I originally built the Coming Soon plugin to test ideas for a SaaS product. I realized after I released it to WordPress.org that many users had a need for a Coming Soon plugin. So then I started putting all the feature request in the Pro Version. So my idea generating tool became my product. I was also fortunate to be early to the market. There was not much competition when I launched my initial Pro Version.
So like I said, I was early to market, that’s a huge benefit. But I was not the only Coming Soon plugin when I released. I focused on making my product the best in it’s space and I still to only focus on one product to this day.
The biggest challenge is that I wear all the hats.
I do support, marketing, product development etc. While I can move fast it’s also easy to get burnt out. Plus you are always on 24/7 365. When you take a vacation you still have support request to answer. I have automated many of my support requests though.
WordPress.org and Google are my biggest marketing channels. I rank really well on WordPress, and my SEO is really good as well. Another successful marketing channel for me is referrals. Create a great product, and people will talk about it. Ultimately you want to market across lots of different channels. Naturally, some will be better than others but don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
I have a weekly plan I follow, which divides my time to make sure I don’t neglect any area. Of course support is daily but for example I’ll dedicate Mondays to Marketing, Tuesdays to Product Development, etc. Then I do certain task on a monthly basis like accounting task. Basically just figure the task that need to be don and then create a spreadsheet and distribute the task to days.
Not much, I just released my free version and it wasn’t until a few months later I looked at the downloads and realized I had lots of people downloading plugin. It was then I decided to build the Pro Version and I had sales on day one. .org is great because you can release essentially an MVP and see if it gets tracking. If not move on to something else. I had released several plugins before my coming soon plugin and none of those really got any traction.
I spoke about this a bit on question #4 but my biggest channels are WordPress.org, Google, and referrals with WordPress.org account for about 40%, Google 20%, Referrals, 20% and other 20%
You also do affiliate marketing for your product. However, many plugin developers that use affiliate marketing have had mixed results. How has your experience been with it?
Affiliate Marketing accounts for just around 5% of my sales. I don’t focus on it much but I think if I did I could increase that number. But it takes a lot of time to run a successful affiliate marketing program. I may take some time this year to focus and build on that channel.
I have around 100,000 to 200,000 active users of my free version and the plugin over the past five years has been download over 2 millions times. It hard to tell how exactly how many users form WordPress convert to paid. But I try to keep the free version as simple and stable as possible to do the task of creating a simple coming soon page for my site. I put all the feature outside of that simple page in the Pro Version. Features require support and support requires a revenue channel. This is the only way I have been able to sustain is to keep the free version simple and stable.
So I think there will always be a marketing for downloadable plugins. SaaS is a great business model but can be hard. When you build a pure SaaS product you then have to consider dev-ops as well. Your service needs to be up 24/ 7 and you need to know how to scale. With a downloadable product you just build and release. But then again with SaaS revenue is recurring where as a downloadable products the need to renew is optional. In my latest release of my Coming Soon Plugin I have move to a hybrid model where the base plugin is downloadable and works without the need of an API. But if you want view and access themes , stock photos and Add Ons the API is needed. So in that case you would need to renew.
When I started selling my plugin, Easy Digital Downloads or no other platform existed which made it easy to sell plugins or theme so I had to build my own. So I had all this code laying around and at one point decide to try and monetize it. I had tons of interest in it and still do to this day.
When you build a mission critical app like SellWP would be it needs to work and it needs to work all the time. Being a one man show I was not ready to be on call 24/7 to scale out the app. Plus in the SaaS would there is something know as the long slow SaaS ramp of death which means it take time to start building that profit curve. My plugin was doing great and I was not ready to shift focus.
I just released a new version of SeedProd and it’s finally the product I have always envisioned. I have been iterating on the product the last five years and I have been learning about what works and what does not work. The release is a culmination of my experience. Building a success WordPress product can be hard since it is distributed environment. Right now I plan to focus more on marketing and continue to grow the customer base.
I just released a platform independent version at http://www.comingsoonpage.com.
My advice is to find a niche that is not too crowded and be the best in that niche. WordPress is continuing to grow and there is lots of market share to go around. Release a free version on WordPress.org and see what gains tracking.
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