Dan Holohan is the owner of HeatingHelp.com, which has been a vibrant online community and a trusted resource for those seeking information about heating since 1997. Having a trusted partner for his community was very important, as it was at the core of his business. With cold temperatures and snow accumulating, this is the busy time of year for Dan and his team. We were glad to have a chance to sit down with him and learn about his experience using Vanilla Forums.
Problems begin with the old software
Q: Thanks for taking the time with us. Can you tell us about Heatinghelp.com, your previous solutions and what led you to realize you needed to change?
A: We launched our first site in 1997 and it revolved around a bulletin board. Our audience at the time was mainly heating contractors in the U.S. The audience quickly grew and so did the site. We rebuilt it two more times, each time going with a board that was custom-built for our needs.
That proved to be cumbersome as time went by, though, because the technology was changing so quickly and we weren't able to keep up with it. Our custom-built board was stuck in time. Something as simple as adding a "Like" button became a major challenge. Our audience was asking for things that we couldn't give them. The software was also becoming fragile and the people working on it got to a point where they were fearing a major crash if they continued to tinker with it.
Our site contains a huge amount of information about heating systems, old and new, but the board is the site's heart and it had to be able to stretch and grow with the audience. If the experience wasn't great we were going to lose the audience, and that would put us out of business.
The search for a better solution
Q: So you knew you needed a change. Can you tell us a bit about the process of your search?
A: We did a search and found BlueHouseGroup. The appeal there was that they worked with open-source programs, which we knew would grow with us. We talked to them about creating a custom board and they immediately said that we should forget that idea and work instead with Vanilla Forums. They would build the Vanilla board into the new site and customize it for us so that the branding would be consistent. They told us about how Vanilla focuses solely on boards and that there is no better company. We've found that to be true.
We had concerns at first about the migration of the old board. We had a tremendous amount of postings and photos that were searchable and represented the core of the site. So many heating professionals, and these days more and more homeowners, use our site to find answers (our branding promises "Answers in Minutes"). We couldn't afford to lose any of that. You folks assured us that the migration was no big deal, that you did this all the time, that it would all be there when you were done. It was, and in even better shape. Gosh!
And just so you know, the confidence you people show had me lifting my eyebrows at first (Really?) but as Dizzy Dean once said, "It ain't bragging if you can do it."
You did it. I'm a believer.
Experience using Vanilla
Q: Can you tell us about your experience with using Vanilla Forums?
A: There were some glitches, but the Vanilla Team went after them like pit bulls and fixed them before our members even noticed. Most importantly, you did what you said you would do and the level of service is remarkable. The subtle improvements you've made to the board over the past year that we've been with you have made the experience even better. We can't wait to see what you come up with next.
Results of the switch
Q: What benefits have you experienced from working with us or any specific results you can share?
A: The site is attracting about a quarter-million visitors each month, which is about twice what the previous site drew. We had a day recently when 20,000 people visited. The increase in audience is attracting more advertisers to the site and that's how we make our money. Finally, the board works seamlessly and everyone who visits loves the experience.
Most importantly, you've taken the day-to-day worry away from me. I no longer have to try to find people who can fix a glitch in some custom-built board that's grown old. You've freed up my time so I can focus on what I do best. That saves both time and money. I sleep better these days knowing you're there for me.
We want to thank Dan for his time talking with us. If you have heating issues or want to check out his community please visit: HeatingHelp.com. To try Vanilla Forums for yourself, get a free 30 day trial here.