In this episode, Lisa Sabin-Wilson shares about the entangled history of WebDevStudios and eWebscapes and how she and team are targeting every level of the market. WebDevStudios focuses heavily on the upper and enterprise market segments, providing a high degree of attention and support to those clients.
Sometime in 2017 Lisa did the math on all the lower-end projects that they were referring away and realized that WDS had a prime opportunity to re-introduce her former web studio, eWebscapes, as a way to serve these smaller-scope projects. This rebirth, so to speak, has positioned them to better target local communities, provide staff with more variety of work, and bring simplified processes alongside those they use for larger projects.
Lisa observed a market opportunity and did the math first
Relaunching started with a solid content strategy
Simplified processes for managing a project
Utilized talent already on staff
Lots of opportunity to target local communities
Evaluating the success of this strategy after 6 months
Prospress makes the WooCommerce Subscriptions plugin, that enables you to turn your online business into a recurring revenue business. Whether you want to ship a box or setup digital subscriptions like I have on Post Status, Prospress has you covered. Check out Prospress.com for more, and thanks to Prospress for being a Post Status partner.
In this episode, Brian and Brian continue their discussion on WordPress market opportunities with a focus on the upper-market and enterprise clients. They take a look at discovery projects, pitching WordPress against competing platforms, and considerations to make before pitching on these high-budget projects. There are plenty of positives and negatives when working on long-term projects that may have a dramatic impact on your company in many ways.
In addition to these market opportunities, the boys also discuss recent news including iThemes acquisition by Liquid Web, a welcome change to the WordPress.org plugin directory, and an unfortunate and far-reaching bug that shipped with the 4.9.3 release last week.
WooCommerce makes the most customizable eCommerce software on the planet, and itâ€™s the most popular too. You can build just about anything with WooCommerce. Try it today, and thanks to the team at WooCommerce being a Post Status partner
Liquid Web has acquired iThemes, in an all cash deal that includes the entire iThemes team moving over to Liquid Web as an independent unit. Cory Miller â€” CEO of iThemes â€” will be the Business Manager of the new unit, with iThemes COO Matt Danner as the Director of Technology and Operations for iThemes. The entire team of twenty three people is staying on, and will continue to be headquartered in Oklahoma.
This is not the first or last time weâ€™ll see longstanding WordPress companies get rolled into large hosting providers. Itâ€™s a trend that is natural in any ecosystem as it matures, and iThemes was a clear and quality candidate for a host to target. Cory said the culture around Liquid Web, including their â€śheroic supportâ€ť, but also in the quality he sees of their management team, as a key motivator for them to go work with Liquid Web.
As hosting companies evolve more and more to provide broader services for customers with managed WordPress offerings, it offers less room for utility product creators to fill that gap.
Backups are a fine example: customers may see less need for external backups if they have confidence that their hosting is managing backups properly. Security is another. These have been great products for iThemes, and still are â€” but their current markets are more for hosts without a managed experience, and that slice of the pie has been narrowing.
iThemes has had a partnership with Liquid Web for about a year and a half now, which started by licensing iThemes Sync for Liquid Webâ€™s WordPress hosting offering. Theyâ€™ve slowly been integrating more features into the platform, and the acquisition will allow Liquid Web to further integrate iThemesâ€™ offerings, and allow iThemes to improve some of their product offerings with the backing of Liquidâ€™s Webâ€™s hosting infrastructure.
I spoke to Cory Miller about the move, which is occurring not long after iThemesâ€™ ten year anniversary in business. He said he looks back every year and sees them as chapters in the iThemes story, and this feels just the same. Heâ€™s excited about what the backing from Liquid Web will allow them to do, and most importantly for him, the ability to keep supporting the team they have built over the years.
Cory tells me heâ€™s amazed that theyâ€™ve been able to build the company they have built, and neither he or his business partners would have imagined it ten years ago. All equity holders had their shares purchased by Liquid Web, and Cory and the team will be Liquid Web employees.
iThemes has iterated on the business many times over the years â€” as the name implies. Their theme business slowly dwindled in terms of the overall ratio of sales revenue it provided. BackupBuddy has long been a flagship, and theyâ€™ve found great success the past couple of years since they acquired and iterated on the iThemes Security product. He said that it took them experimenting a great deal â€” and like Exchange for eCommerce, and others â€” it didnâ€™t always work out the way they hoped. But because they stayed agile and kept working at it, theyâ€™ve consistently been able to grow and diversify their product line.
