Cory Miller Founder of iThemes & Partner in Post Status
Cory Miller is a passionate entrepreneur who believes in finding and maintaining work happiness that aligns with your purpose and plays to your strengths, talents and ambitions, while challenging you to do great things with your life.
In 2008, he started iThemes, a pioneer in building cutting-edge web design software and training for tens of thousands of customers around the globe.
Over a decade and starting from a home office, Cory grew iThemes into a multi-million dollar enterprise, leading a team of 25+ people, in four countries, with an office headquarters in Oklahoma City.
In 2011, iThemes was named the 7th fastest growing company in Oklahoma City by the Metro 50. That same year, he co-founded The Div, Inc., a nonprofit tech foundation aimed at inspiring and training the next generation of software developers through its kid’s program, Div, Jr.
After a decade of successful business, in January 2018, iThemes was acquired by Liquid Web, a premiere web hosting company, and is now an independent unit within the company.
In addition to being a regular leadership speaker, trainer and writer, he is the co-author of WordPress All-in-One for Dummies (Wiley, 2011).
He is a member and past board member of the Oklahoma chapter of Entrepreneurs’ Organization (EO), a network of over 8,000 entrepreneurs in 40 countries with companies that have revenue over $1 million dollars annually.
Cory has also served as an EO moderator for 3 peer-to-peer “forum” groups and started and seeded two forum groups during his membership.
He is also is a trustee for WP&UP, a nonprofit providing mental health support in the WordPress community.
He is married to Lindsey Miller, who is a political fundraising consultant. They have an adorable son named Caloway and a little sweetheart daughter named Lillian.
I use this blog to talk about my adventures in entrepreneurship (the roller coaster ride), things I am continually learning about marketing, new business announcements (yes, I will shamelessly promote my life’s work here!) and anything else I want to share with the world, in particular, my very amateur photos, which are most likely taken with my iPhone
Johnathan: Welcome back folks to the WP tonic show, this is episode 528. We’ve got a star of the WordPress community, a Grandi, one the old guard, Napoleon’s old guard I would say. We got Corey Miller joining and Corey, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show. I think it’s going to be a fascinating discussion. Can you quickly introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers that might not know who you are?
Cory: You bet. Gosh, 528? Well done. Well done, that’s awesome. I’m honored to be asked to be on the show. My name is Corey Miller and in 2008, I started a company called iThemes and initially we did WordPress themes and then over the next couple of years, after 2008, we kind of got into plugins or hit plugin at the time and still probably I think is a backup buddy.
Eventually, we acquired a plugin called Better WP Security and [inaudible 01:16] rebranded that to ITheme Security. We built, ITheme Sync and then in 2018 sold IThemes too… we were acquired by LiquidWeb, a great premium web hosting company and in 2019, I left the team and embarked on my next chapter. So, today I kind of think of myself as like a project entrepreneur. I’ve got about six or seven projects that are all, either clients are single LLC companies and that’s because I like diversity. I like to work on different things and a passion of mine last for most of my life, but particularly the last five years by as I’ve talked about it publicly is mental health and getting ready to launch our first professional project related that field in the next month. And I’m really excited to do that.
Johnathan: And you’re actively involved in the podcast newsletter website Post Status as a partner, aren’t you?
Cory: Yes. I’m a co-owner partner of poststatus.com, a membership community for WordPress entrepreneurs, developers, agencies, all the gamut. If you do WordPress for living post status is your home.
Johnathan: Yeah, it’s a great podcast, I recommend you should listen to it. And I’ve got my great co-host Adrian. Adrian would you like to introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers.
Adrian: Hi everyone, my name is Adrian. I am the CEO and founder of Groundhogg. We help small businesses launch their funnel, grow their list and scale their business with proven marketing automation and CRM tools for WordPress.
Johnathan: And we had one of our biggest months for a long-time last month of new listeners and viewers. Thank you so much for joining the WP tonic tribe and hopefully you will keep on listening. Like I say it was great to see that the figures had gone up considerably. Before we go into the main part of the interview, I wanted to talk about one of our main sponsors and that’s Kingsta Hosting. Kingsta Hosting, they’ve been the main sponsor for the past couple of years.
