Why should B2B marketers be selective of their website host? With David Leichner, CMO at Strattic & Miriam Schwab, Co-Founder/CEO at Strattic

A website host needs to account for performance, user experience, SEO and security. In a digitally transforming marketplace, these priorities can determine whether an organisation thrives or fails from a marketing standpoint.

On this episode of the FINITE Podcast, Alex sat down with two leaders at Strattic - the leading static WordPress hosting platform that converts websites to static. These are Miriam Schwab, CEO/Co-Founder and David Leichner, CMO.

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And check out more of the FINITE B2B marketing podcast here

Full Transcript

Alex (00:07):

Hello everyone and welcome back to the FINITE Podcast. On this episode, I am joined by David Leichner and Miriam Schwab. Miriam is Co-Founder of Strattic and David has recently joined as CMO. Strattic is a really interesting product in the WordPress hosting ecosystem and really looking to disrupt that space today. 

We'll be looking at the state of that industry, why being selective of where you host your website is really important for a B2B marketer and how David is looking at taking a disruptive technology to market. So I hope you enjoy.

FINITE (00:38):

The FINITE community and podcasts are kindly supported by 93x, the digital marketing agency working exclusively with ambitious fast-growth B2B technology companies. Visit 93x.agency to find out how they partner with marketing teams in B2B technology companies to drive growth.

Alex (00:59):

Hello David and Miriam. Thank you for joining me on the FINITE Podcast.

David and Miriam (01:03):

Thanks Alex.

Alex (01:04):

I'm looking forward to talking. I should put the disclaimer in here as well, as an interviewer that this is my, I think my second podcast with two guests on. So it might test my interviewing skills slightly, but I'll do my best to welcome you both into the conversation. 

We've got an interesting episode coming up, but before we dive into the substance, I'm going to let you both introduce yourselves and tell us a little bit about what it is that you do. So Miriam I'll hand over to you first.

About Miriam and David’s background in WordPress hosting 

Miriam (01:29):

Okay, thanks. So my name is Miriam Schwab and I am the co-founder and CEO of a company called Strattic. We convert WordPress websites to static and headless architecture in one-click. Prior to founding Strattic, I founded a WordPress development agency based in Israel, built it up to be one of the leading agencies here, working with laptop brands, tech companies, and my experience there led me to the conclusion that WordPress could use some help and thus Strattic was born.

Alex (01:56):

Cool. Well, we're going to dive more into that soon. And it's an interesting journey you've been on. Before we do that, David I'll let you say hello as well.

David (02:02):

Thank you very much. David Leichner, I'm the proud CMO at Strattic. I joined about a week ago and I've been in the executive management of marketing teams since 1998, everything from startups to billion dollar companies. And I love joining companies when they are small and helping to create a really well-oiled marketing machine to fuel the growth of the company.

Alex (02:26):

Awesome. I should say too, when we publish this, it will obviously have an episode title on it, but I think we're going to almost decide the episode title afterwards, because we've got so much interesting stuff to talk about. I'm really keen for you to tell us a bit more about Strattic itself, and then we can kind of dive into the marketing side and hear about your plans for scaling a really exciting business. 

So Miriam, I'll hand over to you first and you can just tell us a little bit more about exactly what Strattic is. I know you alluded to it in your intro, but maybe the next level of detail.

Where does Strattic fit in the WordPress hosting space? 

Miriam (03:01):

So anyone who has a WordPress website or has been using WordPress for any amount of time, probably encountered one of the following issues related to security. There's like a new plugin vulnerability or some kind of vulnerability related to WordPress almost every two days, if not more frequently. And those can impact tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of WordPress websites where those plugins are installed. 

And it's very hard to keep sites protective, keeping WordPress optimised for speed, which is incredibly important for SEO and ranking and the user experience, version rates, et cetera. And scalability, so if you're running a campaign and sending a lot of traffic to your WordPress site, it can be hard to provision enough server resources to make sure that that site stays alive exactly when you need it. 

The reason I'm so familiar with these pain points is because as I mentioned, I founded a WordPress development agency. I think it was about 15 years ago that I started working with WordPress. And while WordPress has many benefits, it's open source. It has a huge ecosystem around it, the plugins while they are also the cause of some pain are also what give users a lot of power. And people are just very, very familiar with it. 