One practical component Liquid Web will be able to provide, as an example, is their data centers to power BackupBuddy and iThemes Stash storage and processing. iThemes has historically used Amazon, which Cory said really adds up, and has in recent growth has started to eat into their own margins. Liquid Web will help them not only improve the offering, but also to be able to perform those functions more affordably.
For Liquid Web, this acquisition furthers their goal to integrate WordPress-specific functionality into their suite of WordPress hosting tools. They recently launched WooCommerce hosting on their platform, and the iThemes SalesÂ Accelerator product can now be a core component of that offering. Additionally, the technology iThemes has built with BackupBuddy and Sync will further add to their platform.
Beyond the technology and products, Liquid Web Vice President of Products and Innovation Chris Lema tells me itâ€™s about the team:
This adds so much to what weâ€™re doing with managed WordPress and managed WooCommerce, that it just made a lot of sense â€” both from a product perspective, and even more from a team perspective.
Having spent a lot of time with the management teams for each of these companies, I would agree that the culture fit is a really good one. And for Liquid Web, a companying continuing to make its big push into the WordPress market, it is a solid strategic acquisition move that offers both product dividends, but more importantly adds a great and experienced WordPress team to their company.
In this episode, Brian and Brian discuss market segmentation across the WordPress ecosystem. The focus for this discussion focused entirely on the entry-level segment of site assemblers and their small-business clients as well as the mid-level market of contractors and agencies selling additional levels of service. The duo talked through a few different strategies employed in each segment, including service differentiation, regional focus, building a network of complementary contractors, systemizing processes, delivering quality customer support flow, and selling ongoing service.
In addition to this look at market segmentation, the Brians shared a few useful resources for both Gutenberg and WP-CLI.
This episode is sponsored by iThemes. The team at iThemes offers WordPress plugins, themes and training to help take the guesswork out of building, maintaining and securing WordPress websites. For more information, check out their website and thank you to iThemes for being a Post Status partner.
In this episode, Brian and Brian discuss self-hosted vs managed ecommerce and whether or not conferences have outlived their usefulness.Â Specifically, they look at WooCommerce vs other solutions and explore Shopify and Liquid Webâ€™s Managed WooCommerce hosting as viable done-for-you strategies. On the conference front, they talk about the good and the bad of conferences and ponder how tech conferences of the future may need to change to attract more attendees.
This episode is sponsored by Pippinâ€™s Plugins.Â Pippinâ€™s PluginsÂ creates a suite of plugins that work great alone, or together. Whether you need to restrict content, sell downloads, or start an affiliate program, theyâ€™ve got you covered. For more information, check out theirÂ websiteÂ and thank you to Pippinâ€™s Plugins for being a Post Status partner.
Brian Richards, the creator of WPSessions.com, has been developing with WordPress since 2007 and training and leading development teams since 2011. In addition to investing his time into training, Brian has had the opportunity to work with many amazing WordPress agencies and experts over these last several years. This has allowed him to help develop sites for Microsoft, Disney, TIME, YMCA, and numerous others.
Brian has an affinity for self-directed learning and helping others to develop skills and workflows to better solve important and complicated problems. He canâ€™t resist helping good people do great things!
This episode is sponsored by Valet. Valet helps keep your clients happy & coming back. They offer expert services and keep the websites they manage functioning flawlessly. They offer preventative care that provides peace of mind around the clock. For more information, check out their website and thank you to Valet for being a Post Status partner.
Matt Mullenweg has just finished the 2017 State of the Word address, where he offers the lay of the land for all things WordPress.
WordCamp in Nashville
This is the first WordCamp US in Nashville. The first two WordCamp US events were held in Philadelphia, following a long run of the primary event of the year being WordCamp San Francisco.
Amanda Giles recited her poem, â€śCode is Poetryâ€ť to kick off the event. She then introduced Matt, who started off his talk by thanking the top sponsors for WordCamp US: SiteLock, WooCommerce, Bluehost, and Jetpack. I second Matt in thanking these sponsors as well as the other 36 sponsors who help make this event happen while keeping ticket prices so low â€” only $40.
WordCamps and Meetups
WordCamp US makes for the 128th WordCamp of the year, and 40,000 tickets were sold across them. There were more than 1,008 organizers, 2,310 speakers, 1,091 unique sponsors.
