The Challenges & Opportunities in Running a Digital Agency in 2023
We discuss in this interview some challenges and opportunities connected to running a specialized WordPress development agency in 2023
The Show’s Interview Topics
#1 – What effective digital marketing strategies has your agency used to attract new quality clients in the past few years?
#2 – What are your personal thoughts connected to Gutenberg and full site editing “Is full site editing a bridge too far”?
#3 – How will AI and ChatGBT affect WordPress development in the next few years?
#4 – Can the ability to turn WordPress website into a fully functioning iOS and Android app be made simpler using AI technology?
#5 – If you go back to a time machine at the beginning of your career, what key advice would you give yourself?
#6 – Who would you like us to interview on the show in the near future and why?
More Information About Mario and DevriX
Mario Peshev is a serial entrepreneur and an angel investor who built his first website back in 1999.
Peshev founded a top 20 WordPress agency named DevriX 13 years ago, bridging the gap between the WordPress ecosystem and enterprise-grade solutions. Since coining the “WordPress retainers” term in 2015, the firm transitioned fully to a recurring business model, with 95% of the revenue now generated from ongoing retainers. The first two recurring clients signed back in 2015 are still on board.
Mario has helped over 400 businesses in his capacity as a business and digital advisor, trained teams at organizations like CERN, Saudi Aramco, VMware, and SAP, and invested in a dozen companies as an angel investor.
This Week Show’s Sponsors
Sensei LMS: Sensei LMS
[00:00:00.200] – Introduction
Welcome to the WP Tonic This Week in WordPress and SaaS podcast, where Jonathan Denwood interviews the leading experts in WordPress and SaaS.
[00:00:09.850] – Jonathan Denwood
Welcome back, folks, to This Week in WordPress and Tech. It’s Episode 760. We’ve got a great guest with us. We got Mario Peshev, founder of DevE v I X, a leading WordPress development agency. Miro has, to say, he has years of experience in dealing with clients and WordPress in general, would be a slight understatement. I’ve also got my great co-host with me, Kirk. We’re going to be discussing everything to do with running the agency, what Miro’s thoughts around Guttenberg and full site editing, chat, GPT, AI, we’re going to be going into how that will revolutionize WordPress, if he thinks it will, and how to make a number of valid questions. It should be a great discussion. Mario, can you quickly give us a 10, 20 second introduction about yourself and your company?
[00:01:21.360] – Mario Peshev
Hey, everyone. First off, Kurt, John, thanks for having me. Again, it’s been, what is it, five, six years or so since the last time? I’ve done that. Time flies. I know that’s well. For everyone that’s meeting me for the first time, my name is Mario Peschev. I run several businesses. One of them is Devriks, which is allegedly one of the top 20 agencies we’re still worldwide working on SMEs and enterprise projects, scaling some of the largest publishers on the planet, and doing a lot of crazy stuff on top of WordPress. My background is in software engineering and enterprise development. I built my first website back in 1999. And ever since, I’ve been trying to make the web a better place and make my life slightly more interesting as time goes by.
[00:02:11.240] – Jonathan Denwood
That’s great. I’ve got my great co host with me, Kurt. Kurt, would you like to quickly introduce yourself to the new listeners and viewers?
[00:02:19.870] – Kurt von Ahnen
Yeah, perfect, Jonathan. My name is Kurt von Ahnen. I own a small agency called Manyana Nomas, and I work with WP Tonic on some projects.
[00:02:28.750] – Jonathan Denwood
That’s great. And look, before we go into the meat and potatoes of this great interview, we got a couple of messages from our major sponsors. We will be back in a few moments, folks. Are you.
[00:02:41.780] – Mario Peshev
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[00:03:14.060] – Jonathan Denwood
Hi there, folks. It’s Jonathan Denwood here, and I want to tell you about one of our great sponsors, and that’s Zolo. Com. If you got a WordPress website, a membership website, and you’re looking to link it with a great financial management package, Zolo can provide this solution. So all your bookkeeping needs are done through Zolo. If you need new inbox email functionality and you don’t want to pay the high charges that Google will charge you, Zolo offers a great email in box platform. They’ve got over 50 apps and services that all integrate fantastic with WordPress at great value levels, and they almost always offer a fully functioning free product as well. So it’s just amazing value. Also, if you’re a WordPress developer or age that presently owner, Zolo are looking for great partnerships in the WordPress space. To get all this information, all you have to do, folks, is just go over to Zolo. Com, and they have the product that you’re looking for. Thank you so much, Zolo, for supporting WP Tonic and the Machine Membership Shows. It’s much appreciated. We’re coming back. I just want to point out that we got some great special deals from our sponsors.
