Our new AppSumo Case Study Series highlights noteworthy partners that embody successful collaboration and growth. You’ll get to peek behind-the-scenes on their AppSumo launch, learn tips from the folks who have already been there, and find out how they handled reaching a new global audience.
Today, we’re in conversation with Gordan Orlic, the CEO of WebFactory, the company behind notable AppSumo deals like WP Reset as well as Coming Soon and Maintenance Mode. WP Reset helps WordPress users launch new sites, test changes on existing ones, and prevent catastrophic events, such as bad plugin updates that can take a site down.
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What were you doing before you entered the world of WordPress plugins?
Honestly, nothing. We’ve been doing WordPress plugins for 11 years. We started as an agency doing work for clients and then we shifted onto products. It was the best decision we ever made. Client work is brutal. It was brutal a decade ago and now, I hear it’s even worse.
We started off with small things on Code Canyon. Times were different and it was cool a decade ago. Now things are different. After we sold 50 copies of our first plugin (a kind of shortcode related to Google Maps), we knew that was the way to go. We never looked back.
Five years ago, I didn’t think that I would ever declare being client-free. Because you don’t want to leave people hanging, and we had clients who remained loyal year after year. Fortunately, we’ve been client-free for at least six years—which I’ll repeat, is the way to go!
What obstacles did you face when transitioning to working on plugins?
Ideas and execution, alone, are worth nothing. Marketing and sales, on the other hand, are what matter.
When we were working for clients, we were more in tune with what was needed. Say there was a problem that two or three clients faced—we would resolve the problem with a plugin and simply put it up for sale. When you’re moving from point A to point B, you don’t have to think that much about it. Once you lose those clients, however, you lose that direct feedback and no longer know which direction to take.
Everyone and their grandma will have an idea, which is another big problem. They’ll say: “I have this idea, it’s worth at least a zillion dollars, you need to do it. You’re going to code it in 10 minutes. You’re going to sell out. It’s going to be like fire.” Unfortunately, this rarely happens. Ideas and execution, alone, are worth nothing. Marketing and sales, on the other hand, are what matter.
These days we try to be in tune with our audience and see what’s popular or see what’s out there. But it’s not always possible. With WP Reset, for example, the audience didn’t know they needed it, because nobody thought about resetting websites. At least that’s not how they were talking about it. People were trying to “reset” their websites, but they had trouble following through. They couldn’t understand what they needed.
This kickstarted our idea for a plugin. We had decade-old snippets that were internal tools used when working on a client site. So we started uploading them on the WordPress repository under the WP sub-brand and everything grew from there.
But it wasn’t like the idea hit me after night’s sleep and I hopped out of bed ready to make million dollars. It got complicated as things developed. The pass is less of a linear train track and more of a meandering journey through a forest. There’s always a constant tug of input and different issues to resolve.
Source: WP Reset
That’s a good segue into what made you want to take a chance on AppSumo. What did you hope your campaign would accomplish?
I’m not really a fan of “launching” things because it’s been difficult for us to commit to releasing on a certain date. Like take today, as an example: this morning, we misplaced 6,000 emails. If we’d scheduled a launch for today, it would mean that we’d either have to ignore 6,000 unnoticed emails accumulated over the past 30 days, or that we’d have to postpone the launch.
This attitude is why our previous launches weren’t super successful. I wasn’t ready to commit to a date. I’d say September-ish and it would happen before Black Friday. The company functioned that way for a while. Fortunately, we all had something to eat, so nobody died. (laughs) It was all good.
But I wanted to try a proper full-scale launch. We started looking for partners who could facilitate it. After researching, we couldn’t find a company like AppSumo. This isn’t me tooting AppSumo’s horn. It’s the truth proven in numbers. Sure, there are competitors on the market, but they don’t have the same influence or reach as AppSumo. It was an obvious choice.
What were you expecting your launch to look like and how does that compare to how it actually went?
It can be a lot, but not in the way people often describe it. It helps that I’m not a one-man army. I have a company behind me.
It was a lot less drama than I thought! You wind up thinking you won’t sleep for a week, you’ll get divorced, you’ll have to rehome your pets—but it’s really not that bad.
I got a lot of questions from people across multiple channels: Twitter, Facebook, email. Some have even called me! It can be a lot, but not in the way people often describe it. It helps that I’m not a one-man army. I have a company behind me. If I were to do this alone, it wouldn’t be feasible.
The great thing was nobody was angry at me. We resolved all tickets within an hour, so everybody was happy. We also over-prepared to a certain extent, mostly with our documentation. People don’t really read the documentation, but it helps you. So when someone asks “How do you do XYZ,” you have the solution ready to go.
What advice and responses did you find most helpful from our community?
Most importantly, listen to what other people are saying to you. The person in charge of your launch has done this before a hundred times. Their expertise and advice is vital.
I also really value user feedback to improve user experience. Like, telling us that we made you click seven times, instead of five. We know right away how to address that issue, so we can fix it immediately. It’s also great to get user feedback because it means that people are actually using the product.
What keeps you coming back for more? And what are you enjoying about AppSumo launches, especially since you were not a launch guy?
