1. Hello! Who are you and what is your business?
Howdy! Joe here 🙂
I’m the Head Buff at WP Buffs, a 24/7 WordPress website maintenance service for serious website owners and white-label agencies and freelancers. Whether you’re looking after 1 site or 1000, we’ve got your back!
In the same vein, we’ve also launched WPMRR, a robust video course that teaches WordPress professionals how to implement, sell and execute ongoing care plans for their clients and increase their revenue every single month. Or you can just tune into The WPMRR WordPress podcast entirely focused on growing successful WordPress businesses and monthly recurring revenue. Boom!
I jumped around a ton of jobs before starting my business. After studying mathematics and education in school, I was a high school math teacher for a couple years in DC schools. Then worked at a couple digital marketing startups and did some UX consulting work as well. During all my time doing digital work, I was getting into the WordPress community and building sites on the side as a freelancer.
None of those really vibed that well with me except the WordPress stuff. And I loved building WordPress sites, but couldn’t find out how to scale it. So I switched my business model from building websites to managing them for a monthly subscription. We went the unlimited support for a single monthly fee route because I love the idea of giving people as much as they want while only having to worry about one single payment every month. It’s a similar model to what Robin does over at ManyPixels! We just stick to website management instead of design.
And thus, WP Buff was born!
Honestly, I started marketing the service before I’d figure out how the care plans were actually going to work. I sold my first plan via PayPal and then had to figure out how to manage sites after-the-fact. Definitely a trial by fire haha.
We’re pretty open about the financials behind our business. You can check out our revenue and website traffic for the last 30 days over at Indie Hackers.
We started with pretty low pricing but have increased our care plan prices a few times over the past few years as we’ve added access to premium plugins, minimized reply and resolution times, etc.
MRR increases and decreases mostly based on churn and new customer acquisition. The biggest thing we can do to tackle churn is keep reply and resolution times low, which we’ve gotten exceedingly good at in the past year or so. New customer acquisition depends on a lot (website traffic, new email subscribers, meetings booked, etc) but we’re always trying to add new money into the business to minimize the impact of customers who churn because they’re not a good fit for working with us.
2. How do you attract and retain your customers?
Most of our new direct customers and white-label partners come from 1 of 3 places.
- Inbound marketing. WordPress users or community members need help with WordPress and they find one of our blog posts after doing a search on Google. After they’re done reading, some of them download a speed or security eBook or sign up for a webinar for WordPress professionals. Then we’ll give them so much great, free content some people will reach out to us about our care plans or white-label program.
- Community work. We’re pretty active in the WordPress community. We even offer a stipend for everyone on our team to travel to WordCamps. We usually do a bigger meetup at WordCamp Europe or WordCamp US where a few members of the team meet. I speak pretty frequently as well and because many WP companies live and die by their reputation in the space, we get people reaching out about working with us (and even applying for jobs).
- Referrals. We receive a lot of work because of word-of-mouth as many customers and white-label partners like to boast about our services to their friends and fellow professionals. We always try to encourage this too, and having a robust affiliate program doesn’t hurt!
As far as customer retention goes, having Dean as our Head of Customer Success is really helpful. Most of his job is talking with customers and partners and finding out what we do that’s valuable for them and what else we can do to go farther down that path. He pretty much focuses on how we can make our care plans and white-label program so sticky that people would never think about leaving or going somewhere else.
I actually asked Dean about this to answer this question and he said what’s most helpful is talking with customers. He hops on multiple calls every week with current customers and white-label partners and just talks to them. What’s working for you? What’s not working for you? What else would make our program more valuable for you? What area of your business are you struggling with? Getting answers to these questions and finding patterns allows us to figure out where our customers and partners are struggling so we can offer them solutions. That’s why we offer free white-label speed and security eBooks for our white-label partners. Our partners were having challenges generating leads to sell their care plans so we white-labeled our own eBooks and gave them to everyone.
Listen to your customers and really, really hear their pain points. Then help them solve them. Easier said than done, but it’s how you can be successful.
3. What were your challenges and obstacles of growing your business?
The biggest challenge we’ve had so far is how to scale 24/7 support. Doing 9-5, Mon-Fri support with a few agents is easy but doing 24/7, Mon-Sun support with 10 agents is not, especially when you’re managing hundreds of websites, all of which are unique!
There were a couple big things we did to get better in this area and keep our performance high as we’ve grown.
- Experimentation. Nick is our COO and I gave him pretty full reign to experiment with different ways to do support to not only find the best way to handle support, but the ways that don’t work. We learned a ton from this and it’s allowed us to feel confident in the strategies we’ve doubled down on.
- Don’t continue what isn’t working. We’ve hired a few people who just didn’t perform at a level that we required to do 24/7 support at the level we wanted. We’ve tried to learn from our mistakes and move those people out of support if they’re not a good fit there. I’ve made a lot of mistakes trying to figure out hiring but I’ve also lucked out with a few people and they’ve made all the difference. But if somebody isn’t working out and you’ve given them all the resources and time they should need to do well, it’s your job to make the hard decision that’s best for the business.
We’ve made a lot of other mistakes along the way but one of the things that’s helped me steer the ship and make good leadership decisions is the community I’ve built around myself. Other WordPress business owners and people I do masterminds with allow me to have really frank conversations around where we’re weak. At the end of the day, my community and the support and advice they’ve given me have been nothing short of game-changing.
Got to hang out with @xtiechirinos and do an in-person WPMRR podcast recording yesterday (and a second with @jason_coleman)! Plus Rock Creek Park 😎 #WordPress pic.twitter.com/48LEYdAzKH — Joe Howard 💪🏽 (@JosephHHoward) June 7, 2019
4. What has been helpful to help you to grow your business?
One of the most helpful things I ever did to grow my business was be a non-technical founder of a technical business.
When I started WP Buffs, I wasn’t that technical (and I’m still not), so I had to hire people to help do that part of the business.
That allowed me to focus more exclusively on the areas where I add value to the business (SEO, marketing, sales, business development, people management, big picture stuff, etc).
When it comes to tools, we use a ton at WP Buffs to power our business.
5. What is your advice for those are starting productized services?
I actually recently did a joint webinar with my friends over at Liquid Web where I talk all about building a successful productized service, mistakes and non-obvious best practices. Feel free to watch! Building a Self-Sustaining Business by Leading with Recurring Revenue
When it comes to tools, we use a ton at WP Buffs to power our business.
6. What are your plans for the future?
Here are my 2019 goals. Some of them have changed but some are still the same. Feel free to give it a read! My 2018 annual review that every other business owner does too
Or if you’re more of a podcast listeners, Christie and I did a whole episode where I pretty much went through this whole article. Big, hairy, audacious goals for 2019
7. Where can we learn more about you?
First, thanks for reading this far! It really means a lot that you got all the way here. I’ve been doing digital stuff for almost a decade now and it still puts a smile on my face when people who start reading something I write go through the whole thing.
You rock, my friend 🙂
You can follow me on Twitter. I post every once in a while.
And finally, a few links to the stuff I’m doing:
May the force be with you!