[00:04:50.450] – Jonathan Denwood
Plus, we got a curated list of the best WordPress plugins and solutions, so you don’t have to trial the internet and spend hours trying to find the best solution for a specific category or job. To find all these good deals, all you have to do is go over to WP Tonic deals, WP Tonic deals, and you find all the good deals there. So let’s go straight into it, Mario. Obviously, getting new customers, getting appropriate leads is a very important part of a digital agency. It really sells the life and blood of any business. So in the past year, 18 months, have you seen any changes in the way that your own digital agency does outreach, manages to get new client to it? Basically, have you noticed any trends or do you think the fundamentals are really just the same as they’ve been for the past six, seven years?
[00:05:54.440] – Mario Peshev
I definitely don’t think that anything has changed significantly over the past few years, especially over the past year or two. What really works for us is four different channels. First one is strategic key partnerships with some of our great partners, hosting companies, app management vendors, different SaaS, or two kids for accessibility, for security, different tools targeting the same audience that we can pair up with and work together. That’s channel number one. Number two is referrals and recommendations from our great plans. Number three is our inbound marketing, which is something that we’ve been developing heavily for Mavericks for the past, I guess, nine years. N umber four is my own personal brand and network. Just working on all those four verticals and segments at the same time is really yielding the best results possible. Now, that comes with a twist. First off, we have tested out different channels. We’ve hired salespeople, we’ve done outbound sales, cold calls, emails, any forms of blast. We’ve spent a nd probably over, I know, maybe over 60, 70,000 in PPC ads for different initiatives. We’ve tried out different lending pages, freeb us, and so forth for funnels. None of that has ever yielded any results for us whatsoever.
[00:07:16.290] – Mario Peshev
That’s the first thing. We can’t even attribute a single client to that. That’s a fact, which is as crazy as it might sound. That’s the first thing. We’ve tried out different things, they just don’t work for us. The second thing is that we are slightly higher, upper tier type of business. For instance, our maintenance plans start at $1,200 and so forth. So it’s definitely not a race to the bottom type of business that we can compete by price. If we can offer low level, cheap, or let’s call it affordable solutions, then some of these channels may actually work. But when price is not something you can compete by, then it definitely requires different mediums to attract the right clients.
[00:08:07.350] – Jonathan Denwood
I totally understand. Just a quick follow through question. When it comes to business to business, obviously it’s a very different beast to business to consumer. Obviously, you’re talking about referrals, your personal network, and your content marketing side. But do you think… I listen, and he’s a friend of mine, Rob Rowling of Startups for the Rest of Us. He talks about when it comes to the business to business, the outreach, which you say hasn’t really worked out for you. Have you analyzed that? Do you think you’ve really pursued it enough? Or do you know you seem a very competent and rational individual. Outreach business to business, a lot of other companies do get results. Do you think it’s that you haven’t concentrated or was it it really just didn’t work? Have you got any thoughts why it hasn’t worked?
[00:09:23.040] – Mario Peshev
Yeah, totally. So first off, I’m not discarding any type of initiative whatsoever. It’s important to stay that way. The reason anything in the world exists, including spam, is there’s revenue behind that. There’s a way to make money out of pretty much everything out there. Same goes for crypto. P retty much everything that exists makes money for the right audience. That’s pretty important to recognize. Now, in terms of web agencies or providing WordPress development and using outreach, my number one problem is that that’s definitely a commodity. In the sense of last time I did an extensive research, it was probably seven years ago, I found about 4 million freelancers from Upwork and freelancer. Com alone providing WordPress services. There were over 50,000 agencies providing similar services and so forth. I’m pretty sure that the numbers now are higher. Even though I run a WordPress agency and have done that for the past 13 years, I receive about 25 to 40 outreach request every single month from freelancers, outsourcing agencies, and everyone out there. T hat’s been going on for a decade. So that is to say people have developed something similar to banner blindness. We browse websites, we know they’re banners, there are ads.
