Koen Stegeman:

HostingJournalist.com had a great time with the people from Perfect Dashboard (and 1&1) during the ‘VIP Kitchen’ event in hotel Bell Rock in Europa-Park where CloudFest was held. Later on we had this interview with Perfect Dashboard’s Robert Jacobi, who also happens to be the President of Joomla.

That's an understatement, we had Randy Club rocking the house too, funk, soul, and group sign-a-longs. The CloudFest crew does an incredible job of managing this enormous conference.

Increase ARPU With Existing Clients and New Customers

“Growth hacking” has been the buzzword of the past several years. As annoying as it may be for a headline in about 34.2 MM online articles, it’s popular for good reason. Growth is a top indicator for success with software-as-a-service (SaaS) companies (and hosting companies, in particular), and without a solid growth strategy, many won’t live to see another day.

SaaS companies are reliant on a repeatable business model and recurring revenue. Once that foundation is in place and proven, the next step is to scale.

It’s a big step.

The easy answer is to boost Customer Acquisition Rate (CAR) by beefing up the sales team, but it’s also an incomplete answer. Winning more customers is great - if they’re sticking around. But if your SaaS churn rate is through the roof, you’re missing the mark. The other half of the equation is increasing Customer Lifetime Value (CLV) to continue growth.

So how does a hosting company increase CLV and continue to scale? One surefire way is to increase Average Revenue Per User (ARPU). Let’s look at some of the surefire ways to boost ARPU and grow.

Tinker with Pricing

As a hosting company, you should be constantly innovating and seeking out ways to update products and services in ways that provide unique value to your customers. This means new features, improved functionality, enhanced usability, and more. As you roll out these new updates, your current customers are receiving additional value in real-time. It also keeps you at pace with the market and (if you’re doing it right) ahead of your competitors. As additional capabilities get rolled out, you need to revisit pricing. It may make sense to do a quarterly pricing review. When you do adjust pricing, there are right and wrong ways to do this. Do your homework. Figure out what makes sense in price increases and keep an open line of communication with your customers.

Up-Sell

If you’ve invested in building your sales team - along with customer success representatives - you’re in a good place to focus on up-selling. Enabling your customers to upgrade or add-on to their current offering is a great way to increase CLV and ARPU. First, however, you need to have a solid strategy in place to increase adoption and usage, so that customers can clearly see the value you provide.

This also ties into tinkering with pricing in that you need carefully defined pricing tiers that make up-selling seamless and that make upgrading an obvious choice for customers. With hosting, this can be as simple as usage limits that require an upgrade. Make it as easy and streamlined as possible for customers to take that next step.

Leverage Bundles

Bundling can be a highly effective way to support an up-sell and cross-sell strategy. Offer new products and services that seamlessly complements the value customers already receive from your core offering. It makes upgrading an easy choice. 

Being able to clearly identify the added benefits of bundles will make marketing easier. Also be sure that your overall objectives are tied into how you are creating bundles, as this will inform how you market them, too. 

One example is Perfect Dashboard’s Secure WordPress Updating. The problem for hosting companies is clear: WordPress sites get hacked all the time without appropriate (and constant) updates. The benefit is clear, too: Perfect Dashboard prevents this by automating WordPress updating for customers. 

This is a no-brainer for hosting clients who are looking for an end-to-end solution that can also update, test, and fix WordPress sites seamlessly.

This is baked into the overall messaging for the Perfect Dashboard offering, strengthening the core value proposition. This type of positioning helps to reduce churn and increase ARPU in the long-run.

The endgame is really about adding value. Any approach to growth should always be customer-centric. It seems intuitive, but your goal should always be about what you can do for your customers by way of providing additional value. Delighting your customers with the value you provide reduces churn and unlocks additional cross-sell and up-sell opportunities. Make yourself your customers’ #1 problem solver and many of the strategies outlined above will become second nature.

