Web Hosting Interview - templatemonster March 2004

March 2004
Web Hosting Interview - templatemonster March 2004

Gary Nichols, Head of Marketing, TemplateMonster

On the Hot Seat, Gary Nichols of popular web site TemplateMonster. Nichols explains how his firm won over the web design community, what strategies help keep affiliates sweet, and how his customers can obtain a unique web design at a highly attractive price.

  • HOSTSEARCH: Tell us about TemplateMonster's history and philosophy. What do you do that differentiates your firm from your competitors?
    GARY NICHOLS: TemplateMonster started as a subdivision of Inverse-Logic, Inc (www.Inverse-Logic.com). Inverse-Logic was--and still is--occupied with custom web design services, but we managed to find a vacant and very perspective niche on the market... on the templates market.

    There are thousands of companies creating templates in the world at present; but there are also tens of thousands who--to some extent--are involved in the infrastructure of the business: affiliates, agents, resellers etc. At that time, in May 2002, only a few companies were producing and selling templates. Of course these were websites offering free or very cheap poor-quality templates. But the market was still far from being glutted with this product.

    At this point we decided to take a risk and just go for it. Back then, TemplateMonster staff consisted of only six people: two designers, an HTML-coder, a programmer, and a project manager. These people worked basically out of sheer enthusiasm as the project didn't bring in a real profit.

    However, our determination, professionalism and the quality of our product brought us success. In the first six months the project repaid the investment, the staff increased to 20 people and the number of templates reached a thousand. We outdid our competitors in many respects.

    The reason for TemplateMonster's success, besides the optimal correlation between prices and quality, is above all rooted in the uniqueness of our work. Many of our competitors offer their templates on a "membership" basis and, by doing so, fill the Internet with identical designs. We strive for uniqueness by offering our templates on a pay-per-download basis. Thus a person purchasing a template, customizing it, and uploading it to the Internet, can be absolutely sure that no one will see an identical site anywhere else.
  • HOSTSEARCH: How many staff members do you employ, and how many affiliates do you have?
    GARY NICHOLS: At present TemplateMonster's staff consists of more than 100 in-house employees. The entire production cycle and support work takes place within the company. In this way we achieve the maximal productiveness and quality.

    Our affiliate program includes more than 25,000 affiliates that help promote and market our templates. This number is bigger than the total of all our competitors combined. We've achieved this through a Private Brand program that allows our affiliates to offer our product without mentioning TemplateMonster--even in the billing information.

    In other words, our affiliates are able to sell our templates under their own brand. Moreover, we provide them with further support for their clients and undertake all the billing costs. The essence of the program is that we provide our affiliates with a programming script that dynamically displays our templates on their site, puts them into categories and adds new templates.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What do you consider to be your core strategy or niche?
    GARY NICHOLS: Web site templates are part of web designing. Unfortunately, in 2002, the web design community did not recognize templates entirely, and our work was exposed to some baseless criticism by certain design studios and designers. This didn't surprise us, because we offered our product of the same quality but at prices 10-15 times lower than those of custom web designs.

    But this [criticism] didn't stop us. TemplateMonster didn't obtain recognition by designers but managed to get a lot of partners in allied industry branches: hosting companies, domain registrars etc. They considered our conditions and prices favorable and helped us become established as an independent participant in the web design and web development market.

    In the course of time, TemplateMonster began to occupy a bigger and bigger share of the market. The number and the quality of the templates have increased every day. At present we have about 4,500 excellent-quality templates and we add 10-15 new templates daily. We master new technologies. Nowadays, even web designers recognize TemplateMonster as a competent participant in the web design and web development market. They widely use our templates as a basis for their works.

    That's why we consider web design as our principal niche. We do everything possible to popularize our goods and services as equal components of this niche.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What's your most popular product at present? Why do you think it appeals to your customers?
    GARY NICHOLS: Our most popular product was, and still is, the classical website template. It consists of a PSD source and an HTML version. Usually it also contains Flash animation.

