Launching a new WordPress plugin
Adrian, having worked with Infusionsoft for several years recognised a gap in the market for small to medium businesses who needed marketing automation but could not access it. Systems were very pricey and complex to integrate into their websites so he launched a brand new WordPress plugin. This became Groundhogg which brought the features of marketing automation platforms into peoples WordPress websites. In this episode he shares his journey and how launched and evolved.
Fascinating insight into the inception, creation and launch of a new product.
Connect with Adrian:
Website – click here
Lee Jackson: Welcome to The Agency Trailblazer podcast. You are joining a conversation today with me, that’s Mr. Lee Jackson and today we have somebody with two first names. It’s Adrian Tobey, how are you today?
Adrian Tobey: Good, how are you?
Lee Jackson: I’m okay. Tobey or Adrian? I wasn’t sure.
Adrian Tobey: Oh, it’s okay. It’s interchangeable. So if you mess up I will respond.
Lee Jackson: Do you also respond to oi you and stuff like that as well?
Adrian Tobey: Yeah.
Lee Jackson: Hey dude. Aye.
Adrian Tobey: I get bro a lot bro.
Lee Jackson: Bro. That’s very Californian. I know you’re not from California.
Adrian Tobey: Well I went to university with like a bunch of Americans who are mostly from like Jersey and California, so that explains it. You know, it all comes up and we all lived in a house together at university, so it must’ve just rubbed off.
Lee Jackson: I can now literally picture like every single American movie of like people living together in university.
Adrian Tobey: It was like animal house, if you’ve ever seen that one.
Lee Jackson: Oh wow. That’s amazing.
Adrian Tobey: That was my university experience.
Lee Jackson: So nothing like bad neighbours?
Adrian Tobey: No nothing like that.
Lee Jackson: What a shame. Yeah, that’s hilarious. So if you don’t know who Adrian is, he is from a special company or application or WordPress plugin, whatever you want to call it, called Groundhogg, which you can find out more information by checking out groundhog.io and that’s two G’s on hogg. But always check the show notes for links. So before we deep dive into kind of how this all got started and also your entry into the WordPress world, can we just find out a little bit about you personally? We know you’ve got two first names, but it be wonderful to find out maybe what your favourite drink is, favourite colour, maybe where in the world you’re from and maybe even a random fact that you think of not many people would know about you and that will allow us all to warm to you. Then we’ll find out your story. How’s about that?
Adrian Tobey: Yeah, that sounds great. Well, I’m from Toronto, Canada. The general, like WordPress community seems to like mostly revolve in like in Europe or the United States. There’s actually a significant community, at least here in Toronto and in Vancouver as well. So I’m happy, super happy to be part of like the Canadian WordPress community. I think that’s super cool. There’s not a tonne of like WordPress pop products coming out of Canada, so I’m happy to kind of like push that movement a little bit forward. I went to university, I went to the university of Toronto. Big surprise there for computer science originally until I dropped out. I never completed that degree. I dropped out after my third year to kind of go full board into the whole WordPress thing in the WordPress community and I did that relatively blind. I dropped out when I was 21. I’m currently 22, so I did that only last year. It feels so much longer since then.
Lee Jackson: That’s insane.
Adrian Tobey: So yeah, so I dropped out to go full board into Groundhogg and kind of get this thing off the ground. But before I did that, a lot of people don’t know that I did not get my start kind of in WordPress. I actually got my start in Infusionsoft. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with Infusionsoft is?
Lee Jackson: Well, it’s now called Keep, but it was Confusionsoft wasn’t it?
Adrian Tobey: It was, yeah. So it’s called Keep, They did a whole rebrand thing and I left a little bit just before that rebrand actually. I was an Infusionsoft certified partner, I got certified when I was 18 so I was working in a digital marketing agency and I was doing a lot of their Infusionsoft stuff cause you know, you gotta pay the bills when you going to university. So I was doing a lot of their Infusionsoft stuff and I was getting kind of that thing rolling. I just started experiencing like the same pain points over and over and over and again, implementing Infusionsoft for all of their clients, which eventually led to Groundhogg. But while I was doing Infusionsoft, I have another plug in, actually it’s called Form Lift. It is a form builder of which there are currently many for WordPress, but it was specifically designed to be built for the Infusionsoft community. So it would allow you to connect WordPress to Infusionsoft through the web for module relatively effectively and efficiently and it did moderately well. That was kind of like my first introduction to the WordPress community, which is where I actually like, you know, found my calling and really fell in love with and I was doing that through my first and second year. Sorry. No, my second and some of my third year of university. So yeah.
