Brian Jackson: From marketing Kinsta to building a plugin business

Today’s guest used to sit on the opposite sides of the WordPress hosting competition table from me.

At one point in his career, he was pumping out content on Kinsta’s blog like an absolute machine while I was raging against that machine, selling would-be customers on Pagely’s hosting stack.

So where is Brian Jackson, former marketer at Kinsta now?

He co-found Forgemedia with his brother Brett, and have released 3 unique plugins, two of which help WordPress site owners optimize their sites for ranking and social sharing. Oh, they tossed a coupon plugin in there too to help affiliates increase sales for good measure.

Once frienemy now Matt Report guest, I’m excited to share this conversation with you today.


Brian Jackson Forgemedia Matt Report

[00:00:00] This episode of the Matt report is brought to you by mal care. Learn more about Malik here at Dot com. You’ve heard me talk about mal care before, but they’re back with some interesting updates. Not only are they the WordPress plugin with instant WordPress malware removal. Well, let me read some of these features. 

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[00:01:49] today’s guest used to sit on the opposite sides of the WordPress hosting competition table. For me, at one point in his career, he was pumping out content on  blog, like an absolute machine. [00:02:00] Well, I was raging against that machine selling would be customers on Paisley’s hosting stack. So where is Brian Jackson?

[00:02:06] Former marketer at Kinston now. He co-founded forge media with his brother, Brett and have released three unique plugins, two of which help WordPress site owners optimize their sites for ranking and social sharing. Oh, they tossed that coupon plugin in there too.

[00:02:20] To help affiliates increase their sales for good measure. Once frenemy now, Matt report guests. I’m excited to share this conversation with you today. You’re listening to the Maryport podcast for the resilient digital business builder. Subscribe to the newsletter now. and follow us on apple podcast, Spotify, wherever you listen to your favorite podcast, better yet.

[00:02:40] Please share this episode on social media. More love we get more listeners. There are around here. Okay. Don’t forget to listen to the WP minute podcasts. It’s weekly. WordPress news. And under five minutes while I just said it every week, the WP It’s the WP Subscribe to the [00:03:00] newsletter there.

[00:03:00] Brian Jackson, here we go.

[00:03:02] Brian: [00:03:02] I am running just a small little agency with my brother. We’re both the co-founders of forge media is what it’s called.

[00:03:09] And we have a, kind of a marketing blog where we talk about WordPress related stuff in marketing and SEO. And then our main focus is actually our, we have three different WordPress plugins that we develop. One is a coupon plugin for like affiliate marketers, and other one is a social sharing plugin.

[00:03:27] That’s really kind of focused on the performance aspect of it. And then we have our perf matters plugin, which is basically trying to tweak, WordPress to get it to be as fast as he can kind of a compliment to. Some of the other performance plugins that are already out there. So like we see a lot of people are using ours along with another one.

[00:03:47] Matt: [00:03:47] \ I’m going to take this in the reverse order when we had our pre-interview something that just struck me. What is the attraction to. Social sharing plugins. I feel like it’s one of [00:04:00] those things, whereas , isn’t this solved already. Shouldn’t it be solved by WordPress at this point.

[00:04:06]Social media is obviously here to stay. We’re recording this in the year 2021. You’d think that those buttons, those things for sharing your articles and your posts out would have been solved already. What is the attraction to that? What’s so good about that. 

[00:04:22]Brian: [00:04:22] And actually. I would actually say since we’ve been in developing our programmatic plugin for a while, and now we’re developing our social sharing plugin, the social sharing plugin is actually more complex to develop than our performance.

[00:04:36] One sounds strange, but behind the scenes, there’s a lot more that goes on. Especially once you get into. Doing the social share counters and how to make that work for performance stuff. And then just Pinterest is just a nightmare to work with because you have your things, like you click a Pinterest image and it brings up all the images on the page.

[00:04:57] There you can select there’s different [00:05:00] things you have to go through. And WordPress is just never going to be up to par compared to The social sharing plugins. I think WordPress will get to the point where you’ll eventually have a nice block with, I want these three buttons. Here’s my block.

[00:05:11] I’ll drag it into the widget. We’re pretty much close to that. But as far as going beyond that, I don’t think we’re press ever wants to even tackle what we’re kind of doing with the social sharing plugins. And as a marketer, I’ve always liked sharing plugins because especially working at Ken’s still, like, we saw a lot of the data, like lots of people shared our content.

[00:05:30] And so I, I know they work. And then you have other people using tools like buffer, that maybe don’t click the buttons, but they do it a different way. So yeah. 

[00:05:38]Matt: [00:05:38] I’ll become, come clean on this conversation. Like I never use a social share button on a site, largely because I just use the native integration with my iPhone.

[00:05:49] Generally when I’m reading something or from on my laptop, I copy paste or hit the old buffer. Buffer icon in my in my brief extension. And I, I run it that [00:06:00] way, but all of that is to say that probably there’s some psychological sense in the mere fact of having an icon on a page to remind somebody like, oh yes, you should be sharing this.