    However, we don't stay in the same place all the time. In many aspects the market dictates our production. At the beginning of our work, besides the classical templates, we also sold Flash intro templates and logo templates. Now we have also added Flash site templates, PHP-Nuke templates, corporate identity packages, etc. At present several new production lines are under construction, and we're planning to launch them very soon.
  • HOSTSEARCH: You offer a "unique purchase" arrangement, which you say guarantees that the customer will be the last person to buy this particular template. Has this proven popular, and on average, how many non-unique users have purchased a template before someone comes in to "break the mold"? Do you offer completely unique templates, i.e. a completely unique purchase?
    GARY NICHOLS: Unique purchases make up about 5% of total sales.

    As a rule, a person who wishes to make a unique purchase, studies our collection thoroughly in order to assess the number of the purchases of that particular template has had and also subscribes to our newsletter so they can receive daily information concerning new templates. Only then will he or she make the purchase.

    But many of the unique purchases are made by clients who previously made a non-unique purchase, later deciding they require that that template be reserved as unique in order to prevent its further distribution.

    As for the "absolute uniqueness", every TemplateMonster visitor can examine a template and see how many times it has been purchased. Thus a client who buys a template with zero purchases receives an absolutely unique design for only 500-600 dollars. This is 5-10 times cheaper than the same quality design by a custom web design company.

    For those who are more interested in exclusive designs I've got some good news. I can't disclose the complete information right now, but I would like to say that in the near future (one or two months) we will release a new product that will meet the most unique demands of our clients.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Do you custom-build templates? If so, what do clients want? What's your most unique or outrageous design?
    GARY NICHOLS: We have a special product management department that studies our clients' demands and defines the priorities for template production in any category or group. This department traces the latest trends in the design industry, studies the market and demand trends, then sends a weekly report with their recommendations to the production department.

    In most cases TemplateMonster clients and visitors can use our "wish list" feature to express their wishes and recommendations concerning new templates, and suggest subjects for future templates.

    For example, take a look at template #4332 (http://www.templatemonster.com/show.php?templ=4332) One of our clients suggested an idea and wrote the specifications for this template. We appreciate this feedback, and to show our gratitude, awarded him the ready-made template and also provided him with a 3-year hosting plan for his website.
  • HOSTSEARCH: Can you tell us about techniques you might use to obtain recognition and awards from industry leaders?
    GARY NICHOLS: It might sound immodest but I think that we are the industry leader. We weren't the first, but we became the best. Professionalism is our main technique.

    We've never been the initiators of PR campaigns to popularize our brand. On the contrary, very often the organizers of various contests and awards ask us to participate. To see the results of our participation in such contests, you can visit our Awards Page. (http:www.templatemonster.com/awards.php). We've never pursued awards or recognition--we achieved all these in natural course.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What is your strategy to ensure that your business will continue to grow and expand?
    GARY NICHOLS: I think that web design is a necessary part of a web site as a complete product, along with hosting and domain name transfer.

    Does anybody really think that hosting companies or domain registrars will disappear? Of course not. I can say the same about web design, and website templates a key web design component. Although website templates are comparatively recent, we assert their strong position within the contemporary web design market.

    However, in spite of all this, we continue to perfect ourselves. We constantly increase the requirements for our goods and services, introduce new production lines and--as a consequence--we're one step ahead of our competitors.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What web site do you click on most often?
    GARY NICHOLS: The majority of my time is spent working at the office. That is why the web site I visit most often is TemplateMonster.com, along with the websites of its partners, affiliates, competitors.

    Of course there is a great variety of sites which I visit in my spare time. But I won't be original here: Amazon, Ebay, CNN and Google are among them, of course.
  • HOSTSEARCH: What Internet innovations would you most like to see become reality?
    GARY NICHOLS: To tell you the truth, the Internet develops so dynamically that, sometimes I can't always manage to follow all the innovations. I'm glad that this process continues at this rapid pace. So, my main desire is for this development to avoid regression and simply continue.

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