If you’re looking for quality hosting for yourself or for your clients, let’s say you got WooCommerce project, a learning management system project, you need quality hosting for yourself or for your clients. And that’s what you get with Kingsta. All the modern technology based on Google cloud plus fantastic UX design, fantastic support, everything that you need to run a website and not have any continuous problems with your hosting that’s what you get with Kingsta. So, if that sounds interesting, I suggest you go over by one of their packages and also tell them that you heard about them on the WP- Tonic show. So, before we go on to some of the main themes of the show, Corey obviously IThemes recently required restrictive content pro from Pippin Sandshill Development. Were you surprised about the purchase or did you think that was a well fitted purchase that benefited both sides?
Cory: I was surprised, but like I told Matt Danner, who’s the general manager of iThemes and we walked together for 10 plus years, an amazing guy, an amazing friend, I was high fiving, I was excited. I was like, man, this is such a good score. Because I’m also a customer of RCP, I use it on a couple of my sites and so I was pumped. I think it’s awesome, it’s a bittersweet moment too though, is seeing this team running without me, you know but also such a proud moment that like that team led by Matt, it’s awesome and strategically, he never bounced any of that off me, he didn’t need to, he’s got his own vision and everything and I thought that it’s a great score for that iThemes community.
We had built an e-commerce plugin back in the day, iThemes Exchange and it was my biggest product failure. So, I’m pumped that they’re getting back into that game specifically in a niche that is growing, I mean, extremely popular right now and plus like who better to… if you’re going to acquire product Pippin and his team.
Johnathan: Can I, before we get into the main theme of the conversation, which is going to be what is the value of a lead in 2020 and also talk about your work and mental health as well, even though you mentioned exchange and it was your biggest failure. On reflection, why do you think it was a failure? Because it was a good product and I actually think there was a niche area for it. So why do you classify it as a failure?
Cory: And by the way… I don’t get failure is just a part of… Adrian, you know this in your startup too, like not saying you’re a failure, I’m just saying like, as a startup entrepreneur, you understand this. Like failures are just part of the gig, man. If the three of us weren’t okay with failure, we wouldn’t be entrepreneurs, we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing. That’s what separates us out from those that choose not to, I’ll just take a paycheck. So, I say put failure like it’s…
Johnathan: I understand why you use that term because compared the enormous success you had with other products and services you would classify, I understand. So, I understand why you use utilize that wording.
Cory: So, if I say it was my biggest failure is because one, number one, it cost a lot of money. A significant amount of money.
Adrian: How much?
Cory: I think at one point we… we probably said probably 400, $500,000.
Adrian: That is a lot of money.
Cory: Yeah. And so, I said, you know, learning, you should… failure and mistakes, you should learn from it. And I’m like man, I paid a lot of money for that learning, what have I from it? And a couple come to mind. We held on too long for sentimental reasons, I fully affirmed what you said, Jonathan. Like, I love iThemes Exchange that became Exchange WP and a couple of people tried their hand at it. I loved it because it was built for me, simplicity of e-commerce it’s just, I love WooCommerce, but like you opened it up and you’re like oh, overwhelmed. That’s a reason why I like RCP for memberships, by the way, it’s so simple to use, you know? And we tried to do that with e-commerce, but I held on too long and it was emotional and it wasn’t business.
It was because we were having this conversation in Chicago with the team back years ago. And we’re basically saying hey guys, hey gang, there was two developers on the project and the support person and they were so talented and we’re like we can’t pat them, we’re pulling the plug next. Not for your jobs, you’re so valuable to us we want you on other projects that are actually making money. And they were like, we get it, we love it, but we get it. We just want to be around, we just want to do work at iThemes, no matter what project. Well that week is when WooCommerce the acquisition by automatic dropped and so that’s one facet of it. It’s just, when we can’t say we’re shuttering the same week, that’s an ego problem. That was a problem.
I was making decisions on ego, on emotional attachment to it and the second, if I would say…so that was a big one, like I held on and it cost me a ton of money and opportunity costs like those developers and support people that amazing team members could have been doing stuff that was actually working, applying their firepower of their brain power to that. The other, if I say let’s just round the number up and say it was a half million-dollar mistake, failure. What did I learn from that? What insights? The second was we didn’t niche down. We tried to take this big thing and just go; we’re going to do eCommerce. Now we had a facet of what we’re doing, I’m curious what you, from a product standpoint, Adrian would say this too, we attack a problem, which is eCommerce software is hard to use, but we took on the entire enchilada and as you know, there’s an infinite combination of eCommerce. Like, look how many add-ons there are whatever they call them at WooCommerce.
Adrian: Are you doing digital sales? Are you doing physical sales? Are you doing event ticket sales? Are you going to do bundles? Are you going to do order forms? Is it going to be card? Is it going to be like [cross-talk 10:11]?
