In an updated presentation called Managed WordPress Demystified, Alex Sirota, wowed the WordCamp Niagara audience with an updated talk on selecting a managed WordPress host. The video (coming soon!) and the presentation is below.
In an updated presentation called Managed WordPress Demystified, Alex Sirota, wowed the WordCamp Niagara audience with an updated talk on selecting a managed WordPress host. The video (coming soon!) and the presentation is below.
Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com, has upped their game by allowing plugin and theme installations on the business offering of WordPress.com. For $33 CAD ($25 USD) per month you have access to a fully managed WordPress website, but there are some features missing from this new entrant into the custom WordPress hosting space.
Until sometime in August 2017, WordPress.com severely restricted the use of themes, offered no plug-in installations and limited the access to CSS for theme customizations. The ability to install plugins, themes and customize CSS made WordPress.org the most popular platform in the world. Automattic’s hosting options were great for hobbyists and people running personal blogs, but not for businesses. That all changed late last year.
By giving WordPress.com customers the ability to install themes and plugins that satisfy most business requirements, Automattic could draw millions of customers from the existing WordPress hosting services. The question is, has Automattic offered enough technology and service at each price point to deter the average website builder from installing and maintaining their own copy of WordPress?
There is no cut and dry answer to this question because every user has a different set of priorities. Automattic’s various service plans are compared on their website, and every website at WordPress.com now comes with a free SSL certificate and a few necessary plugins that are auto-installed. With the addition of the plugins, hosting at WordPress.com is now a viable option for business users.
We’ll start by examining the free plan which used to be very cookie-cutter because users were offered only a yearly theme (2016, 2017 etc.) Now the free plan has dozens of themes to choose from, and several plugins are included. You can store up to 3 GB of files for pictures, audio and video, and even the free version comes with Jetpack essentials. Jetpack essentials is the most popular WordPress.org plug-in and offers features such as social media share buttons, stats and analytics about your traffic, site security, faster content delivery, a subscription system, and multiple site management from one interface. Some features in Jetpack you have to pay for such as VaultPress which offers back-ups and restoration for your site for $39/year. The free plan will still insert “wordpress.com” in your domain name and you have no choice but to host ads on your site.
Where things become interesting is in the Personal plan for $5 a month. On this plan you can have a custom domain name and you get rid of all the WordPress.com ads that are sprinkled in the free sites. Along with hosting and looking more professional, you get support by email and live chat, 6GB of storage space and email forwarding for five custom email addresses such as email@example.com. WordPress.com only offers email forwarding and not email hosting so you have to go with another provider in order to be able to ‘send’ from your custom email address. G Suite is available through WordPress.com for another $5/month per user but their email hosting is $50/mailbox/year. Note that to support email inboxes with WordPress.com you have to register your domain with WordPress.com (or transfer it to them).
The next plan up is a $10/month Premium plan where you get everything already mentioned in the Personal plan, plus access to all the Wordpress.com themes - there are about 300 of them to choose from. You also get full access to the CSS code in order to totally customize your your theme, an ad-free video player (Automattic’s VideoPress product), 13 GB of storage space and the ability to monetize your site through Automattic’s WordAds program.
WordAds is a proprietary program only for WordPress.com sites that combines the features of Google Adsense and Adwords. Adsense is actually one of the many partners that WordAds manages in this program. Drawbacks include restricted participation in WordAds unless you get thousands of hits per month and they offer less control than Google’s Adsense over which ads are displayed on your site. Since its a new program, there’s no data yet on revenue generation as compared to Adsense but it will be interesting to see the stats on this program as it unfolds.
The next plan is a big leap in price and options with the Business plan at $33/month. On the Business plan you get unlimited storage, access to live training, SEO tools, access to the entire 50,000+ WordPress plugin directory, the ability to install custom themes from the theme directory and Google Analytics integration. eCommerce, the ability to transact online, is delivered through plugins, so until the cheaper levels of WordPress.com include Woocommerce or another eCommerce option, the Business Plan is the only level where you can ‘sell’ on your site.
