The Minimum Viable Product

Minimum Viable Product

“Real artists ship.” –Steve Jobs

“If you’re not embarrassed when you ship your first version you waited too long.” –Matt Mullenweg

You’ve probably heard of an MVP, it stands for Minimum Viable Product.

The term was popularized by Eric Ries, It means that you should ship when you reach minimum viability, not a moment before or after that.

You shouldn’t take MVP to mean that you should ship a piece of crap. The emphasis in MVP is on viable, not on minimum.

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Things you’ll never hear product developers say

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On Overnight Success

“The first time I tried to build a product it was a staggering success, guess I just got lucky.”

“If you build it, they will come is totally true.”

On SaaS

“It’s so easy to make money with SaaS, you just set it and forget it.”

On Agencies Moving to Products

“Adding a successful product line to my Agency was easy, I had plenty of free time and the early lack of revenue totally made sense.”

On Version 1

“I love all of the development decisions I made for version 1.”

“I wouldn’t change a single line of code if I had to build it all over again.”

“We reached product/market fit right away, we didn’t even have to make any changes.”

On Support

“Support doesn’t really take that much time out of my day.”

“Support is my favorite part of building products.”

On Marketing

“I’ve had great luck with AdWords.”

“I wish we hadn’t spent so much time blogging.”

On Features

“I’m so glad I added in all those features early on, it makes my life easier.”

Add yours to the comments :)

The WordPress Theme Business, Then and Now

WordPress theme business

I’ve been selling products for 5 years now, starting with premium WordPress themes.

I now have a plugin business and a SaaS product. I’ve learned a lot, this post is basically everything that worked and didn’t work for my theme business, and where I see the theme market today.

A brief history of premium themes

Matt Mullenweg forked b2 to create the first version of WordPress in 2003. Around 2007-08 the first premium theme companies started popping up. (There’s a nice history of premium themes here.)

One of the first was Studiopress, founded by Brian Gardner. Studiopress quickly escalated into six figures per month, and other theme businesses such as Press75 found fast success as well, and the theme gold rush started.

Lots more players jumped into the market over the next several years, and that trend has continued. Some market leaders emerged (Woothemes, StudioPress, Elegant Themes), and new distribution has changed the game (Themeforest).

Fast forward to today. The market is incredibly saturated, prices have dropped, and theme quality/bloat has become an issue.

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2015 WordPress Business Revenue Statistics

2015 WordPress Revenue Statistics

A lot of people in the WordPress community have published transparency reports in the last year, and I wanted to gather them all in one place.

It’s mostly for statistical data for presentations, and to analyze what business models people are using. I also have some knowledge that isn’t public information (from my own businesses, and people I know) that gives me a little extra insight.

Personal note to all my fellow business owners: don’t compare yourself and feel bad because you aren’t making what some of these businesses are. There is a lot of back story to these that you don’t know about, none of these people were overnight successes. If that’s you, read this post about jealousy by Cory Miller, and this post by Matt Medeiros.

There are lots of people I left out, if you want to be included in this list or update your numbers please leave a comment or shoot me a tweet.

Update: some of these numbers are different than the source links, or don’t have sources. That’s because people have shared numbers with me personally but have not published anything about revenue publicly.

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How to get customer feedback with surveys and polls

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One of the most important things you can do to grow your business is get feedback from your customers.

If you don’t know what your customers are looking for and why, no amount of tweaks to your site will have much of an effect. To find out the right headlines, media, content, and even product features your customers want, all you need to do is ask. Armed with that data, you can a/b test your site copy, onboarding processes, and marketing materials to increase conversions.

There are several ways to get feedback, including live user testing with friends and family, talking to customers on the phone or in person, and online surveys and polls. We’ll be focusing on surveys and polls, since they are the easiest to implement.

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How to create a conversion funnel in Google Analytics

Google Analytics Conversion Funnel

Setting up a conversion funnel is a great way to see how well you are converting on your website, and where you can improve.

A funnel is a visualization of the steps you want people to take on your website. For example, the top of the funnel would be visiting your homepage, and the bottom would be hitting the purchase confirmation page.