[00:10:51.420] – Mario Peshev
We are so used to seeing them, we now tend to ignore them. There are other types of services and solutions out there similar to web development. Any form of outsourcing service, cheap SEO or marketing, link building, maybe accounting services or so. Certain solutions that are generic and there are millions of vendors providing them. So the generic outreach is just not working out. People have seen hundreds of these offers already. Now, of course, one option to overcome that is the race to the bottom type of model. If you can create a solution that’s really scalable, low cost, high volume. It may be competitive enough price wise to ensure that you can stay afloat and you can generate business. Option number two is really specializing and creating a competitive value proposition that is so strong and so valuable that the right audience is going to connect with you and really respond back. For instance, let’s say, offering performance optimization for body press communities for nonprofits. That’s not a random example. But you reach out to the right nonprofit.
[00:12:12.640] – Jonathan Denwood
We know nothing about that.
[00:12:17.050] – Mario Peshev
Yeah, so relevance. E ssentially, using that is so it’s closely related to the business needs and the ROI of the right company. Working with something like that definitely can be helpful. Option number three, I think, is how to get your foot through the door. Is there anything else you can contribute to the conversation? Is there an auto generated report you can prepare? I know SEO report, user experience performance, anything that you can send for free with the outreach to grab attention. Or a free review like, Hey, I’m going to do a free discovery session for a couple of hours and work with you, or so forth. So things like that, this can contribute, this can deliver well. But the generic blanket approach of working with that or working with high ticket plans, which is what we do, is just not something that solves a lot of problems. So yeah, definitely possible and definitely requires a certain angle to make it work.
[00:13:22.900] – Jonathan Denwood
Yeah, I totally agree. Over to you, Kurt.
[00:13:26.010] – Kurt von Ahnen
I just want to comment that I really appreciate the depth and transparency of that answer, man. I’ve had similar experiences, right? And I think when you get into the higher ticket item, it requires that high touch involvement as part of the relationship sales process. The race to the bottom thing is great for $2 a month hosting, but it’s not in a business-to-business example, right? That was awesome. My question is more about design and where we’re going. We seem to be in this flux. Just this morning, I ended up coaching somebody on Guttenberg versus Elementor for building a header. What do you think personally connected to Guttenberg and full site editing and how things are rolling in our work environment?
[00:14:10.700] – Mario Peshev
Well, first off, can you teach me how to create the header in Guttenberg? That’s the first question.
[00:14:21.430] – Jonathan Denwood
That’s very insightful actually.
[00:14:26.400] – Mario Peshev
I think this would be the most valuable portion of this episode, that’s for sure. WordPress is in an interesting spot right now. Personally, I don’t think that WordPress has evolved a lot over the past two or three years. There are definitely strides in doing that via Guttenberg and Full Site A thing and some of the other initiatives that the teams have done so far. However, if memory serves me well, Guttenberg dropped as a core solution in December, was it 2018? I think maybe about four and a half years ago or so. And Guttenberg is still far from stable. I attended the World Camp recently, the contributor day. I was in the accessibility team and I saw a lot of accessibility problems with Guttenberg, and that’s definitely not cool. We had negotiated a project for a government backed organization. They said whatever you do, just not Guttenberg. It was.
[00:15:30.240] – Jonathan Denwood
[00:15:30.620] – Mario Peshev
Could be Elementor, it could be Tiny MCAP, I don’t care. We can even do that with DAO P. B ackery. Anything, just not Guttenberg. So for me, that’s a warning. I like Guttenberg as an idea. I’ve been an early advocate of Guttenberg. This is the way to go. We can’t just have a YCWG editor for landing page building experience. The direction is there. But we’ve developed the P oignancy for about three or four or five years. Then it’s been four and a half years in Core and we’re still nowhere. I pick a random template kit or a pattern. It’s not replicable. I use whatever, Janette’s blog, Atomic blogs, ultimate Good & Bad blogs. I don’t exactly remember the names, but any of that blog builders, and you can’t really put up a page the same way you can use an Elementor kit or go to something like Webflow or Quix or whatever it is, and it just works. It’s a complicated question. The direction is there, but we’re pretty slow with implementing that. I see that some competitors, especially hosted site builders and some of the funded solutions that we see spending $7 million promoting a Super Bowl ad.
[00:16:48.880] – Mario Peshev
This is Squarespace. I’m going to give them some free credits, hopefully it’s fine. But they go on and their solution works for at least for a drag and drop type of experience. We should each other, we should at least match that is where I stand.