Every WordPress.com site comes with one free, perpetually renewed SSL certificate which can save you up to $100/year from having to buy your own certificate. That’s 3-10 months of savings right there depending on which plan you buy. When you’re protecting your site with SSL your customers will be ensured that the data and their traffic is encrypted and no warning messages will appear due to lack of encryption. More importantly a little “secure” lock will appear on every page of your site, even if you don’t sell anything online. Google loves SSL so you get an instant SEO boost by having this certificate. Some managed hosting companies, such as GoDaddy are countering this offer by also offering free SSL for every site on their premium levels of Managed WordPress Pro hosting.
WordPress.com charges for each site on an upfront annual basis so you’re locked in for a year with their plans, and there is no month to month payment schedule or any discounts for paying for a year.
Now let’s compare the WordPress.com offering to Managed WordPress hosting offerings from web hosting and internet domain companies:
Managed hosting usually includes server monitoring to keep your site up and running, as well as proactively dealing with issues like security, back-up and restore, staging sites, storage space and support. By putting your site in the hands of professionals, you are less likely to incur security breaches or have site downtime and you can choose a plan that meets your needs and budget.
As for pricing, let’s take GoDaddy Managed WordPress as an example. Their normal price is CAD$11/month for their basic managed WordPress (a domain, hosting, 1 WordPress site plus 1 staging site, daily back-ups and automatic core WordPress updates. A visual page editor is also included as well as 24/7 support phone.)
GoDaddy is currently offering a 1 year discount of only $1.49/month including a Microsoft Outlook mailbox with 5GB of storage. They are offering the same service on an monthly basis for $6/month. GoDaddy’s regular pricing is $11/month for the Managed WordPress and $8/month for Office 365. GoDaddy has made the free domain contingent on an upfront annual payment so they are also looking for the one year commitment although they have more flexibility in their plans by offering monthly options.
GoDaddy includes SSL in all their Managed WordPress Pro pro plans which start at $20/month for 1 website. Most of their Managed WordPress Pro plans support the ability to manage more than 1 website from one account, which is not easily possible from WordPress.com. In fact you get a discount if you set-up a 5 or 20 website plan account with GoDaddy. These plans are aimed at web designers, developers and freelancers who build sites for customers rather than end users of WordPress.
After looking at WordPress.com and GoDaddy Managed WordPress if you are dealing with multiple websites, it will probably make more sense to go with a managed WordPress host for multiple WordPress.org collection of sites. If you only have one site, have little interest in tweaking the theme you’re using and are only looking for an easy and low-cost way to get online, WordPress.com may be your best solution.
Deciding between WordPress.com and managed hosting with WordPress.org is an interesting debate and we’ll revisit the discussion as we work with more of the WordPress.com plans and see how the Managed WordPress providers react.
There’s a problem with how most small businesses choose their technology solutions, and we see it far too often. First the owner or manager purchases a product that solves a particular perceived pain or problem. Then they try to make it work within their existing business model and organizational structure. We feel that this approach is backwards, and your business ends up not getting the real value from the tools you choose. It’s not the technology that small businesses need first, but rather core knowledge and capabilities in the areas of business, market, content marketing, design/usability and implementation.
Ideally, you should know the key activities that will expand and sustain your business, and the key resources you’ll need to execute those key activities. In the Business Model Canvas (the one-page business model generator that we use and recommend), these two elements appear on the left-hand side of the model or the “backstage” area of your business.
From working with so many small businesses over the years, we have become adept at helping businesses identify their key activities and resources (business objectives), as well as the technology solutions that can support those activities implemented by your key resources. In the following infographic, we’ve organized our favourite technology tools and services around six different business objectives (the concentric circles), building up from the five core knowledge areas in the middle.
The productivity tools in the infographic are indicated by their company logos, and are arranged in concentric circles according to the business objective(s) of each tool. These circles radiate from the core capabilities and also correlate to the size and maturity level of an organization. We believe that businesses of every size can benefit from assessing their core capabilities and having a well-curated technology “stack,” a combination of software services used by staff and customers to achieve various business objectives.