You can add steps in between as well, like visiting your pricing page, reading a blog post, or subscribing to your email list. A conversion funnel doesn’t have to be monetary, it could also show how well you are doing with email opt-ins, downloads, social sharing, and more.

If you read my previous post on basic growth hacking, setting up a conversion funnel in Google Analytics is a great first step. Let’s set one up.

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Basic Growth Hacking

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I recently decided to start focusing on growth for my company. After doing some research I stumbled on lots of articles about growth hacking, which is a term coined by Sean Ellis.

It refers to data driven marketing strategies like analytics, conversion rate optimization, and customer retention. Any company can use these strategies, and they can be very effective. Before diving into these strategies head first, it’s important to have a general idea of what they are, and how they work together.

In this article I’ll go over the general buckets of growth hacking, and how you can get started.

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Building a business, or making a living?

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In 2010 I started my first company, an online shop selling WordPress themes.

Before that I was doing freelance web design, and before that I had a full time job as a graphic/web designer. I recently started a new company that helps people build their own mobile apps in 2014.

Every job I took, or business I’ve started was something I thought would be exciting, and would make money. I need to pay my bills just like everyone else, so financially all I ever considered was making enough to have a comfortable living.

At first I thought it would be great if I could make a product and someone would buy it. When I got my first few sales online it was an exhilarating feeling, someone thought what I made was worth paying for! If I could build the business enough to make six figures, that would be the life.

The only thing that mattered was making a living doing something interesting. The freedom of setting your own schedule, being your own boss, and actually making money doing it is really exciting.

For many people, that’s the end game, as I thought it was for me. There’s nothing wrong with making a living and stopping there. As I’ve written before, success in business is not about making millions.

It’s not about the money, I just have to keep pushing. I can’t help myself.

Building a Business

I want to build multi-million dollar business, not just make a living.

Building a business means that my income goals are no longer top priority. Putting money back into the business to make it grow is paramount.

It requires long term thinking, and short term sacrifices. Instead of padding your retirement account, you are investing in your company.

Going Big

I’ve been thinking a lot about how my company can grow 10X. My previous goals have been how to make a little more the next month or year, but I really like the 10X approach. It requires making fundamental changes that I never would have made with my old approach.

You need to make changes to your company infrastructure to make this growth possible. It may mean widening your market, hiring more people, or completely pivoting. These are things that never occur to you if you are just trying to get a few more sales, or a few more clients.

Cutting your own salary

It seems like a no-brainer, put money back into your company to help it grow. Think bigger. Duh.

It becomes difficult when you actually have to cut your own salary significantly to hire someone, add a marketing budget, etc. The idea of growing the company is alluring, but cutting my own salary sucks.

It would be great if I had a different source of income, and all the money could go back into the company. If you are in a position to be able to do that, I highly recommend it.

I’m risk-averse, and very frugal. The last thing I want to do is put all my money into a company that could fail, instead of a bank account that can grow slowly. It goes against my financial principles, but I’m going to do it anyways.

I don’t know why, but I just really want to take a shot at building a bigger company. It just seems like the next logical step in my career, and if I don’t do it now, I might not ever.

Who knows, it may even work.

Build a mobile app with Ionic + WordPress

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The Ionic Framework is a modern hybrid mobile app framework built on AngularJS.

It has changed the way people look at hybrid application development, bringing native performance to the hybrid world. We use the Ionic Framework as the base for all apps built with Reactor. It integrates lots of awesome WordPress functionality like posts, pages, WooCommerce products, Gravity Forms, push notifications, member login, and lots more.

I created a separate project on Github that is a simple integration of WordPress with Ionic, in a standalone project.

View on Github

This project is mostly for fun, and so other developers can get excited about Ionic. The app includes a posts page with pull to refresh and infinite scroll, a login with custom authentication (requires a plugin), static pages, side menu, a settings page, and app intro. I will be adding more to this project in the coming weeks.

You can use this project as a starting point to create a mobile app of your own.

Click here to see a demo of the project.

Let’s look at how to use and customize this project.

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