We look back over 2019 what have we learned over the year. Adrian has joined me as the show’s co-host during 2019 and we also talk about his own experiences trying to build a WordPress plugin business connected to GroundHogg.
Jonathon: Welcome back folks to the WP-Tonic Show. This is episode 459; you’re probably listening to this over the Christmas New Year break. First of all, I’d like to wish you Christmas and a happy new year. Is this going to be me and my great co-host Adrian, and we’ve got a great starting subject for the first part of the show basically we would be start discussing, why you maybe should look at your competitors and getting your site up and running quickly, if your course producer, a startup business or any other type of business. And then we’ll be doing a general review of some of the great guests and themes that we’ve covered in 2019. And I’ve got my great cohost, I’ve got Adrian. Adrian, would you like to introduce yourself to the listeners and viewers?
Adrian: Hi everyone, my name is Adrian. I’m the CEO and founder of Groundhogg, and I’m super excited because 2019 has been a pretty long-year, has been one with lots of ups and downs and just a serious number of changes in terms of like best practices, user experience, customer journey marketing in essentially the industry, and lots of changes. And I’m excited to talk about what some of those are.
Jonathon: Yeah, after you say that Oh, first of all, I want to talk about our great sponsor, and that’s Kinsta Hosting. And what is Kinsta Hosting? Well, basically if you’re looking for premier specialized WordPress hosting for yourself or for clients, I suggest that you look at Kinsta. We have been hosting the WP-Tonic website with them for over two years. They’ve been sponsoring the show for almost two years. It’s much appreciated and I’ve got to tell you if you host with Kinsta, you’ll never go back to some of the competitors. I tell you that now, and that should tell you something. After hosting with them, I could never go back to the previous host I was with, with the WP-Tonic website, I won’t tell you who they were, but I would never go back with them. Basically, you just get used to the fantastic interface with all the bells and whistles, proper staging site. You can choose what version of PHP–
Adrian: 24/7 support.
Jonathon: And 24/7 support from people that really know what they’re talking about and not having to send a series of emails or in the end to be escalated to find somebody that does know what they’re talking about.
Adrian: Talk to your support first-line.
Jonathon: Exactly, you get you talk to somebody that actually knows what they’re talking about. They’re big enough to have all the resources still small enough to care basically. So if that sounds interesting for yourself or for your clients, go over to Kinsta, have a look at what they’ve got offer, hopefully, you’ll buy. And also do remember, and this is important, tell them that you heard about them on the WP-Tonic show. So Adrian, as we were doing our kind of intro, it’s just been a tremendous year change for your own company in a way. Before we go in, and I think it applies to the topic that we were discussing for the first part of the show really, what are some of the major changes that you’ve done in 2019 around your own company.
Adrian: Oh my God. I actually did a kind of year in review on my own channel for my office hours. And I was going through, like I ran out some of the interesting stats, we’ve written like or we’ve pushed over 200 updates to our various pieces of software, 164 of those completely dedicated to Groundhogg. Written like 200 plus support articles, 244 support requests, and it’s just been like a super crazy year. But out of all of it, I think a couple of the highlights for me that I took away; number one highlight is that if you’re currently like stuck right in a place right now, your business is plateauing or you’re having trouble getting off the ground in the first place. There are kind of two ways to go about getting past that roadblock.
Number one-way, which is generally the world’s most popular way, is trial and error. Trial and error will work eventually and it can take a serious amount of time. And I love trial and error because like at the [inaudible00:04:58] where we love to try things, fail, learn, and kind of do that process, but that’s known as superfast process. And what I learned is that there are a number of people out there in the world in some cases living next door to you. Maybe they’re living halfway across the country, but who are willing to connect with you and who have been in that situation before. And I went to several; I invested a lot in my own self-learning and business management and learning how to be a good CEO, and learning how to be a good product developer and all those things.