 

“Full technological sovereignty” has a nice ring to it. It happens to be the reason that the city of Barcelona is opting to move away from proprietary technology solutions from the likes of Microsoft and into open source, according to the Barcelona City Council.  

The city will continue running Windows through the next year, but the long-term goal is to move to Ubuntu or another Linux distribution. As the City Council points out, open source provides more transparency and accountability. 

Really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the possibilities of open source. But if an entire big city choosing open source as its technological playground of choice isn’t reason enough to explore open source, you’re probably farther behind the times than you think. 

Benefits of Open Source for the Enterprise

Enterprise technology continues to evolve and businesses continue to transform alongside and with it. Choosing the right technologies for business requires significant foresight, planning, and education; a bad decision now could mean higher costs and lower agility in the future. 

As open source continues to gain momentum for mainstream use, enterprises have taken notice. This is mainly due to the plain and simple business advantages that open source solutions offer - many of which are not available via proprietary solutions and platforms. Let’s look at some of the primary advantages and benefits now. 

Community 

The community is probably one of the top benefits of open source solutions. Since it has gained momentum and popularity in the enterprise space, open source is supported by robust communities, all of which are filled with people on a common mission: to improve a solution that benefits the collective. Because many of these solutions are global in nature, their communities are as well. This opens up the solution and the people around it to new ideas they may not have otherwise encountered. It introduces a country-agnostic innovative edge to make new technologies faster, cleaner, and more effective than traditionally silo’d and private proprietary solutions.

Cost Effectiveness

The cost benefits of open source over proprietary solutions are pretty straightforward. Some report savings of 20-55% over commercial solutions. You essentially get the same functionality and capabilities at a fraction of the cost. They are easier to scale at a lower cost as well; businesses can start small and grow as needed without blowing the budget. In fact, many organizations opt to start out on free or low-cost community versions of open source solutions and then scale up to commercially-supported versions as needed. There’s no one-size-fits all because the flexibility of open source makes it customizable for each business’ needs – all at a more reasonable price than proprietary solutions.  

Talent Magnet

It’s no secret (or surprise) that open source solutions and platforms are a magnet for the best and the brightest in technology. Flexibility and freedom make up the cornerstone of what most good developers are seeking. Forward-thinking technologists understand that open source is where the future of technology lies – and they want to be there, participating. In fact, 70% of developers say learning new technologies is important to them. Additionally, open source allows great developers to create their own projects – outside of the box – and collaborate with others that are doing the same. This think tank of great technology and brilliant ideas is where new enterprise innovations are born and thrive.

Innovation

The culmination of all these benefits is really the fostering of true innovation. We are increasingly seeing web, mobile, and cloud solutions that live within open source infrastructure. Other solutions are following suit, and businesses that want to stay ahead of the curve and bank on the future are finding themselves investing more time and resources in open source options. 

As advanced technologies like machine learning and AI take hold, we will see the conversion with open source. As open source solutions leverage AI and become more intelligent we’ll see applications spill over into things like chatbots, autonomous vehicles, and immersive experiences. 

With technology advancing as fast as it is in 2018, it’s no surprise that open source will be at the forefront of some of the grandest innovations. The community aspect - which fosters rapid testing - facilitates more reliability than proprietary solutions as it’s supported by a global team of experts. This thorough vetting by a variety of sources also makes it more secure. The bottom line is that open source is in it for the long-haul. Where proprietary solutions may come and go and die, open source is constantly reinvigorated by vast communities filled with expert developers that thrive on innovation. If that doesn’t sound like a compelling reason to begin investing in open source, I’m not sure what is. 

 

#StopThink: The State of Political Discourse in America

A quick snapshot of political discourse in 2017: 

  • “Fake News”
  • Far Left
  • Right-Wing Extremism
  • Deplorables

It’s no surprise that political discourse is as toxic was as toxic as it was in 2017. Many blame it on one of the items listed above. Those who do wouldn’t be wrong - but they would be over-simplifying. The real culprit behind America’s divided and toxic discourse is this:

The inability to not launch into a knee-jerk jeer or cheer reaction at every single utterance labeled as “news” that gets published online, in print, or on the back of your neighbor’s 1998 honda civic. 