[00:17:04.270] – Kurt von Ahnen
Yeah. I’ve had some struggles on a couple of things, but when 6.2 came out, it felt like just this huge jump forward all at once. M y most recent experiences have been really positive up until this header issue with this Elementor thing this morning. Jonathan, to you.
[00:17:23.310] – Jonathan Denwood
Yeah, just a comment. It seems, I mean, I’m really confused about my own feelings about this, Mario, because my understanding is full site editing, it’s like throwing a canate in something that was solidifying. But on the other end, I’ve been told that building block libraries, customisation in what full site editing represents, there are enormous benefits around being able to build themes, exchange in blocks. Technically, it reduces the overhead. But on the other hand, it does seem y our semi canade and everything’s up in the air again. Am I on the right track there? Is that how you sense things as well?
[00:18:25.370] – Mario Peshev
Yeah. Again, it is a weird world. I think there’s a lot of merit in that level of user experience that Guttenberg presents, or at least what it promises to do. It’s definitely the right thing to do. I want to be able to pick out of a collection of 100 different blocks, create columns and draws and place widgets inside and so forth. This is something that we’ve built ourselves inhouse previously for customers, just rows and columns and just the general section experience in order to be able to even add short cuts next to each other and present to different types of experiences back before Good and Burial even existed. So again, the direction is there, but I’m just worried about the implementation. I really wish there was a more focused, better tailored approach and focused toward the right audience. And I feel that WordPress is missing the point right now over the past few years. First off, let’s take a look at the market share. F or the past two years, first off, I believe right now we’re at about 43 % market share, and at the peak, we were at about 44 %. So there’s a slight dip in the top of where we used to be.
[00:19:40.320] – Mario Peshev
For over a decade, maybe almost 15 years, WordPress had been growing for one and a half up to 3 % on average on a annual basis. It has been flat for the past two years, even slightly dipping. So that’s worry. We see that we have reached the peak and we are having a hard time both retaining customers’ websites and being attractive enough for new websites. It’s an important recognition based on just industry numbers and stats and something that we need to pay more attention to. Second, who is the ideal or the perfect customer for WordPress? What was the answer about a decade ago? Bloggers, photographers, journalists, small media publishing websites, five page business websites and all that. This was the traditional WordPress audience. Then some of these bloggers, journalists and other people, they grow up, they step up in their careers, they become marketing managers and directors, and they introduce WordPress to the workspace because they need to work with other writers and they’re also bloggers and they also know WordPress. So this is how the adoption of WordPress happened among larger organizations. Now the question is anyone with kids, they know what kids are doing nowadays.
[00:21:01.830] – Mario Peshev
They’re on TikTok and Snapchat and Instagram, perhaps. But how many of them are using websites actively? How many of them, if they build a website, they look into a builder or a Facebook page or something like that, an online profile. And that’s why it’s important to recognize that first off, Gen Z and Gen Alpha are using the Internet differently. That’s the first thing. Second, the last time we updated the WordPress dashboard, the one I remember was probably WordPress 3.6 or so. It may be off, but it was a long time ago. We still have settings and tools and a bunch of different things in the admin dashboard, which are un called for. It’s complex. It’s not a five page button type of experience. What do kids do? Well, they just don’t really go to WordPress because it looks more complicated. It probably was state of the word or any other appearance of Mat’s over the past few months. There was a relevant question to how are we bringing adoption to WordPress for kids. And Mat’s answer was, Well, that’s why we do tomber. Honestly, I don’t know a lot of people using tomorrow in real life.
[00:22:22.170] – Mario Peshev
[00:22:22.640] – Jonathan Denwood
You strike me as a very nice person. You don’t want to know him.
[00:22:29.210] – Mario Peshev
That’s the other thing. That’s why I have a dark place out there of tomorrow, which is more hardcore than what we see on Reddit and Twitter together.
[00:22:39.960] – Jonathan Denwood
That side something, isn’t it?
[00:22:43.460] – Mario Peshev
We used to have deviant Art or something like that. This is the dark golf type of place that was existed 20 years ago. But anyway, I digress. But again, point is, we are missing the point on where are we going with Gutemberg and Full Site Editing. I assume the direction is competing, well, at least trying to not lose shares to Wix and Weebly and Squarespace and Webflow and the others. But we just need to be cognizant of what they do and how they attract people. We need to be aware of the fact that, once again, in Squarespace, that’s I think the second year they are spending millions on a Super Bowl ad. WordPress just lacks that. We don’t have the marketing capabilities. We don’t work face to face with people anymore that much. We do rely on our historical cloud, and we just need to be cognizant of the fact that other platforms, other tools, other ecosystems are emerging. And yeah, we need to catch up. That’s pretty much it.