Cory: I want to sell my team, I want to give it to my team, but…
Adrian: Is it going to be like a directory? Are we going to let like third party sellers sell stuff on our store? Like, yeah, that’s a deep hole.
Cory: Hey, Adrian, I want to sell a tee shirt, but I want a membership attached to it and I want a 14-day trial. And by the way, I will also want to sell that to a group of people. The variations you hit it on the head are endless and we tried to take that on and we didn’t niche down. We didn’t pick a spot and go; this is ours and camp on it. And that’s a big regret, but if we had done the numbers, this is what RCP connected back to the recent news with iThemes, membership. We had a membership add-on that was our strongest used add-on back in… I think this is 2014 or 15, if we had just camped out in memberships, we would have probably been a different place and not had to shutter it and lose all that money. So first is, emotionally letting decisions that should have been made and taking them way too far. Second is not picking up an area camping out, but trying to eat the whole enchilada.
Adrian: Yeah. I mean, I did a fair amount. So, Groundhog has been around for two years now, when we started, there was a fair amount of trying to figure out well, who is our ideal customer and what kind of scenarios are we going to make good on and what kind of scenarios are we going to say you’re better off with another product. If you look at something, I guess in the eCommerce industry, there’s kind of the two ways to look at it. There’s like the Thrivecart mentality, which is, I think kind of what you were trying to go towards, where it’s like super simple checkout form, you get your products, you have your subscription, like you add that there’s, there’s no like complex stuff going on, but it’s just like a super easy way to like check out. And then you have the woo commerce, which is like your whole cart system. And those would like two very different products that do business in two very different ways, but speak to do very different types of people. We actually have kind of like a similar thing to Thrivecart, we have our own like sub-product, it’s on its own, it’s called Really Simple Payments, which basically does that whole just like simple, checkout form, name, address, billing information, you just select one product per order form, and like that’s, that’s your subscription and you’re good to go.
And it’s for a very, very, very specific kind of business, mainly like consultants who want to like collect retainer or people who want to just like build like a super simple membership site and charge their monthly subscription and then control access to that. So, niching down and tackling like e-commerce as a whole must have just been like… well, what, what did you even try, I want to know, what did you even try to do in order to like take on the whole bucket?
Cory: We started with the premise of that eCommerce is too complex and that was our premise and it was good. Everybody talks about Exchange, our product page was so well designer at the time, Brad Orrick, amazing and then Ty Carlson, another UI, they collabed on how to do that and make it like we had a lot of thoughtful conversations about hiding the kitchen sink until you need it and just getting people to what they actually need to do so that my… honestly, and she knows this, but so that my mom could add products and edit products on this software. But like, it comes to mind, you were talking about some of your stuff, is that start with the customer and it’s tough. I’m in this process right now where I’ve got a couple of projects that don’t have clear customer profiles, like you said, I think the better word for it or phrase is ideal clients. And one, having that person in mind and I did over at iThemes over 10 years.
And the first person that came to mind was myself. I’m not a developer, I wanted everything to be simple and easy to use. So, that’s the premise we use with Exchange. Where we went wrong is saying is that an identifiable enough facet problem and are there a lot of people that are interested in it? And enough to sustain a product with also going like, do they even know it’s a problem? Do they even care it’s a problem? A lot of the products and things I’ve done the last couple of years specifically had to ask myself, I know it’s a problem, but do enough of these people know it’s a problem?
Cory: And so that whole entrepreneur thing is interesting.
Adrian: Chris from lifter LMS talks about the customer centric business a lot and I learned a lot from him about it. Where when you were initially designing your core offering everything comes from the, starting with the customer. When I started, I having come from infusion soft and having come from other CRMs, I was looking like you, at the problem, or coming up from product out instead of customer out and saying we’re just going to make marketing automation easier and simpler because marketing automation is hard and that’s true. But we ended up not hitting home with a lot of people because we weren’t targeting a specific type of person. We were just stating, this is a problem and this is how you fix it, and it’s like, well, is this a problem that I have? And that’s the problem, right? Because they don’t, they don’t realize that that’s the problem. So, that’s when we switched over, it’s like, all right, well, who’s our ideal customer? We’re going to target digital marketing agencies and these are the specific problems that agencies have and then from, from out there, we are able to reach a little bit of a broader audience, but starting with the customers, just like that, the only way to do it in my.
