If you’re starting a WordPress product business (selling plugins or themes), plan to do so, or already have it running, you might have experienced this feeling: running a sustainable and successful WP product business is overwhelmingly complicated. Well, while succeeding in the WordPress business is not an easy ride, it is certainly possible.
As a developer, what you probably care about is coding and developing awesome features. You’re not keen on busting your brainpower worrying about all the tedious responsibilities that come with running a business. You are terrorized by the prospect of dealing with tax regulations, handling license keys bores you to death, monetization is a huge hassle and so on…
You can always hire some specialist to help you out with this, however, it may require a substantial investment, which makes it not so affordable. There is an easy way to keep all of the above (and more) under control from one single place, rather than jumping around multiple platforms and management systems. But before we take a look at this all-inclusive solution – let’s address the biggest challenges a plugin/theme developer faces when getting products on the market:
The Limitations Of Marketplaces
Marketplaces can be a great place to put your WordPress product on the map. They are usually a well-established marketing and distribution channel, as they see a lot of traffic, which accounts for good visibility. However, selling on Marketplaces can have its drawbacks.
Marketplaces do not disclose any information about who installs a plugin/theme and where they’re being installed, leaving product developers without any relationship with the people who purchase their items. The data provided by marketplaces is very scarce as it only discloses some limited metrics, leaving out a lot of important data. Marketplaces do this deliberately as a means to keep sellers bound to their terms because, if WP product sellers obtain their customer data, they’ll just skip the middleman and start selling on their own, without the limitations and commissions imposed by marketplaces.
The terms set by the marketplaces leave little flexibility for pricing models because the only available way is to sell for a one-time installation fee. Subscription-based offerings are not supported, making it impossible to establish a stream of recurring revenue that would make product businesses more sustainable. Apart from this, the commissions are quite high (CodeCanyon charges a commission between 32.5 and 70% and ThemeForest charges a rate in the range 30%-64%).
Other important cons are the fierce competition, lack of scalability for multi-site licenses and the obligation of offering free support. That said, product developers are looking in other directions and increasingly going alternative roads.
Freemius Insights Brings You The Data You Need
Getting the right data from your user base brings you valuable insights for making better decisions which will improve your development cycle and establish an efficient feedback loop. This can be difficult to accomplish, especially if you sell your product in a marketplace.
Marketplaces do not give you access to your user’s information and this leaves you without a proper way to reach out to your users and no metrics to analyze your product’s performance. Combine the lack of a way to contact users with scarcely accurate data and you understand how you end up in a position where you are forced to do guesswork.
Freemius Insights has an opt-in mechanism (8 out of 10 installers accept and opt into it) that collects valuable information about your users such as:
- Who they are, where they’re located and what languages they use
- In what kind of sites they install your product
- Which version of your plugin/theme they have
- Which version of PHP they are running
- Their WordPress version
- Who is uninstalling and why!
- What features they miss
- What they like and dislike the most about the product
- Which major name brands are using your product
Detecting a big abandonment rate in the first few minutes after installation and, especially, if there is some associated feedback reporting lack of understanding, this could be a strong indicator that you should include a video tutorial on how to get started, to improve the onboarding experience.
Another interesting aspect is that you get access to the email address of users that opt-in. This is important to establish a communication channel between you and your users. It also helps you with your marketing automation (by automatically adding them to an emailing service like MailChimp) and even increases your chances of recovering lost users. For example when users that leave mention the lack of a specific feature as a reason for abandoning.
Having your users’ contact details allows you to reach out to them in the future, once you release the feature, and this is a great chance to win them back.
Sell From Your Website And The WordPress Admin Dashboard
If you decide not to sell on a marketplace then you need to set up the checkout funnel all on your own. The good thing about Freemius is that you don’t need to worry about finding the right payment gateway. The checkout functionality allows you to integrate a simple “Buy Button” that links to a user-friendly payment form:
The checkout is completely secure and PCI compliant. The built-in licensing feature gives you total flexibility to manage the number of websites where your product is valid and its expirations. When it comes to updates, you only need to deploy them into Freemius, which does all the work of pushing those updates on websites with valid licenses, as well as generate the different free and premium product versions out of your update.
Freemius also gives you the possibility to sell directly from the WordPress admin dashboard. This means an important extra channel where you can let users easily upgrade your free theme/plugin to the premium version. This allows you to essentially use the official WordPress.org repository as a marketplace by leveraging the exposure it enables.
Users are happy to buy a plugin/theme without having to be redirected to an external page as the checkout process becomes easier and faster.
The Monetization Solution That Handles EU VAT
Current European tax regulations mandate that, when selling to customers located within the European Union, you have to charge consumers the local VAT according to their geographical location. Validating and calculating VAT data can get a bit time-consuming. Freemius makes your life easier by dealing with the necessary validations and calculations when it comes to dealing with EU VAT as it detects the user’s location, calculates the VAT to be applied, exempts businesses and keeps records for tax reports.
