Ep. 7, Featuring Mark Randall from WP Engine

The XWP Tonight Show — Season 1, Ep. 7, Featuring Mark Randall

In this episode of the XWP Tonight Show, Amit Sion sits down with Mark Randall, VP of Sales (APAC) for WP Engine, about what exactly the term ‘business partnership’ means, and how businesses can collaborate with one another to provide positive experiences for customers. XWP and WP Engine have partnered on some huge projects, including NOVA Entertainment, Bartercard Australia, and the Good Friday Appeal.

Transcript:

Amit

When working in WordPress, you need to choose the right hosting platform. WP Engine is an excellent choice. In Australia, XWP has worked with WP Engine for major radio networks finance, education and charities. Tonight I have the pleasure of speaking with WP engine’s VP of sales of Asia Pacific, Mark Randall.

[Intro voice]

Coming to you live from the virtual WordPress theater, this is the XWP Tonight Show.

Mark

Great to be here Amit, thanks for having me. And thanks for the kind words.

Amit

For those that don’t know, what exactly as a website host? Why does a site need a managed hosting provider?

Mark

I guess at the basic level, web hosts provide the infrastructure to power your websites. So for example, the data center, the server, and the network, those types of things. Many hosting providers go further than that, and they’ll also deploy, manage and support the operating system, sometimes the application layers as well. And hosting providers offer different service levels for different needs. So in the same way that when you want to eat a pizza, you can choose to dine out, order delivery, heat a premade pizza at home, or buy the ingredients and make it from scratch. You have the same choices with hosting in terms of the type of service and the level of management that you require. 

So one mistake, I guess that people make frequently is assuming that a website is set and forget, when it’s very rarely that. Websites are in a constant state of change. As a result of that, constant management of security performance and availability is critical.

Amit

Specifically on WordPress, XWP and WP Engine, both of our companies clearly market to the world with a focus on WordPress. In your opinion, would it make more sense, business sense, to host sites built on all CMSs? Why does WP Engine choose this specific and narrow focus?

Mark

Another great question. There are a lot of non-specialists, generic hosting providers out there in the market who support hundreds of different applications on their platform, and that’s fine for basic web hosts. But you can’t really provide support, management, or expertise at the application layer across hundreds of different apps, right, it’s just not possible that that amount of expertise at the scale to support it 24/7, just is not viable for any organization.

By supporting lots of applications, you limit the amount of support that you can provide on any of them. You also reduce your product and R&D investment focus, right? So, in our case, we’ve been able to invest hundreds of thousands of man hours in trying to build the best platform for WordPress, and if we were trying to build a platform for something else as well, or another five or 10 things, that would have reduced the amount of expertise and focus that’s gone into that. So, it is a choice that we’ve made, and it’s a conscious choice that we’ve made, and we’ve chosen to specialize in trying to be the best at WordPress, which we believe we are. We feel if we supported other applications, we would have to compromise on that. 

Amit

What I really like is that I find that XWP and WP Engine have a clear alignment. We’re aligned with our focus and our attention to the way that we approach our customers, and I really see it as a great partnership with the two organizations. I know that we meet fortnightly, we discuss our customers, our prospects, and we want to ensure that we’re providing a great experience to them. What importance do you place on the long term business partnership? Or is the word partnership just an overused cliche term?

Mark

Well, of course, I mean, we really value and appreciate our partnership with XWP and some of the best projects we’ve worked on have been in partnership with yourselves, with Nova Entertainment and Bartercard, being two great examples. I think more generally, in terms of partnership, the problem with them occurs when they’re taken for granted. And, unfortunately, that’s human nature, to an extent that’s why a lot of relationships fail and don’t work out. So the way I see partnerships is that you have to continue to earn them all the time, every day, every week, every month. 

And I believe that WP engines core values are very compatible with healthy partnerships, because we value things like doing the right thing, we value being customer inspired, we value being built for growth, and we value being committed to give back. So those values are things that we try to take into our partner relationships. But, hopefully, we never end up in a position where we take any of our partnerships for granted.

