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#55 – Dennis Dornon on How Partnerships Have Helped Grow His WordPress Plugin Business

[00:00:00] Nathan Wrigley: Welcome to the Jukebox podcast from WP Tavern. My name is Nathan Wrigley.

Jukebox is a podcast, which is dedicated to all things WordPress. The people, the events, the plugins, the blocks, the themes, and in this case, how finding partners might boost your WordPress business?

If you’d like to subscribe to the podcast, you can do that by searching for WP Tavern in your podcast player of choice. Or by going to forward slash feed forward slash podcast. And you can copy that URL into most podcast players.

If you have a topic that you’d like us to feature on the podcast, I’m very keen to hear from you and hopefully get you or your idea, featured on the show. Head to forward slash contact forward slash jukebox, and use the form there.

So on the podcast today, we have Dennis Dormon. Dennis is the founder of MainWP. A WordPress plugin which enables you to manage multiple WordPress websites from a single dashboard. As you’ll hear, the business has changed over the years, as Dennis has learned more about the plugins’ target audience.

If you’re a solo developer, or a working for a small team, bringing your WordPress product into the market can be very rewarding, but it can also be hard. Given the scale of the market, it’s likely that your product has got an audience. But with the time and resources being limited, it might be hard to break through and be widely discovered.

Dennis talks today about how, in the recent past, he’s been trying out working with partners as an effective way to increase the plugins reach. As you’ll hear, it’s a strategy that he’s enamored with, given the right partner.

We start off by talking about why Dennis built MainWP, and who the plugin was originally aimed at. And it’s not what you might expect.

We then get into how Dennis is working out his partnerships as he goes. What is it he’s looking for in a partner? Not all companies in the WordPress space are going to be a good fit. And so he explains how it’s important that all partners have some skin in the game, and know what part of the deal they have to uphold. What are the things that need to be considered before the partnership begins? And how do you make sure that all the parties are keeping up their end of the bargain?

It turns out that MainWP is a business which is in just about the perfect spot for bringing on partners. But if you’re a developer and have not considered this type of approach with your business, this podcast is for you.

If you’re interested in finding out more you can find all of the links in the show notes by heading to forward slash podcast. Where you’ll find all the other episodes as well.

And so, without further delay, I bring you Dennis Dormon.

I am joined on the podcast today by Dennis Dornon. Hello, Dennis.

[00:03:40] Dennis Dornon: Hey, Nathan. How are you?

[00:03:42] Nathan Wrigley: Very, very well. Dennis and I have had a little bit of a chat before the podcast began, and it’s been a pleasure getting to know him. You’re going to get to know him over the next few minutes. Dennis, we always ask our guests right at the beginning, there’s some kind of orientation question, just trying to figure out who you are and where you come from.

I’m wondering if you’d spend a few moments just telling us what it is that you do in the WordPress space and how you’ve become part of the WordPress community. You can take that in any which way you like and go back as far or as near as you wish.

[00:04:14] Dennis Dornon: Hello everyone. I’m Dennis Dornon with MainWP, WordPress manager plugin that allows you to maintain multiple WordPress sites from one central dashboard. The MainWP plugin allows you to perform most of your daily WordPress maintenance tasks, such as updating your plugins, backups, uptime monitoring things like that.

And since MainWP is a self hosted WordPress plugin, it allows you to do all that while remaining privacy focused and not relying on any third party solutions like many other WordPress managers.

[00:04:40] Nathan Wrigley: So when did you discover WordPress? How far do we go back?

[00:04:44] Dennis Dornon: I would say probably about 10 years ago is when I really started getting into it. About 10 to 12 years ago I was full-time affiliate marketing and had a few hundred websites, mostly focused on the automotive industry. And at that time I just did real cookie cutter sites that just did PHP changes from a flat file where, like I would change the city name, make model, and just put those out.

But then Google started changing their algorithm, so you couldn’t really have the cookie cutter sites anymore if you wanted to continue to rank. That’s when I started exploring WordPress. Slowly moved those few hundred sites over into WordPress. And then I quickly realized once you have a few hundred sites, I think in my case it was close to 500 sites, that maintaining those could be quite a pain in the neck.