I think WordPress is now 18 years old. So you've got millions of people around the world who've been using WordPress for any amount of time since yesterday or up to 18 years. And so it's a great platform. For marketers who want to manage content on a website in a productive way, WordPress is a great tool for that. It has all the integrations with third party tooling, Google Analytics and you know, all the tracking and conversion and forms and HubSpot Salesforce, you name it, there's easy integration. 

So it's like a marketing person's super tool, I would say, or power tool in many ways. But when I had my agency and we were working with all of these companies and brands, we were also maintaining their sites for them. So we would develop them and then we would enter a maintenance relationship with them and support. And that just started taking more and more of our time as the years went on because WordPress was growing in market share. 

And therefore also growing in attention for hackers and also WordPress sites were becoming more dynamic and therefore more heavy. And the underlying architecture for WordPress, which is the lamp architecture, it's showing its age. And so all these things became increasingly more significant pain points for our clients and for my team. And I started thinking, okay, maybe it's time to look for another better web tool. Maybe, WordPress, it's time has come. And I started exploring what was out there. 

I came across this emerging trend of static site generators, and I was like, that's amazing. That's everything that WordPress is not. Statically generated sites don't have the server underneath and the lamp architecture, which causes all these issues. So those sites are fast because they're pre-rendered pages and there's almost nothing to hack. And they scale infinitely. I was like, I want that. 

When I looked into what it meant to build those sites, I saw that it was much more complicated, you have to reinvent the wheel on a lot of levels, things that we take for granted in WordPress just weren't there. And then maintaining those sites and doing new things, like creating a landing page, for example, which marketers need to do all the time. That just would have been something that needs a lot of developer resources, which is not efficient. 

So I thought, that's not a great direction for our clients. And it seems too clunky and too, it doesn't seem like it will help, but what if we turn WordPress into a static site generator? And so that's kind of how that went. And I created a first proof of concept where I scraped a WordPress site and delivered it up statically and through a CDN. And I was able to show that that site was much, much faster and just much more resilient. And when a site is running in that way, the headache of maintaining a WordPress site is gone. 

Because if you update a plugin on WordPress, you could end up with a white screen of death. Like it is a possibility at any given time. WordPress, there's always something that could happen, whether it's something like that, or someone breaks something by accident, or it gets hacked and you don't even realise that your site is redirecting people to like Viagra ads or something, which we've seen. 

So once it's static it's completely resilient. So I was able to prove that, and it's been quite a journey to get to where we are today and to get to the point where we're able to make someone like David who's one of the top marketing leaders in Israel, possibly even the world to get excited about strategy. But we're in a good place now and, a bigger team and our product has reached a great level of maturity and we have some really exciting customers on board. So that's Strattic.

Alex (07:57):

Awesome. Yeah, that's a great story. And David, tell us a little bit about, you mentioned you're a week into the role. What drew you to Strattic and how you're beginning to look at the scale-up phase?

How is Strattic starting to scale up? 

David (08:08):

So first of all Miriam, thank you very much for that compliment. As I mentioned, I've been doing marketing for a really long time and I started out on the product side, let's say versus the Marcom side. And I have a first degree in computer information systems, second degree in marketing. So I believe very much in basing what we do in marketing around the value that we're providing to the community, to the customers that we're going to be, that we are, and we will be continuing to support. 

So I came into a company where first of all, we have industry thought leaders in the company, Miriam is somebody who's well-known in the WordPress community. And we also have Zeev Suraski, who's one of the early developers. He is one of the developers of the early versions of PHP. So, we have a base of thought leadership already in the company, and this is good for me. We have product management people who are also very good at marketing. 

So I've walked in and I'm already stealing resources, helping with product marketing. We have demand gen in place. We have content marketing in place and we're working with a bunch of outsources as well. My first goal is to take the company into two parallel tracks. One is to improve our brand awareness within the WordPress community. And the second is to ramp up the demand gen and start bringing in some serious lead gen campaigns. 