Lee Jackson: So basically getting distracted or was this kind of classed as homework?
Adrian Tobey: Well so I just the the kind of point where I decided, you know, I’m not going to go back to university, I’m just going to like call it is a, I was working on Form Lift way more than I was working on my homework or study and I’m sure many, many, many people you know who are like entrepreneurs at heart can relate. You know, you see the emails from like people you know who download it like are buying your stuff right. You know, that feels like super good. You want to spend as much time as possible. Kind of like making those people happy and getting those emails like you made a sale. Right, cause that just feels so awesome. It feels way more awesome to invest your time and your knowledge and your skill into that project. Then figuring out what the run time of login squared is. Right in universities.
Lee Jackson: You’re not selling the university to me right now.
Adrian Tobey: So I failed my first course ever in my third year and it was a CSC 236 I think it was a second year course that I was doing my third, cause I was doing school part time cause I was working at the same time and I kinda just decided, you know what it’s going to like at this point doing part time school. I would not be finished till like I want to say 2023 or 2024 at the rate I was going. I’m just like, I can, you know, invest that same amount of time, that same amount of money, that same amount of energy into a product that’s going to work for me instead of reinvesting that into the system that doesn’t really give a damn. So I kind of called it and I’m like, all right, we’re just, we’re just going to go full board and have this and I’m going to invest in my time and just learn the good old fashioned way through stack overflow.
Lee Jackson: I hear you. Yes, Stack overflow is literally how most websites get built I think, isn’t it?
Adrian Tobey: It has to be.
Lee Jackson: It’s actually amazing actually just digressing ever so slightly. I’ve never asked a question on stack overflow because somebody else has always asked the question.
Adrian Tobey: I’ve never had to ask a question either.
Lee Jackson: I’ve yet to meet someone who’s actually posted a question. That’s weird isn’t it?
Adrian Tobey: Yeah, I mean it’s like there’s like the, now there’s like the WordPress specific stack overflow. There’s like a whole like a subreddit for stack overflow just for WordPress.
Lee Jackson: You can tell if oddly coded for a year then kinda, cause I’ve not had to Google it much. The more the company grows, the more I’m getting involved in like creating content and everything else and everyone else is doing the development. So everyone else is on StackOverflow, they could literally put a paywall on that and just cream all that money and it’d be amazing wouldn’t it?
Adrian Tobey: I’d pay it. I can’t do it without them.
Lee Jackson: Exactly. Well on that then cause like how did you get into development anyway? So with Form Lift and that is this as a result of university, did you get someone else to build it or did you just go ahead and teach yourself?
Adrian Tobey: As most things are, necessity is the mother of all invention doing Infusionsoft work eventually required you know, people wanted WordPress websites and I’m not sure if you’re familiar with like the web forms in old Infusionsoft now Keep?
Lee Jackson: Nope.
Lee Jackson: That’s still pretty good.
Adrian Tobey: Yeah, I mean it’s still pretty good. You know their entire market size was like 30,000 or 40,000 businesses at this point. So like, and all of those people have already pretty much figured out their solutions or whatever. So for all of the new people that come on, I was getting like those people who just wanted a quick fix. So I just started like adding more and more stuff to Form Lift. Like I integrated payments and I integrated a, what else did I do?
Lee Jackson: You did recaptcha; signatures, auto responder, a file uploader.
Adrian Tobey: Oh yeah, you’re looking at it.
Lee Jackson: It was just old for memory man. Frm limitation, spam protection. Yeah, I am totally on your website.