[00:06:11] Don’t don’t forget it. So there’s probably a little bit of that baked 

[00:06:14] Brian: [00:06:14] in, even if you don’t use the button and what’s the social share counts too. I’ve actually, I wish social share counts never existed to begin with. I just. I w I hope they all die eventually in my opinion. But the reason they work is like you said, that there’s a psychological thing behind seeing like, oh, this post has 1200 shares.

[00:06:31] Like maybe I should actually read through this or something. See what’s what is in here. So yeah, a lot of it is psychological, I think, with the social sharing for sure. 

[00:06:38] Matt: [00:06:38] Product owners slash make, or I presume that. You’re the sort of like the, the architect, you sort of do the blueprint, but then your brother goes in and  develops the features that, that you might, sketch out let’s for lack of a better phrase sketch out.

[00:06:54] And then you say, Hey, this would be a great way to use it. I assume something like the Nova share plugin, [00:07:00] like you said, it’s a complex plugin behind the scenes, but at the same time, like you’re trying to dumb it down. To as simplistic as possible so that somebody who’s just, futsing around.

[00:07:10] Like, I need to get a social share plugin on this site right now. I need to activate it. Like you have milliseconds to. Get that person to experience adding a social share plug in, or they’re just like, Nope. The activate delete one to move onto the next one. Like it’s, it’s a fine craft in order to get the most simplistic plugins activated and usable 

[00:07:31]Brian: [00:07:31] One thing that works in our advantage, I think is neither of us are good designers. We’re just, we can’t do it. If you give me a blank slate, I can’t do anything with it. Now if you give me blank slate and I have to write something, I can do that, but I can’t design worth crap and neither can my brother.

[00:07:45]So we actually take advantage of the native WordPress UI in all of our plugin settings. So I actually like it that way better because then you don’t have to learn a whole new UI all over again. I hate these plugins with these brand new UIs. You have to learn like where’s all this [00:08:00] stuff. So we just take advantage default WordPress UI for all the settings.

[00:08:03]And works for us. Cause we’re not designers. It just looks like word press still. And then I actually think it improves the onboarding because you’re not like where’s w why does this looks crazy? What are these toggles? All this stuff. So, yeah, so I, it, like you said, though, you have a few seconds until you lose someone.

[00:08:19] I’m the same way too. I’ll go into a new plugin, I’d try it. And like, if I can’t figure out something or see it, a doc explaining how to do it, like I’m, I’m probably gone. So. 

[00:08:29]Matt: [00:08:29] So th this is a good segue into just talking about like all the plugins that you’re building including the, the perf matters plugin and the coupons plugin.

[00:08:39] How do you allow yourself, or how do you wrangle in that expectation to just put all the features and everything, the kitchen sink into all of these. Plugins. 

[00:08:51] Brian: [00:08:51] Yeah, that’s a good point. And I think what has worked. Well for us in the past, and hopefully we’ll continue to work is being a WordPress user for so long myself [00:09:00] for like over a decade. I’ve used every social sharing plugin in the book, try them all.

[00:09:04]And I’ve used all the performance optimists as you plug in. So I’ve used them all. And just over the years, finding things that really annoyed me. And I couldn’t do easily. That’s kind of what we’ve started our business around. Like here’s how I would do it myself in a different way. We started building on that kind of methodology.

[00:09:20]And then right now it’s kind of morphed into what are we still trying to do? Because, because Google’s constantly changed stuff with performance, you have the web vitals stuff coming. So like, there’s things constantly changing. Like Facebook’s updating their share API. You’re always having to change and adapt as the plugins go on.

[00:09:37]But I think we, my brother and I just always looked at it like, how would we do this if we were the user? Because we are the user still. And that’s worked really well for us in the past. So 

[00:09:48]Matt: [00:09:48] There’s an overhead to this stuff that a lot of people are not aware of. The more features you put in. Especially in your case where not only do you have to build the feature and support that feature, you [00:10:00] also have to be aware what Google’s changing, what Pinterest is changing.

[00:10:04] You start rolling features and you’re like, Hey, there’s 15 social media sites we integrate with, and now that’s 15 API or whatever you have to, you have to watch. And I think a lot of people forget about that. And also to the point of view or UI decisions. Not being a designer. The worst thing the product makers do is attempt to be a designer.

[00:10:27] And then they’re like, they, then they make those interfaces and you’re like, why did you even just use what WordPress gave you? You would have saved time, money, and no, one’s trying to figure out how the heck do you use this thing? 

[00:10:36]Brian: [00:10:36] The UI is actually a good point too. With, if you keep adding features over time, say you want to move this stuff to a different tab. Usually it’s stuff like that’s going to actually require a Migrator is what we call my brother. And I call it a Migrator on the backend running code to migrate the feature as that person talks at all in there.

[00:10:54] To get rid of the old one. And that Migrator code has to stay in there. Until [00:11:00] I’m pretty much forever, or you can rip it out like two or three years later and say like, I think everyone’s probably gone and toggled this on here and moved. But like all of that stuff adds overhead. So like, we are always thinking like, where can we put this longterm?

[00:11:13] Because we don’t want to put migrators in here later down the road to move everything again. So like, Lots of people don’t think that through even we were consumed with that a little bit. I was like, wow, this is, yeah, this is hard to change later down the road too. So, 

[00:11:26]Matt: [00:11:26] so let’s talk about perf matters, plugin.