And that’s when we started looking to different solutions that were already out there. But none of them gave us the privacy we were really looking for. Both me and the co-founder came from an affiliate background, so we wanted everything to stay completely private and no one to have any of our information.

Started developing our own solution for WordPress and we actually went with using WordPress as the backbone since we didn’t have to worry about login, security and making all those things for ourselves and just built it as a plugin itself.

[00:05:54] Nathan Wrigley: That’s really fascinating. Kind of interesting that it was a scratch your own itch type of product. We’re here today, we’re going to talk about a slightly different subject because a little while ago I put out a tweet and I was asking for people to suggest topics that maybe of interest to listeners of this podcast. And Dennis reached out and so we got connected and we’d settled on the topic of, the idea of partnerships within the WordPress space. So, I’m just going to map out in broad outline what I think we’re going to talk about, and then we’ll see if the conversation goes in that direction or not.

So, Dennis has a history, or at least I should say MainWP, whether it’s Dennis or other people, I’m not entirely sure, has a history of connecting with other WordPress companies to mix up what they’re doing. So MainWP with partner A and MainWP with partner B. And try to figure out if there’s ways that they can rub each other’s backs, and help each other along the journey to growing and what have you.

So you have a product and you have lots of partnerships. I guess the easiest way to begin this subject is, can you just lay out some examples of people that you have partnered with in the past and how those partnerships have developed. Just to give us a little bit of a picture of how this all works.

[00:07:14] Dennis Dornon: Sure we really just got into partnerships. We have a lot of extensions that work with other plugins, but I wouldn’t really call those partnerships. Those were more along the lines of what you were saying earlier of kind of scratching our own itch. So we put out our first kind of partnership way back in 2015 with our first third party extensions. So, about a year into our existence, we actually started going out and working with other plugins.

The problem at that time is we didn’t tell them we were actually working with them, so we would just go out and build these extensions and then be like, hey, we got an extension for you. And they’d be like, thank you. That’d pretty much be the end of the partnership. But it helped our users, especially with our first ones, which was a backup extension, Updraft Plus. And then we, I believe one of our first extensions was also a Yoast extension.

But these weren’t true partnerships. It wasn’t until probably the last year or two that we actually started to get into real partnerships, where we talked to the other company, before we built an extension for them so that we could, uh, grow out from there.

Some of the current ones that we have out are of course, SEOPress, which we just launched earlier this month. Atarim a couple months ago. Before that WPvivid Backups made their own extension and WP White Hat Security made an activity log extension. Those were more true partnerships where we work together to find a common solution.

But most of these were just a, I would call them code development partnerships. So we were both kind of working in the development of it. Where I failed at would be the co-marketing portion of it. So even though we had grown and had actually started working with the other companies on building these extensions, instead of just building them ourselves, we still weren’t getting the word out appropriately that we now had official partnerships with these different companies. So we’d launch the partnership, announce it for a day or two, and then kind of let it die.

Die might be the wrong word. We didn’t do too much with it, we just kind of hoped they would grow on their own if you follow what I’m saying there. We didn’t really learn until the, well, I didn’t learn until the Atarim partnership, how to correctly co-market. And that has really jumped up our actual partnerships. People coming in for partnerships. Partnership requests have all gone up.

Really from what Vito Peleg showed us with our partnership with Atarim, and how to not only do the co-development, but the co-marketing, and co-marketing is what you generally see from, when you see a partnership in WordPress that’s, you know, where you’re on each other’s mailing list, social, things like that. And you do it for a short amount of time.

So now we have that perfect combination for a partnership of both co-development and co-marketing. Why co-development helps is it gets the other person to have skin in the game with you. So you both, you both have something to lose if the co-marketing doesn’t go well.

[00:09:58] Nathan Wrigley: So towards the beginning of your endeavors, you mentioned 2013 or something like that.

[00:10:03] Dennis Dornon: 2015.

[00:10:03] Nathan Wrigley: 2015, Sorry, yeah. You mentioned that the business was growing and, I guess at that point you didn’t really know that partnerships could be a thing, and so you just looked out into the WordPress ecosystem and thought what would be a good thing for us to build? And how can we help our customer base that exists already? And so you just built it yourself, shipped it, and maybe had some kind of email interaction with the originators of that plugin? Maybe not. It just went out there. But the point was it was all within your silo.

