WPblab EP103 – Bootstrap to Commonplace: Talking Branding & Grass Roots w/ Marc Benzakein

Everyone knows DesktopServer. But it wasn’t magic. In this episode, Jason and Bridget are joined by Marc Benzakein. He’ll talk about how DesktopServer went from a development project to a common and popular workflow solution. Join in the live chat to ask questions.

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  • Gregg Franklin – handles 90% of the customer service because he’s so good with people
  • David Jesch
  • Stephen Carnam


Branding is something you have to do for yourself personally as well as the company you are with – Marc has been told he’s the face of ServerPress because he’s gone to so many WordCamps, but he also has his own “brand”


You want to know who these people are, you want to know that they’re people of integrity and you want to know what their mission is


Marc has known Gregg since 1989 – they both worked in the video department at Circuit City!  


Gregg always made sure to be very knowledgeable about the products and he was very good with the customers, but he was also very competitive!


If an agency’s specialty is WordPress, it makes sense to go to WordCamps – the first year Marc was involved with ServerPress, he did 26 WordCamps (2014), basically one every other weekend! Kept up a similar pace the next few years.


Marc went to WordCamp San Diego before he even became involved with ServerPress and that’s when he first fell in love with the WordPress community. Phoenix was the first WordCamp that he spoke at.


Other than Southern California, ServerPress’ footprint was very small at that time.  When he went to speak at Phoenix, he gave a talk/workshop that was 2 hours. There were about 100 people in the room and it went without a hitch! Marc had planned for almost every contingency, but nothing happened.  Phoenix was bigger than WordCamp Miami at the time so he knew he had to be on his game!


They were a bootstrap company with not a lot of capital.  How do they get their name out there?

Branding is more important than “marketing” at that level. “You get to control your marketing, but people control your brand. They get to decide what they think of you whether you like it or not.”


What did they want people to think about ServerPress:

  1. We’re at every single WordCamp
  2. We’re an established company in the community


They decided to provide lanyards with their name and logo on it and the WordCamp’s logo on the other side – but after about a year were asked to stop doing that – he knew when they did it the first time, they might eventually be told to stop! (reminiscent of what happened with Pantheon branding the hotel elevators at WCUS 2016)  Andrea Middleton (from the WordPress Community team) called him (and was SO nice), and politely encouraged them to stop, which they agreed.


Jason: you should provide power strips in the rooms with your logo on them! People would LOVE you!

Marc: better idea – take your sponsor table and just fill it with power strips. People would hang out there all day long!


Bridget: almost all businesses in the WordPress spectrum are self-made, small businesses. But they are the ones that are sponsoring the local community, the meetups – they are making an investment in the people which keeps them in the WordPress ecosystem.  


This is why one of Bridget & Jason’s main goals with this show is to give people actionable ideas to improve their marketing and learn how to reach their audience better


The question you have to ask yourself is: What is our return on investment?  It’s not a concrete, easy number when you are involved in WordCamps. Money/profit is the scorecard that most people look to.  But for small businesses in the WordPress ecosystem, the people, the loyalty and community that you gain are the ROI. They will sell your product without you asking them to do it – you are providing something that is so valuable to them that they have to preach it from the mountaintops – you are giving them so much more value than they expected.


Marc started programming on a mainframe computer at the age of 10, – he’s smart but he feels lucky that he gets to work with 2 of the smartest people he knows representing a great product!


2017 was a tough year for DesktopServer – Apple had more security updates than ever, Microsoft had more security updates than ever and they had to react to all of it. Also, PHP7 came and they had to react to that as well. It was a perfect storm – a year of being reactive rather than proactive. It was because of their branding and the loyalty that they built up among their customers, that people were willing to give them grace and work with them during that time.


What can we do to make our customers feel like they are getting the value for what they are spending?


They appreciate that they have such a loyal following and fanbase. Bridget: you can either make your influencers or find your influencers and ServerPress “made” their influencers.


Marc has never had a partnership like this one.  They have a deep respect for each other. It might be fate … it just worked out! There needs to be some overlap between the roles, but not so much that everyone is stepping on each other’s toes.  


Marc handles operations, business development, billing, marketing, etc.  Gregg handles customer service and people. Dave/Steve speak their own language and understand each other.  They make sure not to step on each other’s toes. They all have their jobs pretty well defined and nobody wants to take over anyone else’s!


It’s all a matter of having a healthy amount of respect for each other and boundaries. Within the company, Marc has the nickname of “The Mayor”. There have been times that they’ve all talked about the direction that the company should go and it often came down, in the end, to “What does Marc think?”, but everything at ServerPress is really a consensus. Everyone has a say. They have disagreements, but they end up with a better end-product as a result. They don’t let their egos get in the way of building a better product and building a better company.


What you see is what you get with them.  They are exactly who you see on a weekend at a WordCamp and during the week at ServerPress. People don’t care how big a company is, they want to have some sort of personal connection to the company. This is why they go to so many WordCamps – they want to have that same connection to their customers.


If I treat people with respect and honesty, I can be the same person inside my company and outside, personally.

Tip of the Week


New plugin for ServerPress that automatically backs up your database

Google Photos – https://photos.google.com/



Revive Old Posts plugin – bring up older content from your blogs and recycle it – great for sharing evergreen posts, lots of custom settings



https://agenda.com/ – Note-taking app that ties into your calendar – you can write notes about specific events that you are attending. Supports markdown.


https://overcast.fm/+K8lgFR3dk Rene Ritchie and Serenity Caldwell speak with the creators of Agenda — a WWDC 2018 Apple Design Award winning note taking app for Mac. They discuss Agenda as well as this year’s major announcements from a developer and end user perspective.


Show notes contributed by:

Cheryl LaPrade – @yaycheryl

Sherie LaPrade – @heysherie


Weekly Watercooler Discussions about WordPress and it’s community.

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