For more details about NewPath’s technology “stack” (combination of software services) and the services we use and recommend the most, please see our post about software integration.
The five core capability areas are:
For reference, here is the full set of subtopics for each of the five core capabilities:
Of course, you may be thinking, how can I be awesome at all of these core capabilities?!? Be assured, no single business owner can be equally good at all these areas of knowledge. In fact, MBA (Masters of Business Administration) graduates focus on only two of these core capabilities - Business and Marketing. Many companies are started by a ‘technician’ who does not likely have many business or marketing skills, or a business whiz who doesn’t have the implementation skills to deliver on the value proposition by performing the core service offering.
What you need is to invest in getting help to bridge the gaps, yet we rarely see businesses doing this well. We get it; it’s intimidating. But there are resources out there to help you learn, and people you can hire to help. In fact, we hope you’ll let us help you.
Going outwards from the centre of the diagram we focus on the “orbits” that surround the core knowledge areas. We believe the software tools you choose must be aligned with the maturity of your business - how long you’ve been in business, how many people work for you, and your revenue.
We begin, as most small businesses do, with the content and experience band - a website and lead generation program. Unfortunately, most organizations stop here, but as your company grows you will need more tools and services. The next band is advertising and promotion, where you start making more direct and outbound offers.
As your business grows, you might want to start selling online, and you’ll need services that support your commerce and sales process. As we go further out, you’ll need to build awareness with a larger audience through social media and relationship building.
When you grow to the data layer, specifically if you are a larger organization, this is where you’ll need things like analytics, invoice and billing, and data aggregation services. At the management band, you will need human resource management products, training and project management tools that have a broader scope.
What’s important is not just which products you choose, but what business objectives each tool serves and how they work together. As your organization grows, you should be adopting these products based on your needs and level of maturity. The more mature your business, the more tools you will have to adopt and integrate. Yet if you start loading up on software too soon, you’ll create chaos and confusion while wasting money and time.
The customer is the most important thing
We believe the most important thing to any small business is its customer, and that today’s online customer requires that you have the high quality digital workplace we have outlined here. From that solid foundation you can get more customers, deliver more value, to then be able to charge more and earn more revenue.
This article concludes our blog post series on digital transformation for small businesses. First we covered the need for building a digital workplace. Then we revealed the importance of creating and evaluating your business model, a must for digital transformation. In this article we addressed how to choose the right software for your business, based on NewPath's own software-as-a-service (SaaS) technology stack and how we’ve used these tools to help our customers grow.
The important question now is what do YOU think is the most important thing to your business? If you’re still juggling time and money as your top priorities, instead of your customer, we invite you to make this business paradigm shift to focusing on your customers.
NewPath’s SMB experts are here to help you choose, implement and use new technology in order to benefit your business and find you more time. Business Success Plans start at $239.00/month for all-inclusive technology, service and support with no contracts or start-up fees. Contact us today for your free consultation!
There are almost 4,000 cloud-based marketing services on the market today (UPDATE: As of May 2017, there are now over 5,000 martech services), many of which are free or cost only a few dollars a month. With such a low barrier to entry, many small and medium-sized business owners are tempted to keep adding more and more tools and services until they’re too overwhelmed to use any of them effectively.
NewPath's guiding principle is to choose the software services just right for your business size and maturity, rather than buying into a monolithic "do all" software platform. Our two primary evaluation criteria are quite simple: Can the core value of the tool be demonstrated in 30 minutes and does the underlying service vendor have outstanding support?
The trick is to get your software products to work together, integrating them to effectively talk to each other. You will get the best benefit when your tools work together to accomplish business requirements that each cannot accomplish on its own.
