S5B: E11: Thomas Griffin

In this episode Sam and Corey interview Thomas Griffin from OptinMonster. The discussion is how you can successfully shift your business from a plugin model to SaaS model.

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Thomas Griffin is the co-founder of OptinMonster and CTO of Awesome Motive which houses the brand. Prior to OptinMonster, he founded Soliloquy, the fastest WordPress slider plugin, and Envira Gallery, a revolutionary gallery solution for photographers. He is an expert developer with deep knowledge of building products for mass-market. Thomas knows firsthand that software for marketers is generally poor in quality. He’s proud that OptinMonster is changing that by creating extremely easy to use and technologically sound SaaS (Software as a Service) that works for users outside of the WordPress framework. Thomas is a frequent speaker on topics of performance and scalability.

What you will learn from this episode:

  • The decision was made from Awesome Motive – which houses the OptinMonster Brand to move to a SaaS product in January 2013. (4:56)
  • OptinMonster used to be a WordPress plugin managed through the dashboard. (6:03)
  • The product was tested out from the WPBeginner website when it was realized that there were problems scaling. (7:24)
  • Data portability was available in WordPress and Thomas had that experience from the Soliloquy product. (7:40)
  • The demand to use OptinMonster was coming out of the WordPress ecosystem, so it was profitable to look at the product as a SaaS. (9:15)
  • The host partner for the SaaS is Pagely and they have the expertise to scale the product quickly. (13:00)
  • Your website visitors need to have meaningful data available. (21:18)
  • You can have page level targeting and categories on your site with a lead magnet. (Ex: Target baseball enthusiasts instead of all sports). (21:20)
  • You can segment your list to get immediate value out of your subscribers. (22:18)
  • The technology exists in OptinMonster called the display rules engine with very powerful targeting that can be used by people outside of WordPress. (22:52)

Challenges of going from a WordPress Plugin to a SaaS:

  • The onboarding was very critical and the focus is on clear documentation when the product is purchased. (24:49)
  • You bypass the WordPress download, install, etc. (25:00)
  • There is strong documentation on connecting to the WordPress plugin. (25:06)
  • The SaaS provides the user with a dashboard and a guided tour of the product. (25:56)
  • Most questions about WordPress connectivity come through the presales calls.  This is where the education of how OptinMonster works with WordPress is handled. (11:36)
  • There is a strong user base that uses Shopify and other CMS platforms. (28:30)
  • Moving to a SaaS product for OptinMonster was a necessity and an organic migration. (29:28)
  • OptinMonster is powered by WordPress but scaled without “using the WordPress way” with the SaaS product. (30:42)

Pricing from the WordPress Plugin to the SaaS:

  • The WordPress payment ecosystem was not mature when the SaaS product was launched. (31:55)
  • There was not a good WordPress solution for subscriptions. (32:00)
  • The SaaS subscription model was difficult. OptinMonster was established from the start as a premium paid product so you started by buying a one-year license with support. (32:46)
  • It was discovered that the yearly subscription was not a way to build business and continue to add value.  A subscription service was added where you paid every month or for the year. (34:09)
  • As the application was updated it added more value by providing subscribers with features and support. (35:08)
  • Users transitioning from the lifetime plugin purchase of OptinMonster were grandfathered into the SaaS product. (35:50)
  • The Business decision was made for lifetime users because it was the right thing to do. People and customers come first. (37:00)
  • You need to manage expectations when moving from a WordPress plugin to a SaaS. Communication is so important. (39:30)
  • The best marketing is having a great product with great customer service. (40:19)

Episode Resources:

Awesome Motive
OptinMonster API connector plugin
Thomas Griffin

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