The Setup: Plug & Play
It’s the afternoon of a dry August day, day one of our collaboration with Presslabs. The company was getting ready to release the 5th version of www.presslabs.com. On this occasion, we were in charge of editing content, checking page titles, keywords, meta descriptions, reassessing the overall website experience for first-time visitors and familiar faces alike. There was pressure in the air, and it was not only because of the heat; the release was due in a few days.
It may sound like the classical client-agency story, but it was far from it. Although we didn’t encounter major, irreparable errors while working on the site, our discussions on the website improvements, as well as our immersion into the product’s capabilities, past history, team, market environment and what not, it became clear to us that we were gazing at an uncut diamond.
The First Turning Point
In order to understand the size of the challenge that Presslabs addressed us, we have to first explain what they do.
Presslabs is a Smart Managed WordPress Hosting platform for publisher, enterprises and digital agencies. To get a picture of it, their client portfolio includes names such as BMW Blog, Search Engine Journal, Freshome and Cult of Mac and other publishers from all around the world.
Delivering a highly performant hosting service and Business Intelligence implies that the team puts a three-dimensional expertise at the hands of their users: hosting, WordPress, and data analysis. Not only this, but Presslabs has managed to pivot from a service business and scale-up the infrastructure and internal processes to transform Presslabs into a mature SaaS platform in a highly competitive business landscape, in just a few years.
And now back to our story. After successfully releasing the new site, the situation required us to roll up our sleeves. We spent a couple of months solely on research. Specific to B2B businesses, we had very few assets to count on for quantitative data besides Google Analytics and various Social Media insights; there’s more qualitative data, lots of tested and untested hypothesis with little documentation. Usually, the know-how belongs to the people and their personal experience. What is more, it’s somewhat normal for a niched, B2B market to display a rather homogeneous selling proposition and inherently, a modest brand differentiation. Specific to tech & scientific endeavors, our work extends beyond just communication.
The Process (and Progress)
So we decided together that the most productive way to deal with the challenge would be the problem-to-solution approach. We gathered the creative team, the sales & management and we sat down for a talk. Four hours later we had developed an extended SWOT analysis to depict all the bits and pieces of the Presslabs customer journey. After a close examination, resources and timeline negotiation, we had an actionable list of activities, including measurable goals and improvements owners.
One thing was clear. A niche market needs to invest in the education of its consumers and treat it as an ongoing responsibility, which made SEO & content marketing a top priority. After a half a year break, the Presslabs blog was alive again, and most importantly, it got everyone involved to create long-form articles, well documented and generous in insights.
Presslabs is a small team, but that doesn’t stop them from systematically delivering. We tried to build frameworks together so that it was easy for everyone to get involved. For example, the process of writing articles looks like this:
- Suggest 2–3 blogpost ideas in our weekly meeting
- Prioritize & specify the resources needed to implement each of them
- Assign other people to help, if needed (e.g. featured photo, data, quotes)
- Research on the topic for inspiration & new story angles
- Write the blogpost following the article brief
- Review & edit
- Publish & distribute.
As you can see, this implies that there are at least two people working on each piece of content. As the current editorial strategy focuses on technical, informative content, so there was a strong input from the tech team. Although we get involved in all the steps, our priority is to find a structured way of writing and to edit the final version for clarity, tone of voice sync and reading friendliness.
Despite the fact that proving ROI is regarded as ‘mission impossible’ to most PR agencies, we wouldn’t settle just for offering services that cover a tasklist. Thus, the purpose of the content is to provide authority on the managed WordPress segment. Media coverage, partnerships, product listings and other related activities followed, being tracked & measured periodically.
At the same time, we got into building an articulated, yet human-to-human customer journey. Once again, cross-collaboration is a must; we got in sync with the support team, sales and management alike to map the registration process, customer communication and an entire array of insights on what, how and why people get to and stay with Presslabs for years. Acquiring and digesting all this information gave us the groundwork to start rebuilding together a comprehensive marketing funnel and refine the user onboarding process as well.
The First Act Break
Amidst our process of untangling the mysteries of managed WordPress as a technology, we had to get ready for a major in-house event: the annual Enterprise WordPress Hosting Performance Benchmarks. For the first time, Presslabs earned its place to compete in the major league on a global scale. And it had an impeccable outcome. This event gave us even more fuel for our activity — once a product becomes a global player, not only that it can use its voice, but also the echo its reputation brings to challenge the norm.
Lessons Learned (So Far)
Our first day with Presslabs was also the first day of getting started with Github and Atom to shorten the edit-to-publish process. It’s highly common for PR people to run away from bumpy lines of code, right? Well, although there’s a pain in internalizing new tools, only the first-hand experience can get you into the depth of how a product works, why and what makes it great.
This is just an example, but it can pretty much sum up our experience together. Both parties had to go that extra mile to deliver the promise of building a strong foundation for Presslabs as a global brand. Understanding the logic of containers orchestration can be equally hard to grasping the peculiarities of technical writing, but having the support and patience ask for explanations, feedback and to do your part in researching surely goes a long way.
Some other key lessons we’re really proud of:
- Any deliberate creative activity needs a process then the execution
- Discipline equals results. We committed to publishing at least one blogpost per week and we could easily see the numbers growing day by day
- A product can be great even without a huge awareness of its potential, but surely there’s no great product without likewise people to build it.
Fun fact here, we (finally) got to write and publish our very first blog post thanks to Mile Rosu, Presslabs co-founder & CEO and his wise words: “if there’s one thing you can do today for your business and reap the benefits of your work even years from now, it’s this: start a blog”.
Closely following, Mile shares his opinion on our collaboration:
“Anna is the team member you need, but most probably have not realised it yet. She helps you surface in words to the customer’s ear the most hard to explain product feature, but only after polishing it to perfection. Beyond being good with words, she’s always coming up with ideas, aggregating them in strategies that look so natural you wonder how come they did not come to you earlier. On top of this, Anna is a motivator and a keen organiser of the team’s creative, digital work”, says Mile.