1. Hello! Who are you and what is your business?
Hi, my name is Ronik Patel and I run UnlimitedWP.com, a white-label WordPress agency purpose-built to help digital agencies consolidate the hundreds of tasks they perform for their clients on a daily basis.
My story starts with JD Softtech, a Boston-based web agency I created in partnership with a team of 15 highly qualified developers and designers from Ahmedabad, India. Together, we created beautiful web experiences for clients who were frustrated by the difficulty of wading into the world of offshore outsourcing on their own. JD Softtech bridged cultural and language barriers while earning clients a vetted, highly competent team of overseas experts.
That was in 2014. In the five years that followed, we found ourselves attracting more attention from other agencies than from end customers, and it was easy to see why. Since there are so many tasks that go into managing a WordPress site, it’s impossible for a small agency to handle more than one or two clients at a time while still delivering optimal results.
For our agency partners, we went from handling the occasional overflow project to managing entire customer portfolios on their behalf. I began a series of customer development interviews, and once I understood the problems that agencies often face, I started asking myself some important “What If?” questions:
“What if agencies could outsource low-value, high-volume tasks in bulk?”
“What if small web agencies could focus more on lead generation and less time developing new skills to catch up with customer needs?”
“What if there was an agency-dedicated white label developer that offered a monthly subscription service?”
To this day, we’ve impacted more than 150 businesses. Less than six months from launch, UnlimitedWP is bringing in $22,000 per month in revenue. We’re seeing an average growth of five new agencies every month.
Streamlining the service we offer into a productized service format has boosted growth tremendously and helped us gain visibility into that growth. Instead of trying to interpret our marketing efforts in the context of customer quotes and lead generation, we can simply look at the number of subscriptions we’re selling at any given time.
2. How do you attract and retain your customers?
At UnlimitedWP, all customer interactions go through a dedicated customer success manager. Funneling the customer experience through a single point of contact allows us to build relationships that really matter—for us and for our customers both.
Signing on our first users was actually not difficult. Since we had already conducted customer development interviews with our agency partners, we already knew what kinds of problems those particular agencies had, and we already had a working relationship with key stakeholders. Many of our first clients were those agencies that we interviewed.
In addition to our SEO presence, we enjoy pretty wide access to a sizable Facebook community of agency developers. Attracting customers was easy for UnlimitedWP because we had taken the time to research our customers and understand their pain points particularly well.
The customer development interview is actually an incredibly useful tool for attracting and retaining customers, especially if you are undergoing a period of transition or rebranding an existing service a productized service. Our marketing engine runs on three pillars: email marketing, organic SEO, and industry-specific Facebook communities.
3. What were your challenges and obstacles of growing your business?
One of the major challenges to growing the white label development side of UnlimitedWP was deciding how to structure costs efficiently. In the beginning, we had to calculate and offer formal estimates for just about every project we took on.
At one point, we ended up spending more time calculating quotes and running invoices than actually doing what we do best. We were running dozens of tools to communicate with customers on their platform of choice—some people like Trello, some people like Slack, some others like Asana—until I finally learned that it’s okay to say no to your customer.
As a firm believer in the value of doing what you do best, I decided to fundamentally change the way we do business. We developed our own management tool and asked customers to use it. Then I started organizing the work we do into a much more manageable format.
Instead of engaging agency stakeholders in a back-and-forth on the pricing and timing of every single task, I organized all of the most commonly needed WordPress agency tasks by size. This allowed the agency to offer a broader set of solutions to customers on a much simpler basis, allowing everyone involved to focus on what they do best.
For example, adding a Google Analytics script or a Facebook Pixel to a single site is a pretty small task. Creating a call-to-action section with a signup form is a small task, but they add up—especially if you have to repeat them across an agency’s entire portfolio.
A large task might include customizing a WordPress plugin or setting up WooCommerce with a payment gateway. In both cases, web agencies and their customers win by being able to manage and delegate these tasks in a value-added way. UnlimitedWP gives agencies the power to assign tasks to our team of WordPress experts for a fixed monthly fee.
Of course, the next challenge is communicating this brand-new business model to the web agencies who will benefit most from it!
4. What has been helpful to help you to grow your business?
The Productized Startups Facebook group has been incredibly helpful. Being able to see new products-as-services launch on a weekly basis has offered a great deal of inspiration and helped guide some of the more difficult decisions that we encountered on the path.
Ugurus has also been a great help, for many of the same reasons. Many of the most successful business leaders, motivational speakers, and industry experts have been trumpeting the value of the product-as-a-service model for years. Being able to see that in action helped me to conceptualize what our product would actually look like in “as-a-service” form.
One of the major differences between the way UnlimitedWP grew and the way most productized service startups grow is that we actually hired much of our talent before we had orders to fill. Even though common wisdom says you should get sales going and then hire to fill those orders, I wanted to make sure we had a very specific skill set covered with vetted, highly trained experts before we really pushed the throttle on sales.
This is partially due to our focus on WordPress plugin creation and customization. We’ve spent years getting deeper into the WordPress system and its community. I’ve even spoken at WordCamp events. Our customers demand expert-level services from us in that particular niche.
Another important decision that we made was avoiding the “ticketing system” workflow. Most IT companies that work in spaces similar to ours operate on a ticketing system format, which works when you have one customer and it’s an enterprise organization with 50,000 employees, but it doesn’t offer seamless project management for handling multiple small business partners concurrently—and that’s exactly what we needed.
In terms of market trends, we’re definitely lucky to be entering the productized service bandwagon now. I personally believe that 2020 will be the year of productized services, as more and more high-profile, high-value items make it to market.
5. What is your advice for those who are starting productized services?
Niche down your productized service as much as possible. I’ve seen successful productized services launch in niches far narrower than UnlimitedWP. I’m talking about YouTube video editing services for personal brands, Excel services for accountants, the list goes on.
Finding your niche is the biggest stepping stone towards succeeding with the productized service format. The second most important element is conducting in-depth customer development interviews before launching your service.
For UnlimitedWP, customer development interviews made a huge impact on the way our service ended up functioning on a fundamental level. Without that step, we would have spent the last six months just responding to the market and—hopefully—making our way towards the service we offer now.
I would also recommend that productized services are easy to purchase and use. If you have to schedule five calls with each customer just to find out what they expect, adoption is going to go slowly. One of the benefits of niching down is that you can often figure out exactly what your customers want without needing them to spell it out for you every time.
6. What are your plans for the future?
We’re looking forward to expanding some of our larger offerings. Right now, many of our customers are scaling up their subscriptions to our services, delegating more tasks to our team and helping to prove the value of the UnlimitedWP model.
Ideally, we would reach a point where our customers rely on us for an entirely automated WordPress solution, leaving them to focus entirely on generating leads and making sales.
I already see a large number of agencies focusing on digital marketing more than technical WordPress wizardry. That’s a trend that I’d like to see continue, as it incentivizes more agencies to turn to white label web developers like UnlimitedWP, while giving them the leverage they need to earn high-paying retainer agreements with their customers.
Our current goal is to keep adding 5-7 agencies per month, and growing organically alongside our agency partners moving forward.
7. Where can we learn more about you?
Freel free to reach me on LinkedIn, and check out the latest offering on the UnlimitedWP website. I’m always happy to talk to agency owners and web entrepreneurs about new technologies and market trends.
I’d love to hear the community’s feedback on white label WordPress development, especially from people who are currently partnered with digital marketing agencies that offer WordPress services. These are the end-users of the experiences we build, and I’m always very attentive to their needs.