And more recently, in the last year, as you’ve described, you figured out that there’s this model where you get in touch beforehand and potentially you do the work or they do the work, or you partner together and do the work together, I don’t know what the model there is exactly, but the principle being that it’s much more of a symbiotic relationship. You’re in conversation about it. You both are sending out promotional materials once the thing has finally shipped, so it’s much more of a collaboration. It’s not as if you’re merging together. Your business is separate, their business is separate, but there’s definitely an overlap where you can help each other out.

[00:11:16] Dennis Dornon: Correct, yeah. Everything stays completely separate. It’s not a partnership in terms of a, you know, giving up any portion of your business. It’s more of a partnership of helping each other grow from your own base of customers. So if we go back to Atarim. Atarim promotes to their base of customers along with an actual, like I was saying, the code developed.

So they have something to hand them that they can come back and, MainWP, this is how it works with it, because we’ve actually built something together. I’m just not sending you an email blast telling you to go use MainWP. Here’s an email, here’s social, here’s how we’re working together to make your life easier. And that’s what we’re focused on going forward. Both co-development, co-marketing to work nice and smooth.

[00:11:52] Nathan Wrigley: So in the last year, in this time where you’ve found several companies that you’ve decided to partner with as opposed to building it yourself. Just describe some of the benefits that you’ve discovered. You’ve mentioned things like marketing and what have you, but are there any other unexpected things?

It might be just that, you know, it saved you a bunch of time. You ended up being friendly with people that you otherwise wouldn’t have encountered. Whichever way you want to take that.

[00:12:17] Dennis Dornon: I’ve really learned, we’ve been doing this, MainWP itself for nine years, and I am just really started talking to people in the last year. And I think a lot of that comes from being in the partnerships and realizing that, when you get out there and you talk to people that they are friendly, most people are friendly.

Most people just want to work with you. They want to help. You gotta find who you want to work with, if they fit into what you want to do, if they fit into how you want to grow. But really we haven’t run into too much of people who didn’t align with what we are looking to do so far. But we are working on documents that we can put on our site that allow people to see what’s expected from them, what’s expected from us in a partnership, so they know before they even contact us, hey, if we want to do a partnership, okay, we need to meet these things, do these things. So it’s all laid out for everybody.

[00:13:06] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. That’s really interesting because, obviously a couple of years ago you didn’t really have anything to lean back on to say, this is how a partnership may work, and now that you’ve done it a couple of times, you’ve taken the step to even create documentation around that so that you can isolate yourself, I guess, from people coming to you and saying, we’d like to partner with you, and it’s simply not being a particularly good fit. There’s bound to be a whole raft of companies, there’s just really not enough overlap to work with.

Yeah, I was wondering about that really. Are there any constraints that you’ve placed upon yourself to say, okay, if it’s out of this boundary, we probably won’t be able to work with you, or if it’s inside this boundary, we will.

[00:13:47] Dennis Dornon: It’s a hard one cause I haven’t come across anybody reaching out directly to me that I would be like, oh, I just can’t, just couldn’t work with you. There have been some things, where I know if somebody reached out that I didn’t feel comfortable putting in front of our user base, we’d be able to say no to. Something that wasn’t, um, don’t want to say privacy focused, but something that is completely against the way we feel about privacy.

Of course, we wouldn’t work with them. It’s a hard question to answer because it’s, until I’m actually presented with the situation, I’m not sure who I’d say no to, who I’d say yes to. I think everybody’s gotta be evaluated on their own individual basis.

[00:14:20] Nathan Wrigley: You obviously, when you are creating partnerships like this, you are staking quite a lot. You’re putting your flag in the sand that we would like to work with this company. Our business aligns with them, and if you start to email your list with logos from other companies and what have you, you are firmly saying, we align, we are trusted partners with each other.

And so the word that I used there was trust. Now I imagine that we won’t get into the conversation of any times that trust may have been broken, but I do wonder what that level of trust means. How have you approached that whole subject of, can I trust this company?

You know, many people rely on their instinctive sense. Maybe there’s companies that you think if they approach me because I’ve seen what they do in the past, that isn’t a good fit for us. How do you establish trust and what does that trust actually mean?

