Over the last couple of months I’ve transitioned away from consulting to running a WordPress plugin business.
What has been fundamental to this success was getting traction with my free plugin, Easy Pricing Tables. As of time of writing Easy Pricing Tables has gotten 33,000 free downloads in its 7 months since launch.
In this post I’ll boil down why Easy Pricing Tables has been successful – I came up with four plugin success principles:
1. Build something people want
It is infinitely easier to fulfill existing demand or solve an existing pain point than to create demand for something new.
Rob Walling calls these “Aspirin businesses” – your customer has a clear pain that they’re proactively looking to solve, for example: “I need a pricing table for my WordPress site”.
You’ll then put your product in front of people that are actively trying to solve this pain point. Search engines are a common channel. The following search engines drive most of my plugin downloads:
- WordPress.org plugin search
Other possible search engines for other types of businesses could be:
- Code Canyon
- Shopify App Store
- iTunes Store
How to verify demand?
Before building Easy Pricing Tables I’ve verified that a good number of people want to use WordPress pricing table plugins.
Karl Kangur, founder of Business Media and well-known SaaS marketer says: “The majority of highly successful software ventures got their initial traction by ranking for some long-tail keywords. The best example I’ve seen was where someone built a $30,000/mo SaaS app by simply ranking for one term with only a 150 monthly searches – Google docs to WordPress.
2. Scratch your own itch
The reason I built Easy Pricing Tables is that I wasn’t satisfied with the existing pricing table plugins on the market.
Scratching my own itch made it easy to make product decisions. For example, being a user of my own product helped me decide what kind of customization options (color pickers, etc…) I should include.
It also kept me motivated to push through in times of uncertainty because I really cared about solving this problem. (Pippin Williamson wrote a whole post on this topic here.)
However, keep in mind that no plan survives first contact with customers, so it’s still very important to listen to customers(I’ve got a lot of feedback once I launched my MVP).
3. Focus on Useability + Design
“Design is a defensible competitive advantage.” – @jonmyers
As its name implies, Easy Pricing Tables is fairly easy to use. Useability and good design can be a competitive advantage in an environment such as the WordPress plugin directory where some other products have horrendous user interfaces.
While my plugin’s user interface still has lots of room for improvement, I firmly believe that ease of use was one of the biggest things that made my plugin successful.
Also, pricing tables are very visual, so having a clean & modern design made my plugin stand out – some of my competitors pricing tables look like they were designed back in 2004.
4. Generate Revenue
I love the free software movement and I’m incredibly thankfully to anyone contributing, but at the end of the day I had to figure out a way to generate revenue from this plugin as I ended up spending lots of time on it. This turned out to be pretty easy – I’ve simply built “Easy Pricing Tables Premium” including four additional table designs and a bunch of features that free users requested. Sales started rolling in right after I’ve included a small ad in Easy Pricing Tables Free.
While lots of users are happy with the free plugin, a small amount of power users keeps upgrading to my premium plugin which in turn allows me to keep working on my plugin – a clear win-win for everyone.
There was a lot more involved in building a great plugin, but at its core these were the four main factors in my success. A lot of these principles apply to many types of businesses, not just WP plugins.
If you’re interested in building WordPress plugins, check out the following resources:
- How To Make $10,000 A Month With A WordPress Business – Foolish Adventure Podcast
- Tons of great stuff on philderksen.com
- Phil also has a great resource page of podcast interviews about selling premium WP plugins
- I did a podcast interview on the Quantified Web podcast where I talked more about Easy Pricing Tables and its success
What about you?
What about you – what were important success factors in your business? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below, no matter if you make WordPress plugins or run any other kind of business.