Corey: It’s the only way to do it, but it’s, you hit it on the head, it’s the hard one. It’s like we go, it’s the hammer and nail, I’ve got a cool hammer. You came out of digital… in digital marketing and automation and go I’ve got a hammer, man, I know how this works, I know to how to make it better. And then the phrase is like everything becomes a nail, so then you try to hit the hammer with the nail when we know the more organic and dare to say right way, but you know, the more organic way to do it is start with the customer and their needs, and then follow that path. On a simple level, that’s what I did in 2008. It was me as the avatar in 2008, and Adrian I don’t know how long you’ve been in WordPress, but is, let’ see 12 years ago…
Adrian: Probably around, I probably joined WordPress around 2014.
Cory: Awesome. What a good time to be in WordPress too. But this is going to shock you, but at some point, there wasn’t dropdown menus and most themes, and I don’t want to drop down menu so you can use WordPress really as a CMS and we hit that and that was helpful at that time but then the market got much more advanced really quickly. But RCP, I’ll go back to Pippin for a second, listening to his interview that we did with Post Status with him and Matt, that was one of his first products and he started with himself. He wanted to build a membership plugin that just worked, that was easy, but it was developer friendly and look how popular it is. It got very, very popular, so did EDD but I think that’s a… I’m curious to hear your take on this, but the whole design it for yourself kind of thing and I don’t know some ways you can get off base on that. I think it’s back to this, serve the customer and know who that is and there’s enough of them sustain your business is probably the better way for me.
Adrian: There’s a ton of truth to that. I mean, if I were to build myself a product, it would be a lot more advanced than it is. And in a lot of ways, it’s actually a lot more advanced than I actually wanted it to be in the first place, if you’re not listening to the customer and all of that and they want stuff that gets more advanced and that reflects it. But if as the owner and as the product developer and kind of like the visionary behind a lot of the stuff that goes on, it’s easy to identify problems that you yourself have, that the majority of your customers may or may not actually have so you end up spending a whole bunch of time working on something that they don’t actually meet. I remember I did this early on. I’m like, you know what we need? Having an app would be really nice. Having a mobile app where they can check their contacts.
A lot of other CRMs have that and their customers… I don’t actually know if their customers are using or not, but you go see like the active installs count on the app store and whatnot and I’m like it looks like people are using it. So maybe that’s something that we should have in order to compete. So, I spent not half a million dollars, but a significant amount of money for a startup over the course of several months building this app and then one day I was talking to Chris and he was like well, we only build what people ask for. And I’m like well, nobody asked for this app. So, I went back I went to the group and I’m like, does anybody want this? And they’re like heh.
So, we only had at that point, like a few hundred customers anyway, and it was just a total waste of time because I didn’t ask what they actually wanted and our time we can much better spent focusing on other problems that they actually have rather than what I personally thought that they might need based on what other people are doing.
Cory: That’s so tough to. So, like you said a couple hundred customers, that’s a good sample size to me. Some of my projects though, that I’m on now don’t have couple hundred, they have like 80 and it’s hard to get this… if I’m just describing the entrepreneurial journey, particularly with starting something new is in that first, you’re trying to pair… We’re talking about like, you should have opinions about the product. You have strong opinions about…
Adrian: Yeah, and if you don’t, then you don’t really know where to go next.
Yeah. But it’s this tough thing and again, this is why if entrepreneurship was easy, everybody would do it, because you got opinions here and thoughts and assumptions that you’re making and then you’re trying to get enough of a sample size on people that go, yes, I will give you money in exchange for what you’re offering. Several of my projects are in this exact phase and it’s a struggle. I drew a picture of a snowball. I want to show you my fancy graphic. I’m not an artiste Adrian.
Adrian: I’m going to describe it for anybody who’s doing audio only.
Cory: Oh, yeah.
Adrian: So, there’s a… we got a line and it’s like motion blur of a snowball going over this nice arc.
Cory: Yeah. So, on the uphill of the snowball, snowbell starts out, there’s a small little thing and you’re like, this is exciting, that’s what you’re like I’m going to do this with marketing automation. And that’s similar to Exchange or anything else we’re talking about, it’s like, I want to do this, I’m excited. But the snowball is small and this is arduous uphill battle in the snow and the blizzard that you’re trying to create the snowball and all of this along the way, it’s after you get past the excitement, it’s like, this is just a slug and this sucks, and this sucks, and this sucks, and this sucks. Then you get to the tip of the hill with a snowball and maybe there’s just a little bit more and a lot of stories, you talk about success similar to this, bloggers and different entrepreneurs that they said that like, they did this for five years…
Adrian: Seemed to get wrapped up when you see those people on Facebook and they have, like, I made this in like six months and I have a Lamborghini. Like, even if that’s true for the people that it is true, because some people manage to like they just hit the lottery and the stars align, and like they have a hundred percent conversion rate on their webinar, they’re like famous overnight for the vast majority of people that’s not what happens myself included.