[00:11:29]It doesn’t seem to me anyway, like the easiest plugin to bring it to the market. I feel like it takes, not taking anything away, I think away from you and your brother, but it takes a lot of technical stuff that one would look at and be like, man, do we really want to build and test this, trying to find market adoption at the same time of as developing.

[00:11:48] And it’s like, Hmm, social plugin or another form plugin, probably, sometimes it’d be sometimes you’re like, I should have built a form plugin. How did you prepare to jump into the market with that? What did, what did you do [00:12:00] in the past that said, you know what, this is the plugin for me.

[00:12:02] Brian: [00:12:02] And I think that plugin itself. We actually started developing it while I was at Kinston. And mainly because, you know how hosting goes, like, no matter how good the host is, it doesn’t fix all the WordPress problems it on the site itself. So like a host won’t fix all the code issues. Usually it will help speed it up to as fast as you can get it.

[00:12:22]And that’s why I always recommend using the host, like, can store a page the, or. Even, even WP engine, like any of those bigger tier hosts. But I just kept seeing thing to like, I need to tweak this and tweak this. And so over time I there’s a free plugin, like called code snippets. I don’t know if you’ve ever used that one, but I ended up with, 20 to 30 code snippets, running all these different filters and functions on my side.

[00:12:43] And I was like, This is getting ridiculous. Let’s and so I actually asked my brother if we could put it into a plugin and then I started using it myself just on our own sites for awhile, and eventually it morphed into, like what if we just package this up and. Actually, maybe other people would be interested in it.

[00:12:59]And what we [00:13:00] found was a lot of other developers and agencies were doing the same thing. They had like all these code snippets, running all these different places and just having one plugin where they could kind of do all these tweaks just with little toggles, made it a lot easier. , 

[00:13:12] Matt: [00:13:12] Was your brother already doing your 

[00:13:14] Brian: [00:13:14] business development?

[00:13:14] He was a full-time WordPress developer, but for a He was in like the health space for a different corporation. So, got 

[00:13:20] Matt: [00:13:20] it. So you didn’t really have to twist his arm to convince you or to convince him 

[00:13:25] Brian: [00:13:25] to join. He actually used to live out here in Arizona and he worked there based here locally. I actually used to work for the same company too.

[00:13:32]But he used to work in a cubicle and all this stuff, and eventually he moved back to Washington state. But still was like, when you’re coding things to help fix people’s back pain, it’s just, it’s not as exciting as a, it gets old after awhile. And that’s actually why I left that company venture too.

[00:13:49] Cause like I’m trying to market cert back surgeries and all this stuff is just like, I don’t really, I want to help people, but like, yeah, I don’t have, I don’t know. I can’t put my whole heart into [00:14:00] this really. So, Finally started getting into the performance stuff and left that place.

[00:14:04] And, but yeah, he, I didn’t have to twist his arm at all. He was ready to do his own thing too. So it kind of worked out great. 

[00:14:10]Matt: [00:14:10] So for the person who’s listening, who’s developing her new plugin right now, or her new SAS service or some service from product based in the WordPress world. If you can recall back to , when you first launched.

[00:14:21]The plugin. What was on your to-do list first in terms of marketing blog, email. If you could do it again, would you do something different in order to get the word out, 

[00:14:31] Brian: [00:14:31] one thing I’ve never done. And I hate myself for doing this as a marketer, especially is I should never set up an email list for our plugins.

[00:14:40]And then over time it morphed into like, well, now I don’t have half the people and I just never did it. So. I wish I would have done that from day one, because we were so heavy into email marketing at kids. So I know it works. It’s one thing I do email marketing from day one, like have a checkbox there.

[00:14:57] If they buy your plugin or product, [00:15:00] whatever it is, like, have them at least the ability to opt into your newsletter. It’s I wish I had done that from day one. I might still go back and do that, but again, you’re like, I’ve lost two or three years worth of people in there. So that’s one thing.

[00:15:12]I think choosing the right e-commerce system is really, really important. I don’t regret what we did. We went with easy digital downloads. I’m not a huge fan of WooCommerce just cause it’s, the overhead is a lot more than EDD, but it depends on what you’re selling to. If you’re going to a physical product, I would have probably gone with WooCommerce.

[00:15:29] So, if you’re yeah. And 

[00:15:31] Matt: [00:15:31] by overhead you’re PR you’re probably referring to like the same thing we were just talking about. Like, it’s not even just like the price, but it’s, it’s just like all just the way that approaches digital sales and like all the stuff you have to do to just get a 

[00:15:43] Brian: [00:15:43] digital  too. Like, it just has to run more with all that stuff.

[00:15:46] It’s a bigger product. And there’s no way you can get the scripts, as small as like easy digital downloads. Cause there are a lot more niche focused. So. But if you’re doing just digital stuff, I love you to never have regretted that decision. They’re about to roll out. They’ve [00:16:00] been working on like EDD 3.0 for like a year plus now, and it’s going to be really cool.

