WordPress Plugin Developer Uses Content To Grow
“Content marketing is something I’ve really focused on this year and it’s by far my most important marketing channel.“
Written By Sterling Sweeney: Published Nov 25th, 2019 | Updated Nov 25th, 2019.
Sterling Sweeney is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a SaaS marketing agency. Today, he sits down with Gareth, the founder of Plugin Republic to chat about his work as a WordPress plugin developer.
5 Minute Read
“Over the last six months or so, I’ve probably spent more time on writing blog articles than I have on plugin development itself.”
Today WhalePages was fortunate enough to sit down and chat with Gareth, the founder of Plugin Republic, about his work developing WooCommerce Plugins for WordPress. Let’s jump into the interview below.
Before we start, I’d like to personally thank you for taking the time to do this interview. Most of our readers are interested in SaaS growth and development, and so I thought it would be a great idea to bring you in to share your experience. Why don’t you kick things off by telling us about Plugin Republic?
Thanks very much for the invitation. Yes, Plugin Republic is where I sell WooCommerce plugins. I started it at the end of 2018 and I currently offer five extensions for WooCommerce.
It’s amazing how you started Plugin Republic just recently! Before you used to sell WordPress themes and plugins but eventually decided to focus on components for WooCommerce. What was the catalyst for this change? What motivated you to specialize in the e-commerce platform?
Originally I started off selling themes for the Big Cartel platform – a kind of indie version of Shopify. I moved to themes for WordPress but it’s a highly competitive market and, I think with Gutenberg, a market that’s going to diminish over time.
I started looking at plugins for WooCommerce because it was clear that WooCommerce was growing in popularity, yet there were still opportunities to create quality products.
You mentioned that you develop all of the plugins that you advertise on your website while also doing the support aspect of your brand. How challenging has this been for you so far? For your customers, what are the pros and cons in dealing with a one-man company?
Support is maybe one of the most demanding aspects of running a business like this. It’s draining – and not just in terms of time. However, I try to turn it into a positive because it’s the most effective way of finding out how well my products perform. It’s a good opportunity to understand how users are expecting to use my products, the features that don’t quite work the way they want, and the features they’d like to see.
Having said that, I still want to minimise time spent dealing with support tickets so I try to streamline the process as much as possible: during the process of submitting a support ticket through my website, I require users to acknowledge that they’ve taken certain steps before contacting me, just obvious stuff like reading the documentation and ensuring they’re running the latest version of the product.
I also write up as much documentation as possible – even though customers don’t always read the docs before creating a support ticket, it’s much easier just to send a link to a page than write the same response over and over.
And I also ensure that I fix any bugs that are reported as quickly as possible – because if one user reports a bug, it’s pretty likely that other users are going to start reporting it soon as well. So it makes sense to fix any problems quickly, release frequent updates, and avoid having multiple support tickets for the same issue.
This means that there are enormous advantages for the customer in dealing with a one-person company. It’s in my interest to deal with things as quickly as possible – which of course benefits the customer. Having submitted support tickets to much larger firms myself, then waited days for a response, only to be told that my request was being passed elsewhere, I think that being able to correspond directly with the business owner is much better for the customer. There’s no danger of me handing off responsibility for a problem to someone else – because there is no one else.
Do you wish to keep things as they are for now or do you have major plans to expand in the near future?
I’m certainly looking to keep increasing sales and I have a couple of ideas for new plugins that I’d like to start working on. One of the problems running a one-person company is that you just don’t have time to do everything you’d like so potentially I’ll start thinking about some help for certain tasks, especially support and possibly content writing. However, I do enjoy the different disciplines involved in running this business.
You’ve been involved in WordPress since 2009 – making websites for both big and small organizations. Over the years, what significant changes have you observed in developing for the content management system? How have these affected you, if at all?
The greatest thing that WordPress has given me is the opportunity to work for myself and spend more time with my family.
Around 10 years ago, I had a young family and a job that required a long daily commute. I wanted a way to work for myself that allowed me to spend more time with my family. Building websites was something that I could do so I started up building sites for local businesses.
At that time, one of the most common complaints I heard from businesses was that their agencies were slow and expensive in making even minor changes to websites. So I started looking round for a way that I could build websites for clients that would allow them to update their content themselves. Back then, WordPress was still known mainly as a blogging platform but it was pretty obvious that had great potential and it was the obvious choice to use. So in the last ten years, one of the biggest changes with WordPress is that it’s actually become a full-blown CMS rather than just a blogging platform.
However, looking forward, I worry that WordPress risks forgetting what made it so great. The same requirement that businesses faced 10 years ago – to have an easy way of maintaining their website content – is not now necessarily being met by WordPress. The WordPress dashboard is an intimidating place for non-technical (and technical) users – it’s full of meaningless notifications, confusing menus, and challenging interfaces. The user is divided between the Customizer, the block editor, and multiple random settings pages so it’s just not at all intuitive for a non-developer.
WordPress became popular because of its community; I think it’s essential that WordPress doesn’t leave its community behind.
How do you come up with a new plugin for WooCommerce? What steps do you take to brainstorm a new feature or solution for your target market?
Because I have done a lot of freelancing in the past, I often get asked by clients for specific functionality that isn’t available in an existing plugin. So that’s one of the best ways to come up with new ideas – simply being asked to build something by a client. At least two of my plugins started like this, as custom builds for clients.
For new features for existing plugins then, as I mentioned before, support requests are really helpful to gauge how popular certain features would be.
You post quite a lot of content on your blog, and you’ve been doing so consistently. How much has SEO affected your overall marketing strategy thus far? Do you keep track of the leads that arrive via your content marketing efforts and if so, what percentage of them are coming from this channel?
Content marketing is something I’ve really focused on this year and it’s by far my most important marketing channel. Over the last six months or so, I’ve probably spent more time on writing blog articles than I have on plugin development itself. I get the majority of leads through content marketing.
Your profile also mentions that you are a certified expert on Codeable since 2018. How has your experience in the WordPress freelancer platform helped you develop Plugin Republic to what it is now?
Codeable is unique as a platform, I think, because of the way it vets its experts before allowing them on to the platform and because of its emphasis on quality and customer service. I’m doing less freelance work through Codeable now than this time last year as I concentrate on Plugin Republic and, in fact, I’m starting to send clients who want custom work through to Codeable rather than taking it on myself.
What can we expect from Plugin Republic in the coming months or years?
Well, definitely more content on the blog and I hope some more plugins too. I have a lot of ideas for features for the current plugins and I’m hoping to get some time over the next six months or so to develop these.
Lastly, what three tips would you share to beginner WordPress developers who are interested in developing and selling their plugins?
You need to create something that actually meets a need
If you’re building a plugin with a feature set that already exists, then you need to make your version better
Always put the customer first
Thank you for taking the time to chat with our blog audience today Gareth. To our blog readers, if you’d like to learn more about Gareth and his company, you can head over to the Plugin Republic website here.
Written By Sterling Sweeney: Published Nov 25th, 2019 | Updated Nov 25th, 2019.
Sterling Sweeney is a growth hacker and the driving force behind WhalePages, a SaaS marketing agency So, if you have a SaaS company and you’re kinda into things like website traffic and increasing your MRR, then be sure to check out our homepage.
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