Since adding the meetups to the WordPress News widget, meetup attendance is up more than 30%. I can confirm that I met people at my own home WordCamp who discovered it was happening this way.
Last year three charities were chosen to donate to, and eachHack the Hood, the Internet Archive, and Black Girls Code received $15,000 â€” more than the original goal.
WordPress Foundation donations open
With the first step Iâ€™ve seen of Matt opening up the WordPress foundation in any way, heâ€™s enabled direct donations to the foundation. I look forward to seeing how else this may evolve.
52 bugs were resolved through Hackerone, with 39 reward to 46 hackers that were thanked.
The top reporter submitted 9 reports. Itâ€™s been an effective way thus far to resolve WordPress security issues.
Updates to WordPress.org
One of the big updates in the last year has been to update non-English versions of WordPress.org, that includes new landing pages in 26 languages.
Language packs are now supported by 1,166 themes and 2,023 plugins, making WordPress even better for people, no matter what language they prefer it in. The top 10 WordPress plugins have between 19 and 56 translations.
Matt spent some time talking about the Tide project, which originated from XWP, but was adopted by the WordPress project. Tide runs automated tests against every plugin and theme in the WordPress directory.
WordPress Growth Council
Matt updated on the WordPress Growth Council, which he admitted has been slow, but says that the fist meeting will be next week.
The goal of the council is to bring together WordPress advocates together from all over, including commercial companies, to share ideas and find new ways to market and grow WordPress.
There will be two councils â€” an enterprise council, and a consumer council â€” in order to effectively serve two primary WordPress audiences.
The was a great deal of work in 2017 has been on Gutenberg, but there have been efforts amongst all three core focus areas.
The Customizer has had a lot of work done in WordPress 4.8 and 4.9 led by Weston Ruter, Mel Choyce, and Jeff Paul. Weston and Mel joined Matt on stage to talk about these releases.
The customizer and Gutenberg have several complimentary goals that will align in 2018.
The WordPress REST API
Ryan McCue gave a State of the REST API in blog format thatâ€™s worth reading, where he highlights the highs and lows of the REST API since its December 2016 release, including some challenges he believes it faces going forward.
Matt acknowledged that there is a great deal of room to improve with the REST API.
The editor, Gutenberg
Gutenberg has been a huge focus of WordPress development in 2017. Gutenberg has had 4,302 commits from 100+ contributors. There have been weekly releases and 18 major iterations. You can actually use Gutenberg yourself and use it now.
Matias Ventura came to the stage to talk about Gutenberg, including a live demo. Matias walked through how blocks work and the progress that has happened since it started. I was really impressed with the accessibility efforts that have gone into the project.
Matt also noted that thereâ€™s a classic editor plugin now in the directory, just in case some users arenâ€™t ready for Gutenberg.
Other core updates
There were a few updates about other core projects and endeavors.
WP-CLI an official WordPress project
There have been four major releases with 124 contributors to WP-CLI this year. Lead by Daniel Bachhuber, it is a really amazing way to interact with WordPress.
It became an official WordPress project this year and has a bright future.
No default theme for 2018
For the first time since it started with TwentyTen, there wonâ€™t be a new default theme for 2018. This will allow more effort to be put into the block concepts with Gutenberg.
WordPress has grown another 2%+ this year, now 29.1% of the web, and Matt wants to continue to see growth. He says heâ€™s keeping his â€ślead hatâ€ť on for another year, to see the Gutenberg project all the way through.
Three focuses for 2018
Matt said heâ€™s excited to announce three big focuses for the next year around Gutenberg and core development.
WordPress 4.9, â€śTiptonâ€ť, has been released, named after jazz musician Billy Tipton. Approximately 443 contributors took part in the development of WordPress 4.9; congratulations to 185 of these contributors for their first ever contribution. 188 new enhancements or features were added in WordPress 4.9. The release cycle was co-lead by Mel Choyce and Weston Ruter. Check out Melâ€™s post about 4.9 as well.
There are several significant features in WordPress 4.9, primarily around improvements to the customizer experience and editing code. In addition to the rundown of items here, listen to the podcast that I published with WordPress project lead and co-founder Matt Mullenweg.