We're going to be leveraging as much as possible, our internal industry thought leaders. And we're going to start building out and building up the top of the funnel with two types of leads. Also the self service, let's say the self-service SMBs as well as the enterprise organisations that we are already working with to some degree, and we already have some good reference sites from them. 

So that's where I am right now. Definitely my first steps are going to be to build up that demand gen and we're out there already. I don't think there's a major event that we haven't been speaking at at some point over the last couple of years. And we're going to continue that going forward.

Alex (10:32):

Cool. I'm interested in your perspective as a marketer in the WordPress hosting ecosystem, because we could probably record a whole other episode on how these days marketers are making technology decisions across a number of different things and how marketing is becoming more technology focused or technology enabled at least as a discipline. 

It's interesting that the hosting landscape for any marketers listening to the podcast is one where sometimes there's kind of IT and technical stakeholders involved. And often in smaller businesses, it's just marketers themselves that are having to navigate this landscape of choosing hosting and hosting is technical. There is technical complexity in making these decisions and comparing options. 

What's your experience been as a marketer? You mentioned before that you've delivered a number of websites across your career, a number on WordPress, how have you viewed that hosting selection process almost from a marketing standpoint?

Why should marketers be selective about a website host? 

David (11:35):

So when I started out, I didn't care where I was hosting the website and I didn't take care of it. Usually the organisation that developed the website for us, they were the ones that decided where it was being hosted. And in some cases I had a webmaster in the first company that I developed a website, and I can't even tell you where it was hosted. That was the case until I had the first crash occur. 

And all of a sudden it was, where are we hosting this? Why are we hosting it there? Why aren't we hosting it somewhere else? How about speed? And then starting to look at performance. So I'm starting to look at security. So that's on one side. The other thing is that I've worked in various industries, so I've been in the enterprise software market. I've also worked for a security company, cyber companies. 

And in those companies, we had very different interests. So in the first one, it could have been that we were looking for better performance and to make sure that we had really good uptime and that our SEO was where it needed to be. And the performance and SEO going together, at least according to all the reports that Google came out with. And on the security side, when you're working for a security company, it's really embarrassing if you get hit with an attack or it's very embarrassing if your homepage is full of graffiti or if your site is brought down and held for ransom for Bitcoins. 

So it was really important for me to understand where this is going to be hosted? How secure is it? And what benefits are we going to gain from the host? So I guess I evolved throughout my career of developing websites, to realising the importance also of performance, also of security and from getting hit on the head enough times by our web dev people. 

Also the importance of maintaining the site and who's maintaining it and how much effort it's going to take to maintain. And in many companies, the website is on this side, like the website will be developed and then you need somebody to manage it. 

And sometimes they give it to R and D people. Sometimes they give it to product people, sometimes it's just a developer who has some spare time. And sometimes there's a group that really is a web development organisation within the company, or they're an external company, so maintenance, when we want to change our CDN, we want to change particular plugins, we wanted to make some kind of easy, very simple changes to the site and all of a sudden everything went wonky, you know? 

So if I look at the three elements that became really important to me over the years, I'd say performance, maintenance and security. And when I started looking at Strattic as a company, these things hit me right from their homepage. And I said, okay I want to learn more about this. And then we went into more details about how performance will help to improve SEO, how it improves conversion rate optimization, and they started showing me case studies of companies like, we have one here in Israel called Payoneer, which is doing international money transfers and they moved their hosting into Strattic. And they improved by 2.5, 4%, something like that. 

And I said, wow, to move the dial for CRO, we used to invest a lot of money, a lot of time to make that effort. And here they changed the hosting and they were able to see that improvement, which led to thousands of new customers for them. So this is what I've seen in my experience with hosting and what brought me to Strattic today.

Alex (15:38):

I'm interested in getting your view on where Strattic sits in the hosting landscape, because one thing that jumps out at me when you talk about some of those points and that investment often needed to historically make conversion optimisation gains is about having to increase your investment in hosting. i.e. Invest more in content delivery networks and investing in a more advanced architecture, scaling up and spending more on hosting in order to get better performance. 

But actually with these static hosting options, it's not always the case that more investment needs to be made, or you need to be spending a great deal more in order to get that performance. And in some cases it might even be that you get better performance and better security at a slightly lower rate compared to some more traditional hosting options. 

