Course creators, product makers, and community builders — oh my!
Matt continues with Season 8 with the second roundtable episode talking to Jennifer Bourn, Davinder Singh Kainth and Chris Badgett. This panel represents the thought leaders in the WordPress community and they have been working in the WordPress space for a long time by adapting to the changes in WordPress that are impacting their businesses. They finish the episode with projections of WordPress.com and WordPress.org.
Listen to this episode:
Jennifer Bourn – Co owns a design and development agency called Bourn Creative. She co-authors a course called Profitable Project Plan that helps designers and developers improve their business. Jennifer is a co-organizer of the Meetup in Sacramento and also WordCamp Sacramento. (0:46)
Davinder Singh Kainth – Designs and develops for direct clients and white label clients for several agencies. He has several niche websites for training and recently launched his first podcast called Smart Web Creators. (1:06)
Chris Badgett – Chris is the co-founder of LifterLMS, a WordPress solution for creating, selling and protecting online courses. He has worked as a freelance WordPress implementer and built a successful freelance agency. He has the podcast for course creators called LMSCast. (1:34)
Jennifer – Day to Day interaction with clients is showing how much WordPress has matured. It used to be a growth area across the board. Now there is growth at the bottom and the top. Jennifer is seeing a squeeze in the middle where there is so much competition. Onboarding a client with processes is so important to see continued success with the middle clients. The “race to the bottom” has so much competition that in order to be profitable you need repeatable processes. (2:53)
Chris – The landscape is changing for online courses because of the ease and power of page builders. The tools make WordPress so much easier to use. It becomes less important now that a website is built on WordPress. Chris is still seeing stable growth on the product side and WordPress is still great for a customized solution where extendibility is needed. Enterprise and larger businesses will pay for premium solutions. (6:15)
Davinder – people are finding out that WordPress is not “free” even though it is open source. Themes and plugins that are needed for added functionality cost money and will not fit into the $30.00 a month solution offered by a WIX or Squarespace. Davinder is seeing agency level pricing going up and WordPress tools are now being priced correctly. WordPress still allow you to have total ownership and control of your design and data. (10:29)
Theory of New Customer Cycle:
There are still customers that are growing their businesses where a startup website no longer works for them.
Davinder – efficiency of the page builders lets freelancers handle the middle market and create a niche. It allows a freelancer to work with the business to see how much revenue is being generated from a client’s website. (13:47)
Chris – is seeing the diffusion of innovation in the WordPress community. Customers who purchased LifterLMS may need additional customization to build a solution. A client can look at themes, content and request help from freelancers that are considered successful LMSLifter builders. (16:22)
Adding Verticles for Agency Business Growth:
Jennifer – She has seen the client base shift in Bourn Creative. Their agency work is no longer focused on startups with limited budgets. Many of her clients are approaching her agency with a website design that needs added features and functionality along with great design. The focus in the business has shifted to long-term partnerships with clients and they have fewer partnerships. The agency has been successful with the shift using retainer projects. She has found if you do not diversify your income stream, you may just burn out. (24:02)
Jennifer has also found that offering continuing support for that client with content management or ongoing service often works. You need to ask the client to focus on one thing and try to master it and make it a habit. Then you can offer products that have the biggest impact and provide the most money per hour. (37:22)
Davinder – The WordPress has expanded geographically and across many continents. There are more and more people coming into the WordPress space and creating SASS products. Titles in the WordPress space (such as a developer or designer) are being shed as well. There is more opportunity for implementors. (28:15)
It is important to get things right and educate the customer. You cannot help the customer much that wants the cheap solution. A client does not care about the back end because they do not interact with it. Try to recognize the “Perfectionist Bug” and do not deliver more than the customer requests. Restrict yourself to the domain you are most comfortable in and reach out to other people in your community for specific expertise. (18:45)
Chris – People are no longer buying a WordPress website. They are looking for a platform or business opportunity and need a solution. A consultant needs to adapt with the times and help a client get results with a small investment. You can advise but have resources available to offer a solution. (33:37)
Chris has noticed that the market ranges. His strategy is to get the client to build the site and then let them come back when they realize they need a more robust solution. It is possible to address the market. (35:56)
Forecasting the Future of WordPress:
Davinder – Thinks the WordPress community will remain as it is now but free features will be offered on WordPress.com. WordPress has never been a good product maker but has built a strong open source community around WordPress.org. WordPress.com will offer more features that can make Automattic more money. There will always be a blurred message around WordPress.org unless you address the hosting dilemma. (45:34)
Jennifer – WordPress.com will continue to grow and compete with WIX and Squarespace and will become easier. WordPress.org will still continue for the enterprise that needs functionality and full control. There seems to be a divisiveness with Gutenberg around core but it will continue to grow. (46:56)
Chris – WordPress.com is trying to have its cake and eat it too with 3rd party plugins. The support channels may end up being stressed because of the knowledge needed to support all those plugins. The open source WordPress.org will still see a struggle in the marketplace around the branding issue. (49:12)
Matt – sees WordPress.com becoming more of an app like experience. WordPress.org may be selling and supporting functionality to WordPress.com. Features may be offered for a cost through the application with a 3rd party marketplace being expanded. (51:20)
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