Seven Valuable Product Lessons Learned at WordCamp Miami 2016

We just got back from WordCamp Miami. It’s an excellent camp and I learned a lot. Here’s seven things I learned about Products this year.

Year after year WordCamp Miami attracts top speakers, sponsors, and attendees. This year there were a number of sessions dedicated to developing, selling, and supporting WordPress products. Since that’s what we do here at WordImpress, I listened intently and learned a few important lessons.

1. Choose the Right Business Model

Starting off on the right track is important — especially in business. There are many ways to sell products: SAAS, Freemium, Add-ons and Pro models to name a few. James Laws, the co-founder of Ninja Forms, had a great talk on “Getting to your First $1 Million in Sales“. He explained that you see successful WordPress products in each of these model. Give, for example is shaping up to be a very successful freemium product that uses the Addon model similarly to Ninja Forms.

Choosing the model that is right for your product depends on the type of product you’re building and where you plan on selling it. For instance, if you’re building a robust platform — such as an ecommerce plugin or form builder — an Add-on model would work well because it would allow for functional enhancements and new features. On the contrary, if your plugin is a simple widget then it likely could be sold as a Free/Pro model. The choice is yours, but you should let your product dictate the model it deserves.

wcmia-slide-james-law-2

2. Properly Valuate & Price Your Product

What goes into a price? There are many factors to consider including the cost of development, support, functionality, marketing, etc. To run your business you may also have other costs such as rent, utilities, and let’s not forget Uncle Sam. You also need to plan for growth, increased capital, and new hires.

James said clearly that there’s no magic formula for pricing, it’s up to you to evaluate your individual factors to reach a decision on your price point. Once you have a number in mind, calculate how many sales it would take to reach your goals. If you believe you can meet or exceed this number of sales then you may have just found your price point.

wcmia-slide-james-law

3. It’s Not All About You

Chris Lema, CTO of Crowd Favorite and WordPress All-Star, presented on “Accelerating Sales“. He explained that we need to learn how to tell a story that’s more than just features and benefits. He gave the example of how WooTheme’s blog used to be filled with unexciting posts about “What to expect in WooFramework 6” rather than enriching content like “The features every great product page should have.”

“Your blog is not your release notes.” – Chris Lema

Regarding marketing your products, Chris encourages product developers to speak to our audience with an “Outside-in” perspective. Focus on their problems and how your solution can bring them value and solve their needs. Don’t make your marketing all about how cool your product is. Your customers are the hero of the story, not you or your product.

chris-lema-outside-in-marketing

4. Focus on Increasing Renewal Rates

Renewals are a vital source of revenue for building a successful and sustainable business. All too often I hear how low renewal rates are for theme and plugin companies. To be honest, we’re not so satisfied with our renewal rates we’re seeing right now either and plan to work on that this year a lot. The typical renewal user is often one who is happy with the product and is low support. The ideal person you want as a customer.

We spoke with several product owners in Miami about the subject and had many good ideas. Certainly, you will be seeing more subscription-based sales. AffiliateWP is among the first to switch to this model. I like it because it forces users to renew, but I also like providing users with a choice. I think the middle ground would be to opt-in for subscription renewals with a an increased discount.

5. Never Forget About Free Support

Don't Neglect Free Support
Don’t Neglect Free Support

As your company grows, so will support. The more customers you have, the more questions and inquiries. If your theme or plugin is publicly available on WordPress.org then it’s easy to neglect the support forum. The problem with this is that it can lead to user frustration, bad reviews, and a negative reputation.

You want your product to be held in high regard within the Community. When a potential new user is evaluating the plugin or theme they often review how well it is supported and reviewed. If there are all questions and no answers and a low rating then the user is more likely to move on rather than install and activate.

6. Listen to Your Users

Your product users are smart people. Many of them like to provide suggestions and advice on how your product should look and function. This is often in the form of questions, reviews, and support. Lema states that “mining reviews & questions helps you mirror key messages.” If you’re hearing the same pain point repeatedly, address the issue and market that solution.

7. Leverage Your Email Lists for Profit

I’m subscribed to a ton of WordPress product newsletters. The majority of the emails I receive are “inside-out” marketing. Look at what we did, check out this new feature, we released this new version, etc. The emails that interest me most have to do with discounts and sales. This piques my buying interest and gets me reaching for my credit card.

Syed Balkhi, a young entrepreneur with several seven-figure WordPress businesses, presented on “How to Grow Your Email List Six Digits and Beyond.” He explained that the companies that companies need to focus on increasing their email lists and then properly marketing to that list. Finding a balance between enriching and conversion content is important. You want to provide value in your newsletters, but you also want to convert sales. Finding that balance is up to you.


Wrapping It Up

In business, it’s easy to start building first without being strategic and actually taking the time to plan. Planning, strategizing, and being tactful is what separates half baked products from meaningful and unique solutions. Using the lessons above and your own insight and thoughtfulness will help guide you to the success you seek. Now go get em’! See you at WordCamp Miami 2017!