Building a brand that humanizes hosting

Building a brand that humanizes hosting

Rick Knudtson's Layout avatar

It’s rare to hear someone rave about which company is hosting his or her site. When we set out to build Flywheel, we wanted to change that. But building a better hosting company goes beyond building a better product–it also means building a better brand.

This past year, Flywheel’s branding efforts have centered on a simple idea: humanize hosting. Last week, I was invited to talk at Omaha’s 20th Pecha Kucha night about Flywheel’s brand and some of what we’ve done to reinforce this idea.

Focus on people

One of the things that always bothered us when we looked for hosting solutions ourselves was a strange focus on the technology. It seems that every time you land on a web hosts’ site, you’re presented with a row of server racks. If we were going to sell to creative people, we knew we had to showcase the type of people using Flywheel. Our first website was void of server racks. Instead, we focused on Grain & Mortar, a creative agency from Omaha and a great example of the types of companies we wanted to work with.

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When we built a new site for our public launch, we introduced videos showcasing the talented people who use Flywheel and devoted an entire page to our customers. The videos show that we care about our customers and take time to get to know them. And their stories give insight into the personalities using the software, and show people that they aren’t alone when they choose a product.

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Include a human touch

As a technology company, it can be hard to refrain from building software to automate everything. As great as that sounds, there’s a risk of losing the human touch. As we approached our private beta launch we knew we wanted to do something unique with the invites we sent out. In the spirit of humanizing hosting, we started hand making our beta invites. If you’re like me, you still get excited when you receive a package in the mail. There’s just something about the effort that was put into packaging it, addressing it and deliberately making a trip to the mailbox. We wanted our customers to experience that excitement.

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We called these care packages Beta Boxes. They included everything a designer would need to tackle their next WordPress site: a Flywheel t-shirt, a hand-stamped Scout Book, stickers, buttons and of course a handwritten note inviting them to try Flywheel. The response was incredible. We received countless Tweets and Instagram photos of our customers opening their boxes for the first time.

Get personal

Some of what I think makes Flywheel special is the transparency. Hosting is often a black box – customers have no understanding of whom or what actually makes the company go. Since day one, we wanted our customers to know the people behind Flywheel. However, maintaining a personal brand while scaling is a challenge. We know we can’t send handwritten notes forever (don’t worry, we’ll try) but talking directly to even a million customers is possible with video.

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With that in mind, we focused heavily on video this summer. Being on camera was something entirely new for my partners and me. We had to swallow our pride and not be afraid to poke fun at ourselves. What the videos have done to our relationship with customers is amazing. We know customers by name, they wish us happy birthday, they ask us about life outside of work and we can honestly call many customers our friends.

A year into building Flywheel, I believe we have set the foundation for the authentic brand we wanted to create. The idea of humanzed hosting will continue to be a major part of Flywheel as we mature as a company and brand. We’re excited to continue to tell the stories of our customers and build on what we have already created. We hope you follow along!

Also, if you want to see what this post looks like in Pecha Kucha’s 20×20 format (20 slides for 20 seconds each), you can watch my talk below.

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