And I went out and I learned from other people who’ve been in the same places that I’ve been and sought their advice and then implemented what they have done in the past, which leads us really, really nicely. One of the first things that we’re going to talk about, but that’s definitely the biggest thing, if you’re currently stuck, just go get help from someone who’s been where you are before. The amount of time and investment that it’s going to save you in the long run far outweighs not paying for it in the first place. Because if you’re spending months of trial and error trying to figure something out, what’s your time actually worth? Is your time worth a dollar an hour or is it worth $250 an hour? And if you multiply that time out, is it really worth it to pay $3,000 to fly down to the States and sit for three hours in a room with someone who knows what they’re talking about?
Absolutely, it’s worth it. So I think that’s one of the most important things that I learned this year, is being willing to invest in myself and in my business in order to learn from people who know more than I do.
Jonathon: That’s fantastic. So, what our first point we’re going to go through, Adrian?
Adrian: So the first point at least one of the big takeaways that I took away from 2019 is, well, number one, that, and second of all I think it’s really important that people start owning their own platform. And we talk a lot about that in the WordPress space because WordPress is literally owning your platform. And it’s a lot more and more important now more than ever, I think. Because you log on to Facebook or log on to Twitter, or you watch the news and it was like X person has been banned from Twitter or X person said bad thing and now the whole world like is against the more they’ve been demonetized on YouTube and all of those things.
And we see that increasingly as kind of like the world becomes more adept that acknowledging that there are certain thoughts that people don’t agree with. And then essentially if you don’t go with the grain, then you are at risk at exposing yourself to demonetization, to being evicted essentially from the hosted platforms that we generally take for granted, Facebook, YouTube, et cetera. And that just highlights the importance that if you’re kind of like operating in that space and if you are the power to you, no judgment here, but if you operate in that space, it’s really, really important to own your platform. Ways that you can do that; you get WordPress, and we talked a lot about all of these different platforms and the same thing goes for them.
If you operate and you’re putting your course on that, you are essentially, the thing to remember is that, if you say one wrong thing or you violate their terms of service or you don’t want to process a refund or whatever it is up to them, how your business continues on their platform, you don’t have really any real control. It’s like you’re in an apartment building, you’re renting space and if they sell the apartment building, you have no choice but to move elsewhere. So if you’re starting or even if you’ve already got that, I think it’s super important that you invest in the time that it takes and you invest in the responsibility of building your own castle. Because if you build a castle with WordPress, Groundhogg, Lifter, LearnDash, and the various other open source and software that are available to you to help you put the building blocks of your castle together, you can essentially build yourself a way to weather the storm as it were.
If you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re being removed from whatever platform for whatever reason, and sometimes its reasons as simple as someone doesn’t like you, so they report you, even if you did nothing morally incorrect. It can be super simple and you know, you don’t need them to have to do anything wrong. Just be like, I don’t like this person report, boom, band, you know? And it’s like, but if you’re in that situation, that freaking sucks, and there’s like lots of anecdotal. Do you have any like anecdotal, things like this happening?
Jonathon: Well, I think I want to expand that point because I think it expands to, there has been a lot of discussion about using APIs and about headless word press, and about, you know in general in the world of development outside of WordPress, in the SAS world. Ruby on Rails and whatever, because let’s face it, I think WordPress isn’t as a development platform isn’t seen as the most progressive cutting edge platform. A lot of developers outside the WordPress space really don’t, still kind of bit snotty about–
Adrian: Kind of you use WordPress?
Jonathon: Exactly, but what is put out is the world of APIs. In another product I’m involved with, we integrate with a small group of external APIs into WordPress. Now that sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? You know, you shared data, you share the best of breed and you import it into your own system for APIs. What they don’t tell you is it can lead to what you’ve just outlined when it comes to building a business on somebody else’s platform because you’re relying on somebody else’s API.
Adrian: And there was actually, you know I was scrolling through Facebook and someone ran an active campaign, you know, their business was down for several hours because active campaign API provider which just gave up and they weren’t processing any requests. So any requests, you know, if people came in through the website in that period of time, those people are now lost and they’re no longer going to be or they won’t be able to get into your CRM, into your payment provider or whatever it is that you relied on for that information.
Jonathon: But also you got that as a product, as a service that you’re utilizing other people’s APIs. They say they change, which happens regularly.
