Hustle, Ups and Downs, and a Lot of Testing – Transparency Report #2

This is the second edition of our transparency report (here’s the first one). I’m publishing it monthly to let you know what’s been going on inside CodeinWP business-wise and what were some of the most interesting goings-on of the last 30 days. The goal of this whole thing is to be transparent and honest with you about the way we’re doing business, plus some of the ups and downs of our journey.

Edited by Karol K.

Revenue breakdown (Mar 1st – Apr 1st)

Last time, I shared our revenue all the way from Jan 1st 2013 to Mar 1st 2015. Today, let’s look at what was going on between Mar 1st and Apr 1st:

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As you can see, we’ve passed the $60k / month mark, which is an 85 percent increase over the last month. Interestingly, roughly 50 percent of this revenue comes from just one product (premium theme).
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Zerif Pro has been our top-selling thing for a couple of months now (check it out). This only proves that single-page designs with parallax scrolling are what people are most interested in these days.

We also had our first 10 renewals this month (just to remind you, ThemeIsle is a subscription-based business with yearly subscription plans). Even though a lot of people treat WordPress products as one-time purchases, it’s great to know that offering premium support and updates for a yearly payment has its place on the market as well, and that you can still have customers who find your product valuable enough that they are happy to renew their subscription.

Now, just to clarify, even though the revenue numbers themselves look awesome, I don’t think we’re all that profitable overall. Once we add up all the money invested, all the expenses that we’re having on a daily basis, there’s not awfully much left. However, this should change in the next couple of months if we maintain the current growth rate. This makes me extremely excited and even more grateful to the whole team for the work they’ve been putting in to make us a recognizable brand on the WordPress market!

Support tickets and customer conversations

Naturally, along with increasing sales, support tickets and conversations go up as well. Here are some of the results from the past months:

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There were 2,675 new customer conversations in February, but the number quickly grew to around 4,000 in March. This is expected, and I believe the number will continue to grow even higher as we sell more subscriptions.

Out of all the new support tickets, we’re managing to resolve 47 percent of them on first reply, which is good. However, unfortunately we can’t be very proud of our response time to new tickets at the moment … surely something to work on in the coming months.

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A/B testing and its value for business

The main thing we’ve learned this month is the value of A/B split testing for business. In short, if you’re not split testing in your business yet, you really need to!

The idea is simple. You first set a specific goal of what you want to improve in relation to your website (e.g. conversion rates, subscriptions, sales). Then, you change one element that can have its impact on your goal and save it as a new variation. Next, you put the two versions of the “thing” against one another. You have version A and version B, hence the name A/B split testing. After a while, once you have statistically significant results, you declare the winner and work with that version from that point on. This is just a general overview but you get the point.

Following these simple principles, we’ve tested how much of an impact do testimonials have on plugin downloads. Turns out, quite a lot!

We included testimonials from the plugin directory at WordPress.org in our plugin pages at ThemeIsle (screenshot below), and it resulted in a 10 percent increase in downloads:

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Through another split test, we were able to grow the sales of the main subscription package at ThemeIsle – called Treasure Chest. By discounting the price (and adding a red border) we were able to get 400 percent more sales (for that package ).
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There’s still a ton of details yet to improve and we’ll surely be testing even more things in the coming months. Also, I hope me sharing these results will only convince you to give split testing a shot. It’s really really worth every hour you invest in it!

That being said, not every test has to pay off, but this only adds to the educational value of the whole experience. For instance, we did a small marketing experiment and shipped 50 custom t-shirts to 50 paid customers. Although it didn’t provide any direct benefit for us, it was still an interesting experiment to see how people would react.

Also, we were informed that it is not quite okay to promote free plugins through the TGM activation method (based on requiring or recommending additional plugins when someone installs your WordPress themes or plugins). This affects a big part of our future marketing strategy, but … you know … just another speed bump on the road. Nothing that will keep us wondering too long.

WordCamps and sponsorships

We happily attended and sponsored WordCamp London (Mar 20th – 22nd). We enjoyed watching the presentations and interacting with the WordPress community in general. Sponsoring WordCamp is also something we want to be doing for future events. There might not be any direct ROI of being a WordCamp sponsor, but it’s a great opportunity to give back to the community and contribute to making the event even better than it is.

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We are already on board to sponsor WordCamp Belgrade (Apr 18th – 19th) and Miami (May 29th – 31st). Apart from that, we’re also going to be attending the biggest event of the year on the Old Continent, WordCamp Europe (Jun 26th – 28th, Seville, Spain). We’re anxious to meet some of you there, so don’t hesitate to say hi!

