain name acquisition assistance / support (as in, probably not all domain resellers are equal? Heard some nasty stories around the interwebs of where NOT go…)

    * Would there be possibility of getting similar kind of support for sites not hosted by your servers?

  3. Hey Anu,

    Thanks for the feedback. I think I plan to cover all of the aspects you’ve mentioned, but let me go through each one and explain what I mean.

    Plugin space. I plan to support a range of plugins. There are 60 plugins that show up in a search for flickr. Of that, we might support 3 or 4. So in effect we’d be recommending them. I think we could take that a little further though, and have a suite of recommended and supported plugins for various purposes, as you suggested.

    Curious developer support. Part of my philosophy is to be, what I call, “grown up”. So if our customers like to tinker with their blog, and they break something, we’ll do our best to get things up and running. Part of that is the “one click backup”. So developers can easily create backup points before tinkering. I think we’ll be very tinker friendly. 🙂

    Domain recommendation. Good point. I haven’t been able to find a great domain registrar out there. I’d welcome any suggestions if you have. I used DynDNS for my main domain, and GoDaddy for the alternate domains.

    On your own server. Our pricing plans are split into two tiers, the first on your server, the second on “ours”. We won’t actually provide servers, we’ll resell VPSs (from SliceHost and Linode initially). So the idea is very much that our service is separate from the server, and can be provided on any box, so long as we have the required access (ssh, mysql binary logging, rsync, etc).

    Thanks again for the feedback, much appreciated.

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