So I'm not sure whether that's one for yourself Miriam, or David, but it would be good to get your view on how you see the hosting landscape now and the options and where Strattic fits in?

Are you category defining or are you a subcategory? 

Miriam (16:38):

So I'll take this one.

David (16:41):

I'll say one word about it, and then I'll pass it off to Miriam. Which is that I see Strattic as like the Ivy league of hosting. When I started looking at the different hosting providers over the years, I saw let's say low end types of hosting that maybe even they were selling a premium type of hosting product, but it wasn't really premium. 

And then there are those that are providing, let's say much better support, much better uptime. But when I started looking at Strattic and I spoke to customers before I joined, I really think that we're talking here about a very different level of hosting and that's really what got me excited about it.

Miriam (17:20):

Yeah. So the way that we see it and it's aligned with what David is just saying is that, Strattic is a company that happens to also do hosting. Meaning yes, we do host your website, but we host it in its original format. And we also host it in a static format and we serve that fully through CDN. 

So most hosting companies, when you are using their services, they give you a parking spot for your website. They're like here, put your site here. Now the internet can see it and we'll maybe fend off some hackers and we'll maybe try to optimise your site to a certain extent for performance, but really most of that's on you, the site owner. At Strattic, we convert the architecture, which is quite a sophisticated thing to do, into a more modern architecture. 

So, instead of you having to run your WordPress site on the LAMP stack, which means that you're actually always running the engine whether you need it or not, even if you're not actually making updates to your site, you're not updating content at that time. 

You've still got that whole engine running underneath, which is very inefficient and also brings with it a lot of instability. And all our users have to do is click a button and then they get this modern architecture, which is known as JAMstack or headless also the coupled architecture. And they don't actually have to do anything except for click a button to get that. So we convert the site to this new architecture and we happen to host the whole thing in a very modern way in terms of our position in the landscape. 

So basically the hosting landscape has been more or less the same for the last 20 plus years where you have a stack that supports the site, and maybe it's nginx and maybe it's apache, but overall it's essentially the same thing. Maybe they're using solid state drive, maybe they're not. So it's a little bit faster with tweaks on the same structure. And we're saying, that's been great. 

For many years that allowed people to have access to very powerful publishing tools. But maybe it's time to bring WordPress into a more modern approach. So we're a hosting company. Yes. But we're so much more. We're giving our users something that's much more sophisticated with such ease and none of these other hosting companies are doing anything like that.

Alex (19:46):

It makes sense. David, from your angle, do you view where Strattic sits and your marketing and go to market now as defining a new subcategory within this landscape? Because I guess the whole JAMstack, Headless, all of these things, they've been around for a while. But I feel like they're more on the verge of mass adoption of some kind. 

And so I guess they exist as categories, but it still feels like, from a positioning angle, do you compare yourself to a typical, big WordPress specialist hosting company? And the WP engines and even the GoDaddys, and everyone that's got some kind of so-called managed WordPress hosting solution? Or is it actually we're completely different and we're playing a different game here?

David (20:32):

Yeah. I'm going to follow up with what Miriam said and I definitely think we're playing a different game and I think we're in a different category. And I think that as she mentioned, the hosting is a side, it's what we're doing for those sites and the capabilities that we're providing. Also to the web developers to have to maintain less for the marketeers to be able to gain more. 

By the way, I had made a mistake, I said 2.5, 4%, it's 2.7, 3% Payoneer and they reduced their server response rate by 43%. So that means faster page loading, rendering for their users. So, these are significant changes, we're going to be positioning ourselves as a very different type of solution, even though at the end of the day, we'll probably be included in roundups of hosting providers. But definitely, taking a very, very different approach. And that's the uniqueness of what Strattic has to offer.

Alex (21:33):

Do you think there's challenges that come with that? Like, do you think there's a challenge that you will just be put in the bucket of another hosting company and as you say, included in all the usual WordPress hosting company roundups? Or do you think you're able to differentiate on that front?

