Running a WordPress-based business places heavy demands on precious resources, and the ability to focus your marketing efforts can make the difference between a struggling or thriving business.
One of the biggest challenges many business owners face is the mind boggling array of channels for distribution and selling products. It can be easy to fall prey to spreading yourself too thin, especially when starting out.
This post is based on the story and experience of Weglot, a multilingual WordPress plugin that’s grown to 20,000 active installs, a 4.9 star rating on WordPress.org, and over $100,000 in monthly recurring revenue (MRR).
Weglot has grown by choosing the right marketing channels and focusing on what works. In this article, I’m going to draw on Weglot’s experience to offer tips on choosing the right channels for growing your business.
Focus on what works
When Weglot started back in 2015, we wanted to make a product which would help businesses scale into new foreign-language markets easily. The Weglot team is based in Paris but is international-facing, so we knew the problems and frustrations that come with venturing into new markets. We built a tool which helps users translate their websites into other languages and thus reach larger audiences, but one of our own biggest original challenges was growing our customer base.
Today, our business model is based on measuring our progress carefully and reducing what doesn’t work; we only use channels which do. In other words, we divide our time and energy wisely.
We’re now over $100,000 MRR, but as you’d expect it hasn’t been an easy ride – and there’s still more to do. When Weglot started it was only available for static websites. People asked us if you could use it with WordPress – you could, but it required integrating the code. We made it much easier by creating a WordPress plugin, and that’s how we came across our first marketing channel. We were then able to get traction using the WordPress Plugin Directory.
Fast forward to 2018, and we were trying to get to six figure MRR. After the success of using WordPress (and Shopify, and a couple of others), we thought if we offered new platforms, we’d have an easy route to expansion. We offered new Symphony and Laravel extensions, but these platforms don’t have a plugin directory or App Store. Thus, we didn’t see the growth we wanted: 95% of users were still coming from our existing integrations.
The answer, then, was to focus on what was already working.
Embrace a channel-based philosophy
We re-evaluated our existing plan, and shifted efforts onto what was already working: WordPress and Shopify. Though we hadn’t anticipated these channels to be the most fruitful, we were certain that adjusting our strategy toward what was actually helping the business grow would reap the best rewards. Not only would adapting to the needs of our CMS channels support new growth, but we would also be much better positioned to scale.
This strategy paid off as we completed our best semester yet and surpassed our objective by 10K. By the end of October 2018, we reached $110,000 in MRR. It also enabled us to grow the Weglot team in Paris!
We’ve found what works, and then only focus on those channels, getting as much value as possible out of them. If a channel wanes or is at maximum capacity, then you can turn to new channels. That’s it. You don’t do anything else.
Improve your strengths: Identify the best channels
With the channel-based marketing philosophy, it’s easy to filter opportunities. It works so well for two reasons:
- It forces you to test and find out what works.
- It forces you to focus on what works, and abandon everything else.
If something fits with the channel you’re focusing on, do it. If not, don’t do it.
Start off by brainstorming and identifying three, four, or five possible marketing channels. It’s important to get traction with these to begin, do you may wish to get a professional opinion before starting.
Start with small tests
Do small tests to identify which channels work. What constitutes “small tests” depends on the channel you’re using: paid search ads get results very quickly, so one month might be enough. Content marketing can take longer, so you might need to stick with it for a few months. An industry newsletter – like MasterWP – might need three months to see if the idea works, and then another nine months to see if it can get good traction. Paid ads, by contrast, take much less time.
Define metrics for success
Whichever channels you choose, you must define metrics for success criteria and a timeframe before you start. Once underway, make sure you can track results from each channel – for example, by using UTM tracking codes – and make sure you keep momentum going on that channel throughout the whole test. By the end, you should have a good idea of what will most likely work, and what won’t. One or two working channels is a perfectly good outcome here.