[00:23:49.750] – Jonathan Denwood
Yeah, I totally agree with you there. Let’s go for this one. Obviously, chat, GPT, PTT, and AI. There’s some people that I know and talk to in the WordPress community, they say you can build a whole WordPress website with a few command lines, I think it probably is possible. But I also personally think that is slightly problematic. But I do actually think it’s fundamentally going to change development and what it means to be a developer to some level. Have you had any thoughts around this? It’s a hard subject because there’s so much like anything, any technology that has real value. There’s so much nonsense around it. It’s very hard to judge what the reality is and what the flannel is, really, isn’t it?
[00:25:01.030] – Mario Peshev
Well, AI has been a conversation for the past 20 plus years, right? From robot movies and robots taking over the universe through any form of machine learning that has been used actively over the past 15 years, to deep learning, to neural networks. Now, we are talking GPT services and solutions. So it has been around for a while. It’s true that Open AI had really sparked a wave of early adopters and made it really conversational with a chat like system. So the marketing is definitely there. The adoption is really there. That’s for sure. Now, as to what is going to happen in the future, it’s hard to predict. I remember that when crypto came on board several years ago, at least became more popular with NFTs, the online digital tokens, everyone was talking about Web 3 and how Web2 is dead and so on and so on. Well, now Z ook has just been killing the metaverse over the past five months. More layoffs and putting a hold on that. So a lot of that conceptual investments in the future had been put on hold one way or another. So what I’m saying is many of these initiatives become trendy for a year or two, but then they become a normality or don’t really become a big deal.
[00:26:30.270] – Mario Peshev
That’s one side of the puzzle. Second, I don’t think that AI is necessarily going to kill jobs. But think about there having so many jobs over the past two millennials that are already lost from blacksmith that we just never hear of unless it’s a movie of the Witcher or something like that. There are other jobs of people used to be street light How do you call that? You throw a rock at the street light so that it turns off the light. That used to be an actual job back in the day.
[00:27:06.900] – Jonathan Denwood
People always thought it was a job. It sounds fun to me. I love it.
[00:27:12.150] – Mario Peshev
It is. But there had been similar jobs or the street caller or so. It’s the morning alarm, a person just shouting out of the street because we didn’t have alarm clocks. What I’m saying is a lot of that innovation has already been inhouse. Amazon, they already have stores with no store workers. That’s something that’s a reality and has been for the past several years. And that can keep rambling on and on on different innovation technologies. Computers, the early virtual computers had replaced manual work or typeists. Radio has replaced anything else. Smartphones have replaced the other people plugging different pins into a hose to make a manual connection between one line and the other. A lot of jobs have been replaced by technology already. So chat, GPT or Open AI or any of the other GPTs will potentially make some of the generic jobs obsolete. But when it comes to quality, there will always be demand for high quality workers. Even WordPress, if you really zoom out just a little bit, WordPress had killed tons of developer jobs. People building static websites, people building CMS from scratch. WordPress had done that. Now we just take it on another extra step and see, hey, what can we do with WordPress and ChatGPT by default and commoditize it so that the remaining developers need to build on top of that unless they want to disappear.
[00:28:48.270] – Jonathan Denwood
Yeah, I thought that was a fantastic summary, Mario. Excellent. Thank you. We’re going to go for our break, folks. We got some other fantastic questions. I think it’s been a fantastic interview so far. We will be back in a few moments, folks.
[00:29:04.820] – Kurt von Ahnen
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[00:30:14.020] – Jonathan Denwood
We’re coming back. We’ve had a great discussion with my paychef. You have to come back a bit quicker than last time because I think it’s been an excellent discussion. I just want to point out, if you’re looking for a great partner to host your buddy boss, your learning management system, you need a better hosting partner than average hosting if you’re building a site for a client, or you’re looking for advice, you need functionality to buddy boss or learn dash or lifter. You’re just looking for a good hosting partner. Why don’t you look at WP Tonic and go over to WP Tonic partners. We got some great plans for developers, for WordPress people. We’re embedded in the community. Why don’t you partner with us? So over to you, Kurt.