Adrian Tobey: Yeah. So I started adding all of those features. I borrowed the Easy Digital Downloads business model. I decided to do like an all access pass thing or you can buy extensions or add ons to form lifted visually. The most successful products that I ever launched was that in order to cause Infusionsoft, people have money and I was giving away formalin for free because I’m just like a generous, nice guy. But I just wasn’t seeing like a lot of return on my investment in time. So what I did was I added a credit to Form Lifts. So in the bottom right hand of the form, if you put it on your website it would be like powered by form lift and people didn’t like that or they don’t like it, they instal it and they say, Oh it says power by phone my, how do I remove it? And I’m like well you can buy me coffee or buy me dinner and you can, I’ll give you something to remove it. And that was the most successful product. That’s like a $20 one time purchase. So that’s the most successful thing that I ever bought because Form Lift on its own, like the free blog and that we give away on the .org is like super powerful as is.
Lee Jackson: Yeah. So you’re leading with value but you’re also adding other stuff that developers like me would want like conditional fields. Just that add on alone and if I was just going to grab that as a one off because it solves a problem for me as a developer without having to do anything that I’m going to be grabbing that it just makes total sense. Yeah. So I did not know any of this about Form Lift. This is absolutely fascinating. So just to recap here, you’re in a university you’re living the, what was the film we said?
Adrian Tobey: Animal house.
Lee Jackson: Animal house, your living animal house for real life failure kind of two years in. The bit I’m a bit confused on is how were you also working with Infusionsoft, was that like work experience or were you actually working and doing university by that time.
Adrian Tobey: So I was doing a night school at university and working full time hours in the day for a digital marketing agency.
Lee Jackson: Oh okay and then working on the Infusionsoft product. So you weren’t actually in Infusionsoft you are the digital. Okay, that makes perfect sense. So now you mentioned early on and I wrote down, cause I really wanted to ask you now, I’m aware of a lot of people that have used Infusionsoft. I’ve been in agencies in the past where we’ve had to put Infusionsoft out for them and confusion and soft is definitely a word that we all used a lot just to, you know, behind closed doors cause we’d find it a bit frustrating. But you said there was a few common issues that you felt clients were having, which I presume was wa and we’ll go down that line in a minute. Which w what led to GroundHogg, but could you just share like a few of the common issues that you were experiencing or clients were experiencing with a big product like Infusionsoft.
Adrian Tobey: Well off the bat cost, you know, Infusionsoft. I mean it’s a little bit less expensive and a little more affordable now because they rebranded to Keep it and have like a whole new product based around that. But the legacy and Infusionsoft, you know the one that I grew up with and you’re familiar with was like a minimum of like $300 us a month. Sometimes that’s like a big pill to swallow for Canadian companies who are like solo-preneurs or entrepreneurs, you know, and they’re kinda just like doing their best to turn a profit in the first place. Especially if you don’t see like ROI on your investment after six months it’s an even harder pill to swallow. It’s like, all right, I already gave this company, you know, over like $1,500 and I’m not seeing like my bottom line go up. What’s up? What’s the deal? So that was the bit, that was a, that was a big pain point. The second one is being an agency. We built all of the stuff for them ahead of time. But then they would come to the point where, all right, well we’re off the payroll, we are now handing the project over to you and it is now on your expectation of like figure out how to use the damn thing and continue implementing. Business owners, especially if they only have a small team, like they’re busy running their business, working at the business, they don’t have the time or the willpower to learn Infusionsoft and like log in every day and check the stats and do all that stuff. It’s like totally above their head. You essentially need at that point a dedicated person to do all of that for you or like have some sort of agency on a retainer, which we didn’t do at the time. So that was another big pain point. It’s just like they couldn’t use it after the handoff. Right? Basically we would have to build it so that it was set it and forget it. But you know there’s no real such thing. Cause you know, products change, sentiments change, business models changes pricing model changes. You know in employees change out. You know, you haven’t used sales guy, you don’t have a new sales guy or your fire sales guy. You have a team switch up. You know, business is fluid and marketing is fluid and you kind of just need to be involved in order to make it work consistently. So if we did a set it forget it, you know, they’d be back in a month being like, okay, this has changed my business and I’m like okay well this just isn’t a great user experience or a customer experience for our company. Not necessarily Infusionsoft, but like it looked bad on us that they had to keep coming back and they couldn’t do it themselves because we were pushing and recommending Infusionsoft. Not that Infusionsoft is a bad product, Infusionsoft is a great products.
Lee Jackson: I agree.