Adrian: This happens all the time with Facebook.
Jonathon: They change their API, they change their terms of conditions. They change, not only Facebook, I’ve heard people they’re basing their business on the Google mail or Google services and they’ve changed their API and you’re a development partner and they change the process that you have to go through to stay as a developer with them. So you’re relying on other people when they’re whims, and if they don’t like you as a developer and cut the permission to the API, you know, am I support your business is gone. And then you’ve got the public-facing side, using a service external service, their API and integrating it into a key part of your website. Sounds fantastic, doesn’t it? And that’s not talked to about a lot in the world of development really. It sounds fantastic, and there is, isn’t it? But it also opens a whole can of worms, doesn’t it?
Adrian: And you know, to be fair, a lot of times if you’re doing good, reliable, solid business and there’s not really much gray area in your area of operations, a lot of the things that we talked about may or may not be applicable in your lifetime. But for those of you who, you know this happens all the time, for example, with Stripe. So Stripe yesterday we actually, Paul, back there had a client and they do debt marketing service or sorry, debt consolidation services. That’s their business and in Canada the rules kind of just came down on that, like marketing for companies that do debt consolidation, debt management, whatever, anything with the word debt in it, like the hammer, just came down and they’re not allowed to do as much marketing as they were before. All their Google ad campaigns were canceled and terminated.
Stripe will no longer allow companies that do debt training, debt consolidation, debt services, no more payments through Stripe. So now they’re kind of like in this thing where like, all right, well now we have to, you know, we didn’t really necessarily build up any sort of protection around us in the event that this happens. So they’re scrambling new payment providers, new way to do advertising and all of these different things. And that kind of just highlights the importance is if you’re operating in kind of like one of those industries, it’s just so important to build up your protections in your castle by building your own platform and not necessarily relying on the whims of other companies, of governments, of legislation. If by having your own platform, you protect yourself and you protect your business, you protect your employees, you can protect your livelihood and you protect your customers.
Jonathon: Yeah, so, well I think we’re saying listeners and viewers is if you’re working with a developer and he says, we’re going to use this external API from this company. You really need to ask, you really need to educate yourself, what is API? What is been suggested? Who are you going to–? You can end up in some way as a kind of partnership with this external where you’d be–
Adrian: If you become dependent on other services, that’s not necessarily, you’re no longer a customer like that. That is a technological partner that you now have.
Adrian: And you have to assess like the risk factor. When you invest in that partnership, what is the risk factor that that person will not want to partner with you one day?
Jonathon: Or they change, they go in a different direction. I’ve had to build a whole new code base because I’m suddenly a provider of API system that I was utilizing in a product decided that they were going to change direction and a lot of the API that we were using, they were going to remove or change dramatically, right. And we had to do a total rewrite of our system because it was at the core of most of the products that we were providing. That’s not great, is it?
Adrian: No, and sometimes it’s unavoidable in situations to like build your own castle. It’s not realistic to build your own email SMTP provider; like that’s not realistic. It’s not realistic to build your own social media site unless you have like bags and bags and bags of money and it’s not realistic to provide your own SMS messaging service. However, for other things, it is realistic to maybe invest in either open source tools or to hire someone to build it if it’s not a huge expense instead of going out and investing in other partnerships; that could be avoidable in the event that they become high-risk and ended up dropping you as a result.
Jonathon: I think we’ve got time to cover number two, that was all your list. What was the number two?
Adrian: So number two actually related a little bit to what I was talking about earlier and is that Bespoke sites finish last or bespoke businesses finished lasts. If you go back maybe like 10, 12 years, everybody, kind of like the big, the golden development thing to do was, you’d go to an agency and they’re like, all right, we’re going to custom build you a theme and we’re going to custom build you whatever, and we’re going to do all of this stuff. And you’re going to have like this tailored user experience that’s just for your business. And that’s super cool and all, however, that process to build generally lasts several months to maybe several years. And in the market, the technology market especially that we have today is that so many people and so many entrepreneurs are pushing out content or pushing out experience, are pushing out products literally every minute in order to kind of like get their niche and take their part of the market.