For example, any online form has the ability to notify you that someone has filled it out, which generally happens via email. But imagine the possibilities within an integrated set of tools, e.g., as soon as a form is submitted, a business process is activated depending on the fields filled out, an automated response is sent to the website visitor, and a new account is created in your customer database. A specific employee is assigned to the account and receives follow-up reminders to stay in touch. This is all possible when cloud services are properly set up with your business’s model and requirements in mind.
Some SaaS (software as a service) products integrate better than others, with built-in functionality that business users can apply with a bit of time and effort, with no coding required or the need to reinvent the wheel.
NewPath Consulting has evaluated a wide range of SaaS products over the past four years for their effectiveness, ease of use and interoperability. In the infographic below, we’ve highlighted our favourites, and demonstrated how they correspond with five core capabilities of all businesses, outlined in the centre of the diagram:
Each business must acquire these capabilities over time as they mature and grow. These capabilities are required to understand and validate your business objectives, your sales and marketing techniques, and which tools to use and when.
At NewPath we believe that as a business becomes more capable and experienced at these five core knowledge areas, they also become ready to transform into a digital workplace.
For example, most businesses need an online presence (ie a website or mobile app) but not every business requires a formal customer relationship management (CRM) tool since many don’t employ large groups of outbound sales people. If you’re just starting out and don’t have many prospects or customers, then a shared cloud-based spreadsheet with some basic analytics can be as effective and has a lower cost and complexity than a CRM.
The productivity tools in the infographic above are indicated by their company logos, and are arranged in concentric circles according to the business objective(s) of each tool. These circles radiate from the core capabilities and also correlate to the size and maturity level of an organization. We believe that businesses of every size can benefit from assessing their core capabilities and having a well-curated technology “stack,” a combination of software services used by staff and customers to achieve various business objectives.
Tool set #1: Content and experience
The first objective every business is to develop a modern and interactive website on a capable content management platform. NewPath supports the easy-to-use yet fully extensible WordPress platform. WordPress is best in class for template-based sites, with extensibility via plugins and themes to handle any requirement you may need. Couple this with the easy yet powerful form builder Formstack to enable your prospects and customers to interact with you 24/7. The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Serving the customer.”
Tool set #2: Advertising and promotion
The tools NewPath recommends are AppSheet, Wild Apricot and Mad Mimi. AppSheet allows you to build mobile apps from spreadsheets, using your own data to deliver a branded experience to your customers. It's easy, free, and there is no coding involved. Wild Apricot is a cloud-based service that includes website management, membership renewals, email marketing and donations for membership-based organizations (nonprofits, clubs and associations). Mad Mimi is NewPath’s choice for email marketing. Read more about why Mad Mimi is still our choice after all these years. The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Attracting the customer.”
Currently, at NewPath we don’t recommend any online advertising ad platforms. We recognize this is a controversial position, yet content marketing simply provides a better return on investment for most SMBs over online ads. Here’s some proof based on our own experience with content marketing and spending on ads. Online ads can work, though, for certain product sectors, to boost an already well-known brand, or for local advertising of local services.
Tool set #3: Commerce and sales
For commerce and sales, NewPath recommends PayPal, WooCommerce and Stripe. Everyone’s heard of PayPal and the service remains easy to use for secure online payment processing. WooCommerce is a free WordPress plugin that allows you to set up an online store to sell directly from your website - why pay for an ecommerce platform when you can have more power for less cost? Stripe makes it even easier to do business online by offering recurring and one-time credit card payment processing. Stripe checks out the transaction, makes sure it is legitimate, and if all looks good, they send the money automatically over to your business bank account, without the need for a merchant account. The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Making it easy sell and buy services and products.”
Tool set #4: Social and relationships
Social media and the cultivation of relationships is an important step in the sales cycle. Some aspects can be automated and other parts must be handled directly, but in each scenario, business acumen and technology can help. At NewPath Consulting we use the following social and relationship management tools:
The overall driving principle of this tool set is “Staying organized while keeping in touch with prospects and customers.”