Instead, one knee-jerk reaction triggers one thousand more. Millions of personal (and biased) diatribes flood the ether, determined to smash opposing viewpoints. It’s the Gremlins of misinformation - one ill-informed response pops out a trail of misinformed responses behind it. 

The Forces Behind Ignorant Discourse

These baseless rants are the result of the cyclic division our country has been undergoing for ages. There are powerful forces driving this conversational unrest and toxicity and each contributes to the fractured state of discourse in America today. Some of the most potent are listed below.

A Radicalized Two-Party System

The extremist factions on both the left and the right have been marinating for centuries. The tips of both these wings aim to oppress the people on the opposing side. These poles are often where misinformation originates and gets passed along the lines through to the center, where it gets stamped as factual information. It’s a game of telephone with the majority of Americans getting the final, mangled message at the end of the line. Since our busy bee culture doesn’t leave much time for people to do their own research, they trust the divided powers that be and take party representatives and mouthpieces at their word. The lack of middle ground - both in political parties and in ideologies - makes rational discourse a struggle for the average person. 

FUN FACT: In a psychological study where participants were offered the option to read and answer questions for entry into a raffle pool. If they chose to read about an opinion they agreed with, they had a chance at winning $7 or they could read the opposing viewpoint for a chance to win $10. Of all the participants, 63% chose to stick with the opinion they agreed with. 

Blurred Lines Between News & Entertainment

As a result of the two-party telephone system above, misinformation easily makes its way to everyday Americans through every channel and medium available. Add to that the convergence of media and entertainment, and things are as confusing as ever. 

It can be difficult to turn on the news or flip through a local paper without knowing for sure whether what you’re digesting is opinion or fact, OpEd or Breaking News. A limited number of voices get unique access to platforms from which they can amplify their narratives. On the other side of the coin, any unfounded opinion can go viral if the right number of people and influencers bite (and share). This dissonance makes drilling down to facts difficult. Storylines and narratives are woven across T.V., social media, radio, and print like rich tapestries, but no one has the time to untangle truth from conjecture. 

Social Media 

Combined with the two realities above, social media propagates misinformation at lightning speed. What’s more, it feeds misinformation to younger generations, priming impressionable minds to think a certain way about our political system, political parties, the media, and America as a nation. Aided by the peer pressure behind social media, misinformation is touted as factual headline by those who don’t want to appear out-of-the-know by friends, family, and coworkers. This trickle-down tricked-out news cycle often becomes news itself as lies spread like wildfire and hashtag headlines grip the nation with bold untruths. Just ask any celebrity who’s been killed off on Twitter. 

#StopThink Movement: Breathing Facts Into Media Maelstrom

Discourse without facts is as useful as a dog barking at a cat. If we don’t stop and think to consider the facts - and the opposing viewpoints - we are not doing any debate or discussion justice. We’re also not using our heads to facilitate meaningful discourse on important topics. 

I don’t believe there’s one right answer to improving the state of political discourse in this country. I do know this: it's not screaming louder and it’s certainly not silence. The only way to course correct is to Stop and Think. The goal should be to contribute opinions grounded in fact. Eliminating bias is nearly impossible and, frankly, unnecessary. What we need instead is a way to sieve the information we take in until we have the granular truth. Then we need to adjust our motives from opposition-smashing to truth-promoting. 

This two-part recipe can aid a more fruitful discourse within our nation. By stopping, we can cut down on emotion-driven reactions and instead focus on finding facts. By thinking, we can use the data and tools at our fingertips to gather fact-based and rational information. The result can be conversation geared towards true education rather than slander and mudslinging. When we #StopThink before responding, we have a shot at creating discourse that can make a positive difference - a change that impacts everyone. 

 

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