With cloud becoming the major enabler for delivering cloud-native applications, the cloud developers are finding increased importance among organizations undergoing digital transformation and thus, their market is growing at a fast pace. To be competitive, these developers need to embrace futuristic DevOps practices, with access to secure, faster and efficient infrastructure.
With its OS agnostic WebOps platform, Plesk has been leading the cloud developer market in over 140 countries with 377,000 servers, automating 11M+ websites and 19M mail boxes. Plesk cloud platform grants application developers a ready-to-code environment along with a simple and more secure web infrastructure managed by web pros and hosting companies.
Plesk’s platform has been progressively evolving to adapt to the maturing needs of today’s web professionals. The rich ecosystem of Plesk extensions provides relevant functionalities for specific audiences and allows service providers of any size to generate unique upsell opportunities as well.
In January 2016, Plesk became a separate business unit from Parallels group of companies and has been driving innovation and taking new strides each day. In the wake of recent developments with Plesk having new investors – Oakley Capital, onboard we interacted with Lukas Hertig, CMO Plesk, on how these developments will affect the existing customer base, his marketing strategies and what will be the future of Plesk.
Read on as he discusses Plesk’s vision, recent changes, new product developments, target market, and future forecast.
“We will continue to bring innovations in Plesk, along with offering to scale web applications’ simplified (what is difficult to achieve!) as well as run Plesk everywhere, cloud agonistic – with capabilities to deploy anywhere – from a single UI with a beautiful UX. As part of this journey and with our partnership with Automattic (the company behind WordPress), we also anticipate to become a market leader in WordPress management.” – Lukas Hertig, CMO- Plesk.
Before we begin, can you tell us about your association with Plesk? How has Plesk evolved as a company over the years?
I’m in Plesk since mid 2004, quite a long time! Together with Nils Hueneke (now CEO of Plesk), we have been building up the business in Europe, Middle East and Africa for Parallels/Odin. End of 2014, I realized that I’ve learnt a lot in managing international sales and multiple sales teams, and decided to move into marketing and run the global marketing strategy for the CMO at that time, so I could learn more again. After the Odin part was sold to Ingram Micro, I was asked to build up the new marketing and alliance team at Plesk, that is now already 13 people till date and still growing!
We had a lot of changes during these years – from building up a cloud and hosting partner channel of over 2,500 partners till date, to acquiring many different competitors over time, up to signing many large telecom and hosting brands as our valued partners. Combined with a continuous set of innovations that our highly skilled engineers provided so we could stay competitive in an ever-changing market.
Especially interesting is the change from hosting being a small niche to the transformation to cloud in which all the mainstream IT players are taking part. Now we are in a transformation again, that all players – traditional hosting companies and traditional IT companies like system integrators or even digital agencies alike – are transforming to become so-called cloud MSPs.
That means there will be just few players left, that can provide economies of scale in terms of providing global infrastructure – such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud or Alibaba. Everyone else will need to transform its business into focusing on real business outcomes for their end customers and really understand them very well. And make money by offering a set of managed services that nobody can compete with, by focusing also on specific verticals – and then move to the next vertical.
Please give a quick recap of the new developments at Plesk to our readers. What changes can we expect in the near future in Plesk’s vision and strategies?
Generally, I would describe it in one sentence to start with: Evolution is written with “R”. ?
Plesk has always been a channel business with many partners, mostly in the hosting and cloud space. Our end customers are what we call Web Professionals, e.g. developers, designers, IT admins of SMBs and digital agencies.
Some of these web professionals continue to buy from our hosting partners. But they may also buy services on AWS or Azure, and they still need the managed services layer in many cases! And this is what Plesk is focusing on with its partner channel.
From having been a tool for automating and simplifying the lives of system administrators for many years, we are transforming into more and more of a platform, simplifying the lives of web professionals as well as cloud MSPs. We will continue to bring innovations into that direction- if that is not only being the platform to build, secure and run websites and applications. To also offering to scale web applications simplified (what is difficult to achieve!) as well as offer to run Plesk everywhere, cloud agonistic – with capabilities to deploy anywhere – from a single UI with a beautiful UX.
