Easy Marketing for Your First Commercial WordPress Plugin

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If you are a developer who solely manages a product development and supports it, there is going to be a moment when you need to put some efforts in making your product/service popular. Sophisticated marketing strategies can take time, money and probably even involvement of a marketer. But still a lot of developers manage to achieve great results even without all those resources receiving publicity in a natural way.
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If you are a developer who solely manages a product development and supports it, there is going to be a moment when you need to put some efforts in making your product/service popular. Sophisticated marketing strategies can take time, money and probably even involvement of a marketer. But still a lot of developers manage to achieve great results even without all those resources receiving publicity in a natural way.

As once successful guys in their popular “Rework” book once said “you need less than you think” and “marketing is not a department” implying that every person involved in a product development is initially a marketer with huge possibilities.

But before we talk about them, let’s cover some preparation points.

General tendencies in WordPress pricing models

Your pricing model is the first marketing step vital from the business perspective.

Entering the commercial WordPress market you should be sure that your prospects will not read your inflated pricing with the eyes wide open. Otherwise, you risk to lose from the beginning. The price should be set with a special attention to opponents and average market digits. Be mindful, that it. Even If you offer something unique, don’t overestimate it. In any case, stay fair.

But that doesn’t mean you should undervalue your product and efforts already put into development. Still a lot of WordPress plugins and theme providers go for “penetration pricing” of starting with a lower price to attract more customers and slow raising it in the long run. Just be ready for experiments with either raising or lowering the price when needed. Perform some A/B testing to inspect which price provides better conversions. So, try to be flexible.

Actually, about pricing models.
wordpress marketing

The most widespread ones used when releasing commercial WordPress plugins are “freemium” solutions. Basically, you provide a free product limited in functionality and its paid version with an all-inclusive package (or a couple of differently priced packages depending on a target audience – personal, business, developer needs, etc.).

In the “lesson learned from releasing my first commercial plugin” article, Pete Molinero tells about the process he started to commercialize his WP Social Media slider plugin. In his marketing-to-pricing strategy insight the key idea is that “it makes a big difference to have a free version of the plugin in the official WordPress plugin directory” emphasizing that having your plugin in WordPress.org repository can be the easiest and the most effective marketing for the first release as it’s a huge source of traffic. As a result, more popularity and more networking possibilities.

If you manage to get your work to the WordPress.org directory, there are a couple of alternatives to benefit from it:

  1. To allow free downloads from your website with a direct link to org. directory. For the first plugin it’s better to gain an impressive number of downloads on org. increasing downloads and popularity of the plugin.
  2. To allow free download on WordPress.org only while presenting only premium plans on your official website. In theory, it can increase your odds of getting more paid customers, but it works better for already established companies, so it would be wise to omit this strategy on the early stages.

Approximately 5 years ago it was normal in WordPress space  to create only free products and provide support on a paid basis. Now it’s quite opposite. Customers want to get all in one – an ultimate product or service with the support included. Now, if people pay money for a theme or plugin, they usually take support for granted.

These WordPress market trends force more and more providers to stick to other pricing models. For example, ThemeHybrid WordPress provider after being for eight years on the market and creating free products with paid support decided to create a fully commercial plugin ThemeDesigner. The owner Justin Tadlock explained his decision in one of the interviews at the beginning of 2016: “From my observations, the larger WP ecosystem has changed over the years.

When I first began Theme Hybrid, people were more willing to pay for support and less willing to pay for an entire theme/plugin.” But avoiding free products and charging for support model is not a recommendation for everyone. If you are sure that support for your particular product is your best card, test it.

Free plugin and paid addons monetization model is also very popular in WordPress space. A lot of popular companies already exist successfully using this model. It’s beneficial for both sides: users pay for only what they need (particular extension), developes gain profit anyway. Moreover, extendible free WordPress product can create a community of developers around it helping your business.

If you build a strong free core with paid extensions, people will more likely trust you and use your product. Some examples of the renowned companies that use this model: WooCoomerce is a free toolkit, but it also has commercial addons available, free Ninja forms plugin with a library of commercial addons, etc. The issues that can rise around this model is an increased number of support requests and of course the time you need to balance on developing new addons and improving the existing ones/the product itself, licensing issues, etc.