So if it’s taking you a significant amount of time to build this bespoke experience and all of this stuff that you have no proof that may not work at all when you do launch it. You risk losing a portion of whatever profits that you may have been able to make had you been able to launch earlier. So what most businesses do now is that, and it kind of like, I went out to other people and sought what they did in order to overcome certain obstacles. And this directly translates into; I also went out and found other people, you know, their page designs, their checkout designs, their onboarding funnels, their onboarding campaigns, their user generation strategies. And I found out what other people were doing, and I tailored it a little bit to suit my personal brand, my business Groundhogg and then implemented it. But what I did not do is I did not spend six months building everything from scratch, designing it and testing it and then optimizing it, no, I did not.
Jonathon: No, I think you’re making such a fantastic point, but we’re going to continue the discussion, but I think we’re going to have to go for our break, Adrian. When we come back I’ll remark on what you’ve just said. We’ll be back in a few moment folks.
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Jonathon: We’re coming back, I didn’t totally know what we were going to discuss. Adrian has some good topics at the beginning of the show folks, but I thought it was an interesting discussion we had in the first half, Adrian. We covered something not talked about too much. Before we go into, I’m going to answer or I have a response to what Adrian said at the end of the first half. I just want to talk about one of our other great sponsors’ and that’s Lifter LMS. Now, if you’re in the world of online education, you want to build a course. So you want to share your experience and knowledge and as many people as possible, and you’re looking for the freedom of WordPress, which can apply to what we were discussing in the first half of the show.
You need a really good learning management system? I’ve got good news for you, with lifter LMS. You got one of the best learning management systems that are going to help you with your memberships course in the world. And it’s a great team. They’re personal friends of mine and I suggest that if you’re a developer or somebody looking to build a course yourself, go over to Lifter LMS, you can try the whole system for free. It’s not crippled; it has a number of ad-ons and ad-on packages that will make it even more powerful. But you can try the whole system for free, and tell them that you heard about them on the WP-Tonic show. Now to respond to what you were saying; I think this also applies so much to course, almost anything.
Adrian: No, there’s, there’s literally, there’s no question about that; when someone goes out and they come up with the idea for their course. So like, okay, we’re going to have and you; how many times have you said that they come in and they want it war and peace, right?
Jonathon: Yeah, they also get, we do a lot of semi-custom where we take a theme and we custom, it’s one of the options we give to people at different price points and we give them this option. We take a theme and I’ve had to really put in concrete what that really means. Some of my initial verbiage over the past couple of years I’ve just had to go back to and refine exactly. Because they want to break out, and they think you’re being horrible when you say no, this is the end of the semi customization, and we need to launch. And they think you’re just nickeling and diming them, no, actually you [inaudible 22:44] to point out is that we need to get this course up into the market and start to get some feedback because we also need to get over this idea that the site is finished. Well, the site is never finished, a business is never finished. A business that stops changing and stops–
Adrian: Is a business that dies.
Jonathon: Is dying, isn’t it? It’s reversing, so your business, if it’s online businesses which are e-learning educational platform with a course is online business.
Adrian: And the education never stopped changing either because technology changes, demographics change, legislation changes, governments change, politics change. And literally, there are so many factors that go into creating educational videos. Like I feel so sorry for whoever is like currently like building a Groundhogg education course, myself included because a year from now it’s going to be different.
Adrian: And there’s really no point in kind of like going through the super long design-build process anymore. It’s really about, okay, I’m going to go out and I’m going to find what’s a really good template for a course that somebody else is currently using to implement and is super successful with. Is it five-minute videos? Is it 10-minute videos? Is it one-hour videos? How many videos are there? I’m going to go find someone in my industry of my niche. I’m going to go essentially copied that format if it’s working well for them, and I’m going to translate my own content into that same framework. It’s all about frameworks
Jonathon: I just want to remark on that. I totally agree with you at a certain stage, and that stage is when you’re starting out.
Jonathon: Because this goes back to the course build. You can have as much experience about your particular subject that’s possible–
Adrian: You can be the world’s leading authority.