Amit

What I really appreciate about it is that, to our customer, to our joint customer, we’re giving them once we’re two separate organizations, we’re giving them that synchronized engagement, so that they’re not feeling like they’re dealing with two separate organizations with different views who are going to point at each other when issues, and you mentioned, Nova and Bartercard, great customers that, we’ve often discussed about different things that they’re trying to achieve, and how can we both support them? How can we both assist them in what they’re trying to get to? With each one of these, with each one of our example customer sites, we’re always wanting them to feel like they’re dealing with people who are working collaboratively together, which I really appreciate.

Mark

Yeah. Likewise, likewise.

Amit

On the technology front, as technology changes and improves, science needs to stay on top of their game to continue meeting user expectations. In your view, what are the big changes that you see coming to the tech world? And in what ways is WP Engine looking to grapple with those changes?

Mark

Well, forecasts are fraught with risk, of course, so you have to be a little bit wary when making them. But I think, to that point, none of us would have imagined in January last year what would happen in the world in 2020, and that, in itself, has had huge knock-on impacts on the world of digital and technology. But we do have some insights, fortunately.

In fact, for the last three years, we’ve commissioned independent research on future digital expectations. And we’ve carried this out in each of our core markets, being the US, UK, and Australia. And what we’re seeing is a few things, but in particular, the youngest generation, Gen Zed is really driving the digital agenda. And they have extremely high expectations of brands and for their digital experiences. This is important because they’re about to become the biggest generation of consumers, as well as the biggest component of the workforce. And as you would imagine, you know, this generation expects things like voice recognition, AI and predictive personalization to play a key role in their future digital experiences. And they also expect content to be regularly updated, and to be entertained. Every other generation apart from Gen Zed sees the internet as being somewhere they go for information, Gen Zed sees it as being somewhere they go to be entertained.

So, there’s a lot of challenges in solving these expectations for marketers and technologists, and they’re going to have to work together in ways in which maybe they haven’t worked as effectively together before to solve some of these. But overall, we think these trends are positive for WordPress, and we think they’re positive for WP Engine. Because WordPress is the most agile CMS, it’s the easiest to use for content creators that are looking to create entertaining content and keep it regularly updated. And it’s definitely the easiest to integrate with other systems in order to solve the data challenges around things like predictive personalization.

So this is obviously some of the reasons why WordPress has grown. Its market share is just under 40% of the web now. But as a result of these trends, and the research that we’ve done, and the growth that we’ve experienced, WP Engine is investing more than ever in our platform development in 2021. And I guess in particular, in the short term, we’re especially excited about the growth of headless CMS and also e-commerce markets. So we’re going to be looking to solve more of our customers’ problems in those areas specifically.

Amit

There’s a lot in there and a lot for us to think about. I really see WP Engine as one of the highest regarded WordPress hosting platforms in the world. But there are a few more out there. And to finish us off, let’s play a game we call host or not host, all right? I’ll provide a rapid fire list of names and Mark, you have to guess if they’re real, or they’re fake. So as I read each one of these, I’d like you to tell me, real or fake?

First one. Host Monkey.

Mark

True. 

Amit

Yes, real. Security Firm Hosting. 

Mark

Fake.

Amit

Correct! You’re too good at this. Green Pasture Hosting.

Mark

Real.

Amit

Fake.  Fast Hosts.

Mark

Real.

Amit

Correct. Last one, Go Mummy. 

Mark

Fake. 

Amit

Real. 

Mark

Really? 

Amit

We were able to trick you a few times, but you got most of them right. Mark, it’s been a real pleasure. We always love working with WP Engine. XWP and WP Engine are great partners for our customers, and we look forward to doing many more things together this year and beyond. Thank you very much for being on the Tonight Show, and thank you for being a partner of XWP.

Mark.

Likewise, thank you. Thanks for having me on the show.

Amit

Thank you. We’ll see you next time.