The Gutenberg editor project has been running simultaneously to the WordPress 4.9 process (and the 4.8 one before that), and is one of the things Matt and I talked about yesterday â€” in regard to how the projects running simultaneously have gone.
The team has done a great job doing feature descriptions for WordPress 4.9, thankfully, so there isnâ€™t a ton you need to hear from me there. But I would like to highlight a couple of my favorite things.
Customizer improvements for site editing
By far, the most useful component of WordPress 4.9 for me is the customizer improvements for drafting and scheduling changes.
Most of the features are things weâ€™ve grown to enjoy in posts themselves: drafting, scheduling, locking (when someone else is actively editing), preview links (not actually in core for posts, maybe this is a step!). These features make collaborative and iterative site editing a much nicer experience.
I just spent time with a friend who was asking me how to make changes to their site but only in preview mode, and I really believe this will be an impactful feature for every day WordPress users.
Gallery widget and text widget enhancements
Widgets are one of the first things a new site owner interacts with. The gallery widget makes for an easy to use enhancement to a site, for a common request. It operates much like galleries in regular WordPress, but for sidebars.
The text widget enhancements allow for a richer text widget experience using the media button, a huge improvement over what has existed for a long time. WordPress 4.8 brought an image widget, but the media button in the text widget gives someone more control over what goes around media, so a full call to action can be created in the text widget. I like this practical step.
Code editing is one of those things Iâ€™d rather not exist in WordPress. I would call it a last resort option for site customization. However, weâ€™ve always had it in WordPress, and itâ€™s always been a danger. Itâ€™s made it easy for a user to white screen their site, or enable hackers with the wrong level of access to sneak in malicious code.
However, now at least the file editor prevents users from doing the worst and bricking their sites. A syntax checking library called CodeMirror, has been added to the file editor so that more sites are protected. While I still wouldnâ€™t recommend most people go this route, itâ€™s the right thing to do if the feature is to be kept.
A solid stepping stone to Gutenberg
WordPress 4.9 is the second core release this year, since moving to a feature release cycle after WordPress US last December. I talked more about how thatâ€™s gone in my interview with Matt, as well as progress on the Gutenberg initiative.
Some of the features in 4.9 will aid in the shift to a block-driven mindset for WordPress content creation. Others were simply ready to go. I think this is a positive release and Iâ€™m impressed by the team that has put WordPress 4.9 together.
For links to all changes, I highly suggest you check out the field guide, which highlights each 4.9 project, and links to in-depth overviews of those features, including references to specific tickets involved. You can also check out all posts tagged for WordPress 4.9 on the Make Core blog.
Congratulations to everyone involved, and happy publishing.
In this episode, I am joined by Matt Mullenweg, the CEO of Automattic and the co-founder of WordPress. In this episode, we discuss a range of issues facing WordPress today, as well as the various arms of Automatticâ€™s business:
WordPress 4.9 features around customization.
Progress on the Gutenberg Editor
Feature projects and a year of day-to-day project lead
The React decision for WordPress, and what came of it
WooCommerce, Jetpack and issues they are facing
Site building versus blogging on WordPress.com, and their ad campaigns
WordPress community, the WordPress website
This was a fun episode, and itâ€™s always a privilege to be able to talk to the leader of the WordPress project. I hope you enjoy it.
Often this change has been discussed in terms of hosts and agencies, but letâ€™s talk about products.
I just read an article on Indie Hackers about MH Themes, a premium theme shop that started in 2013. They describe a hard-fought journey to a solid $30K in monthly revenue, but they have noticed big changes in the market since they started.
The author, Michael Hebenstreit, puts it this way:
Back in 2013 it was much easier to launch a WordPress theme and make it somewhat popular. Today the market for WordPress themes has become heavily crowded and oversaturated. Itâ€™s near to impossible to make a theme highly successful without investing lots of time and money in marketing and building a community behind your product.
It comes as no surprise that the theme business is saturated; it has been for years. I would now say the plugin business is saturated as well.
From 2008 to 2010 you could have released just about any decent plugin or theme, and it would have done fairly well, simply because there was very little competition. The WordPress market was in an early and extreme growth phase. People were realizing there was money to be made.
Many different product categories were ripe for innovation, with no dominant players at all. For example, the eCommerce landscape was wide open before WooCommerce became popular in 2011. Now there is no one even remotely close to them, and competing with WooCommerce doesnâ€™t seem like a good idea.