As part of this journey and connected with our partnership with Automattic (the company behind WordPress), we also anticipate to become a market leader in WordPress management. With the latest release of Plesk in March, we have already added our next step, offering for the first time, a fully automated environment for staging, cloning and import of existing WordPress sites – that nobody else can offer today, especially not as a software platform that runs in the cloud, or on your own infrastructure.
In the wake of the new developments at Plesk, what should the existing customers expect – are there any surprises in store for them?
I think there will be no surprises, except positive ones! We will not stop innovating and make sure, we are adding value to all parts of the cloud and hosting value chain.
Are there any new products and what will be your target market? How do you plan to differentiate your offerings from the competitors?
As mentioned earlier, we are currently focusing full steam ahead of new offerings on hyperscale cloud providers as well as offer all features that support the WordPress community.
What might be interesting to mention is that we are currently working on building standardized, pre-configured solutions with Plesk. Such solutions may include but are not limited to a Business Server Offering for SMBs, pre-configured eCommerce solutions or WordPress solutions for Agencies. These solutions will be made available for hyper scalers updated in a monthly cycle for web professionals as well as cloud MSPs. And for our hosting partners in form of a scripted automation toolset to setup the offerings for their end customers.
You have been the CMO for a long time now.. We know that the marketing has become more customer-centric rather than product-centric in the wake of digital transformation. So, can you please throw some light for the marketers reading your interview as to how do you plan your marketing strategies? What is your formula for success and getting ROI YoY? 🙂
Coming from a long-term sales background, knowing our customers very well and now having moved into marketing since a few years, I think there are already many learnings that I can advise for everyone to look at. I decided to provide that in a list of bullet points:
Marketing is 80-90% digital and multi-channel. Traditional marketing items such as events or PR without social media and content marketing support, do not really work. We have learned that the hard way – we have been doing events and PR only, for over 11 years. Digital marketing only started a bit more than 2 years ago.
Marketing is a matter of managing many different channels. Whatever channel works, push it. Whatever doesn’t, don’t do it again and drop it. There might be things working for Plesk, that don’t work for your business and vice versa.
Marketing is not just generic broadcasting. You need to go very granular, have your personas defined and update them regularly, get to know your customer extremely well and do personalized, delighted and automated experiences. This is where by technical and sales background helps me a lot in managing our marketing team. We are using Marketing automation as Plesk only since we became independent, but it’s a key part of our marketing, and includes more than just email newsletters or content marketing.
Marketing is very technical – learn your tools and know how to use them! But tools are not first – your customer requirements, needs and your value add matter the most.
Use analytics, regularly and constantly. Learn how to interpret them – also this is very technical in many cases.
Content marketing, SEO, Paid Advertising, Social Media – all of them are equally important. But in addition, very important are strategic partnerships with bigger and relevant players and building an ecosystem. There is no growth hacking by just focusing on one of them. You need to do them all.
Be fast, adapt to changes and never stop learning. This is much more than just a generic statement. I constantly read new books about digital marketing, listen to interesting podcasts from our industry, talk to people who have more experience or have different experiences. Whomever wants to win, needs to be the fastest learner, adapt fastest and transform the learnings directly into execution. Then learn again, then adapt and execute again.
Using Jeff Bezos of Amazon’s statement: Be stubborn on vision, be flexible on details.
And if you need more motivation for your teams – read Daniel Pink’s book “Drive” about how to achieve intrinsic motivation, and not just extrinsic one.
Wrapping up, tell us what is that one thing you love about Plesk?
We are a small (200 people currently) but very global and very distributed company. We have many different cultures in our teams – that is absolutely great! We also provide a lot of freedom to our teams as long as our general vision is followed, so there is a good motivation in our teams across the whole company. At the same time, we have a very entrepreneurial way of working, that is sometimes a bit challenging in terms of work life balance, but generally, it’s a very positive environment and we are very excited about Plesk’s future!