[00:16:05] So I’m excited. Well, yeah, it gives them the benefit of the doubt, but yeah, it really has been like five years, but it really is. Yeah. Cause I’ve been playing with the beta of that and it’s really cool reports coming in. So, but. E-commerce platforms definitely important. I probably, I, so what I did was I’m a big fan of SEO and content.

[00:16:25] And what I did was I actually strategically wrote our docs. To rank, instead of doing the blog route, I, I do like keyword research on every documentation thing we write. So if there’s different ways I can word it slightly to kind of a keyword that better. I do that. So that has kind of been like a replacement for a blog.

[00:16:45] And if you have that’s worked really well. For us. So like maybe if you’re a developer have a plugin, if you don’t have time for a blog. Cause really we didn’t, we didn’t either, but I knew content works. So we kind of went with the documentation approach. Just you can [00:17:00] go like treated as a 2000 and 3000 word documentation post.

[00:17:05] Awesome. 

[00:17:05]Matt: [00:17:05] Yeah. And as it might be like how to optimize or how to optimize the WordPress site on kin sta. And it might be, your article talking about your documentation article. Maybe you have a special API key that integrates with Kinsler, something like that. But, you’d have those keywords where you’re answering what, will be an eventual question from a customer, but you’re, you’re also, giving it that sprinkle on top where.

[00:17:29] If somebody’s searching for it in Google, it’s also gonna, solve that 

[00:17:33] Brian: [00:17:33] fall. We have seen from that is, and it’s not really a huge issue, but if you have any like voting system in place, we have a little like thumbs up, thumbs down thing on our docs that if you put the thumbs down, it just lets you like put in a comment to say like, why you didn’t like it or what we could improve.

[00:17:48] We get a lot of thumbs down because I guess I’ve done too good with documentation or something. So like people like how to disable emojis and WordPress. And like our documentation is how to use our plugin [00:18:00] to disable emojis and WordPress. And everyone wants to not buy our plugin, but figure out how to disable emotions.

[00:18:06] WordPress still they’re like thumbs down or joining us up on your plugins. And I was like, I’m sorry, I re too good of a dog, I guess. Sorry. That’s Google’s fault. In my opinion, the, the 

[00:18:16] Matt: [00:18:16] internet. The Internet’s a funny place. I have a eight year old gravity forms video that people still comment on this.

[00:18:23] Isn’t like, how did this wasn’t even look the same? Like, did you look at the date of the YouTube video? It’s eight years old? What did you, what did 

[00:18:30] Brian: [00:18:30] you think was going to happen regardless? Free traffic is free traffic, so it’s never a bad thing.

[00:18:36]Matt: [00:18:36] I’m just going to pause for a second here. I don’t know why this AC units making the sound one second and it’s back it’s it’s on the phone. I don’t know why. All right. The, the YouTube viewers will enjoy that. Cause the YouTube is totally unedited. That’s the value of watching the YouTube, watching the YouTube channel.

[00:18:53]Let’s talk about the product market fit itself. You start writing the documentation. It starts [00:19:00] ranking. What was your first order of operation to get connected with agencies and hosting providers? 

[00:19:06]Brian: [00:19:06] A lot of it was cause again, we, with our first plug in there, we started building it while it was at Ken star.

[00:19:12] Ready. So like, I would say we had a little traction when we finally left. Like we had been, I had probably been writing docs for like a year, like just in the evening, slowly building it up and stuff. So. Our Nova shirt. One is probably a better example because that one we launched after I left Ken’s to.

[00:19:28] So like that was a brand new play we launched just with nothing. And that one we’ve slowly just been ranking the docs. Huge, important thing. Social media has been another thing. I love using Twitter and Facebook, so that’s not a hard thing for me because I actually enjoy doing it. And another thing was affiliate marketing program.

[00:19:46] That was, that’s been a huge thing for us actually. We saw it work. I saw it work pretty good at Kinsa and I’ve seen it actually even work even better with the plugins. So I’m not sure, maybe it works just better with plugins in general all the time, or I’ve [00:20:00] seen that work really well for us.

[00:20:01] So, so, oops. But yeah, reaching out to bloggers and letting them know we have an affiliate program and kind of describing like our our plugin and what it does, and like how it might stack up to, some of the other ones that are out there already. And then just kind of going from there and then kind of building all the affiliate marketers, and that kind of will snowball over time, but it’s not, there’s no overnight easy success.

[00:20:22] So just a fair warning to everyone. It’s like, it’s a slow, it’s a slow grind. 

[00:20:26]Matt: [00:20:26] Yeah. I Especially affiliates, right? Cause you, you want to try to reach out to the air quotes, good ones that are out there. Right. And you want to make sure that they’re providing the most accurate and up-to-date information, which plugin did you use for affiliates in the back?

[00:20:40] Also Pippin’s 

[00:20:41]Brian: [00:20:41] affiliate VP. That’s where we usually WB works really great. We’ve I’ve never had a single problem with it.

[00:20:46]Matt: [00:20:46] The. Supporting the business let’s move into or supporting the plugins either one was that new to you? Coming from Kinsel, you probably saw what it was like to support a WordPress website or an end-user. You start marketing, you [00:21:00] are ranking, you’re making these connections, you’re selling it now.

