Developing, Monetizing and Marketing WordPress Plugins with David Hehenberger


David Hehenberger, Founder of Fatcat Apps

This post is part of a series of interviews with successful entrepreneurs. The questions are focussed on marketing, advertising and analytics aspects of  building and growing a successful online business.

This week’s interview features David Hehenberger, founder of Fat Cat Apps.

David’s company develops WordPress plugins that help bloggers, marketers and entrepreneurs boost conversions.

Fat Cat Apps currently offer three different WordPress plugins:

  • Optin Cat – a plugin helping bloggers generate more email opt-ins
  • Easy Pricing Tables – a plugin for building pricing and feature comparison tables
  • Feedback Cat – a plugin for collecting reader feedback through onpage surveys

In this interview, David answers 7 questions on developing, monetizing and marketing WordPress plugins.

You are running a profitable business developing WordPress plugins. How did you get started? What made you decide to focus on WordPress plugins?

I’ve been using WordPress for more than 5 years at this point. While building sites for my own businesses I often encountered plugins I wasn’t completely happy with – many plugins are built by developers with very little sense for design or user experience.

At some point I realized that developing premium WordPress plugins was a viable business model.

Once I realized that I could possibly build a viable business by creating high quality WordPress plugins that “scratch my own itch” I started working on my first plugin, Easy Pricing Tables for WordPress.

How do you choose the kind of WordPress plugins you develop?

I’m usually scratching my own itch. With Easy Pricing Tables I was unhappy with both the user interface and the actual pricing table designs of existing plugins.

What initially got me started with Optin Cat was the fact that there was no good free WordPress plugin that easily lets users add nice looking email optin forms to their site. (All the alternatives were either paid or required the user to modify their form with CSS.)

With Feedback Cat it was the believe that there was no need to charge $80/month (as most other companies do) for a simply onpage survey tool.

What are the main monetization strategies for WordPress plugins?

Right now most of my plugins are Freemium – there’s a free basic version that gets distributed through the WordPress plugin repository and people can come to my website to buy the “Premium” version with more features.

For future projects I’ll be considering a model with a free base plugin and multiple paid extensions, similar to Easy Digital Downloads or Ninja Forms, as it allows for higher lifetime value.

What’s the average percentage of users who upgrade to your paid plugins? Do you have any benchmarks from other WordPress plugin developers?

This isn’t a metric I religiously track. From what I’ve seen, most plugins see a very low (single digit) percentage of free users upgrade to paid. Thus, getting enough users is important.

As fellow WordPress plugin developer Phil Derksen from WPStripe points out here, choosing the right market (eg. prosumers vs. businesses) can have a drastic impact on upgrade percentage.

What are the most effective marketing strategies for your business?

I’m currently not doing any paid acquisition as my lifetime value is fairly low.

Most of my sales come from organic search and the WordPress directory. I’m also getting a bunch of sales from affiliates and have some email marketing automation campaigns set up using Drip.

I think there’s an opportunity to do content marketing as well, but I haven’t really had the resources to execute on this so far.

What tools do you use to track, analyse and optimize your marketing strategies?

I used to have a custom business dashboard set up. Right now the dashboard is defunct as I need to integrate some new metrics and don’t have the development resources needed to get this done – improving existing & building new WordPress plugins has a much higher ROI.

I’ve got a fairly solid Google Analytics setup including UTM tagging, custom dashboard and a bunch of standard operating procedures on how & when to check my stats.

I track my SEO rankings using SerpFox.

Any other final thoughts, tips or comments?

When choosing which products or projects to work on, it’s important to think long-term. I like to think about where I want to be in in 5 years from now and then work backwards from there – “What’s the one thing I can work on right now that’s going to make everything else easier or unnecessary?” (stolen from The 1 Thing).

That’s why I’m not a big fan of short-term opportunities such as building AdSense sites or Teespring/Facebook arbitrage.

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