HOSTSEARCH: Mani - great of you to speak to us like this. Perhaps you can tell us a little about Cirrus Tech's history and your role in the company.
MANI AMINIAN: First of all, I want to thank you and HostSearch for showing interest in our company by having me here today. Cirrus Tech is a family owned web hosting company launched by two very innovative brothers in 1997. They initially started operating in Toronto, but the business has grown worldwide since then. Intrigued by the interesting work done at this company, I decided to join the big family of Cirrus Tech and it has really been a great learning experience.
Well, my role really compressed down to one job would be "coordinator". Technically, I am in charge of product sales and maintaining the marketing campaigns. These range from print, banner, to keyword advertising associated with our various products and product lines. Recently I have involved myself with the optimization of our site as it is very much related to our marketing procedures.
HOSTSEARCH: What have been Cirrus Tech's main successes? Have there been any awards?
MANI AMINIAN: That's a tough question - success can be viewed at so many different levels, but if I had to pinpoint our main success it would be that Cirrus as a whole has always maintained one single goal in accomplishing every project at hand, and that has been "customer service".
Basically, we tackle new products and services only if we are certain that the best possible service can be offered. With this approach, our company continuously receives praise from our customers and awards from the hosting industry.
HOSTSEARCH: I see from your website that you offer shared hosting, reseller options, VPS, dedicated servers, eCommerce hosting, web design and domain registration - did I miss anything? That's quite a diverse range of offerings. Did you set out to become a 'one-stop shop' or did that just evolve naturally?
MANI AMINIAN: (Laughs) That's more or less what we have! I wish I could say we knew from the beginning that we wanted to be a one-stop shop, but the reality is that Cirrus evolved into its current position by taking little incremental steps, each one at a time. Relating back to your previous question, having customer needs and market trends in mind when new hosting solutions are offered is what has really inspired our growth
HOSTSEARCH: What are your flagship offerings, or do they all carry equal status?
MANI AMINIAN: You raise a very important question here, as I'm sure most of the hosting industry puts more emphasis on certain products - usually ones that are more profitable. At Cirrus Tech we refuse to put our different product types in competition with each other.
Our reason for this perspective is that each one of our products is designed for a specific segment of the market with particular needs, and our goal is to provide the best possible product for each market segment. It's a very customized approach, as opposed to the one-size fits all approach. With that in mind, and to answer your question, all of our offerings should be considered flagship offerings.
Nevertheless what makes our SERVICE stand out from the competition is the possibility, as well as the flexibility, we provide customers in growing their businesses as their hosting needs change along the way. I have personally witnessed a number of clients start up their businesses with a Small Business Shared Hosting package and only in a matter of months they had to make a switch to VPS or a dedicated server. We make the transition as smooth as possible.
HOSTSEARCH: What direction is Cirrus Tech taking, and what will the company be like when it gets there?
MANI AMINIAN: As you mentioned earlier we have evolved into a one-stop shop but there are a few pieces of the puzzle missing that are either at the testing phase or need to be incorporated from scratch into our current service offerings in the near future.
I don't even think that with these missing pieces in place the journey would stop for us. There are some exciting times ahead for the hosting industry and there are many opportunities out there that would allow hosting providers such as Cirrus to bundle up their products with other relevant products under one big umbrella.
HOSTSEARCH: It must be difficult to manage sales and marketing for so many different areas... What channels do you find best to promote your offerings?
MANI AMINIAN: I tell you, it seems impossible at times (laughs)! But it always comes back to team work - without the great sales and marketing team we have nothing would be possible.
Each channel has its own strengths and reasons. ROI by itself is not really the only factor in determining a channel's success. Just to give you an example, email advertising works best for us when we use it with our existing clients as it allows us to develop our relationship with our customer base through promotions, questionnaires and at times creating fun competitions. The best channel is a set of channels that creates a need among current and potential clients.
HOSTSEARCH: I have interviewed quite a lot of people in hosting over the last couple of years and when I asked them what the secret to hosting success is they simply said, "customer service, customer service and customer service." Is it as simple as that? If it is as simple as that, why do hosting companies need advertising? Wouldn't all advertising campaigns essentially offer the same message, regardless of which company they are advertising?
MANI AMINIAN: I couldn't agree more, customer service is one of the key ingredients in maintaining a successful hosting company. Is it as simple as that? No, because providing the best customer service goes hand in hand with the actual product that you are offering, the quality and structure of your staff, and understanding the current and future needs of your clients and what expectations they have from the service they are paying for.
Now having said that, should we advertise at all? YES for sure. Fortunately, customers are much more aware of what constitutes a good hosting company than when I first came into this business. Its not about the price, storage, and bandwidth as customers are questioning their hosting provider, and only commit to them when they have gained a good understanding of what lies ahead.
Having said that, it is still quite common that customers jump a couple of times from one hosting company to another until they find the right fit. And by advertising we are basically inviting these customers to come and test us so that we can prove that we maintain a high level of customer service.
HOSTSEARCH: Given the medium hosts work in, keyword advertising must be important. Don't keywords like 'web', 'hosting' become awfully expensive at some stage? Is there a point where keyword-advertising stops being beneficial because of the costs involved?
MANI AMINIAN: You are absolutely right, especially in a competitive industry such as hosting. But there is always the possibility of finding a niche in the keywords you select for your keyword advertising and also combining your efforts of keyword advertising with Search Engine Optimization. So there is a way around it, but I am not telling you how (wink)!
HOSTSEARCH: Of course, one way around keyword costs is 'organic' placement in search results. Given the Internet's prevalence of SEO tips and tricks designed to get people onto the front page of the key search engines, does anything organic hit these pages any more? Or, do I have it wrong - is it that the algorithms are so finely tuned that only organic matter gets through? Or, am I wrong again, and SEO is redundant and traditional marketing is the best route to success these days?
MANI AMINIAN: The good thing about SEO is that it is measurable. It is possible to prove that you will move up the ladder when you perform the necessary SEO tips and tricks and I can assure you I have seen the results. On top of that, it can improve your keyword advertising efforts because now you know on what keywords theme you should focus on, given your website, product types, and value added service.
Again it's not one, or the other, when it comes to marketing. Different marketing strategies should be used to capture different audiences and since we have a variety of products that are focused towards different hosting clients, we need to leverage all methods.
HOSTSEARCH: Part of your job is accessing current trends so you can define your hosting services. Are you able to look at current trends and extrapolate what you know now so that you can establish the shape of hosting to come? Can you tell us what hosting will be like in 5 years or so, or would that be letting the cat out of the bag?
MANI AMINIAN: Next question - just kidding! Yes, it is possible to determine the general direction hosting is taking given the current trends and technological advancements that exist in the market today, but what will actually happen ... no one can really predict 100%.
Again, I think hosting will be combined with various products that would offer ultimate solutions for the enterprise level. It won't be just about having a website, emails, phone or what have you, but that is all I am saying.
HOSTSEARCH: Given your job description, it is clear you are a busy man. What do you do to relax or are you someone who devises campaigns in your sleep?
MANI AMINIAN: (Laughs) Well, luckily I'm a very competitive person in spirit and doing what I do is really not that stressful if you have such a personality, but it can become an addiction as I'm constantly comparing our efforts with those of the competition. When I really need to shut down there is nothing like cooking, it just takes my mind off everything.