Jonathon: Yeah, but you can look at how other people have built their course, all the things you’ve just said, but you really don’t know until you get at the first batch of students.
Adrian: You really just don’t know.
Jonathon: You just really don’t know. And I think it’s probably been the same with you, with your product. You really don’t know. You made a series of educated guesses–
Adrian: Well here, here’s an interesting anecdote from my point. When I first started this, I thought our main customer base was going to be DIYers, you know, small businesses business owners doing it themselves. And I thought that was going to be like 80 to 90% of our customer base; it did not happen. In fact, the largest portions of our customer base are agencies that use Groundhogg to implement for small businesses. So they buy Groundhog and then they use it for their clients.
Jonathon: Can I ask you a question? It’s been there, my background, but it’s time to ask you this question, Adrian. Why do the agencies look at Groundhogg rather than the two to four leading SAS competitors? What benefits–?
Adrian: Because it cuts implementation time in a third, right? By like two thirds even. When you’re working in an agency, time is money. You are literally trading time for dollars. Your quotes are generally based on the hourly rate. All right, it’s going to take 30-hours; the quote is $5,000 or whatever. And when you’re doing that, if you managed to decrease the amount of time it takes to go ahead and design whatever PDF word doc that the customer gave you and translate that into something that actually works; web form, email timer, timer, email, PDF document, you know, payment received, right? To translate that, it is significantly more time consuming to do that.
Especially if you’re using WordPress to connect WordPress to WP fusion, to Active Campaign, to Lifter LMS, to whatever, and kind of like connect all of those pieces together. It’s succinctly more time consuming than if you were to just install a plugin and then that’s it, and you just design your stuff. So by cutting down that implementation time, they can now have the same quote but spend less time on the actual implementation of CRM and marketing automation so that they can put that time towards other mission-critical elements like analytics, reporting, support hours, documentation training, whatever it is that you do. So you increase your hourly efficiency and your hourly rate by using Groundhogg if you are an agency.
Jonathon: So what you’re saying is you’ve got agency and they’ve got a client and they’ve given on a retainer for a broad number of tasks per month. And marketing automation is part of that suite of tasks that they are probably doing for clients as part of their retainer. And by utilizing Groundhogg, they will count down the complexity and time necessary to achieve the marketing elements that they’ve agreed with the client.
Adrian: Absolutely, and beyond that Groundhog allows you, we were just talking about templatization. If you’re an agency, you want to be able to translate the successful strategy that you implemented for client and use that same exact strategy for client B, and then client C, and then client D. That way you can productize your service and then come up with a set price and a set time that you know, you’re able to actually re-implement that service every single time. Groundhog just allows you to do that export-import, into different businesses and a lot of CRMs and marketing automation tools make it difficult to do that. And if you can just easily kind of like pick up your strategy and just move it somewhere else, that is a super huge win for not only the client but for the agency as well. Because again, it’s all just about cutting the time of implementation down so that you can spend the most amount of time on optimization.
Jonathon: Yeah, like in my own business, I was thinking of doing because basically folks, we offer a hosting solution but at the same price as let’s say WP-Engine. But then we offer a load of software and support that would be useful for somebody building a course basically. So you have all the flexibility and power of WordPress but with our help, we remove the pain factor of using WordPress. But what we’re you thinking of doing? I was thinking of building some specific themes that were going to be aimed at people that want to build a course basically, on LearnDash, or Lifter LMS. I have decided not to probably go down that path. What I’m probably going to do is concentrate with Adrian’s product and with [inaudible 29:54] is build some lead page funnels that are specifically designed for course creators and also provide all the content. So provide the email in the funnel, provide the lead magnet, provide a library of landing pages in the interface that’s specifically designed for people that want to start online course–
Jonathon: Yeah, and combine that into our offering. That’s probably the road I’m going down Adrian. I think that will provide the most benefit because I’ve come to talk with a lot of clients, they have no idea about how, or it’s very daunting to get a series of automated emails with a landing page
Adrian: They don’t know, right? Like if the general point where someone decides to launch a course, right. Is I have accumulated X amount of experience in X industry over the last X number of years and now I feel like I know enough about this industry in order to share that information with other people so they don’t have to go through the same amount of trial and error that I previously went to. So now you are the template and you’re providing the framework for people to have the same successes that you have had. However, that does not make you the world’s leading authority on being able to market that course, sell that course, or even implement that course strategically. So this sounds like a wonderful solution, at least for people who don’t know because course creators they want to record [inaudible 31:35].