[00:31:11.760] – Kurt von Ahnen
Well, it’s almost like Mario’s answer has led to this question. You talked about how people use the Internet. You mentioned mobile a few times, and we talked about AI just to touch. How do you think the ability to turn a WordPress site into an iOS or an Android app or a tablet friendly app? How important is that? One, I guess it’s a two level question. How important is that? And do you think AI is going to make that more of a possibility moving forward?
[00:31:47.150] – Mario Peshev
Mix feelings here. How often do you download an app nowadays?
[00:31:56.220] – Kurt von Ahnen
Well, you’re asking me, and that’s a loaded question because I do a factory data reset every three months and take everything out of my phone.
[00:32:04.190] – Mario Peshev
But you’re setting up the same apps, right? It’s not like you say, Hey, let’s just install a random… Well, or maybe you do. I don’t know. But most people, they have a couple of dozen apps and maybe a few more like flashlight or something like that that they do themselves. But we’ve had lots of… Again, the main line of business that Devriks operates at is WordPress retainers. 95 % of our business is recurring relationships. Some of them are eight years old, so pretty stable partnership. We’ve explored a lot of opportunities for many of our clients, including some of the largest publishers, both viral ones and national ones in different countries. The truth is, mobile apps are not what they used to be back in the day, at least for, let’s say, publishing or interacting with other people. So for most people, I’ve read lots of research on that, again, because we’ve had that conversation previously, is most people do install a mobile app if they have a really personalized, unique, engaging experience, and ideally, if they use mobile motion detectors, camera, GPS location trackers that work better in a native mobile experience compared to Webview app.
[00:33:36.700] – Mario Peshev
These are the two reasons. People read a lot of websites, they don’t download an app for every single website. People participate in communities, but most of them still use Discord or Slack or so in most cases, even if they are attached to a community. Even if they have a Body Boss, Body Press community, they don’t actively engage that much unless you have a superior experience presented with something. People shop in different places, but they don’t necessarily install a unique app for every single store unless it provides 10 % discount or anything else. So what I’m saying is mobile apps are important, but it’s really hard. It takes some extra effort and attention to provide the right value proposition to incentivize people to install mobile app. So that’s important to know. One option for that, of course, is you may have a community, of course, or a publishing website and say, Hey, the mobile app runs every single morning pulls up the feed over the past 24 hours or the past week. So you have it offline. however traveling in the subway, low coverage, anything like that, you can still browse and get in touch and have an offline progressive web apps type of experience.
[00:34:58.700] – Mario Peshev
This is one way to play around that. But lots of businesses are having a hard time just defining and creating that value prop to justify a mobile app. And then even if you do, AI is probably going to be slightly beneficial to that, but not so much. Even now you have phone gap or you have a bunch of different frameworks where you can create a hybrid app or a progressive web app and turn a WordPress experience into a different app. And on the WordPress front, there are also two or three other solutions that make that happen. Perfect.
[00:35:37.000] – Kurt von Ahnen
Jonathan, off to you, sir.
[00:35:38.780] – Jonathan Denwood
Think I introduced that question because of my own focus. Obviously, we help a lot of people with learning management systems and Buddy Boss communities. And obviously, I think what Buddy Boss has done with their own app is quite interesting. Obviously, they keep the website, it’s a paid theme plugin, but then they added this additional revenue stream by offering the app. And obviously, they’re in a deadly competitive competition with my networks and what J arby is trying to do as well. So they’re in a head in head, and so are we. I think you had some great insights there because a lot of people, they get a bit hung up about having an app. They don’t understand if anybody’s going to use it. It’s like putting your website on steroids, isn’t it? You’re going to really have to crank out the content and the engagement to make the app worthwhile the effort. And they just don’t realize that, do they?
[00:36:57.740] – Mario Peshev
Well, I guess the thing is, so conceptually speaking, creating a bespoke app for a website every single time. I don’t think this has a lot of value. But creating a mobile app experience for WordPress, as in the ultimate app where you can hook up several WordPress websites or connect to several Body Boss communities, that’s a different story because you can build default features for every side running the Body Boss team. And then you can say, Okay, you can have a combined consolidated list of members, and then you can have direct messages with these members. And you can connect to different communities in a similar fashion as you can do with Slack or Discord. Why do people use Slack so much? Well, very easy login. One click sign up, sign in link, even if you don’t remember your password and so forth. You can have multiple workspaces to receive notification to unlock. Similar with Discord, multiple workspaces, you have one view, every DM is going to one place. So what I’m saying is I don’t see mobile apps being as appealing on a side by side basis. But I definitely do see the opportunity for, let’s say, Body Boss say, Hey, we’re presenting a merchant type of store owner, community owner type of experience.