[00:21:03] Any surprise on supporting this stuff. Because again, I feel like at least the perf matters is. You’re gonna, you’re gonna, you’re probably going to have people ask you some real technical questions where it’s not just restart your laptop, try it again. It’s going to be something like, Hey, these three lines of my JavaScript file are getting corrupted.

[00:21:20] Every time I hit, it’s like, oh man, like I have to get really deep with 

[00:21:23] Brian: [00:21:23] these customers. So like for our providers, I would say we get 10 times the amount of tickets as we do for our social media plugin or a coupon plugin. And we knew that was going to happen. Optimization is tricky. And even if you make it a single toggle, like it might not work on someone else’s site, it might need a slight fix on our end to work with that theme.

[00:21:44] Or there’s all sorts of different problems that can go with performance optimization. And so like a part of my day is doing support tickets. Like every single day. Like I wake up and basically my brother and I wake up and we try to bang out support tickets, first thing. So by noon, we can [00:22:00] actually.

[00:22:00] Like, he goes back to like coding and I don’t really hear from him for a couple hours. And then, yeah. And then I’ll go back into, in documentation and like whatever’s in my Trello board. But yeah, I would say a good half of our day now is spent just doing tickets and we use just a shared Gmail inbox.

[00:22:17] We found that it works really great for us. With two people. I know that doesn’t work once you get lots of people, but we use ’em. The filters aggressively. And then we have our contact form push in different labels, dynamically based on what they choose. So when it comes in, we can see like, oh, this is a feature request for perf matters.

[00:22:35]And then a filter is applied to it in Gmail. And so when we get up, like we can see boom, boom, boom, like kind of what we have already without, without any work. So, 

[00:22:43] Matt: [00:22:43] There’s a, there’s a lead of customer success right now. Just throwing a laptop around the room going, I can’t believe they just use a single 

[00:22:50] Brian: [00:22:50] g-mail inbox.

[00:22:51] Yeah. Well, coming from Kenzie, we used Intercom and all of these crazy tools to do the, to do the support and stuff. And you had, and then just [00:23:00] going to a shared Gmail inbox, it’s kind of refreshing to be honest, because it was very, very simple. But yeah, that’s our workflow. And like, I have my Trello board, my brother has his development, Trello board.

[00:23:10] So that’s how we do that. But yeah. 

[00:23:11]Matt: [00:23:11] What does a long-term what does a long-term vision of this? This company with your brother look like, like, are you, are you looking to just keep it you and him? Or is it you starting to feel like, okay, we’re growing this whole, like nine to 12, just doing support. We need to bring somebody on.

[00:23:28] Is that a, is that in the cards in the future, 

[00:23:30] Brian: [00:23:30] or I think we’re going to try to see how it goes here within the next year or two. We. We’re trying not to bring anyone else on board because I’ve seen at multiple startups, how that works and it just had so much more complications to things like, and then if you grow too big, you got to do an HR department.

[00:23:48] And it just gets out of control really, really fast. So like we’re purposefully wanting to stay very, very small. And the nice thing about that is our overhead is also really small too. So, that’s one [00:24:00] reason why we’re, we’re also not just trying to add every single feature in the book to try to just get every sale we possibly can.

[00:24:05] We’re we’re more specific about what we’re adding and trying to stay small and nimble. I would, I would say for people out there staying small and nimble definitely has a lot of advantages. Even things like, yeah. Taking advantage. I’m not a big fan of lifetime deals. But you know, I snagged them when I see them too.

[00:24:23] I’m not, you’d be stupid if you don’t. And so, like EDD had a lifetime sale last year, they ran. I was like, okay, I know I bought it without hesitation within minutes. And just. Yeah. It’s like, it’s got bills like that, that you can just get where of live wife amount, forever.

[00:24:39]If you’re small and nimble, like, it makes a huge difference. Whereas, if you’re a 30 person company might not, might not matter as much, but yeah. So yeah, staying small and nimble has advantages, I would say for sure. 

[00:24:49] Matt: [00:24:49] Yeah. How do you balance the, the response of the, of the folks? Well, let’s talk about how perf matters sits into the overall competition of plugins.

[00:24:59] And when [00:25:00] we had our pre-interview, I asked you about like the caching plugins and stuff like that seems to be a booming market. If there, if you’re doing it well, Do you have customers who come to you who are like, even on this whole thing of, of pricing and value and lifetime deals, I feel like sometimes people go, we’re average, WordPress customers go, oh, a hundred dollars for this.

[00:25:19] All it does is this one little thing. I’m not going to pay a hundred dollars when X plugin does it. I bought a lifetime license for $49. I’ll never have to pay again for free. How do you position. Perf matters to a caching plugin, heck even, even a Yoast SEO, because I think sometimes people throw that into the mix of, of site optimization.

[00:25:39] How do you position it to your customers when they ask you that the 

[00:25:42] Brian: [00:25:42] differences first off, I think with all of our plugins, we’ve approached them in a slightly different way. So like, and I probably every in the battle for I’ll say that, but I, I think we do have some things that are unique to us. But another thing that is another advantage of staying small and nimble is like, I, [00:26:00] I think our support is hands down the best out of.