[00:15:14] Dennis Dornon: Well, I can say this year we did have a partnership that I would not do again. Not naming any names. We had terms in and then they, uh, changed the terms once things had been launched, and that was kind of upsetting and I’m not sure what you can actually do for that.

So you really do have to put some trust into it. And I think that’s where combining the co-development along with the co-marketing really makes a difference. This particular partner, we did all the work for the extension for, and they provided the service and then they changed the service after the extension was made.

So we’ve kind of moved away from doing where we do all the work in those situations. So we really go for the more of the co-development. Where the other person has the skin in the game, we know they’re also working for the same end goal we are. And then go into the co-marketing. And usually if you can get that skin in the game from the co-development, they’re not as, a person isn’t going to be as easy to do something, to break up that partnership or, make that partnership not profitable for both.

[00:16:09] Nathan Wrigley: When you say co-development, are you talking about, literally you’ll put people in the same room or on the same Zoom call or whatever. So in other words, MainWP developers are working with company A developers, and together you are building out the solution which bolts into MainWP. Or is it more, you are collaborating on ideas and then somebody goes off and builds this part and MainWP take care of their part? Just give us an idea of what that co-working looks like.

[00:16:37] Dennis Dornon: Yeah. and not to keep going back to Atarim, it’s just such a good example. In their case, they needed to develop a special API that we could connect to, and we needed to develop a way to connect to their API. So we were both working on APIs, to work with each other’s system. So we knew they were putting in the same amount of time or almost the same amount of time as we were into the extension. So we knew they were going to be just as dedicated to making sure that the product grew and got better.

[00:17:02] Nathan Wrigley: So it’s very much a case of, you work out which ways you can scratch each other’s back, and share out the work accordingly. The hope being that the balance is equal, and it may be that at the beginning, if you’ve got the skill set to do the coding of a particular thing, then maybe that’s something that you would do, and maybe they don’t have the heavy lifting there. But they might have something else that they can contribute later in the journey. You know, marketing clout and so on and so forth.

[00:17:28] Dennis Dornon: One of the things I have noticed, actually Jonathan Wold in one of his blog posts mentions it, and it’s something I’ve noticed too, is when you’re the smaller partner, you usually end up doing most of the work. And for most of this time we have been the smaller partner. So that’s just one of the things. If you’re the new guy or you’re the smaller partner, just be prepared to have to do more than the other partner.

[00:17:47] Nathan Wrigley: Do you go through this in a very formal way? In other words, you mentioned the Atarim example, obviously one you’re very happy talking about. There’s a lot of work to be done. There’s lots of hours to commit to writing the code. There must have been some sort of procedure that was gone through saying, okay, exactly what is the scope of the partnership that we’re doing here? Exactly what is the scope of what we’re trying to build on top of MainWP, which will interact with Atarim? Do you spend a long time hammering all that out and deciding, we can’t do this particular feature, but we’ll come to that later.

Because it’s not like you are selling a particular product at the end here where if the Atarim and MainWP partnership works out, it’s not like you can count the amount of units that you’ve sold of that partnership. It really isn’t like that, it’s just that you’ve made customers more happy. So there’s not revenue to be shared, but there is some benefit.

[00:18:37] Dennis Dornon: Yeah, I think if you boil everything down to profit, what fun is it going to be to actually run the business? So if it helps the user, the end user, then that’s really what we’re going to do. I think that’s shown throughout everything we do as a company, that we just really care about helping the end user.

Atarim’s a, just a good example. And the reason I keep coming back to that is because it is the one that taught me, if we go back to your earlier question to kind of calm down, and look at how to actually build the partnership. I keep saying I gotta give Vito credit for that, for, uh, teaching me that.

Because before I would just get an email and if it looked like it worked from a standpoint of our users where I thought our users could really use something like this. I was all in I’d jump, we would go from there. It’d be a very quick process. I’m talking couple week turnaround time, from something that sounded really cool to actually getting it done, without any plan in place.