Jonathon: And it’s really linked to what we were discussing in the first half and during the second half, about getting it up and running.
Adrian: Get it up and running.
Jonathon: Because I think one of the main benefits that some of the SAS products have is that they do offer some landing pages, some email sequencing, and also, some lead magnets all pre-developed. That’s what I’m planning to do, is add that as a service. So if you go either with one of our DIY or semi-custom, we will have this in a library and you’d be able to select packages for specific industries or specific types of clients. And I think that will be the biggest benefit to my client base, really. I think we’re going to wrap it up now folks. We’re coming close to 30 or slightly over. So Adrian, how can people find out more about you and what you are up to?
Adrian: Well if you were totally freaked out by the whole owning your own platform conversation in the first-half one of the pro-ways that you can own your platform is by owning your CRM and marketing automation and not leasing space, to offer a software as a service product. You can do that by going to groundhogg.io and having a look at our open-source WordPress plugin that allows you to send emails, manage contact, and create marketing automation all from your WordPress website, AKA also known as your castle. So again, you can go to Groundhogg with two gs .io, to learn more about how you can do that.
Jonathon: And I just want to say, Adrian, I’m really thankful that you decided to come on board as my co-host in 2019. I think we get a lot of new listeners and viewers, the show has really increased by over a third in listeners, and we’re getting close to four to 5,000 listeners per episode, now with your help, Adrian. And I think with your help, we’ve rejuvenated, this part. I did two shows a week, but with Adrian, the interview part of the show and these discussions we have between ourselves, I think we’ve really offered a lot of values. So thank you so much for coming on board Adrian.
Adrian: Honestly, it’s my pleasure. I’ve met a significant number of incredibly intelligent and interesting people by coming on the show, and that’s an opportunity that would have otherwise been missed. We’re on here right now and we’re talking about and educating the rest of the community on things that we know about. But honestly, coming on the show is usually a learning experience by talking to other people about their experiences. And honestly, if I had like a dollar for every time I heard something from someone who came on the show and then I went back to my computer immediately after, wrote it down and then implemented it, then I might not be like super-rich, but I’d certainly be moderately.
Jonathon: I think you’re so spot on because normally there’s one tip, one or two tips. Sometimes there’s more, but listening to the previous views, there’s normally one thing that you can learn from the interview and that–
Adrian: The actionable insight.
Jonathon: If you’ve just learned one thing by listening to the show, you can save you or help your business tremendously, can’t it Adrian?
Adrian: There’s no question that the amount of expertise. Sometimes we have product people on, sometimes we have influence on, but there’s always kind of like that one little golden nugget and like, well, you had X problem, how did you overcome it? And then more often not, they’re super willing to share that, and it’s usually transferable across every business, every vertical because all businesses go through the same pain points, the same struggles, you know getting leads, converting those leads, following up with those leads and et cetera. However it goes, but in 2020 we’re going to have so many new guests and a whole other world of experience.
Jonathon: Well, I’m excited, we booked out for the next couple of months in the New Year and we got some already, some fantastic guest lined-up Adrian. I’m going to have some fantastic interviews. If you have got value from the show and I think you probably have and I sincerely hope that you have listeners and viewers in 2019, can you do as a favor? Can you go over to iTunes and leave us a review over the holiday periods when you’ve got a spare moment? It really does help the show. It helps us attract new listeners and viewers and get even better case that can share their experience with you listeners and viewers.
Adrian: It will be a good Karma for the year.
Jonathon: Exactly, and we’ll probably see you in the New Year with some great guests. See you soon folks, bye.
Adrian: Thank you, everybody.
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