Cory: And I would also say, I’ll keep this PG, but that’s called B.S like, everybody that has a story like that, it’s not an overnight thing. You’re like, okay, maybe that particular transaction happened in six days, but what about the 20 years you spent building your reputation, your audience in this? But the key about snowballs, you get over this hump and then the snowball starts building on the self and it takes minimal effort to just make it go faster, bigger, but that slog is the journey of entrepreneurship, like in the very first is just figuring out like I’m in this. So, assumptions that we talked about and getting enough sample size to say okay, this is what they actually need. And that’s the tough part. Like when I talked to a budding entrepreneur, I always say like, build your audience first if you can.
Adrian: Money has always been in the list man. The money’s in the list, you got to build the list.
Cory: Build the list. Yeah. It’s your platform. Here’s the biggest example in WordPress I have of this, it’s Syed Balkhi, my good friend, at WP Beginner. We started around the same time, he started WP Beginner and I remember this young kid, hustling kid pinging me saying, I’ll wear your shirt at word camps so you’ll sponsor me, but all along, he just did the consistent thing, rolled the snowball until now, like he is gobbling up and owning most of the industry and rightfully so, he’s so strategic and brilliant in it. And I give it to him. I just say, like I say, I just tell him I’m jealous.
Adrian: Syed Balkhi and his company 50% of the top installed WordPress plugins. It’s ridiculous. This this guy has influence over, over WordPress, really.
Cory: Yeah. Syed’s an amazing human being too, but he and a dear friend, but it’s because it goes back to like, everybody wants the audience he has built at WP Beginner and he has done so much with that platform. Everything you just mentioned, he did it from the platform called WP Beginner and he had other properties I didn’t know about. I knew him for years and didn’t even know about it, outside of WordPress, but WP Beginner, it’s like he owns it because he owns the audience, which is incredible so that’s why I tell people to start with audience. Sometimes you don’t have that luxury, I need to be building product and audience at the same time trying to mass it together, but it’s tough. Like you’re two years into Groundhogg and I’m sure that that it’s been…
Adrian: It’s a little bit more than a few hundred now, thank goodness. But yeah, we have a very decent sample size of people to collect feedback from, and we’re working on like Groundhog three now, and it’s all well and good.
Cory: So, if you look back on your journey, I’m going to interview you now. What were the catalytic moments that happened when you started to hit the tipping point past a hundred customers, what were those things that got you here today?
Adrian: I mean, the slog was real through year one. So, from August to August, August, 2018 to August 2019, there was a slog, very minimal revenue, few hundred people users, and like less than a hundred actually paying customers at that point. And we were talking about it, and that’s just because I was targeting the problem all wrong. I was like we’re going to make marketing automation, easier marketing automation and CRM is this huge thing with massive players in the industry, you look at Active Campaign, Infusionsoft, HubSpot, Salesforce. Marketo, there’s like the list is like super long because it’s one of the most prolific industries because every business needs a list and the people who own the data that control the list are the people who make the real money. So, it’s this massive industry with massive players and we’re just like this small little WordPress plug-in and I’m like I’m just going make it easier and I’m going to make it for WordPress and people are going love it and people are just going use it because it’s on WordPress and it’s free.
And then I went to Cabo Press on Chris’s recommendation, and he got me a ticket, he got me an invite so I went and I spent the four or five days there, and that just like changed my whole perspective on it. And I learned that it’s not actually about the product, it’s about whatever the customer needs. And I shifted my whole view, I shifted my entire pricing model, I shifted pretty much my whole view of how business and how entrepreneurship is supposed to work and from there it’s still been uphill, but the slope is slowly flattening out right now and by the time Groundhog three comes out, probably about Q1, we’re going just start rolling downhill and it will be a little bit easier from that point on. So, when that switch happened and when you learn that it goes customer out, you identify the problems that they have and you pick your niche, that’s like. Super important it’s like you pick your ideal customer, ours is the digital marketing agency once you, once you pick that person, everything kind of just like falls into place.
