Be Honest. Be Human, says GoDaddy's Andy McIlwain

We hear trucks whiz by on the other line. Andy McIlwain’s sitting in a Toronto coffee shop to chat with us about working on content and community for GoDaddy Pro. Being Canadian he apologies for the noise that he didn’t cause. All in all, Andy seems like a genuine guy that you’d want to sip a fizzy beverage with.

Based in Arizona, GoDaddy is one of the biggest and best-known companies for domains and web hosting companies. When the company recruited Andy two years ago, they agreed to let him stay in Toronto to work remotely.

What surprised us about Andy’s journey is how he more or less stumbled into it. After studying advertising in college, he volunteered extensively at WordCamps, WordPress’s community-organized events and got in with web developers and learned the trade. When GoDaddy was looking for someone with both community building and web experience, Andy was their guy.

Now he’s responsible for GoDaddy’s Pro community, with thousands of members worldwide, primarily independent web designers and developers. Pro members get access to exclusive forums, client management tools, and discounts on GoDaddy products, all for free.

It isn’t hard to see why the company invests heavily in this community. Imagine you’re starting a company and need a website. You hire a web designer. Your web designer says you need “hosting.” You smile politely, unsure what that is. Seeing the bewildered look in your eyes, she recommends you go with GoDaddy because it’s been around for a long time, is competitively priced, and is user friendly. You now say, “Sure, I trust you!” Thanks to this web designer, GoDaddy has a new customer.

No surprise then that GoDaddy takes seriously what its Pro community members have to say. The Product developers often works directly with them to get a stream of feedback. Through his work on the GoDaddy blog and with other community teams, Andy uses both Q&A interviews and informal roundtables to dig deeper into the Pro experience.

Whether it’s to identify improvements to core web services, or planning new blog posts, Andy’s job is to understand pain points web designers and developers experience. From these pain points Andy comes to understand who they are, how they build their businesses, and what their challenges are.

He tells us that the content that gets the most uptake falls into one of two categories. The first is individual stories of Pros and their projects, roadblocks, and landmark successes. The second is resources that Pros can use immediately, such as cheat sheets, reference guides, and templates.

Andy’s advice for readers is to not rush things when starting out. While there’s bound to be pressure to build a massive community quickly, quality matters, so focusing on building an engaged community who you have great relationships with is far better than a large but indifferent group.

When he was first launching the Pro community Andy had a list of 400 prospects. He reached out to every single one of those 400 people with customized emails. While only a fraction agreed to be part of the Pro community from the outset, those that said “yes” had a direct and personal connection to Andy that he maintains to this day.

Building relationships one-on-one has been the most effective form of outreach for Andy. He points out to us that people are often pleasantly taken aback when someone from a large company like GoDaddy reaches out personally, knows their name, and shows they genuinely are interested in what they think.

While GoDaddy’s Pro community continues to grow, Andy still has a Rolodex of individuals that he can call in a cinch for feedback. This kind of success doesn’t happen overnight, but the patience is worth it. His parting advice: Be honest. Be human.

Bella Francis

Bella Francis

Content Marketing Coordinator at GrowSumo