Advertising isn’t a set-it-and-forget-it strategy

We started experimenting with banner ads lately and … well … we have absolutely nothing to brag about in this department yet. In fact, we’re losing money. But you know what they say, every dollar lost is a dollar invested in education.

Right now, you can find our ads at SmashingMagazine, WebDesignerDepot, Designmodo, and some other sites. While we are getting some traffic from those ads, it’s nothing significant, so right now, the campaigns are more for branding than direct marketing.

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We will be investing more, though, and testing other advertising concepts. For instance, we’ve been getting quite nice results from re-targeting, email promotions and content marketing.

Nothing without hard work

We’re working on a number of sub-projects at the same time, trying to juggle multiple tasks, and tackle various marketing and development challenges. This has its toll on my ability to tune out and just relax every once in a while. I was never an extremely organized person when it comes to work, so my mind is constantly in an “on” state, brainstorming over different ideas and other work-related matters.

There is some truth to the saying that as your business grows, your problems grow with it. Despite the successful last couple of months we’ve had, I’m still quite stressed out about making sure that everything is secure and that the next month is going to be just as good. That being said, I am coping with this a lot better than I was several months ago … back when I had no idea how I was going to pay salaries. Hopefully, that part is behind us!

Okay, that’s it for this edition of our transparency report. I hope it’s been informative and that it’ll maybe inspire you to take certain steps in your own business. Thanks for reading, and most importantly, thanks for supporting CodeinWP, you rock! 

Don’t forget to stay updated with what we have going on. Everything shared here:

Ionut Neagu

Love to travel, share and help others, I am working with WordPress at ThemeIsle.com. Passionated by Growth Hacking and the big things around me (trying to understand people, society, economy and our world ).
  • Pippin Williamson

    Awesome. I love seeing these kind of reports!

    Your growth is awesome and you clearly have great things to come!

    Thank you for including the A/B tests. The insights that data can reveal are just awesome. What are you using for the split tests?

    • Thanks Pippin! I am using visualwebsiteoptimizer.com for A/B tests and it works fine, using their visual editor I can easily and ‘dirty’ test how users react to different prices / offerings.

      Another big test + survey that I did was for increasing the initial average basket ( for a better affiliate earning and adwords/advertising ROI ) and by proposing a 2 years license for treasure chest we had another 300% increase on that package .

  • Pretty impressive growth, I must say. Keep posting such transparency reports. By the way, what are you using to buld these reports? Is it EDD?

  • Great results, Ionut.
    Congratulations!

    You guys have such nice products, you deserve to keep growing!
    To a even more successful future! 🙂

  • Thanks for sharing all this – very informative.

    Interesting to read about the power of testimonials.

    Good luck for next month.
    Joe

    • Thanks Joe! I am glad you have found it useful.

  • ALBHAISI MOHAMMED

    Bravo Ionut, Super Tare Frate 🙂

  • How do you make money with Zerif Pro if it’s a free theme?

    • Is not a free theme Zerif Pro, Zerif Lite is free.

      • Ah, I see, I’ve not used it. I’m guessing the pro version offers something the lite one doesn’t. Have you looked into how much you lose through piracy? Or nulled themes. Quite apt, given your pirate branding…

  • Ariel Rule

    This is absolutely amazing 😀 I think the A/B testing section will really help others in a similar market see the benefits of doing that, especially after seeing how much your sales improved after a few tweaks.

  • Neat article. Love the transparency. Just makes me trust you guys more.

    On the advertising, I’m taking a class from Internet Business Mastery that goes into funnels in depth. Their main philosophy is you use the advertising to see if you can get them to take some useful content for free. Once they do that, they are on a custom autoresponder that upsells to a low priced product – less than $10 for example – that is the next step to the free content. This entire chain’s purpose is to identify CUSTOMERs and not time-wasters who only want free stuff and do not value your time. Their goal is to simply break-even on this chain – or keep from spending much on advertising. Once they purchase the $10 product, then you can upsell them to a premium product – $35-45 or much much higher. They are seeing good results doing this.

    I personally have not been successful at doing this – you are doing way better than me with your business – but I thought I would pass along the philosophy at least.

    Cheers,Marlan

    • Sounds like a great idea! We are looking to develop a marketing automation plan this year, however we have just something basic in place for now 🙂