Today what we see in most product categories is at least one dominant player, and many other new entrants at their heels. Backups, security, SEO, themes, page builders, forms, caching, lead generation, and other categories all have stiff competition.
Previously the competition was a developer trying to figure out how to grow a company. Now itâ€™s a 30+ person organization with millions of dollars in revenue. iThemes, Yoast, Gravity Forms, Awesome Motive, and WooCommerce are just a few. These companies have a loyal following that makes it harder for smaller shops to take a piece of the pie.
Popular plugins now have millions of downloads, lots of articles written about them, and avid fans. They are becoming harder and harder to dethrone, or even to challenge for a slice of market share.
Your product is a commodity
As Alex Turnbull says in this recent article, â€śif your product isnâ€™t already a commodity, it will become one in the next few years.â€ť
Itâ€™s becoming easier and easier to create and sell a product online. Developers are ubiquitous, websites are cheap, and many people can build something on the side with a full time job.
That means when you release a product you not only have the established leaders to contend with, but lots smaller players with great products just getting started. Even if your product is great, there are 10 other great products in the same category.
That doesnâ€™t mean a great product isnâ€™t important â€” it certainly is. It does mean that itâ€™s not enough.
If your product isnâ€™t enough to stand out in a crowded marketplace, what does it take?
How to bring a new product to market now
The old way of starting a new product might have been to go where there was less competition and create a better product. If there are still places of â€śless competitionâ€ť they are much harder to see.
You can go after a niche, but WordPress is already a niche. A niche within a niche is a very small market.
Itâ€™s not impossible to slay the giant Goliath product companies. As Jason Cohen points out, they have an Achilles heel: â€śThe profitable revenue stream is a prison.â€ť They are slower to adapt to changes in the marketplace because they can still make money doing what they have always done.
If you are thinking about bringing a new product to market, here are a few observations that may help you.
1) Itâ€™s going to be a lot harder than it used to be, and itâ€™s going to take longer.
Can you go for a year (or two) without making any money and still be cranking out code and marketing yourself? That may be what it takes.
Putting up a website and starting a content strategy takes six months to see any solid organic traffic. Publishing your plugin to official WordPress directory does not result in automatic downloads. The newer search algorithms favor the entrenched plugins that have more downloads and reviews.
Itâ€™s an uphill battle, and it takes time.
2) You must have a strategic advantage, or a unique difference to win.
Ninja Forms went into a crowded space against one of the most popular plugins of all time, Gravity Forms. They gained an advantage by offering a free version and distributing it on the directory, while Gravity Forms was entirely commercial. Why did they do so much better than other free form plugins? I donâ€™t know, but they certainly executed well, and they have created a great brand.
Can you find a competitive advantage and exploit it?
One weakness I see in many WordPress companies is marketing. Many of the early successes in WordPress were coders who made a cool plugin. Most of them are not marketers, and they have enough business without needing to learn marketing. This leaves the door open for companies with great marketing.
Can you dominate an under-marketed product category?
You are going to have to do something different and better than what has come before. Copying a business model that worked in 2012 is not a good strategy.
3) Branding is more important than ever.
Your brand is what will help you gain market share against your competitors.
A brand is not your logo, and itâ€™s not what you say about your company. Itâ€™s what they say. They, as in, your customers.
Providing great customer service, getting to know people at events, being helpful on social media, providing refunds without asking questions â€”Â these are all parts of your brand. Being known for doing good work is another, so that when you release a new product, people just buy it.
I think of the brand Pippin Williamson has built for himself, since he is known for putting out high quality products. I will buy a plugin he makes over a more established competitor because of his reputation for quality. iThemes is another great example of a company that cares about their customers. They have built a brand on integrity.
Building a brand takes time, but it is more important than ever.
The WordPress market is no longer high growth and low competition.
The companies involved in products are maturing into well staffed, well funded operations. Their fans are loyal, and their products are entrenched. This makes it harder for new entrants into the market to compete.
New products must have a well thought out strategy to gain traction in this competitive marketplace. Without unique positioning and hard fought execution, they will not survive.
Itâ€™s not all bad news, because this is how most marketplaces look already. Itâ€™s a sign that those of us who make products need to get more creative about how we approach product development and marketing.
As the more successful companies get larger, they will also become more resistant to change. When this happens, newer product offerings will be able to steal market share with fast paced innovation and development.