The pricing becomes easier because you know what those people can afford, you know what their expectations of service are, you know what their expectations of functionality are, you can solve specific niche problems. Like one of the problems that agencies have using Active Campaign or using Infusionsoft for example, is that it’s hard to move strategies that they’ve implemented in one business to another business really easily. You can’t just like export a campaign and then move it over easily. It’s a difficult process that requires going through multiple steps and for our stuff, we were like, we’re going to solve this problem just by just like, you can download a file directly to an export file and move it anywhere, like totally decentralized.
Cory: That’s awesome.
Adrian: And that’s one of the big things we make it like white labeled so that their customers don’t even know that it’s Groundhogg and they just pay us like an extra licensing fee for that, we made that really easy and we just started solving like these super niche problems and it just makes their lives incredibly easier. And as soon as we started doing that life was better.
Cory: Yeah. Knowing who you’re hitting and then asking, what are their problems, like you said, with the app, like I did that with sync. We built an iOS app, probably cost us, I don’t know, $25,000. And then a handful of people use it. It wasn’t something requested to your point earlier.
Adrian: It wasn’t a selling point, it was it’s one of those things that’s nice to have, but didn’t actually make any money. Especially when you’re starting a new project in a new business, and you’re a new product, you have to ask yourself, all right, is the investment that we’re going to put into this actually worth the amount of money that it’s going to bring us? We build a lot of extensions, a lot of integrations, not necessarily… some of them that are easy to do because we know that people actually are going to use them and they’re not necessarily selling points but we get some, like, you know, huge major asks from some of our clients but we know that if we like and invest in that, that’s going to be used by like, maybe like three people. And we’re just going to have to say, sorry, the market size to do this is not going to warrant the investment and those are the kinds of decisions that we have to make now, now that we know a little bit better that just because if you build it, they won’t necessarily come I guess is what I am trying to say.
Cory: Exactly. Oh yeah. The things that I thought were going to be these home runs became the ones that weren’t. The ones that I was like yeah, this is cool, let’s go do that became the ones like… it’s a serendipitous thing of like mostly being surprised but I tell people over the years, if there was a book that could archive everything we did, it would be titled Stumbling Successfully because a lot of this time you’re making it up, maybe you have models for it that you go look, I’m trying to figure out how to price this, okay, well, there’s other people I can go look at pricing, but for the most part, I feel like an entrepreneurship you’re making it up as you go. And we tried to make… looking back, it’s like trying to make the decisions that would not cause us to fall on our face, not actually fall, but if we stumbled, like the Exchange decision wasn’t one that should make us fall, we should have stumbled, we could have been better off. But I feel like most of us don’t have it all mapped out and have all the answers, we’re trying to figure it out as we go and make the right decisions. And it’s a tough…
Adrian: Yeah, it’s guesswork. There’s no question, I mean, the way that I’ve been able to get to where I am is just by asking other people lots of questions and…
Cory: It’s a great way to be, me too,
Adrian: Asking lots of people questions, and then making projections and saying, you know what? This might work and then it either does, or doesn’t. I’ve had a couple of products blunders myself, not nearly to the point… I mean, so the app for one. Number two was we had our own sending service for a while and we invested a lot of money in that but just like the technology on the backend wasn’t work and people didn’t really understand the value and they didn’t understand the offer and it was just, most people just want to just buy AWS anyway. So, we went and that’s a much more successful products than our original sending service even though it was our own brand and everything.
Cory: Even as we talk about this, it just solidifies starting with somebody that has a problem. I didn’t find a problem that probably irritated, pissed off about or trying to cobble together and just frustrated about and it’s like you said, let’s say, take an agency, they want to be able to replicate what they’re doing, the funnels that work across projects. Well, that’s time consuming and they bill by the hour, most of them. And you come up with a solution and say, you can do this and by the way, you can rebrand it with white labeling for an extra fee and then you get to sell to your client like you’re the genius. I think this is a great way to offer solutions in the world for sure.
Adrian: Yeah. Okay. So, Jonathan, I don’t know where Jonathan went, but I’m going to take over Jonathan to do the rest of this logistical thing. So, we’re going to take a break really quickly, and then we’re going to come back and we are going to talk about the value of a lead, which is something that Cory has been working on and he’s really excited about for one of his project and he need to tell us more about the calculation that he’s done to generate the value of a lead for his business and that’s going to be super exciting. So, stay tuned and we’ll be back shortly.