We were running headlong into the fire, because that’s all I knew at the time. I just wanted to get this new product out. Make sure it works for everybody, make sure our users are happy, and that was my end goal. When it comes to partnerships, I’m not really too much worried about how many dollars this particular partnership’s going to bring into me. More of how happy will this make our users and will it get our brand in front of other users to also make them happy. So as long as our markets somehow can be combined, I think that’s the best way to look at it.

[00:19:52] Nathan Wrigley: It feels like this is a train you in your business could at least get onto. You found a couple of partners, you’ve worked very happily with them, and you might move on to the next partner and the next partner, and the next partner and so on. I’m just wondering if that is now the intention for MainWP, you’ve enjoyed this experience. Is the plan to find new partners and see if there’s interesting ways that you can swell what your product does by partnering with other people? Or do you intend to have just a few close partners?

Because that can be a nice model to work through as well. You’ve got five or six people that you work with very closely. You don’t have to dilute the work that you’ve got and try to maintain 50, 60, a hundred different extensions to MainWP, which may lead to, well, difficulty keeping them up to date as things change within their businesses and your business.

[00:20:39] Dennis Dornon: Yeah, we actually are working on a dual model, if you will, of that. We have our extensions that we will build out, such as Atarim, which works through APIs. But we’re kind of moving away from building plugin based extensions like we had before, and we’re moving those more to also third parties.

For example, the SEOPress extension, that was built completely by the SEOPress team. We did help with any development that they needed, but we didn’t get our hands too dirty in that. And then we worked with promoting them out. And same with the WPvivid backup people. They made their own extensions using our API and our code base, and they’re just putting those out themselves.

We’re real happy with those. And we actually started doing more to help out those third party .org, I would call them, partnerships that kind of came across naturally. Like the WPvivid, I don’t believe they had much discussion with us at all. They kind of did the partnership the way we used to, where we launched the product and then sent over an email saying that, hey, we got a extension here, we made for you.

[00:21:38] Nathan Wrigley: So do you wish to reach out and find new audiences? Different plugins and different, well, whatever it may be, different services that are out there. Is that the intention in the next one, two years, to find other partners to work with? Or is it very much case by case basis? We’ll do one at a time. We’ll take it nice and easy and slow. Or are you racing to get as many as you can?

[00:22:00] Dennis Dornon: We’re a small team of only seven people. So we can only do, so many and we have to maintain our own. That’s what I was saying earlier, we’re really becoming more API focused when it comes to our internal extensions, because they’re easier for us to maintain as we’re crossing over into the 40 extensions that we have ourselves.

Which is why we’re having the plugin users, or the plugin extensions are starting to be made by the actual plugin company, because they’re better at keeping those updated on their own, and it kind of takes a little bit off our plate. And then we’re able to still help co-market them. We’ve started adding into our actual plugin to make it easier for you to find these new .org partnerships that are coming around.

But really what I’m striving for is, like you said, a platform base, similar to WooCommerce. We actually just kind of got lucky in this, because when we started back in 2015 with that first backup extension, it wasn’t to get along the path of WooCommerce and try and build a platform. It was, we’re a small, bootstrap company. I think we only had, uh, three people, or four people at the time. And backups were just killing our support and development time. We couldn’t come up with, didn’t have time to do anything new and exciting. We were just stuck on backup, month after month after month.

And that’s when we decided start making these backup extensions that work with the plugins that were built by people who knew backups. So, we were able to offload that work to people who actually knew how to do it, just by connecting their plugin with our plugin.

[00:23:27] Nathan Wrigley: It feels like you have a business which is really, really wide open to partnerships. And what I mean by that, and it may be difficult for me to describe. You have essentially a platform. You have an architecture, which means that things can be built right on top, so that they can update their own website.

So, you could help SEO companies. You could help image compression companies. You could help form companies. They’re all part of the WordPress website ecosystem. So, there’ll be a lot of companies out there who maybe are thinking, well, yeah, but we’ve got this one plugin in it just does this one thing. I can’t see of a way to be partnering with other people. Have you got any advice to give to those people?

[00:24:10] Dennis Dornon: Looking at it from my point of view, as the potential platform that you would build on. If you have a plugin, say a form plugin, something that can be used in multiple places. So you can have your setting set. If you’re usually like the same settings all the time, you can do that from a dashboard such as ours. Or if you want to get all your forms returned from one place, so you have 50 sites, but you want to see all the forms in one place. You could think of it like that.