Focus, focus, focus
Once you have one or two working channels, maintain laser focus on these! When it’s clear what’s going to work, double down! Just focus on the one or two marketing channels if you’re starting out, or three, four, or even five if you’re further down the line. You want as few distribution channels as possible, and each channel working as hard for you as it can. This means really focusing on doing everything you can to maximize your channels! Weglot has done this really well, and is only now adding extra channels.
Optimize first, then try new channels
Only when a channel is working and “full” should you then turn your attention to new channels. Keep testing ideas to find new channels by testing a couple of ideas again! Don’t be afraid to listen to hunches when considering new channels, but then make sure to test them properly. And say no to everything that doesn’t fit within the channels you’re focusing on. This latter part is especially important.
This makes for an incredibly efficient marketing strategy! You find what works, and then only focus on those while getting as much value as possible out of them. If a channel wanes, or is at maximum capacity, then you can turn to new channels. That’s it. You don’t do anything else.
Weglot’s marketing channels for $100K MRR
You know the marketing philosophy, but what does this look like in practice? And how has Weglot grown to its impressive size using marketing channels?
We’ve focused on a few distribution channels:
Existing platforms: We have integrations for Weglot with WordPress, Shopify, BigCommerce, Wix, Drupal, and even static HTML websites. By offering integrations with multiple platforms, Weglot is able to benefit from the exposure of the add-on marketplaces of all these platforms! For WordPress, this is the Plugin Directory, but Shopify has its own popular App Store, BigCommerce has an App Store, and so on. Using these existing platforms is a great way of spreading visibility.
Engineering as marketing: This one is particularly appropriate to the translation plugin niche, where existing solutions are relatively difficult to use – the quality of the Weglot product is very important, and it’s as good as it can be. That’s why we’re so focused on the 4.9 star rating on WordPress.org: this is the best signal we’re doing a better job than our competitors.
Paid search ads: These are a good way of getting traction quickly, as they let you access people searching for your target search terms. Our competitors also run ads, so this lets us compete with them.
Content marketing outreach: What’s the best multilingual WordPress plugin? This is a question 2,000+ potential customers ask Google every month. We make sure that Weglot is listed when people are searching for this.
It’s important to note that not every channel is suited to getting immediate and direct sales, so you should bear this in mind when prioritizing. Some channels, like engineering as marketing, are going to be more difficult to pull off in WordPress product areas – like contact forms – where there’s already high competition and a series of excellent products.
Other channels, like paid ads or content marketing, are going to be a good fit much more broadly. You’ve just got to find your distribution channels by testing, and then focus on what works.
Which channels are next?
Part of the benefit and joy of a channel-based marketing philosophy is that it’s easy to turn to new channels once existing channels are maximized. With a growing product and team, new channels are easy to add: we’ve recently launched an affiliate program, are investing more in sponsoring WordCamps and local meetups, and have stepped up content marketing.
You must focus on what works to start with, though. You only want to expand when a channel is maximized.
Focus on what works
In the last three years, Weglot has focused on what works and that’s made for a winning marketing strategy. There is, of course, always more to do, and there’s a long way still to go. I do hope, though, that the insight into how Weglot approaches the idea of distribution channels and then puts that into practice is valuable in your work.
You can summarize this idea in two points:
- Test, and find out what works.
- Focus on what works, and abandon everything else.
Do those things, and you really can’t go too far wrong. Weglot has gotten to where it is by doing this, and it’ll move forward by doing this some more.
You’re now fully equipped with distribution channels, a winning marketing strategy, and how Weglot has grown. It’s over to you: which channels do you use, and what’s working for you right now? Do let me know in the comments.
Next: Streamline your marketing efforts with these WordPress plugins!
If you’re a marketer working with WordPress sites, plugins are the perfect way to streamline your efforts! Finding the perfect one to help you meet your goals, however, can be a little like A/B testing a CTA – it takes research, testing, and tracking results to know exactly what pays off. Now multiply that by all the useful options in the plugin directory, and you’re looking at a laundry list to prioritize.
So, where do you start? How do you know which WordPress plugins will help your marketing efforts, and in turn, help your business thrive? Step one: Download this ebook for our favorite list of plugins for marketers!