And we’re back before we go into talking to Cory about how he’s come up with the perfect calculation for the value of a lead, we are going to mention our second sponsor for the show and that sponsor is actually ground Groundhogg, which is super exciting. So Groundhogg is a marketing automation and CRM platform for WordPress. We help small businesses launch your funnel and grow your list and scale your business. If you are an agency, small business eCommerce shop, or any business that uses WordPress, you’ll be able to benefit from our products. We allow you to create funnels, sales funnels, and timed, email marketing automation in order to better communicate with your list and convert visitors into paying customers. You can do that with onboarding funnels, cart, abandonment funnels, you can do that with webinar funnels, the possibilities are endless, although we do make it extremely easy to get started with lots of prebuilt templates and prewritten emails to kind of give you a little bit of guidance as you start embarking on your marketing automation journey.
We also have lots of training available and weekly office hours to support you as you implement Groundhogg into your business. To find out more about how Groundhogg will be able to help you scale up, you can go to Groundhogg and that’s what two gs.io. Again, Groundhogg with two gs.io. All right, Cory so value of a lead. First let’s contextualize this part of the conversation a little bit. What project is this for? You say you have eight kind of going on at the same time, right?
Yeah. So, my partner that really did the work on this was his virtual CFO’s name is Jeff Mazir and I posed a question… well, I was working with this client. I love this client, they’re an addiction treatment center again, my passion for helping with mental health, that path led me to this addiction treatment center in Nashville. And it’s a private pay treatment center and I was like, how much… and I’m helping them with digital marketing, I said how much is a lead worth? Like if somebody hits your contact form or the phone, make a phone call to the treatment center how much is worth? And the CEO tells me like the contact form is two to 6% or something it can probably convert. And I go, well from eCommerce side, like as fairly good, I think from getting a page to convert to something…
Adrian: 2 to 6% on a generic contact form is more than pretty good.
Cory: That’s what I said. Now, her response was, well, we’ve got a very limited admissions staff and the process to figure out how much does insurance pay and all this stuff it’s pretty long and taxing. So, I go, okay, well, that’s interesting but I did note that. She said, if somebody calls it’s way higher, it’s 40 to 60% and I got my interest in it and I said, okay. So, there’s two lead values there, 2 to 6% on the contact form versus this, I know their average price, for a 30-day, 60 day stay. And so, I went back to Jeff and I said how can I quantify this into the value of lead? Because that would inform if I want to go out, I’ve very minimally done paid advertising, but if I wanted to go out and spend pay-per-click or Facebook ads or something, like I need to know how much that would be worth to me and the max I should spend when it gets past break even, but have something that is more data driven decision than just like, sounds like we should go do Facebook ads.
Well, that doesn’t mean anything. You could actually go down a rabbit trail and spend a lot of money and not do…
I did that.
Cory: I did that too, Google ads for years, spent a ton of money on it and didn’t even have it tracking with Google analytics so I wasted a lot of money too. So, that’s where the conversation came and this is a part of what we do. One of my projects is called business valueacademy.com and as I mentioned earlier, I’ve had an exit, sold iThemes, it was acquired my partner, Jeff, so I think it was digital products. Jeff had a medical supply business and so whole totally different from like, oh, inventory, what’s inventory? I never had to inventory. So, in Business Value Academy, we talk about these types of conversations. How do you have more one, increase your value of your business today and for tomorrow? And our approach is if you make better decisions by data, don’t just go by hunch, keep your instinct there. Your instinct like you’re talking about Groundhogg is right on, you’ve got opinions about things.
And I think for someone building the kind of software that you do, I want you to have opinions about that, I want you to have deep expertise in that. But the other side is like the data side is does this… so the lead value exercise we put together and we’re going to be offering it later today on a webinar with a free Google sheet, is just trying to help people like they put in their average sales price, their campaign goal, and then we make some assumptions. And this would be interesting for you, I would love to give this to you, Adrian, so you can give me some feedback, but I just put like a generic, 1% goal conversion…
So, if you were to spend a ton of money and put people through the funnel and they got to a landing page from an ad or whatever, the goal conversion would be the amount of traffic that you send versus the people that actually became a lead, not necessarily a customer.
Yes, absolutely. So, that’s a deeper conversation we started wading through and it was much deeper than I ever I’ve ever gotten. My early on 2008 approach was write a bunch of content that helps solve people’s problems that they’re looking for on the web, so back in 2008, one of them was what is FTP? Back in the day, you had to upload things for zip files and stuff you had to use FTP, now WordPress has gotten way better and you don’t have to do that kind of stuff but back then it was a problem. I wanted them to show up… the whole digital marketing thing show up on our site, go, iThemes as a resource, there’s other things to get them on the email list. So, but that was my approach for five, six, 10 years doing that until…
Adrian: It’s a valid approach and in a lot of ways it’s still valid.