[00:24:37] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah, it’s more that you have a platform which enables you to partner with more or less anybody it feels like in the WordPress space. So that’s a good bit of serendipity. You’ve got this system which you’ve built over years. But a lot of people will be thinking, I can’t partner with other people, I’ve got this one plugin, which just does one thing. And it may be that partnerships are out of scope for them, and I guess that is just a reality.

[00:24:58] Dennis Dornon: In that case, you probably would just be stuck with the co-marketing form, and then you would have to find somebody whose market aligns with yours that is willing to actually do a mailing for you. So yeah, that might be a tough one if it’s just a very basic plugin.

[00:25:11] Nathan Wrigley: Yeah. The other thing about partnerships, I suppose, is that you are very much aligning yourself with a particular company. So let’s imagine that in the WordPress space there are four companies, company A, B, C, and D, and they basically do the same thing. We can imagine who these companies might be and how they are competitive rivals in the marketplace.

There’s something there isn’t there. And what I mean by that is if you decide to partner with one of those and send out emails and you are lording how fabulous product B is. Do you have any fears that you have then cut yourself off from A, C and D? And that they won’t wish to speak to you because now, well, you know, it’s pretty clear from the stuff that they’re marketing over the last year that they’ve made their decision and we are not a part of that. Is that something that concerns you?

[00:26:02] Dennis Dornon: I wouldn’t say. So if we just take a look at our backup extension situation. As I mentioned, WPvivid put out their own. And then of course we have some built in house and one of the ones we built in house actually comes from one of our competitors who also put up a backup solution.

And we just deploy gratitude. Work with them and do your best. The fact they came to us, a competitor comes to us and asks for help with their promoting their backup extension. That just makes me feel good. I don’t think of it as a competitive atmosphere in that way.

Just more of, hey, even though they’re a competitor, they’re not a competitor with this particular product, and this product will help our users. So yeah, that sounds like a, sounds like a good partnership to us.

[00:26:41] Nathan Wrigley: Do you have any interesting input? We’re in the middle of November and this is 2022. This podcast episode will air within several weeks of this being recorded. And so with that caveat in mind, is there anything exciting that you have in the pipeline for MainWP users? It may be that the answer to that is no, Nathan, I don’t. But it may be that the answer is actually, we’ve got a couple of interesting things that we’re working on at the moment.

[00:27:08] Dennis Dornon: We have a few interesting things. Um, I’m not sure which ones I can really talk about depending on when this comes out, so I’m going to have to keep pretty quiet on that. But, we got an interesting partnership coming up that I’m very excited about that should be out hopefully by January as long as everything goes smooth and determined by their marketing schedule. And then we also have some core updates, which are going to be pretty exciting.

[00:27:32] Nathan Wrigley: So this is a product that you’re working on. You are actively working on it. Is this the only thing that you are doing, or do you, Dennis have other fingers in other WordPress pies?

[00:27:43] Dennis Dornon: I strictly focus on MainWP. I like to stay with what I know. Remember we built this for our own use, and it’s grown from there. This is really kind of my baby. I’ve looked at other things, but just nothing’s ever really, you know, really caught my eye. When I wake up in the morning this is, I want to see how we can make MainWP better. I want to see what’s going on? I still check almost every support ticket, so I have a finger on the pulse of what’s happening. I may not be the one replying, but I’m still reviewing almost every support ticket, every forum post every Facebook post, just to really keep my finger on what’s happening in MainWP. And I figure if I, if I’m doing three or four other plugins, nothing’s going to be focused on for the end user.

[00:28:29] Nathan Wrigley: It sounds from what you’ve said, and I could be misrepresenting this, it sounds like when you began, you were very much walking in the dark. You didn’t really know how the plugin would develop, how the business would develop. And it feels like you’ve really found your feet in the last few years, you’ve had some success.

Obviously the plugin is selling to the point where you can swell the team to seven as opposed to whatever it was, one, two, or three in the olden days. And it’s a general question, but I, I do like these questions, the warm and fuzzy question. Are you still happy in the WordPress space. Is this a community that you enjoy being a part of? Are you still enjoying doing the work that you do?

