Late last year, I was invited to speak at a WordCamp event in Ahmedabad, where UnlimitedWP’s development team lives and works. My speech was focused on the opportunities that plugin developers have in the WordPress industry, and it proved to be a popular subject among web agency owners, so I’ve decided to dive into the subject a little more.

There are plenty of WordPress agencies that make their own custom plugins. But relatively few take full advantage of the marketing opportunities that plugin development offers.

The better you know your niche, the more plugin development can help you address your client’s specific needs. Imagine a restaurant owner comparing an agency that offers a custom menu plugin to one with no demonstrated experience in the field.

Many agencies create reusable functions and files and offer them to the open-source WordPress development community. However, the release of Gutenberg puts advanced WordPress capabilities in the hands of non-developers, leading to increasingly non-technical website users looking for solutions to their problems.

These users tend to look for plugins that address their specific problems. This presents a marketing opportunity for developers with the talent and resources to address those problems.

How To Create Business Opportunities Out of WordPress Plugins

There are more than 50,000 plugins available on the WordPress directory, and many more available through third-party websites. These span the range from simple customized menus to complex full-scaled eCommerce systems.

Some plugins are free. Some come with a small fee. Others work on a subscription basis. There are ways to combine these payment methods into business models that generate revenue.

  • Free and Premium Plugin. If you offer a limited, free version of your plugin to anyone who wishes to download it, you can incentivize users to upgrade to the premium version – for a price.
  • Premium Add-Ons. If you want to only release a single free version of your plugin, you can add enhanced features to the base plugin and charge for those. WooCommerce is a perfect example of this strategy.
  • Subscription Plugins. This is model is based on the software-as-a-service sales tactic. It doesn’t work for everything, but it can be a good choice for solutions that require constant updates and support. Security plugins are a good example.

The potential profits of plugin sales are simple enough for anyone to understand. The most popular WordPress plugins have more than a million downloads. If you manage to sell a dozen plugins a week, you’ll be raking in significant revenue for as long as the plugin remains valuable to users.

But this isn’t the only way plugins lead to increased business for developers. It is only the most direct way. The truth is that WordPress plugin development can improve your visibility in your niche and lead to new business if you incorporate plugins into your sales funnel.

The Plugin Developer’s Sales Funnel

The best way to describe how plugin development works in a sales funnel strategy is by example. UnlimitedWP’s WPSchoolPress plugin is a user-friendly WordPress plugin that simplifies school management for web administrators.

The plugin features role-based access, student attendance functions, grading, and course scheduling solutions. All of these things tell users “we know how schools should be run, and we understand how you want to run yours.”

Anyone can see that WPSchoolPress has a modest number of active installations. It’s definitely not competing with Yoast or Contact Form 7 – but it doesn’t have to. Instead, it plays a role in a sales funnel that helps us attract a certain kind of customer. Namely, it helps us attract customers who run schools and similar businesses.

This is where the marketing aspect comes in. Since releasing WPSchoolPress, UnlimitedWP has been approached by educators of all kinds: Swim instructors, yoga masters, sports coaches, and more. Many of these clients wanted to incorporate WPSchoolPress functions alongside their own custom development needs.

By showing that we can solve a broad range of general problems related to running an education-based business, we attracted educators who needed custom features to run their businesses. If just one or two of those leads ends up signing a full development and retainer contract, then we have more than compensated for the cost of building the plugin itself.

How To Make Your Plugin Funnel Work For You

Many developers intuitively know that WordPress plugin development is helpful for this reason, but they don’t start developing plugins right away. Usually, one of the following obstacles gets in the way.

  • Good plugin ideas are hard to come by.
  • Not every agency can promise to offer ongoing support.
  • Even fewer agencies can offer ongoing development.
  • Onboarding optimization is difficult.

It’s important that you don’t let a good strategy get dragged back by these kinds of details. None of them are intractable problems.

For most web agencies, having a reliable team is more important than having a spectacular plugin idea. As H.J. Heinz (of Heinz Ketchup fame) said, “To do a common thing uncommonly well brings success.”

You don’t need to come up with an original plugin idea that nobody has ever done before. You need to look at what popular plugins are doing right, and offer better performance and increased functionality to users who aren’t getting results from the plugins they currently use.

Improve an existing plugin with new functionality or a better interface. Create an integrated plugin that combines the functions of two separate ones that are commonly used together. The possibilities are endless. Once you know what plugins target your niche best, you can dedicate resources to developing solutions that meet your users’ needs.

What About Support and Ongoing Development?

For small web agencies, offering consistent support and ongoing development is a challenge. However, it is not an intractable challenge. Web agency owners who plan on investing in plugin development as part of a sales funnel can contact white label development agencies and outsource the low-impact, high-volume work of supporting and updating their plugin.

This strategy gives you the ability to focus on what your agency does best while freeing up development time and preventing you from getting dragged down in an endless sea of updates. It provides a scalable, on-demand development workforce ready to solve the most crucial business challenges you face.

Overall, plugin development offers unique value both to web agencies and their clients and enables opportunities for niche targeting. I’m grateful to have enjoyed the chance to share this with the WordCamp community and to help 500+ developers improve their business strategy.

Does your next plugin require specialist development skills? Talk to UnlimitedWP about our white label services!