Don't Do It Yourself

Marketing a Plugin for Big Bucks: Interview with Travis Ketchum

Have you ever considered building a WordPress plugin and selling it?  If you do it right you can make a killing.  And if you set it up properly, it could be the closest thing to “passive income” you'll find these days.

Today I'm going to interview Travis Ketchum, the creator of Contest Domination.  Contest Domination is a premium WordPress plugin that pulled in over $100k after being released as a (WSO) Warrior Special Offer.  I recently listened to Travis detail his promotion strategy in an awesome interview by Trent over at Bright Ideas.  I'm thinking about creating my own plugin and was pumped to learn more after that interview.  So I reached out to Travis with a few follow-up questions about building and marketing premium plugins and he was kind enough to answer.  Check out my interview with Travis below.

Interview with Travis Ketchum – Creator of Contest Domination

1.       Based on your success promoting through a WSO  (over $100k in the first week), do you feel that a premium-only model is the best way to go?  Or did you give any thought to a freemium model to get more exposure (where the basic plugin is free and extra features are paid)?

This statement is slightly incorrect, we didn't do over $100k in the first week, but the bulk of it was in the few weeks of the WSO, however that total revenue was over a few months. As far as premium-only model, I know some people do really well providing free plugins to the community and build up an audience to sell them something premium (think freemium) but this takes a long time to build up enough momentum to satisfy the financial requirements of supporting your software for free at first. I'm a fan of just going for the feature set that people really want and that you can monetize right off the bat because it allows you to be more aggressive with your user acquisition.

2.       Did you release a beta in stealth mode to collect stats and testimonials before launching? And would you recommend it?

It wasn't launched as stealth but rather just to my small existing audience. I let those users purchase it and launch a few campaigns to help me get an idea of what people loved/hated and the kind of results they got. It's important to have social proof with any launch, but don't be afraid to just ship something and see what people say. I tell many people who ask this question that I'd rather push something early because you can be surprised more often than not about how people end up using your software and it might result in a pivot for your company anyway.

3.       Aside from the WSO, your own site, and affiliates, are there any websites that are a must for promoting a premium plugin?

Promoting a premium plugin can be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, for instance if your initial launch has a unique story to it I think you'll find that plenty of other sites will want to tell that story because it's interesting. This in and of itself generates sustainable buzz for your product and continually puts you in front of new audiences, this has been a huge driver in our consistent level of sales.

4.       I see you opted to use ClickBank for a payment processor and access to affiliates.  Any reason you choose ClickBank over other platforms like eJunkie?

I picked Clickbank over things such as eJunkie because everyone knew they would get paid and there is a huge base of affiliates that would be interested in using the product itself. This made it easy to let people just drop in their Clickbank affiliate ID and get credit for the “powered by” that is optionally run in the sidebar of each contest so people could earn money for their efforts. Win-Win.

5.       Some plugin creators require users to enter an activation code to prevent piracy.  Do you think this extra security is worth the effort to deter theft?  And if it is, are you aware of any software that makes it easy to setup an activation process?

Activation codes are a lot like bike lock cables (incidentally I had my bike stolen this year) in that all they do is keep honest people honest and are a pain in the meanwhile. If someone really wants to steal your software they are just going to do it anyway and it's easy to check customer records in most systems to see if someone should get your resources for support efforts. There is certainly a time and a place for authentication, but for any reasonably priced plugin I think it adds more friction than it's worth for your users.

6.       How much effort do you regularly apply to support the plugin (like answering questions and fixing bugs)?

When we first launched the support resource time was actually a lot of my time because I was focused on finding the strange fringe use cases that caused compatibility issues. Now that most of those are ironed out it's actually pretty easy to support so just a few times per week I check my support desk and get people taken care of. I've found that if someone is really having a hard time they will find a way to message you across every channel you have and get your attention, at which point I jump right in to take care of them.

7.       Any particular steps you took early on to reduce the amount of post launch support?

I was just very open with people about the state of compatibility and let my entire audience know when we were planning any substantial update and what they could expect as well as the timeline. I found this meant I didn't get a million emails with the same issues that were already known since most people realized that they were only about 48 hours away from a solution that I was providing for free.

8.       Did you setup an LLC or other business entity for the plugin? And is it completely separate from your other online efforts?

Since this was a trial project I just launched it under the same business entity that I do everything else online with. However as it's popularity grows and I make partnership deals etc it will likely make sense to grow the sophistication of my business layers in parallel with the success of any one particular project.

9.       What was the biggest surprise or hurdle you encountered during the process of creating and promoting a premium WordPress plugin?

The biggest hurdle was probably just the sheer number of plugins and theme customizations people implement on their WordPress sites – I was amazed at how “heavy” people let their WordPress sites get and that adds some exponentially complex compatibility concerns.

Contest Domination Logo

Travis, I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.

And I highly encourage every blogger to check-out the plugin Travis created that is doing so well: Contest Domination.