Cory: Absolutely. Now it’s gotten a ton more competitive as you know, we lost some ground on SEO because I just frankly didn’t update my SEO skills. So, I’d have my friend, Rebecca Gill come and help us but all that to say, I’ve never done that exercise. Like we knew how much an average customer was worth, I could look at Google analytics and see conversion rates based on customers too. And so, it was like, okay if they hit our backup buddy sales page or whatever software is one and 1.5% or something. Well, again, there’s 90, whatever other percentage that would be that don’t buy so how do we… that view of that just allows us, okay, we can turn the knob on conversion rate. Do we have a strong call to action? Are there prices, right? Is the message, right? All that kind of stuff. But if we wanted to go do pay-per-click, we could say, huh, that might be worth 50 cents a click. And you know this, you’ve seen it with Google ads and Facebook it’s a bidding war. Well, I don’t want to be stupid in business…
Adrian: Would you like to know how much it costs to bid on marketing automation as a key word? Actually, specifically a marketing automation, WordPress. The, the estimated bid is anywhere from 15 to $40 per click.
Cory: Okay. We’re going through this calculator together because then we can reverse engineer that bid, and with this new spreadsheet that Jeff did, and see how much they think their leads and their average value. I bet we can reverse engineer that, that’s so interesting because one thing we did is we just go, okay, virtual CFO, CFO for her. Well, we found it was like, I went to SCM Rush and looked it up and it was like, okay, you know, $15 a click that yeah, CPC was $15, its master spreadsheet really well and I was like, this is now we’re onto something. You talked about Marketo and some of the bigger enterprise pieces of software. Up in the public sector, they do this every day, most of the small business still do these types of things and so this is a competitive advantage of saying, okay, what is a lead worth? If all these contacts for Groundhogg… I think if somebody asks a question, they’re an opportunity. There’s something they’ve taken the step to hit the contact form type of question, it’s good data for you to figure out is my sales page not clear enough and stuff like that, but they’re on the hook, they’re interested other than someone just, surfing….
Adrian: Passing through.
Cory: Like I have done by the way, Groundhogg, I’ve went to Groundhogg several times in the last, probably six months. So, but if I hit the contact, you’ve got a name, you’ve got someone to kind of like go this is a real human being asking questions. And so, to your point, like, you’d love for a ton of inquiries because you could figure it out all the rough edges why people are having to hit the content for them and not just put their credit card in.
Adrian: We have live chat, that helps a lot. I am going to have to do something though. So, we’re at the 45-minute mark and Jonathan is going to yell at me if I let it go past 45 minutes, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel, silver lining. So, what we’re going to do is we’re going to end the podcast for the show and then for those of you who are watching live or are going to be listening on the WP-Tonic website a little bit later, you’ll be able to catch bonus content where Cory and I are going to dissect and work through and reverse engineer that bid to, to find out the value per lead and show how that process works. So, we’re going to do that in bonus content, hopefully Cory has another 15 minutes to stay on. But until we get there, Cory, what is the best way for people to learn about your projects, what you’re up to and how they can learn more from your seemingly unendingly, a wealth of experience?
Cory: Yeah. Best way to probably get a hold of me or even see what I’m doing is go to my website. Cory, C O R Y miller.com. And then I’m on Twitter at… it’s like an old AOL type username. It’s Cory Miller303, but coreymiller.com is the home, you can find all the different projects and even hit my content for form and hopefully get like a 2% conversion rate on that.
Adrian: And so, you keep mentioning webinar where you’re going to continue to go through this process that we’re about to go through for the next 14 minutes or so. How do people, if they’re watching live here on Facebook, how do people go find that?
Cory: Businessvalueacademy.com. Businessvalueacademy.com and we’ll have that recording up on the blog probably in the next day or so.
Adrian: Beautiful. So, anybody listening after the fact will be able to see it too?
Cory: Yes, sir.
Adrian: Awesome. Alright. I will. I want to thank you for coming on the show today and I want to thank you for sharing your wealth of experience. I learned a lot and I just love talking entrepreneurship and business people so it’s been fun. Okay. thank you. And we’ll see everybody next week Thursday, and stick around for bonus content.
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