I see a lot of WordPress products and product websites as a consultant. I also get “pitched” a pretty decent amount, requesting me to check out someone’s new product to blog about here. Because of this experience seeing and judging products over the last few years, I have some things I’d like to recommend for product makers to potentially implement, or at least consider, to help market your products more effectively.
Most of my advice is geared toward theme and plugin shops, but some are also for support models, SaaS models, or whatever else someone could be pitching around WordPress.
Tell me quickly what your product is and does
You’d be shocked how often I see a website for a WordPress product that just confuses me from the get go. I don’t care that you just released version 0.6.5.1.
I want to know what your product does. Tell me, right away.
My attention span is very short, and I owe you nothing. Tell me what your product is, and tell me what it does. Tell me how it’s going to make my life easier.
Brand your product’s website
Personal blogs are almost never the best way to distribute a product. Many buyers will just feel more secure if they are downloading or buying something from something more “legit”. And that means you should probably distribute your product from some form of product or company based website.
If you intend to sell more than one product, I think it’s fine to distribute everything from a company site, and not have individual sites for each product. But that’s really a brand decision, and you have to choose how you want your entity to be perceived.
For instance, one downfall of separated sites is if one product takes off, it’ll be harder to get people to check out your other product. But on the other hand, if all of your products are demanding attention from the homepage, it could be tough for your true best products to stand out. I think iThemes strikes this balance well.
Logos and characters and color schemes are a good way to help me remember your product. But more important than anything else is to make your product name clear, easy to remember, but unique. Combinations of two words with missing vowels doesn’t help. I recommend you check out Lean Domain Search to choose a name. I bet you’ll be surprised how catchy of names you can find and have available domains.
Domai.nr is also awesome, but be careful you don’t get too clever for your own good. Even a simple domain name hack like Post Status’ poststat.us domain catches people up all the time. So consider yourself warned.
Have (and use) social media profiles
Social media profiles are another way to validate you and your business or company. But don’t be afraid for the social media profile of choice to be an individual or company that’s not the product. For example, most folks, and definitely Gravity Forms customers, know Rocket Genius sells Gravity Forms. Gravity Forms doesn’t need its own social profile.
And don’t just broadcast with your profiles. Invest in them. I probably make a good chunk of my buying decisions due in part to conversations I have and see on Twitter. Have a search for your product and company names saved, and respond to mentions in a non-creepy fashion when you can. Engage praise, and be sympathetic and apologetic to critique.
Your website should not be broken on small devices
You’re a web professional by default; act like one.
If your website is supposed to be responsive, how about you make it actually work on a phone? I’m going to avoid calling people out, but let it be known there are plenty of people who just have awful websites on mobile.
Don’t tell me you’ll do it later. This is a clear sign that you don’t pay attention to details to me. Plus, people will initially go to your website on a phone often times, especially if they find it because of Twitter or Facebook.
Have an easy to find about page
I want to know who is behind a product. I am significantly less inclined to link to or post about a product if I don’t know who’s behind it. I wrote about this in more detail recently.
Make pricing obvious and clear
Don’t be coy about pricing. Make a clear method for viewing it, and once on the pricing page, clearly lay out the options. I actually find most pricing tables to be pretty good, but be mindful of how they work on mobile, so it’s still easy to compare one plan to another.
Also, consider how your product is likely to be consumed. For utility plans I may want to use it on every site, ever; and it would make sense to offer some form of subscription option. For more one-off plugins, perhaps a per-site fee is better. Or you could do blends.
There are all sorts of pricing strategies, and people more qualified than me to say what works. I just want you to choose plans that make sense for your product; and what makes sense for others doesn’t necessarily make sense for you. And whatever you do choose, make that easy for me to find, and make sure I understand fully really quickly.
Show me real testimonials
If you have a new product, this could be tough, but it’s still possible. Have real testimonials from people that have used or tested your product. Try to have a mix of regular users and other developers or community people. If someone a buyer recognizes or follows recommends your product, that could be great; but you don’t want a testimonial page to look like it’s full of just your friends.
Call me to action
What do you want me to do? Try your product? Buy it outright? Have a call to action, make it clear, and don’t be afraid to ask me exactly what you want me to do.
