The following inteview was lead by Michael with Pickawebs's Pilar Torres Wahlberg, Co-founder and Head of Sales of this London-based web host.
Q: Pilar Torres Wahlberg, would you please tell our readers some basic facts about your enterprise. How many customers do you have, how many people work at Pickaweb and so on?
A: Pickaweb was founded back in April 2000 and we started out originally doing web design but we started getting so many enquiries for domains and hosting that we soon changed direction and became focused on domains and hosting.
We now have over 30,000 clients. Our main market is the UK and we offer services for Small to Medium Sized Businesses, Developers, Web Designers and Home Users. We have a great team of people - there are currently a dozen or so of us and this is supplemented by some extra contractors as and when required.
Q: What is your particular job in your company? And what is your position?
A: I am Head of Sales and Marketing. I love helping our customers grow their businesses. It is something that I have had to learn to do from scratch and I really enjoy passing on my knowledge for their benefit.
Q: Which customer segments do you aim for especially? And how exactly do you make them happy?
A: We target the Small Business market. In fact I have written 2 books with my Co-Founder Tony Messer called "The Lazy Website Syndrome" & "The Website Survival Kit" to give them the exact steps they need to transform their websites and grow their business.
Aside from this we make sure that their hosting is really high spec and their website loads fast and is always looked after. We offer loads of extras as standard-things that other hosts would charge extra for like 10K SAS hard drives, LiteSpeed web server for faster websites and SpamExperts outgoing spam filtering to keep our IPs on the whitelists.
Q: What is the biggest difference between web hosting business in the UK and internationally as you see it?
A: UK customers tend to want UK based servers and UK support. Also we have been strong advocates of Live Chat as a support tool and we know that our customers really want that level of direct, instant support. UK SMEs seem to be far more willing to have a go at building and maintaining their website whereas in other countries the business owner will usually leave that to a web designer.
Q: Which percentage of your customers is UK-based and how many international clients do you have in comparison?
A: We have over 95% of our customer base here in the UK. Usually our overseas clients will be targeting the UK market so they prefer a local host with a UK domain name.
Q: Do you plan to expand to international markets more aggressively in the future, or would you rather focus on the UK?
A: In fact we do have another hosting company in Spain www.merkaweb.com, but for now we are really focused on the UK market.
Q: Compared to other hosting providers, what makes Pickaweb special?
A: Both myself & my co-founder Tony Messer are really passionate about helping businesses grow. We always try to provide them with as much help as possible, not just the hosting.
For example we have written a book called "The Website Survival Kit" which gives them a prioritised list of step by step actions to grow their business using the internet. In terms of the hosting service we offer we will always offer top of the range components and software. For example we use 10K SAS hard drives as standard whereas many hosts will use slower 7.2K SATA drives.
We also offer really fast SSD hosting using Intel Datacenter ready drives instead of slower desktop drives which some hosts will use. We also use LiteSpeed Web Server instead of Apache to offer blistering performance. Speed is vital these days and we want our customers' sites to load faster than their competitors.
Q: Is there something you guys are especially proud of at your company?
A: Yes, the fact that we really go the extra mile to help our customers grow their business. Not many hosting companies have written a book that they give a way for free to new clients to help them grow their business. We are also proud of the fast, knowledgeable support we offer.
Live Chat has been central to our success over the years and we get very good reviews and the thing that always crops up is that customers love being able to chat with us instantly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Q: Which future trends do you see in web hosting in general?
A: The market is consolidating for sure and whilst the bigger players are offering hosting more as a commodity there is always opportunity for the smaller specialist hosts. I think that more and more smaller and medium sized hosts will focus on value added services and higher value hosting rather than joining the commodity hosts in a pricing race to the bottom.
Q: What are you people at Pickaweb doing to get ready for these trends today?
A: We have recently launched Maxima Local (www.maximalocal.co.uk) which is focused on offering small to medium sized businesses a comprehensive range of marketing and lead management services. If we can help our clients grow their business online then that is good for everyone concerned.
Q: Finally - as we always ask - if you had to compare your company to any animal... which one would that be?
A: Ha ha! Great question. I would say dolphins: sleek, smart & friendly!
Thank you for these insights, Pilar. We totally agree, that smaller and medium sized hosts with value added services and excellent features will provide a great share to future's web hosting markets. Especially for serious businesses' websites.
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