There was the initial overhead for the first launch, but after that, the process becomes easier and cheaper. These other launches cost less. We already have the resources necessary to make it happen. Staying connected to your API, doing the content, knowing people at AppSumo—that’s all done now. I don’t have to think about it.
So if we have a finished product that works, the only thing we need to do is adjust it for AppSumo. We make a few calls to set up the tiers, the pricing, and to see what Sumo-lings want. In comparison to the first launch, it’s now really easy peasy. Now that doesn’t mean we could do one launch a month. But we can definitely do a couple a year without a problem.
Earlier, you talked about how losing a client base kind of made it difficult to understand what the community needs. Have Sumo-lings filled that role for you? Are you learning more from them?
Sumo-lings are a special bunch. They have special, specific needs.
Oh, definitely. I’ve learned that Sumo-lings are a special bunch. They have special, specific needs. They’re not the kind of people who hang out on free plugins on the WordPress repository. So we adjust things for the targeted audience. Sumo-lings only pay once. They don’t want to hear about yearly fees.
If you’re just thinking about profit, working with AppSumo seems strange. Since you’re only getting paid once, it’s not a long-lasting business strategy. But designing a product with AppSumo in mind is a perfect way to start. You’ll know if the product is working based on how many people buy in and continue to use it.
So, yes, Sumo-lings give a lot of perspective, without actively contacting us. Their wallets speak for them. If you’re selling well, you know you’re doing something right. If you don’t sell much and your refund rate is quite high, you know you’re doing something wrong.
What advice would you offer future partners so that they can be prepared and get the most out of their launch?
It is such a streamlined process, and it doesn’t get easier than this. The AppSumo team is there to help you.
Dusty created new instructions for partners. So, my first piece of advice is: read them. It’s not 500 pages or anything crazy. It’s about 11 steps with a checklist. So, you can keep track of what you need to do. It is such a streamlined process, and it doesn’t get easier than this. The AppSumo team is there to help you. So, listen to what they have to say. If you don’t understand something, ask them.
It’s also important to get your dates in order. Whatever time you think you have, in the end, it’s just going to be one day. Suddenly, it’s tomorrow! So, respect the dates.
Next, go through other similar launches on AppSumo’s website. Just lurk. Read comments and reviews. Maybe buy a few products so that you can see the user flow from the user’s perspective. That way, you can see what’s going on and see some best practices.
And on your launch day, you really need to be behind your keyboard, replying to comments. They’re going to be coming in from every single channel. You need to answer in a few hours at least. In fact, if you can answer sooner, do that. You’ll sell more if people get information immediately.
Speaking of selling, you need to think about what you’ll do after your launch. Where will you spend your profit? Are you going to spend it all at once? Are you going to invest it into further development of whatever software you need for the next five or ten years? What do you need to do to maintain Sumo-lings as customers, knowing that they paid once and deserve a functioning product? You need to be able to pay for the servers, for people, for marketing, for support, for everything. And if you can’t, then AppSumo isn’t the right fit for you.
Also, there are a lot of cool people on AppSumo Slack, who’ve already launched. If you have some silly questions that you don’t want to ask anybody, there’s the general channel. It’s a good place to ask and someone will always help you out. Even if you’re doing something that’s not explicitly related to your launch, that’s cool. I see people doing a lot of product launches, and they ask for upvotes and get great feedback. That’s what I mean by help. Nobody’s going to code for you, but a thumb’s up is easy to ask for and get.
This has been our second launch. And you know, the first time is always the worst. You’re scared of everything. Over time, it gets easier. My advice to anybody who’s launching is: don’t take your preparations lightly. No matter how stable or finished your product is, it’s not five minutes of work. There are always adjustments to make. There’s support to prepare. There are guidelines and the specific ways that AppSumo does it, which are how Sumo-lings expect things to be done. It’s a lot, but if you properly prepare, the support load won’t be crazy.
All in all, it’s a great experience. You should do it. A lot of people dream about being on AppSumo. I don’t think it solves every problem in the world. It doesn’t cure a pandemic, but if you create software, you should do it.
Exactly! I know that there’s a possibility for marketplace products to then become select deals on the main channel. But we have qualifications. We do like to bring people the best of the best.
Right, that’s why we’re going to be doing this free deal. We could have done it like a normal deal. But the $15,000 or $20,000 that we’d earn wouldn’t have been a significant profit. Nothing happens with that kind of money.
So we’re taking a new approach with a new niche of people we found. Now we have 100,000 free users already using our plugin. We’re getting their emails and we’re going to be pushing them to AppSumo to create new accounts and to download the free plugin from AppSumo. That means you can email them, too. Since you’re not taking a cut from us, in the end, we’re going to earn the same profit.
You’re going to get new users, we’re going to get new emails. People are going to be using something great. So we’re switching it up a bit! I like it.
That’s WP Reset, Y’all
We’re so excited we got to reconnect with Gordan and hear about how collaborating with AppSumo has helped the WP Reset team reach new milestones.
Want to see how great WP Reset is for yourself? Get discounted access to WP Reset for one year for $89. Plus, check out Gordan’s Essential Guide to Updating WordPress Plugins Safely on the AppSumo blog.