[00:26:02] Probably any of the other plugins out there. And it’s, we clear our tickets out by noon every single day. We respond typically within 20 minutes sometimes to people like your ticket will be solved the same day. Regardless. I won’t go to sleep until it’s solved. That’s that’s one advantage to us. And so, we get a lot of people reaching out saying, can you do this?

[00:26:20] Or can you do that? And I’ll take the time. I’ll take 20 minutes and respond to them with a lengthy email. Sometimes here’s how to do this. And then, we’ll win over a customer that way. So, once you grow too big, you have to bang things out quicker and as fast as possible, and the quality just goes down.

[00:26:35]And so I don’t mind taking more time out and, doing emails like that. So that’s one advantage. I think we have over some of our competitors. And another thing is we’ve kind of put ourselves in the niche to kind of work alongside. The competitors. So like WP, rocket. Great example, everybody has it.

[00:26:53] I was probably on 90% of the sites I work on for clients. But like they started primarily as a caching plugin. [00:27:00] That’s how they started. And they started adding, all the optimizations after that. But for us. We’re like there’s already all these great caching solutions hosts, like Kinston Pagely WP engine.

[00:27:11] You don’t need a caching plugin. So we’re like, you know what, we’re not going to do caching, skip that. There’s other, there’s other great people doing it, hosting providers now do it. So, we’re not going to spend time on that. And that’s kind of how we’ve approached everything out there. Like. Image optimization, never going to do it.

[00:27:27] You have, you have short pixel. Imagify great plugins out there already that do that. Do it really well. We use those plugins. So you know what we’re to going to do that. We then focus on things that other people aren’t doing. We’re trying to fix problems that haven’t been solved yet. So.

[00:27:43]Matt: [00:27:43] Yeah. And you mentioned to me that your best customers are agencies, obviously they’re, well-informed, they’re developing the sites, they understand WordPress. So it’s a great sort of, and you saw firsthand that other agencies were using the code snippets. Plugin. So you’re like, yeah, this makes total sense.

[00:27:59] And if I [00:28:00] can address that market and shape my messaging to it, chances are the support won’t be as challenging. You still probably have challenging support, but at least if you’re focusing on agencies, they have some money. Yeah. 

[00:28:12] Brian: [00:28:12] Yep. No, exactly. And we do get all sorts of users. I We’ll get the, I’ve had people email us saying.

[00:28:18] I just created my first website, WordPress website today. And for some reason they bought our plugin. I would be like, you know what, I, I think you need to learn a little more before you go down, even the optimization route. Like so, but and then we have people that have installed like literally like 10 different optimization, plugins thinking, the more they install the faster it will get, which it doesn’t work like that, unfortunately.

[00:28:41]And so, we have to help those people. Fortunately, I. Being small and nimble, I can take the time and help those people that need a little more help than, like the agencies that, sometimes we’ll probably never hear from them because they already have a developer that knows WordPress knows what they’re trying to do.

[00:28:55] And yeah, we just never even get a ticket from them ever. So. 

[00:28:58]Matt: [00:28:58] Yeah. You mentioned in [00:29:00] pre-interview something about Google core web vitals and how your plugin will at least help you get started, not solve it. I don’t think unless you, unless you do solve it through your plugin or solve a ranking well or optimizing well do you have any thoughts that you would like to share with people who might not.

[00:29:18] No much about what this upcoming Google core web vitals is including yours truly because I haven’t really dug into any of the stuff that they’re rolling out. Is there anything that you’re plugging aides with that folks should get 

[00:29:31] Brian: [00:29:31] chance to viral? So there’s all these different kinds of warnings and rules they want you to meet or thresholds.

[00:29:38]And so basically with our plugin, that’s, we’re entirely focused on Google core web vitals. That’s all we’re focused on. And we’re looking at each individual, one of those kind of born into the scene, how we can fix those basically on people’s sites. So yeah, are a lot of people are buying a plugin, installing it to help increase their scores with Google core web vitals.

[00:29:55]Now if you had asked me five years ago, I would’ve told you don’t use page speed [00:30:00] scores at all. Don’t scores don’t matter. Unfortunately the times have changed and I will be the first to a minute. You need to go by the scores now. Unfortunately, that’s where we’re at. And. 

[00:30:10]Matt: [00:30:10] Which is a whole different conversation on 

[00:30:13] Brian: [00:30:13] like Google.

[00:30:13] Yeah. Oh yeah. 

[00:30:15] Matt: [00:30:15] And 

[00:30:15] Brian: [00:30:15] antitrust. Sure. It is. And, but you know, the times before, when I started at kids to, this Google core web vitals wasn’t even existing, you had page speed insights. But it wasn’t really a ranking factor. So like, then you were like looking at total load time now. Load time matters, but you don’t look, I don’t look at that metric ever.

[00:30:33] I haven’t looked at load time for. Probably months what I’m looking at or the Google core web vital scores. Now they do correlate pretty well. So if you score high there, you’re probably in loading fast anyways. So, but it’s changed into before is how fast is your site load? And now it’s about. How well does the code on your site run basically?

