There are many benefits to selling your own WordPress plugin. However you may not be aware of the lows you might face doing this and how you should deal with these situations.
Let’s pretend you own and run a boutique clothing shop in a small country town. You have a deep personal attachment to the business that you started from scratch and you take pride in what you have achieved. Then one day you notice sales are down which you attribute to people going away on holidays. You’re not worried because you know that the holidays will end soon and therefore sales should pick up again. A few days later you hear a new boutique clothing shop has just opened up around the corner. You can’t help yourself but to go and check it out. You believe their window display is way better than yours, their price range is a lot cheaper and it even looks like some of your ideas have been stolen.
This story can apply to any business including an eCommerce website selling a WordPress plugin.
You will always have competition
It’s never been easier for customers to shop around online and find your competitors. It can be disappointing whenever a new competitor shows up and threatens to take away some of your market share. You might be a small plugin developer and then all of a sudden a large WordPress plugin business decides to enter the same market. You should however look at this as an affirmation of the opportunity in your market.
Performing market research and analyzing what your competitors are doing is an important part in running a successful business. When doing this, don’t be surprised if some of your original ideas have been copied by your competitors. You might also feel that their product is superior. Take solace in the fact that everybody is different and has their own opinions on what features and options they like or dislike. And if some of your ideas have been copied, you should view this as a compliment that someone else sees your WordPress plugin as a leader in your market.
GPL compatible licensing
A WordPress plugin must be released under a GPL compatible license which means you cannot stop people from modifying it, reselling it or giving it away for free. So in theory, anyone can take your WordPress plugin and sell it as their own and there’s nothing you can do. A real example of this was when WooThemes decided to fork the Jigoshop WordPress plugin codebase and brand it as their own eCommerce plugin called WooCommerce. However don’t be concerend, there are plenty of WordPress plugin businesses thriving out there.
Then of course there’s the problem of WordPress plugin piracy. I know some people are searching for a nulled (pirated) version of Multi Rating Pro because I can see it showing up as a frequent search term in my Google Analytics reports. You can assume you will lose some money due to piracy. Pirated WordPress plugins are commonly infected with malicious code which can also inadvertently impact your brand.
I agree with Pippin Williamson who believes the time, money and effort spent fighting piracy is better spent invested directly back into your customers.
Making costly mistakes
If you are selling a WordPress plugin it must be treated as a business rather than a side project, otherwise you are disrespecting your customers. This also means you have a duty of care to your customers.
It’s important to thoroughly test your plugin before releasing updates. Unfortunately, we are all humans and we make mistakes. There is no worse feeling being than realizing you have introduced a really severe defect which has a high impact to your customers. If this happens, it will put fear into every plugin update you will make from then on. As a consequence, you are likely to receive negative feedback from your customers for any inconvenience caused and rightly so. Nobody is immune from making mistakes. You should look at putting processes and strategies in place to help avoid making costly mistakes and try not to repeat the same mistakes.
There is a lot of opportunity for WordPress plugin developers to improve their marketing. This is typically done by experimenting to see what works and what does not. This downside of this approach is of course if an experiment does not work, you will lose money. But hey, you might be one step closer to finding out the next thing that does work. Admittedly, marketing is not a strong suit by people involved in the WordPress ecosystem.
It should not be a surprise to you that there will be some slow months in sales. The holiday season in the Northern Hemisphere for example ranges from June to the end of August. You can also expect less than usual sales leading up to Christmas and then into January. One way to deal with this is to ensure there is enough cushion in the bank to cover you during the slow periods. It should not be a surprise to you that a public holiday in a country where the majority of your customer base are will impact your sales. If you are not aware of these dates, then you might start to worry or be concerned about a sudden decline in sales. You might even question whether there’s an issue on your website such as an error on checkout. In general, the trends for plugin sales follow the USA seasons and business hours.
Unreasonable & difficult people
It can be extremely demoralizing receiving negative feedback from a customer. A bad review is always disappointing, fair or unfair, and especially if it is open to the public to see as this hurts your brand. It is also frustrating if the reviewer actually uses the review system to raise a support question.
The way you interact with your customers will greatly impact your reputation and brand. Your customers are always right. There is no gain in agitating or fighting unhappy customers. My advice is to always be genuine, diplomatic and treat your customers with respect.
The future of a WordPress plugin is uncertain and it’s normal to feel anxious and generally down about these things. So how should you deal with all of this? First of all, do not worry about the things that you cannot control. Concentrate more on what you are doing, and not on what your competitors are doing.
I agree with Chris Lema who says that most of the time, winning is a function of lasting. So when the going gets tough, stay in there and don’t quit. If you truly have an excellent WordPress plugin and back it up with great customer support, then everything should take care of itself.