It’s been close to two years since Brad and I launched FooBox v1.0 and nine months since the official launch of FooPlugins at WordCamp Miami. This past year has been a whirlwind of learning, developing, marketing, and customer support. It’s also been one of constant refining of our business processes and that is something that will never end;)
We both consider FooPlugins a success so far and we’re excited to think about where 2014 will bring us. I wanted to take a moment to write about some of the parts of building and running our business that I hope you all will find useful in your own endeavors and to give you an idea of what we have planned for this next twelve months.
How to Launch a Business Brand
Previous to launching in Miami, Brad and I both had existing WordPress-based businesses. Brad with Themergency and I with WP Pro Business (achingly dormant now) and AdamWWarner (rebooted and on the uptick). Brad also had several free plugins in the WordPress repository and also some premium plugins on CodeCanyon.
That means that we had some existing leverage when launching Foo as we both piggy-backed on our existing customers, traffic, subscribers, and social followers when we started announcing Foo.
But just having an existing follower base wasn’t enough. We needed to make sure that our own community knew that we existed and what we had to offer.
The Business Launch Shortlist
- Leverage your existing followers. Whatever that looks like, let them know what’s going on and ask them to help you.
- Be transparent. When telling others what we were doing, I was clear that it was exciting and terrifying. I didn’t bullshit and pretend to be an expert.
- Sponsorships. We sponsored WCMIA to announce that we were here. Existing and new WP users heard the name “Foo” at the same time. Sponsor as many events in your niche as possible. Brand recognition is the first step to a sale and to get people talking about you.
- Create relationships. It goes hand-in-hand with the above, but you need to get out there and talk face-to-face with people. Gravatars, avatars, profile images, about pages…blah blah blah. Nothing compares to actually talking with others in your niche. Remember when “they” said that the Internet would ruin our interpersonal connections? Not true.
Fail Fast and Recover
This past year brought some failures too. Most notably, our WordPress Professionals directory, FooPros.com. Although not exactly a complete failure (it did get some interest and traction), but it didn’t live up to what we envisioned it to be.
FooPros is now being redeveloped and merged into our FooResources site. This site will contain the same WordPress Professionals listings and much more, including ebooks and video courses. Re-launching this month.
Oh, and all listings will be at no cost.
Take Personal Time
This is something I’ve personally struggled with this past year. When you’re passionate about building and growing, your mind is never truly at rest. Because of this, I had trouble finding true downtime away from the business, and that’s no good. When you’re spending time working it’s one thing but when you’re with your family, they deserve your full undivided attention.
When you work for yourself, at home or from the local cafe, you need to be strict about your work hours. It’s the only true way to get rest and reflect on your day to day tasks to make sure you’re not just spinning your wheels.
Draw a Strict Line Between Product Support and Customization Requests
We pride ourselves in providing timely and support for our products. Inevitably, our customers like to tweak things to meet their specific client needs (and why shouldn’t they), but many times support request come in that are more on the side of CSS and jQuery customizations rather than support for any specific plugin setting.
We’re certainly not opposed to helping with these kinds of requests, and we always strive to do more than our support terms actually include but ultimately we need to draw a finer line between support for included features and settings v.s. more in-depth customization requests. This needs to be done in order to service our other customers in a timely manner.
We’re formulating a plan to help with deeper customization requests and this is something we’ll hopefully be announcing in early 2014.
2014 and Beyond
In 2013 we created several partnerships and in my opinion, this is a key element of building your online business. No man or woman is an island, and if you disagree…well, I wish you luck. Creating and nurturing relationships within the community has allowed us to expand our reach in terms of business partners and of brand recognition.
Don’t be shy. Reach out to your community members and elsewhere. You’ll be glad you did.
We started off with a bang in regards to FooPlugins being a full-on marketplace by partnering (see above) with other plugin developers and their agreement in being listed on our site. Not only did that help to forge stronger relationships (friendships), but it also expanded our reach and the reach of their individual plugin products.
Our growth would not have been what it was without our vendors and we thank them sincerely for trusting in us from the very beginning.
Our vendor program is getting some attention in 2014, and we’re excited for what is coming next.
Business Site Structure
Our current product catalog and all associated documentation, demos, FAQs, and support exists (for the most part) on our main domain. That will be changing in 2014.
Having so much content on one site has become, shall we say, a bit messy. As our product catalog grows, and our team who manages the various aspects of those products grows, it’s become clear that we need to separate our different areas of content and use the main domain sales page as “the hub” that connects them all together.
We’re in the process of developing separate sites (WP installs) for this content in order for our team to have a clearer focus on the items they’re managing. Product pages will be in one place, while documentation will be in another. More details on this as we integrate further.
More WordCamps and Other Conferences
The benefits of attending WordCamps should be clear to anyone in our space, and if you’ve never attended one, go here now and choose the location closest to you. As I mentioned above, sponsoring a WordCamp was a great move for our brand, but simply attending this kind of event is beneficial.
To be honest, the last few WordCamps I’ve attended the benefit (for me) has been less about the actual session content and more about the face-to-face hallway, restaurant, and pub conversations. Again, it’s about relationships.
Whether you’re sharing stories about clients from hell, the latest development best practices, or discussing a possible partnership, a WordCamp is where you want to be.
That’s an easy one right? Easier said than done when your balancing growth, but we’re committed to a tighter release schedule and are really excited for the new products, resources, and uh…cough…services…cough we’ll be bringing into the wild this next year.
And Finally, More Blogging Baby!
Yep, the first thing to fall behind this past year was our blogging initiatives. You know how it goes right? Look for more content on this site and subscribe if you’d like to stay updated.
We sure hope you do:)
Thanks to all of you for making 2013 a great year and here’s to the next 12 months!