WPTavern: 10 Lessons Learned From Five Years of Selling WordPress Products
This post was contributed by Rebecca Gill. Rebecca is the founder of Web Savvy Marketing, a web development, design, maintenance, and SEO consulting company based in Michigan and host of the SEO Bits podcast.
Rebecca recently sold her Genesis Theme store to 9seeds, a store she managed and maintained for five years. In this post, she shares ten lessons learned from selling WordPress products.
When Jon Brown and I started talking about Web Savvy Marketing selling its theme store to 9seeds, it became abundantly clear that I wasn’t just selling him a portfolio of Genesis child themes. Anybody can do that. What I was really selling him was an established process and five long years of making mistakes and creating solutions.
When I launched our theme store and stepped into the world of developing WordPress products, I was beyond naïve. I had no idea what I was getting myself into and I didn’t know how to run a successful e-commerce business.
But after a lot of mistakes and course corrections, I found stability, a lot of great customers, and more revenue than I expected.
Today, I’m sharing my top 10 lessons learned with you, so I can spare you from falling down the same rabbit holes and pitfalls.
My 10 Lessons Learned
Reputation Is Everything
I didn’t set up out to create a strong reputation and I honestly didn’t know I was doing it. I was just following the rules given to me by my Grandmother and the basics of business I learned while working for my prior employers.
What I realized was this – having a strong reputation helps you sell, but it also helps keep you out of hot water when things don’t go as you plan. People are more willing to buy from you, become your brand advocates, and forgive you when you make a mistake.
A Strong FAQ Page Is Worth Its Weight in Gold
I didn’t see this as a necessary page at first, but once I had the same question asked 100 times, I realized I needed to have an easily accessible page that answered common questions. Our comprehensive FAQ page has saved me time, but it also aided in sales. Visitors receive immediate answers to their questions and they are more inclined to hit the buy button while you still have their attention and interest.
Thorough Post-sale Communication Is a Requirement
During the first year of our store opening, I was flooded with post-sale emails and inquiries. No one was using our support forum and the option of self-service. I was so annoyed and frustrated it wasn’t even funny. And then something happened.
I realized it wasn’t the buyers’ fault. I realized it was my fault. I had failed to communicate, provide next steps, and set expectations. Once I took ownership over this issue, I created a follow-up sequence that provided post-purchase instructions on where to go and what to do.
A magical thing happened – or many things actually. I freed up my time because people stopped emailing me and I had happy customers who actually thanked me for all the great follow-up information. That was a win/win if there ever was one.
Email Templates Save Oodles of Time
Even with my stellar FAQ page and follow-up emails, I still received inquiries from people who asked similar questions. I learned to create email templates for anything I had to answer more than five times. This reduced my response time from five minutes to thirty seconds. This freed up my time and more importantly, it gave faster responses to my customers, so they were happy.
Create Systems to Save Sanity
I’m slightly obsessive-compulsive and I used this to our advantage with the theme store. I created project templates for any new theme launch and I mimicked the same type of tight structure I have with large custom website builds.
We had a template full of to-do items, ownership of tasks, and expected turn around times. This made the design, coding, and launch of a theme very systematic. This in turn translated to faster product launches, fewer mistakes, and a reduction in development costs.
Strong SEO Is Your Friend
I could not have been successful without search engine optimization. I let SEO lead the way for what we would sell, who we would sell it to, and how we would market the final product. Strong SEO helped me select the right themes to develop, get quick sales, and cover my development costs within a few months of each launch.
Social Media Is a Time Suck but Worth Every Minute Invested
I have a love/hate relationship with social media. I hate that it takes so much time and it can be so emotionally draining. At the same time, I love that it helps you reach customers around the world and it supports the SEO process. Social media was a life raft in many ways and I don’t think the store or sales would have grown without it.
If Things Can Go Wrong, They Will Go Wrong
I have felt like this has been the norm for us this last year. Hosting, plugins, payment gateways, and third-party software sites have worn me out. And I’ve had a team to fix everything. You have to expect things to fail and you must have a plan to fix them quickly. It’s the nature of life and business. Learn to deal with issues quickly and to address one thing at a time.
Grace Goes a Long Way in Diffusing Bad Situations
No matter how hard you try and how hard you work, your customers will have bad days. When that happens you might receive the brunt of their emotions. This is called ‘transference’ and in most cases it has nothing to do with you or your product.
You have to recognize this for what it is and handle it with grace. Close your email, walk away from your desk, or do whatever you have to do to not reply in anger. Instead, you need to let the moment pass so you can reply calmly and with grace. In each situation where I’ve used this tactic, I’ve had the crazy person reply with an apology, tell me they were having a really bad day, and then thank me for keeping my calm.
People Will Steal Your Products, So Try Not to Take It Personally
People will steal your work and your products. You’ll find your premium digital products sitting for download on forums and it will break your heart. Don’t let it. Address the situation and move on. Don’t let someone else’s bad juju ruin your mood, day, or momentum. It won’t help the situation and it will drive you crazy if you let it.
I loved launching and owning our theme store. I didn’t sell it because I hated it or because it wasn’t profitable. I sold it because it was no longer the best fit for our company and me personally, which meant it wasn’t going to service our customers as it should.
If I had the opportunity to do things over, I would still launch and I’d follow the same path I did over the last five years.
The theme store brought me some wonderful employees, great online friends, and it brought me deeper into the WordPress community.
Selling the store was a hard decision, but the right one. In my heart, I knew I wanted to focus the company more on custom development and I wanted to spend more time with my SEO courses and my new podcast.
If you’re new to WordPress products and you’re considering launching a new product offering, I encourage you to jump in. Learn from my mistakes, but hold on, because you’re in for a wild ride.