[00:29:07] Dennis Dornon: I would say I enjoy it more now than I did before. I am a private person. So I don’t like talking. I don’t like doing podcasts that much, or videos. But I’m trying to get better at it. And as I’m doing it, actually enjoying being in the WordPress community more and more. Just being out there instead of, we’re going on nine years in February, so for eight years, I basically hid behind this computer screen and didn’t talk to anybody except through email and chat, to actually be out talking to people and, interacting with people in a more personable way has really just made it much more fun for me than it was even in the beginning. And it just grows every day. I wake up wanting to come in. I go to bed wanting to come in. It doesn’t feel like work any day that I’m here.

[00:29:53] Nathan Wrigley: Has WordPress itself changed in any way, which has affected your business strategy? Because a lot of companies, you know, if you’re a theme company at the moment, there must be a lot of introspection. Okay, where’s WordPress going with all of this? If you were a plugin which is now being overlapped by blocks, that must be an awful lot of anxiety about, okay, where do we need to go with this? We’re not quite sure how this is going to all settle down.

It feels like your business inside of WordPress was really insulated from the changes that we’ve had since WordPress, well let’s say WordPress five with Gutenberg and everything. Or has there been a lot that you’ve had to refactor in the background to continue to make it working?

[00:30:29] Dennis Dornon: We’ve definitely made a shift from where we originally were. If you look at MainWP, in the beginning we were really affiliate focused. I mean, that’s what we came from. Everything was set for affiliates and to grow affiliates and to make sure, you know, you could be a profitable affiliate. As years have gone by, I would say now we’re much more agency or creator focused than we are affiliate focused.

Not that affiliates can’t find a way to use MainWP. It’s still going to work great for them, but it’s not our focus. As you see new extensions come out, they’re not something doing like a spinner syntax or something like you might have done 9, 10 years ago. Now it’s focused on different APIs, Atarim, SEOPress, things like that.

[00:31:08] Nathan Wrigley: So, Dennis, you are sticking around in the WordPress space. If we come back in five or six or seven years time, we fully expect to have MainWP still available for us?

[00:31:19] Dennis Dornon: Yeah. And that, that’s one of the, the great things too about being open source. I’ve said this from the beginning. If something happens to us, you still have everything. If MainWP as a company goes away, you still have MainWP. Your service is still going to work. It’s a plugin that doesn’t need MainWP the website to keep going.

It’s going to keep going for you. So you don’t have to worry about us disappearing because the code is live, out there, anybody can pick it up if something did happen and we disappeared. Which of course, I hope we don’t, but it’s there available to people.

[00:31:51] Nathan Wrigley: Is there a sweet spot that you feel, MainWP is now worth it? And what I mean by that is, obviously if you have one WordPress website, I can imagine the argument for getting into the MainWP platform is probably not that strong. You know, it’s fairly easy to log into your website and do all of the things that you need to do. But once you’ve got two or three, or four, or five or fifty or a hundred, the numbers begin to swell.

And I just wonder if you had any thoughts on that. You’ve obviously got a target market. I know that you don’t gather much data about them, so maybe you don’t have a great deal to say in terms of the metrics there.

[00:32:27] Dennis Dornon: it’s hard to say on who has what. I know we have different users. I would say probably four or five is where it starts to get a little time consuming, and at least the free core, which gives you most of what you’re going to need for that level would be a great place to start. Our average user based on statistics, show that we average about 60 child sites per dashboards. So, dot org is saying we have 10,000 active dashboards out there with 600,000 active child sites. So I would say the jumping endpoint should be much closer to five than 60, but the average user has 60.

[00:33:02] Nathan Wrigley: Always surprises me how there’s a tool for just about everything in the WordPress space, and much of it is open source. There’s a lot of SaaS platforms which do what you do, but it is nice to have an option that you can put on your own dedicated website.

Do give us a little bit of intel, because I imagine quite a few people in the audience are interested in the privacy part. You spoke to me just before we hit record about the lack of data that you can bring to bear. And on the one hand, that might be frustrating for you, but on the other hand, it might be incredibly nice for listeners to the podcast to know how much data you collect, or quite the opposite, how much data you don’t collect.