[00:38:29.160] – Mario Peshev
This is how you can tap to our own app. It’s free for your users and then your users can communicate with a pretty native experience with us and any other Body Boss community. Now that’s a value proposition. I think that one of the key reasons why hosted systems, I mentioned Webflow or so, same goes for, let’s say, Shopify and e-commerce front or some of the other community experiences like circle or kitchen or whatever. One of the key things they do better is that integration. What we really need to do is just make sure we can integrate better, present a more seamless experience, better user experience, and t he best case scenario, just pair up with other communities, with other teams, and make sure we can split the efforts and share the cost of building that experience together so that everyone benefits at the end of the day.
[00:39:28.350] – Jonathan Denwood
I think that was a fantastic insight and I totally agree with you. I’m going to throw it over again to Kurt, so you can answer the next question as well. Over to you, Kurt.
[00:39:39.020] – Kurt von Ahnen
If you were Michael J. Fox in the Back to the Future movie and went back to the beginning of your career, if you could go back in time, what advice would you give yourself, Mario?
[00:39:54.520] – Mario Peshev
First off, I’m a very ungrateful person in general, and I’m very ambitious and asking for a lot in life, but I got to admit, I’ve been fairly fortunate to be born in the right time and have access to Internet and tech in the early age and that stuff. So giving credit to what it’s worth, that’s definitely been great. From a business standpoint, if there’s one thing I would have done better early on, it’s definitely focusing on recurring revenue. My life completely shifted once we shifted to recurring revenue and namely the retainers in our case. The entire agency feasted and come in, Hey, let’s close six projects and have no idea whatsoever how to build them. And then, Hey, winter is coming. It’s been next two months, no sales calls whatsoever. Everyone’s on vacation over summer or anything like that. This is a horrible way. That’s been very stressful for me. The moment we switched to retainers and higher tier maintenance plans, this just gave me the clarity of being able to focus, to breathe and say, Okay, so let’s think about retention. Let’s spend the time to help and grow our customers, make them more successful, and eventually grow with them as well.
[00:41:19.870] – Mario Peshev
For context, right now, unless it’s a really rough recession or show, but we generally need to close, let’s say, about four customers a year. Right now, it may be six or so, but we’re not talking about, Hey, I need to sign 50 different clients this year or so. It’s only four or six or so. It’s so easy to just close. Well, I’m over exaggerating, but closing one customer a quarter does not have the same connot tational level of effort, attention or so, compared to, Hey, we need a constant pipeline of multiple sites in parallel for a few weeks or a couple of months, and then make sure we close the other deals and spread them out so that they don’t overlap and everything like that. That’s why recurring revenue has been so strategic. All of my other businesses and initiatives and everything else that I do is… This is probably the first rule. We need to be recurring revenue. It’s either a SaaS or any form of subscription or a community or anything that brings recurring revenue, whatever it is. This is just my first rule of them. Nice.
[00:42:29.010] – Kurt von Ahnen
Jonathan, over to you.
[00:42:30.650] – Jonathan Denwood
Yeah, I take the… We’re on the same way. It’s been uncanny this interview because you seem to be reading my mind almost every reply to the questions, actually. It’s been a very uncanny experience, actually, this interview, actually, Mario. Who do you think we should interview on the show? Is there anybody that you follow in the WordPress community, in the tech community that you think would be a great interview for the WP Tonic Show and maybe why you think they would be a great interview?
[00:43:22.670] – Mario Peshev
Not a specific name per se, but since I mentioned so many different platforms that are not WordPress, I think it would be pretty interesting to just bring someone on who’s not super active in the WordPress community, someone from any of the other alternative communities. It’s a breath of fresh air in a sense of, hey, what do people outside of WordPress think about WordPress? Try to get an idea of why does WordPress seem as foreign or as different from everything else that we’ve seen? How are other communities doing? Just getting a perspective from outside of our bubble would probably be interesting. One example that comes to up, it’s actually a couple of people. There’s a performance SaaS called Nitro Park, full disclosure. I’m an advisor for Nitro Park as well. They’re a fast growing turnkey site performance solution. P retty much install when Core Web Vitals go through the roof. It’s not an advertising of any sort. But the founders of Nitro Park, which I think is an interesting business. So Nitro Park right now is WordPress only solution. The software service is only compatible and working fully with WordPress. But the original founders, first off, they started in open cart back in the day, many years ago.
