As a newbie to the Web hosting space, I wasn’t sure what to expect from my first (of what I hope will be many) industry event this week: cPanel’s Hands on Houston conference. And while it was a relatively smaller show in the hometown of both cPanel and R1Soft, it was definitely a valuable learning experience for me.
From the insightful keynotes to the raucous Beastie Boys cover band to the fantastic conversations our team had during the show, here are the top themes and tips that I took away from the two-day conference.
It’s Not All About Selling A Product
Web hosting isn’t just about selling a box of features to an end-user, it’s about creating a feeling for your customers. It’s about flexibility. It’s about providing a unique experience that no one else in the industry can provide.
This seemed to be an ongoing theme throughout the conference. First, keynote speaker Andrew Davis backed up the assertion that Web hosting providers need to differentiate themselves with something beyond their product by highlighting Rackspace's promise of Fanatical Support. Later, Cody McLain reasserted this sentiment by encouraging the audience to find their niche target, understand what is most important to that audience, and making yourself known as the expert at that one or two things.
You Are the Company You Keep
This has always been true, but it became even more evident through the conversations my team had with our partners at this show. Surrounding yourself and collaborating with smart, hardworking and respectable people is a great way to optimize your organization. Whether it's our amazing current partners, our potential future partners, or just other like-minded companies that we interact and team up with, we're extremely lucky to have the opportunity to work with so many amazing people in the Web hosting space.
Hardware Can Be Seriously Fun
R1Soft is all about software. We aren’t a service. We don’t mess around with hardware. We prefer to leave all of that up to the experts in that field - it's better for everyone involved.
But our friends over at the Softlayer booth proved to just about everyone at this event that setting up a server isn't just a tedious backroom activity that you're forced to drudge through on a Tuesday afternoon. In fact, it has the potential to turn into a carnival-esque competition.
Just be forewarned: If you find yourself attending a conference that boasts SoftLayer as a sponsor, you'll want to beef up on your hardware setup skills. There's some pretty hefty competition out there, and you definitely don't want to miss out on the Server Challenge II.
Listen, Listen, Listen
Feedback is an invaluable thing. Whether it’s from your end user or a major partner, it’s crucial to your business that you pay attention to the things that people around you are saying. Are they truly satisfied? Is your solution actually solving a problem for them, or is it just adding to their list of frustrations? And is there more you can do to make their life easier?
Whether it's praise of your services or criticism of your product, it's not simply a nice gesture to listen to your customers and partners -- it's a business-critical process that your entire company should be taking part in on a regular basis.
Take it from a company that has been through our fair share of identity changes - having your own, unique identity is a great thing. Whether it's about picking out and sticking with your own niche market, hosting hardware-based competitions at shows, or putting on your own event, it's important that you let your company's personality shine through. Like Davis and McLain explained in their keynotes, your company is more than your product. It's about the experience you provide. It's about the trust associated with your brand. Most importantly, it's about the people that make up your team.
For us, this event felt like our own little "Welcome Back" party. We've always been the same people, making the same trusted product. But re-igniting the original R1Soft brand is something we're very excited about - and we look forward to re-introducing ourselves at future events.
Next stop, HostingCon Europe.