[00:30:52] Like how, how are you loading the code? It’s a lot more complicated than it was three or four years ago. So [00:31:00] that’s what we’re focused on now. And a lot of the optimization plugins are, are also focused on that too. Now. 

[00:31:04]Matt: [00:31:04] Yeah. Yeah, for sure. What’s next in for marketing for you? Sounds like it’s still probably documentation building.

[00:31:13] You have that chunk of the third of your day or whatever, doing support. Do you have a next big idea without sharing maybe the secret sauce of what you’re doing, but maybe giving people some, some framework of. Of what you think you’re going to do next for the company, because we’re about what two, two and a half years 

[00:31:30] Brian: [00:31:30] company.

[00:31:30] Yeah. Yeah. Raleigh legally. Yeah. On paper. So like this. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:31:36]Matt: [00:31:36] So at this stage of the game, like, it’s not just the, a beta test anymore. Like things are rocking and rolling for, for what we can tell you and your brother, you spending time supporting people. So you got customers you’re rolling out products, rolling out new features.

[00:31:49] What does marketing look like next for you? What’s the next big leap you think you’ll 

[00:31:53] Brian: [00:31:53] take not a podcast. I’m going to leave that to people like you, that are professionals that I know nothing about podcasts. [00:32:00] So, I kudos to you cause it’s one thing, man. I, I could not do that. I, I wouldn’t even know where to start, but it’s the same with like YouTube.

[00:32:06] I, I’ve never done YouTube videos in my life. I wouldn’t even know where to begin. I’m a blogger. That’s what I know what to do. So I think a big focus for me is actually more content this next year. We actually, my brother and I got into a, kind of a bad habit this last year with partially, maybe because of COVID too, we got into a slump of like, I was just doing primarily most of the tickets trying to get them off so he could just do development.

[00:32:32] And most of my day was just doing tickets and then, and I wasn’t doing any writing. And so this year we’ve kind of been like, okay, let’s both wake up. We’re both hanging out together. And that way we can both, I’ll go right then, and then you can go do a element. So that’s actually worked better for us.

[00:32:48] So rebalancing our kind of workflow. And so yeah, I have a Trello board with probably like, Over a hundred topics I want to write on. It’s just, for me, it’s always a matter of a time. It’s never of what to do. It’s [00:33:00] just a matter of time. 

[00:33:00] Matt: [00:33:00] Yeah. Yeah, because you’re not, you’re not the type to just rip up, but like a 300, three to 500 word article, like you’re putting a lot of meetings 

[00:33:09] Brian: [00:33:09] when you’re creating a blog post.

[00:33:11] And that’s another piece of advice for anyone listening. Yeah, I would two blog posts that are like 5,000 words. Each are way, way better than 10 blog posts that are, three or four, 500 words each. So just spend more time and less is, is, is fine. Yeah. 

[00:33:25] Matt: [00:33:25] For sure what’s next for product development, anything new and exciting coming a plugin we don’t know 

[00:33:31] Brian: [00:33:31] about yet or a new product.

[00:33:34] We have enough under our boat for right now. As long as we can keep continuing seeing growth, being small and nimble, we’re really not looking for new, new plugins to drink and more money because we’re really focused on these right now. And I think for perf matters we have new features coming for.

[00:33:50] Google core web vitals, everything we’re pushing out is how to solve more of those crazy warnings or how to fix things. So definitely be that that update [00:34:00] is coming in June. So yeah, everyone listening, just, I would take time, look at your sites, see where you’re standing at the moment. You don’t want to get caught off guard with that stuff.

[00:34:07]And then for our social sharing plugin we’re actually going to be doing probably more focused on some block stuff. With Gutenberg. So, like widgets, I think here in five eight, or I forget if they delayed it again, they keep delaying stuff, but if it. There’s going to be blocks and widgets eventually.

[00:34:23] And so we’re going to be doing some stuff with that. Taking advantage of that stuff that way, because right now we have a widget and like short codes, but it’s kinda, like the old school way of doing things. And I’d love to, drag a block here or drag a block there. Like it’ll, it’ll be awesome.

[00:34:36] I think so Be focused on that. And then that’s pretty much it, our other affiliate marketing plugin. We don’t have any new, crazy, huge features that one’s pretty well built out. So we’re kind of just adding things as customers request it kind of getting feedback, fixing bugs, obviously here and there.

[00:34:52] So.

[00:34:52]Matt: [00:34:52] Well, I’m going to do a new segment, which I have. I haven’t done segments in my podcast in, in literally years, but you know, there’s all of this [00:35:00] WordPress consolidation happening. I’ll predict that you will get acquired by. Insta in a year. That’s, that’s my prediction because what’ll happen is Chris lemma from liquid web will come knocking on your door and say, Hey, this is a great plugin that would work amazing with our hosting stack.

[00:35:18] And then you’ll take his offer and bring it back to the kids, the guys, and say, Hey, remember me, I get this offer from your competitor, Chris. Wouldn’t you rather buy me instead. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna throw that out there on May 27th as we 

[00:35:31] Brian: [00:35:31] record it. Well, I can’t tell you, I don’t mind sharing. We’ve had multiple offers already.