At last, about easy marketing 🙂

So, how can you do that without pesky marketing ploys?

Create an awesome demo

So, you developed a great plugin, wrote a killer description, told some WordPress buddies about it on Facebook. But did you show any example in action on your site? Or probably did it but quite hastily? The visual presentation of your product should be awesome, with all possible features, in the best colors and variations. It’s especially important for the frontend-oriented plugins with complex functionality.

WordPress demo and free trial

No, free trials are possible not only within big membership WordPress communities like WPMUDEV. Giving your prospects opportunity to test the product functionality before purchase is a WordPress marketing trend and simply a wise decision to build highly trustful relationship with your future customers.

No matter how many efforts you put into promoting your product on various forums and social networks, if the users see they are offered a pig in a poke, they will less likely download the product and purchase even more so (if you offer only a paid solution). Especially if you don’t offer a money-back guarantee, a free backed test-drive on your server will make your users feel safer about the product.

This ‘higher touch sales process’ is the only direction for building transparent and trustful community the entire WordPress space strives to. A couple of questions on the subject on Quora shows that there is a demand for tools to build demo and free trials to showcase and provide a backend access for the users:

wordpress pricing model


Sadly, the answers leave a lot to be desired. There is the WP Demo plugin that solves his problem but it seems it had stopped being supported before this question on Quora was asked. The fresh and more advanced alternative on the market is the Demo Builder for any WordPress product plugin – it helps create a visual demo presentation in the way you want to show the best benefits of your works and also allows to supply each interested user with a personal temporary trial account to give a test-drive to the backend functionality.

It’s a pretty flexible tool as you can define user roles and limit access to the needed posts and pages on the backend. It works on WordPress multisite. Moreover, you can use it for building a frontend presentation for complex plugins or themes.

Take a look at your front page

You probably think it’s not that important. But we are not talking about colors, animation or whatever (though they also should be presented wisely). It’s more about content and some A/B testing again.

If you plan to have different pricing alternatives, here is an example for inspiration: guys from CodeInWP perform so-called “transparency reports” showing real changes in their conversion rates during these testings. In one of the the results showed that discounting the price and adding the red border (can be replaced with any “best choice” label) to one of the plans gave 400 percent more sales for the package. That’s more than impressive:

pricing strategy wordpress

Another thing that is important is customer’s review. If you are already in luck to get any published reviews on WordPress.org (positive, of course), put them right on the front page (try to keep the original design and style of reviews left on wp.org). What also can be beneficial, is a quick extract of FAQ, namely, any useful information for your potential customers.

By the way, are you sure you have a memorable and creative logo? Most of people have associationist thinking. That’s why you probably remember the logo of WPMayor better than the one of your shampoo.

Write a story and show some backstage

Of course, your content on guest resources is the strongest marketing weapon. You’ll need to write to receive publicity. But not just a post, or information, or ads. Tell a personal story of honest successes and failures, plans and dreams in developing your plugin. It’s the main key of viral marketing – people love stories, not a list of advantages.

That’s why a developer can tell a better story of their craft than a hired marketer. Showing backstage on the own website and in guest posts fills your product with authentic self and makes it more memorable and understandable. Be yourself (“no matter what they say”).

Not crowd marketing

Yes, you need to leave some comments on target resources and tell about your plugin, but this should not be the crowd marketing as we know it, namely, it should not be simulation of positive reviews from different accounts. Just a story, a kind request to give a try to the cool product you put so many passion into, etc.

Well, probably that was not that easy as pressing the button for the magic to happen. But even magic lessons take time! By the way, do you have any tip to share?

Ann Taylor

Ann Taylor is an overall WordPress, open source and dark folk music fan. Tweet her @mainoxa to discuss all things WordPress.

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3 Responses

    1. Hi Arman, I’m happy you liked the post. Do you mean how many days you can set within demo builder plugin, so your users can test your plugin/theme on the backend? If so, it’s up to you, you can give them as many days as you want.

  1. Hey Bestify! Thanks for your feedback 🙂
    Everything depends on what kind of plugins you use (20 plugins is relatively not a lot.) Too many plugins are definitely not recommended as they can have a bad effect on website speed, which is a significant aspect for search engines.

    To solve the problem, you can get a good caching plugin like W3 Total Cache and uninstall plugins you don’t actually use.

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