[00:44:41.970] – Mario Peshev
And second, they had a pretty successful eight figure exit of Shopify business. And now they are growing another business that’s probably going to close over $100 million or so in a couple of years, is WordPress only. So I believe that NitroP ax founders, George and Mikio, are going to be great guests explaining what’s the transition and being cable and successful in other communities and still focusing on WordPress now in 2023?
[00:45:16.820] – Jonathan Denwood
Yeah, I think I have attempted to do that. We have a very diverse, Kurt would testify that. I try and mix it up with different guests. The focus is around WordPress, but we do have people from the SaaS, like Rob Rowling, who has regularly come on the show, other people from the startup bootstrap community because I do see a lot of linkage in those communities in their ethos. Because one of the great things about WordPress is a lot of people have built reasonably successful business on the WordPress platform and it’s enabled them to move into other types of businesses as well. I personally think maybe one of the growth areas in WordPress is what I call boutique hosting solutions, where you provide hosting and the solution for a particular type of customer or industry where you can keep the freedom of being not sucked into a gilded cage, basically. But you also are not there. Examples is like and I’m not having a go at them. Shane came on my show and he was a fantastic CEO. But one of my problems with was that they were building a enclosed garden.
[00:47:08.140] – Jonathan Denwood
You still had to go through the loops of hosting and getting the other plug ins to work, but you’re also in a closed garden. So I don’t see that as a fantastically attractive proposition. But on the other hand, I think if we want WordPress to move on, we really got to make the experience a lot more easier. It can never be as easy as a truly focused SaaS solution. But on the other hand, I think a lot of people in the SaaS community are very good at their propaganda because it does depend on the experience of the user entering the SaaS platform if they’re going to find it easy or not. Example, in my own world, Mario is Kajabi. They are very good at saying, Will you provide a total turnkey solution? That is not the reality because the reality depends on your prior knowledge level. I don’t actually think there is a few more loops to jump through WordPress, but the two aren’t that far off, but that’s my own opinion. I’ve waffled on enough, M ariam. So, Mario, if people want to find out more about you and what you’re up to, what is the best way to do that, Mariam?
[00:48:41.250] – Jonathan Denwood
[00:48:42.320] – Mario Peshev
So I’m pretty active on both Twitter and LinkedIn. My LinkedIn, just look at Mario Bezhef. Twitter is, well.
[00:48:49.470] – Jonathan Denwood
[00:48:49.970] – Mario Peshev
Is weird, but no fear ing back from my early gaming days. So no fear ing with underscores. But yeah, I’m pretty active on both platforms, spending a lot of time catching up with both WordPress driven clients, partners, vendors, and also outside of the WordPress community. So definitely hit me up or just go to mario p eshoff. Com and say hi. I would be more than happy to connect with more WordPress peers and make sure that we can grow the platform in the community further.
[00:49:24.070] – Jonathan Denwood
That’s fantastic. Kurt, what’s the best way for people to find out more about you or what you’re up to?
[00:49:30.480] – Kurt von Ahnen
Jonathan, I’m still hooked on LinkedIn and I’m the only Kurt von Ahnen on LinkedIn. So if you find me, you know you got the right guy. There’s that. And then anything on the internet that’s Mignola No Mas is typically me. I’d love to see it either place. We’ll make connection and have a call and see how we can help each other. That’s fantastic.
[00:49:48.630] – Jonathan Denwood
And if you really want to support the show, folks, please share the show on your social media networks. Talk about it, how you found it useful. It really is the best way to promote and support the show. We got some fantastic interviews coming up. We got a great interview next week. Almost as I predict, it’s almost going to be as good as this one. We will be back next week, folks. We’ll see you soon. Bye. Hey, thanks for listening. We really do appreciate it. Why not visit the Mastermind Facebook group? And also to keep up with the latest news, click WP. Tonic. Com newsletter. We’ll see you next time.
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