You can focus your time and energy on creating and trying out different pricing models, A/B testing different upsell strategies, introducing additional pricing tiers and distributing your features in different ways across different plans.
Software Licensing Management
Monetizing your product properly can be a somewhat cumbersome process and implementing the different tiers with different ranges of features can be a lot of work. In addition to this, you need to keep track of all the licenses and make them easy to renew and to recover.
With Freemius, the license management gets completely automated and you no longer need to worry about renewing and recovering the licenses because all of this is taken care of. Rather than taking care of licenses, you can invest your time and efforts in producing more and better features that you can offer your users in the premium plans.
Creating the pricing is itself very easy and can be done in the Freemius dashboard. With Freemius, all you need is to integrate the SDK and wrap the premium features with the appropriate logic which will “tell” Freemius which code blocks belong to your various plans. In case you are distributing your free version via the WordPress.org repository – Freemius will generate a completely stripped down .org compliant version. This stripped down version is devoid of any premium feature and can be deployed to the WordPress.org repository in order to get a wide audience to know your product and facilitate the process of upgrading to your premium version or paying for your premium add-ons.
Automatic Software Updates – Included!
Updating premium WordPress plugins and themes is a multi-step process that can be quite annoying and time-consuming for WordPress site owners, and, as a consequence, be a conversion rate downer for premium WordPress plugin and theme sellers. If the software update process isn’t as smooth as possible site owners may encounter difficulties and get discouraged midway. So much so, that it has become an industry standard for premium WordPress plugins and themes to support automatic software updates out-of-the-box.
Fear not! There’s definitely something you can do to automate this process and make it painless for your premium plugin or theme users, in order to make sure your conversion rate does not suffer the consequences.
Software updates for your premium WordPress plugins and themes are easy & smooth when you deploy your WordPress product with Freemius: The new (premium) software version is automatically populated on the user’s WordPress admin dashboard with a push notification and a 1-click update option, basically mimicking WordPress’ smooth automated software update for plugins and themes hosted in the official WordPress.org repository:
Behind the scenes of the premium software update – Freemius uses its secure API as a gatekeeper to the secure and scalable Amazon S3 storage. Only customers with a valid license key will get automatic software updates or will be able to access the secure links, making sure your premium software is protected, while still providing a seamless update experience for your users.
Email And Marketing Automation Made Easy
Another essential core aspect is connecting with your user base. When users opt-in after installing, Freemius gives you the user’s email address. Having the user’s email address you can establish a channel of communication. Communicating new releases, asking for reviews or even email marketing campaigns.
Its integration with MailChimp makes it easy to automatically add new users to your established email flows such as:
- Sending a welcome email to a user that installs or activates your plugin/theme, providing some useful information about setting up, what they can achieve by using your product, suggestions for best practices and even links such to your Knowledge Base/help section/ FAQ page
- Adding emails of opted-in users to your email campaigns
- Based on certain events – such as when a user achieves a certain goal – you can automate the sending of an email asking the user to rate your product and even provide links for it and gain some precious good reviews
- When users uninstall your theme/plugin you can send them some farewell email and you can even try to do some cross-selling by promoting other products you might offer
- If the users uninstall and fill in the uninstall feedback form pointing to a lack of a specific feature, you can try to win them back with an email announcing the release of this same feature.
- When you release a new version but you discover some issue with it, you’re able to quickly reach out to your users to let them know about the issue and give them proper instructions.
- It’s also useful when you want to promote some new feature or even announcing some special event like a holiday sale.
Make Selling Your WordPress Products Easier With Freemius
Marketplaces are a great place to get some much-needed exposure for WP product developers. Because they have very large traffic volumes, they increase chances of getting one’s WP products (themes/plugins) into the hands the public. However, marketplaces have disadvantages such as the lack of access to a user’s contact details – keeping sellers bound to the marketplaces since they have no way to reach out to their users. Even the WP.org repository is very limited when it comes to communication between product owners and users – communication can be done only in the support forum, where users post their questions.
Freemius with its metrics gives product developers a more clear picture of who is actually using the products. It also collects the email address of users who opt-in and, and, with its MailChimp integration, you automatically incorporate those emails in your campaign lists. Monetization is also made easier and you have total freedom to try any pricing model you want (premium, freemium or add-ons). Forget the burdens of managing licenses, collecting EU VAT – validation and calculating, because this will all be taken care of. Freemius Checkout gives you the freedom to sell from pretty much everywhere you want: the WP admin dashboard or your own marketing page.
So in sum, Freemius can do most of the heavy lifting, leaving WordPress product owners with more time to direct their efforts into building better products and developing new features. In exchange to all of this, you get to pay a commission that updates according to the aggregated gross revenue you make from all the product you sell with Freemius – it decreases in percentage as your aggregated revenue grows. The Freemius business model is collaborative and users of Freemius are not seen as customers, but rather as partners.