Tool set #5: Data & Management
As an organization matures to the point where it needs to effectively manage a lot of data and personnel, NewPath uses and recommends these products to use analytical insights to drive business decisions:
Do you have a mismatched collection of productivity tools that aren’t working together to help your business grow? Step back and look at the big picture of how your business is evolving, which core capabilities you have and which you need to build, and which set of services will help you reach your business goals.
Two decades into the Internet becoming mainstream, you would think that nearly every business has planted their flag online. But in actuality the majority of the smallest of businesses aren’t fully plugged into the Internet, according to a landmark global survey commissioned by GoDaddy from Redshift Research.
59% of them don’t have a website – and, thus, full control of their online presence – according to the survey of 4,000 global very small businesses (defined as five workers or less) in Australia, Brazil, Canada, India, Mexico, Turkey, United Kingdom and United States.
Who are these small businesses?
41% are run by women.
And they are generally not only small in employees but customer base, with 64% having 100 or fewer customers.
And many are new: 39% have been in business for three years or less.
While many of these very small businesses do have some form of Internet presence through social media platforms, they reported feeling that their operation was simply too small to warrant a website (35% of respondents). Others cited a lack of technical expertise (21%) or the costs of starting a website (20%).
Web developer jobs are projected to grow by 20% in the decade leading up to the year 2022, significantly outpacing the projected growth in jobs as a whole. That's cool, isn't it?
But what is powering this trend? We think you can point to the 25M+ businesses in North America that are selling, marketing and serving customers online. By all accounts they are becoming more competitive and productive by leveraging what we call "the small business web" - software that runs in your browser and enables more efficient and effective selling, marketing and operations.
On May 6, we were delighted to be included in the launch of GoDaddy Pro (press release), an innovative platform that makes it super easy to support web developers, designers and consultants who help small businesses. We have been involved over the past few months in a customer council along with several other companies providing feedback on the design of the platform. It was refreshing and exciting to be involved directly with the design of a new product like GoDaddy Pro.
One of the cool features we mentioned in the press release is a free monitoring system that will help you monitor your customers' websites uptime and alert you by email or text message of any downtimes. A website that is down is equivalent to a closed front door, and we want to know quickly before our customers (or their customers!) find that their "virtual front door" is shut. Here's a screen shot of how clear and easy this feature works:
Here's GoDaddy's blog post detailed some of the terrific features in the new product. And here's a longer video detailing this new program.
In case you missed the wave of news reports, Buddy is the adorable golden retriever cast in the starring role of this year’s GoDaddy Super Bowl commercial. He was given the name “Buddy” after thousands of people offered suggestions via social media.
Here's a sneak preview of the adorable puppy:
Things did not go as planned for Buddy. It seems that some did not take lightly to the "small business" message and rather focused on the fact that Buddy was sold to the highest bidder. Many took to social media to show their displeasure at the undertone in the advertisement. So Buddy was replaced at the last minute with a rather serious ad below. I bet all you entrepreneurs can all see yourself in this commercial, right?
GoDaddy is rocking the domain registrar space right now. They have some excellent solutions and their growth has been phenomenal. I think they are well on their way to a cleaner, SMB friendly image.
Go GoDaddy! Check these out from their recent SEC filing. The fact that this type of stuff is in an SEC filing is a tribute to their user-friendliness.
The customer journey is very well described here -- it's realistic and authentic.
Big news from one of our partners, Mad Mimi. Our email marketing partner is being acquired by GoDaddy, one of the largest hosting and service providers in the world. A set of FAQs has been published on the Mad Mimi website. As indicated on the GoDaddy press release:
The Mad Mimi service will continue to be available as a standalone application. GoDaddy and Mad Mimi intend to build a next generation product utilizing the Mad Mimi platform, with availability scheduled for 2015.
In our mind, this is a terrific move for the Mad Mimi service. It is an easy to use email marketing solution which will now be available to millions of GoDaddy customers. Customers who host their website, email or domain with GoDaddy will now have an incredible email marketing service as an option.
We hope that this increased awareness among the small business community will help raise all boats that are anchored firmly in the Mad Mimi port.