[00:35:35] And I’m pretty, probably every plugin developer has at this point. But the thing is we don’t want to sell because we don’t want to work for other people again, that’s, that’s the reason we quit our jobs was so we don’t have to work for other people and have a more chillax, like, if I want to leave in the middle of the day to go get food, I can do that.

[00:35:52]So. Just cause he worked from home for another company, it still doesn’t mean you can like your schedules that July sometimes. Yeah. Yeah. 

[00:36:00] [00:36:00] Matt: [00:36:00] Well, you, you just respond to Chris and say white Nia chillax check. I want chillax bucks. That’s what I want. I want it. So I don’t have to work for you. And then I can take a couple 

[00:36:07] Brian: [00:36:07] of years off, but the, the one thing people might not realize about those acquisitions is that.

[00:36:12]A lot of times you can’t just step away because a lot of times they won’t have developers that understand your plugin or like there’ll be a long lead time to where you can step away from. And so, like, that’s something not either of my my brother and I are interested in, but yeah, you never know what’s going to happen five years from now.

[00:36:29]Liquid web has been smashing up things left and right. Cadence. Good. Yeah, the list goes on and on. It does actually worry me a little bit as far as what WordPress is going to look like, like five, 10 years from now. Like, is it going to be more just like Google, Amazon, Facebook?

[00:36:46] I You’re just going to have these huge companies running everything and no more little small guys anymore. So. It’ll be interesting to see what happens. We’re going to Brett and I are my brother and I are just going to chug along until we ride the wave until we maybe if, until it [00:37:00] ends or so.

[00:37:00] But but yeah, it will be interesting to see what happens. 

[00:37:04]Matt: [00:37:04] Yeah. I think not to go into another segment, which I call the tinfoil hat segment is the I think. Jetpack and automatic and Matt have sort of brought this a little bit. More to the forefront or, brought it upon themselves kind of thing.

[00:37:20] When you see Jetpack doing absolutely everything. I think when I interviewed him, he might’ve called it like a market correction. I see that as just big dominant player, rolling out a feature that small player can’t compete with from everything from CRM to CDN to whatever, everything.

[00:37:39] Literally in jet pack. And this will be the natural reaction to web hosts from web hosts because web hosts look at that and they go, well, we see what’s coming. You’ll just in another year or so, make a click and host your free WordPress site on with a click of a button. A lot of web hosts are going to get scared from that or of that.

[00:37:59] Right. There’s [00:38:00] just this quick mechanism. They have to start to connect in, right. Or serve static. You serve your site static with Jetpack CDN, right. And which is all already, almost there kind of thing. And there’s less of a need for that host and their plans and all this stuff. So yeah, I can definitely see this all happening.

[00:38:17] It’s going to be interesting to see how we react and, that’s why I always say it’s fine to start at a foreign plug these days who cares because someone’s going to acquire someone and then they’ll, you’ll just slide right into that next spot and say, Hey everybody, I’m here to. I, come and get me there’s plenty of opportunity to, 

[00:38:32] Brian: [00:38:32] at least at this stage actually chatting.

[00:38:34] I won’t say who, but chatting with another plugin developer that was actually asking my advice about an acquisition, like, and they were running into the problem of how to scale to the next level, essentially. And like they were running into things that I’ve dealt with myself as far as like, how do we handle all this tax stuff, all the VAT stuff, all the, they’re a smaller team and they were wanting.

[00:38:57] They were just getting inundated with all these random things that [00:39:00] like, if you like take an acquisition, you do get the benefit of they handle all the taxes, they handle all the accounting. So, there are definitely advantages to say, like, maybe you don’t want to go work for another company, but like maybe, maybe your day would be easier because all you have to worry about is, oh, okay.

[00:39:17] I can keep helping code the plugin, but I don’t have to worry about any of the other crap that comes, comes with it. So, there’s another, yeah. 

[00:39:23]Matt: [00:39:23] Yeah, we eventually, we eventually see these, these founders come back around, right? They, they do their year stint or two years at, at the company, whatever the contract states and they’re back again, developing something, All over again.

[00:39:34] I, really depends on, on your taste as a founder and as a business builder, Brian Jackson, everybody, you can find him well, you can find them in a lot of places. You can find that perfect, Nova forge You can find them at those three websites anywhere. 

[00:39:50] Brian: [00:39:50] Yeah, I, I pretty much live on Twitter.

[00:39:52] It was just Brian Lee Jackson. You’ll find me Bri and, and yeah. Send me a tweet or DM or if you’re ever in Scottsdale, [00:40:00] Arizona tweet me, we’ll meet up for coffee. I try to meet up anyone that twists me here. I always meet them for coffee. It’s kind of like a little thing I like doing so genuine in the area.

[00:40:08] I’d love to meet you. Hm, 

[00:40:09]Matt: [00:40:09] cool man. Everyone else. All right. to join the mailing list. Don’t forget to tune into the WP minute [email protected]. We’ll see you in the next episode. 


2 responses to “Brian Jackson: From marketing Kinsta to building a plugin business”

  1. Thanks for having me Matt!

  2. Brian is super talented and very helpful. I can’t imagine my sites without Perfmatters.

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