The challenges of getting lumped in with an existing category 

David (21:53):

I think, traditionally until a category is secure in the market and until there's a shift in how people look at a particular company, you'll still be included in those types of roundups. And it makes sense because we're an alternative, right? So we're an alternative to working with some of those providers that you mentioned, some of those hosting providers that you mentioned. 

On the other hand, organisations, let's just take an agency, for example. So you have an agency which is working with one of the other hosting providers and they have, out of their 500 organisations that they're working with or a hundred organisations they're working with, they might have 20 that are extremely security sensitive. So maybe for those companies, they're going to want to have a solution like Strattic because of the advancements that we're making in helping to secure their sites. 

It could be that they have, some of their organisations are extremely performance sensitive. And in those cases they're going to say, well maybe it makes sense to move to a static, headless type of architecture. And then you will be able to see these improvements in performance and where we believe they will also see the performance in the associated search engine optimisation and CRO. 

So I think we're going to be at a point where not everybody will come in the beginning to work with Strattic, but those that are security sensitive, those that have want and understand. They have to understand what they can achieve with better performance, because I spoke to someone yesterday and he said, prove to me that I'm going to go from not being anywhere in Google to being in the top three on the home, on the first page. And I said, hand on heart, I would never ever say that to you. I said, but we have a very simple one-click migration, and we're willing to work with you to move your site over and run it and see what happens. 

So I think, being able to prove what we're saying to organisations, as well as targeting very much those three areas: companies that want to reduce their maintenance, companies that want to feel and have a much more secure site and marketeers that want to benefit from having much better performance. And all of that within an easy to use environment. So it's the same WordPress environment that they know and love and all they have to do is wrap it. You could say rapid in Strattic and deploy in Strattic and they will see those benefits.

Alex (24:36):

Very cool. And I guess looking ahead, where do you see things in a few years time? What's the state of the WordPress ecosystem and industry and where are you hoping that Strattic has reached?

The state and future of the WordPress ecosystem for marketers 

Miriam (24:48):

In terms of the ecosystem. So when I started talking to people about Strattic in the beginning, which was a few years ago and making WordPress into static architecture, people were like, we have no idea what you're talking about, next. But what's happened since then, is that there's growing awareness in general, overall of the JAMstack approach to web development. 

And then within the WordPress community, there's growing awareness happening. We're not the only company trying to integrate WordPress with more modern approaches to web development. And so those of us who are in this kind of WordPress slash headless slash aesthetic space are together educating the market through the talks that we're giving and podcasts like this one and other initiatives. 

And so what we're seeing now is a much greater awareness within the ecosystem that looking for a static WordPress solution is something that they should look into and why. And so we're seeing a lot more interest, engagement, around what we're doing and the other companies or initiatives are doing, which is great. 

And I actually think it's really important for WordPress in general, that these initiatives happen and take hold because the stack is amazing and it's brought a lot of power to the internet, but there are more modern approaches to doing things, for good reason. And so if we can integrate that with WordPress, then I think we also help ensure its future right now. 

The future is strong with WordPress. It's growing like crazy, like David said it's over 40% of the internet. Nothing is growing at the same speed as WordPress. So it's doing great, but also aligning it with modern approaches makes it more appealing to developers. And then also brings this powerful tooling to marketers without them having to basically throw away their WordPress site and they can continue doing things as they're used to.

Alex (26:49):

Very cool. Well, it's been great talking. I think it's been fascinating to hear the journey from the inside out a bit more. I know I've been following Strattic from afar for a while, and I'm keen to look into that a bit more. So I appreciate you both joining the podcast and I'm looking forward to seeing where you take Strattic over the years to come. So thanks again, David and Miriam.

David (27:11):

Very happy to be with you today.

Miriam (27:14):

Yeah. Thanks for having us.

FINITE (27:14):

Thanks for listening. We're super busy at FINITE building the best community possible for marketers working in the B2B technology sector to connect, share, learn, and grow. Along with our podcast. We host a monthly online events, run interview series, share curated content and have an active Slack community with members from London, New York, Singapore, Tel Aviv, Stockholm, Melbourne, and many more to strengthen your marketing knowledge and connect with ambitious B2B tech marketers across the globe, head to finite.community and apply for a free membership.

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