I need to know what makes your product different from “the other guy”, but I prefer it is done without actually mentioning the other guy. You can do this a variety of ways.
Create assets ready for “press” and make them visible
When I write a post about a product, I always look for a logo, a character, or something I can use for a pleasant post image. If you don’t have one available, it just makes it harder for me (or others like me) to write about your product. And it increases the chances that I just won’t.
Videos are awesome, even if they aren’t shiny
Demos are all you really need. I love fancy, well produced videos. But if you don’t have that budget, a walk through of your product (by you, the owner) is still really great.
Full theme thumbnails, and plugin demos
The ability to login and view plugin functionality in a WordPress admin is pretty cool. And if you sell themes or something else where the front end view is really important, show me a significant portion of the front end view in the thumbnail, not just a tease that I then have to click on. ThemeForest’s hover functionality is actually a pretty good method, in my opinion.
Pictures of the admin are also awesome
I want to see what it’s like to administer your product. This is one (but definitely not the only) thing that Pippin Williamson absolutely rocks at.
Consider using https for logged in areas and checkouts, even if you don’t handle particularly sensitive information. It makes the process feel more secure and legitimate.
Accept credit cards
Just use Stripe unless you sell so much there is something out there that’s significantly cheaper. But consider still offering a Paypal option. I find I sometimes will use Paypal if I have money in my account, because it feels less impactful on my finances that way. I’m an easy to confuse child when I buy things.
Offer sales periodically
They work. On me at least. But don’t over do it, or I’ll be waiting until you have your next sale before I buy.
Respond to inquiries, and say thank you
This is a bit of a longer game tip.
When someone writes a blog post about you or your product, tell them thanks. Share the post with your followers. If you are asked a question, respond quickly and thoroughly.
If it’s someone writing about your product, offer a demo or to be available on Skype for a quote or just some additional insight to make the post more interesting.
If something written about you has critiques, respond to those critiques. If the critiques weren’t delivered very nicely, or were delivered in error, be the bigger person and be absolutely professional in your response.
But most of all, be engaged with your community; and community is larger than your active customers!
Don’t spam me
Be respectful of my inbox. Yes, email is valuable, but if you aren’t careful about what you send me, I’m just going to ignore it all. Because I bought a theme from you two years ago doesn’t mean I want to get your newsletter every week. Perhaps offer various options, but I’d veer toward just sticking to emailing past purchasers new product offerings and other important emails, and don’t do the standard newsletters because they purchased something.
Prove your commitment
It’s always concerning if I can’t tell how active a product is. When was the last time it was updated? When was the last blog post? How many active members are there? How many forum posts are there? How many support tickets have been resolved, and in how long?
You can utilize a variety of methods to prove commitment to your product. Some of the above, or many others, can help with that.
Go after influencers, but don’t depend on them
Influential people and blogs talking about your product is neat, but it probably won’t matter all that much in the long run. There are loads of people that get “Techcrunched” and then get no sales from it. Our little bubble is probably similar.
Remember that a lot of people that see your product on a blog like this probably don’t need your product right now. They’ll probably bookmark it or just ask someone later, “Hey, what was that thing a while back that did that thing?”
But more than those people will be your long tail leads through search, or from your free plugin or theme site looking for more, or a variety of other methods.
I’m going to look many times before I buy
Be patient, and don’t assume someone will act as soon as they learn about your product. Even for the most trivial of purchases, I will sometimes look at an item a half dozen times, or for 6 months, before I act. Just because they’re not buying yet doesn’t mean they won’t buy. Don’t expect immediate success.
Play the long game
Consistency is going to be key for your product. You probably won’t just explode out of the gate and sell everyone everything. You might have to fight for your sales and test different strategies over a long period. But don’t be discouraged; there is a huge market and you can have a big part of it.
Believe in your product, build on it mercilessly, and never stop being hungry to make your product and your customers’ experiences better.
I think that’s enough for now. I could probably go on, but this is a good start.
If other readers have more recommendations in the comments, I’d love to see. I’m sure I’ve forgotten some of my favorites.