[00:33:40] Dennis Dornon: We really don’t collect anything. If you look on, if I can send people there, and you’ll notice at very top of the page we’re one of the only plugins that I know of that has their own private plugin policy. And that was actually a written by Donata Stroink-Skillrud of Agency Attorneys. And that’s a privacy policy for your plugins telling you exactly what information we’re gathering or in our case not gathering. We really don’t record anything of any personal nature.

[00:34:10] Nathan Wrigley: And in terms of the support that you offer, a platform like this will become quickly part of the backbone of your business. You know, it may be that you log in once a day and update sites and you want to know that that’s possible and you want to know that should there be any problems, you can reach out to MainWP and get those problems fixed quickly. How do you handle support? Is it email? Have you got chats? Are you 24 7? Are you throughout the globe? How does that work?

[00:34:36] Dennis Dornon: We have multiple people throughout the globe. We’re not 24 7. We are basically eastern standard time, 7:00 AM to about 4:00 PM. We have support both in a support forum at managers dot MainWP, and people can send in tickets. One of the things I’m proud of, we don’t charge for support. So if you’re a free user, or a pro-level user, we’re providing the same support for both levels.

So nobody’s ostracized to just forum support or just this or just that. Somebody can send in a ticket or they can go to the forum or they can post on We’re going to answer you however we can in any way we can. And support has been very strong from the beginning for us. We want to make sure everybody can get the answers that they need when they need it. Always keeping an updated knowledge base for users so they don’t have to ask because you know, who really wants to put in a ticket when you can just look at the knowledge base to find the answer. So we try and keep that as up to date as possible.

[00:35:31] Nathan Wrigley: You mentioned before that you are just getting into the idea of making public appearances, so podcasts and videos that you’re making and so on. So this question may fall on deaf ears for you. But ,do you encourage people to reach out to you? Do you have any social platforms? Do you have an email address that you’d like to share? The answer to that can be no. But, uh, if do and you do like chatting to people on email and giving them into some intel into what it is that you’ve been working on, will be working on, you could share that now.

[00:36:01] Dennis Dornon: Really, if you want to reach out to me, just go to That’s my full name dot com. And it has a calendar on there. And I, I just put this site really updated last month with a calendar on there. Just got my calendly. Started have to actually uh, mark things on a calendar because they’re happening so fast lately.

You can hop in over there and I’ll be glad to chat over Zoom with whoever wants to chat with over Zoom. Going to actually try and start to do a little more AMAs. It sounds like people in the community want to do that too. So you’ll have chances to reach out to me live on different ask me anything type videos.

[00:36:31] Nathan Wrigley: Dennis Dornon and thank you for chatting to me on the podcast today. I really appreciate it.

[00:36:36] Dennis Dornon: Glad to be here. Thank you very much.

On the podcast today, we have Dennis Dornon.

Dennis is the founder of MainWP. A WordPress plugin which enables you to manage multiple WordPress websites from a single dashboard. As you’ll hear, the business has changed over the years, as Dennis has learned more about the plugins’ target audience.

If you’re a solo developer, or a working for a small team, bringing your WordPress product into the market can be very rewarding, but it can also be hard. Given the scale of the market, it’s likely that your product has got an audience, but with the time and resources being limited, it might be hard to break through and be widely discovered.

Dennis talks today about how, in the recent past, he’s been trying out working with partners as an effective way to increase the plugins reach. As you’ll hear, it’s a strategy that he’s enamored with, given the right partner.

We start off by talking about why Dennis built MainWP, and who the plugin was originally aimed at. And it’s not what you might expect.

We then get into how Dennis is working out his partnerships as he goes. What is it he’s looking for in a partner? Not all companies in the WordPress space are going to be a good fit. And so he explains how it’s important that all partners have some skin in the game, and know what part of the deal they have to uphold. What are the things that need to be considered before the partnership begins? And how do you make sure that all the parties are keeping up their end of the bargain?

It turns out that MainWP is a business which is in just about the perfect spot for bringing on partners. But if you’re a developer and have not considered this type of approach with your business, this podcast is for you.

Useful links.

MainWP website

Partnerships in Portugal by Jonathan Wold

Introducing “SEOPress for MainWP” Extension

Introducing Atarim Inside MainWP & Vice Versa