Adrian Tobey: If you have the know how the resources and the team to implement it and use it effectively. Pain point number three really just came down to complexity. Like Infusionsoft is a very versatile tool, but when you have extremely versatile tools, a lot of people fall into the trap of making it so complicated that they are unable to actually make it effective. So, for example, we had a couple of clients who like, because it had all this versatility, they created like this super huge mind map of like lines going everywhere and it was just like super difficult to build out and complex to like look at and understand like if I handed you that same mind map, you would have no idea what’s going on. If you handed it to me, I’d know because I built it, but I couldn’t like transfer that knowledge easily to someone else. So if they ever went to another provider, they’d look at that and be like, I don’t know what’s going on. The problem is if you don’t know what’s going on, if you’re looking at, and you can’t immediately recognise what the point of you know that automation is, what are the chances that your customer understands what’s going on either. So if you can’t follow the steps to get from point A to point B, can your customer follow the steps to get from point A to point B? Probably not.
Lee Jackson: I now understand why the flows are the way your flows are inside the Groundhogg becasue you literally go through a step by step with the conditionality and it makes so much sense. Cause I was having a look at but before we do then, so spoiler alert, we’ve just had like three common issues. I presume some of these issues therefore spurred you towards the GroundHogg. Can you just kind of rewind a little bit to the beginning of the inception, I guess, of Groundhogg and how you went about doing it?
Adrian Tobey: So it really came down to I had Form Lift, I had WordPress experience, WordPress development experience at that point. I’d been in Infusionsoft for like seven Oh five years at that point. So like I knew how marketing automation, like CRM was supposed to work at least at a very high level. And I’m like, well what if we just built it, you know, for WordPress because our clients, like the people who are like, I was still at the agency, our clients, they were comfortable to log into WordPress, write their blog posts, great the products, you know, manage woocommerce and stuff like that. That stuff they were comfortable with because they needed to log into that in order to like see the revenue report at the end of the day. So that’s something they were already comfortable with. What they were not comfortable with was going to Infusionsoft logging in there and doing stuff. So if we were able to transfer that experience to WordPress, not only would they be comfortable logging into WordPress, but they would also be comfortable managing their emails, their CRM, you know sending out broadcast emails, stuff like that. So that was kind of like the main thing. It’s like what if we just transferred the whole experience to WordPress and then when we offloaded them, they only needed to log into one place. If it looks like WordPress smells like WordPress and acts like WordPress, they will be comfortable interacting with it and operating it without, you know, fear of like I don’t know what I’m doing. So that was really like the main inception point, you know, and I’m just like scribbling things on a napkin at the Fox in the field down the street. It’s like, all right, what if we did this? Then from that point I’m like, all right guys, I’m out, you know, agency stuff. Like I’m going to, I want to take a step back and I’m going to go work on this thing at what’s my grandfather. I did the friends and family seed round to get a little starting capital and I’m very fortunate and grateful that he was able to provide that. I hired myself a single employee Drew who is working across the room from me right now. Essentially we just started like building. So I personally built out the MVP in a couple months and then we got it loaded up on the repo the.org and I said, Hey listen, you know this thing now exists, have marketing automation and email marketing and CRM for WordPress. That’s kinda just where it started. It started in August of 2018 was when I started scribbling things on a napkin and then I’m like, all right, let’s just, let’s just do it. Let’s just build it and see what happens. You know, it doesn’t exist yet. Right? Like a solution that’s like comparable to Infusionsoft or active campaign or HubSpot does not currently exist. Like the closest thing that existed was zero BS CRM, but that had no marketing automation or email marketing component. It was just the CRM and sales and invoicing and stuff.
Lee Jackson: So how did you start to market it? I mean you’ve gone from a napkin to within two months you’ve got your inception, you’ve got your money from family, God bless family, you got your first employee, et cetera. How are you then marketing it? Was it natural marketing because you were already providing the free version on WordPress, which led to your growth because that’s very similar to save video user manuals from Troy Dean. He’s got the the free plugin and then the actual plugin premium version which grew as a result of that. Or were you marketing in other ways?
Adrian Tobey: I have learned many lessons about marketing since I started this even, you know I develop marketing software but I am by no means the world’s leading authority. I know a lot, but I certainly learned a lot of lessons about how to market a software product since then. So the way that I started was I went to BuiltWith, and I paid them a tonne of money in export it, a bunch of lists of people who have MailChimp or Infusionsoft or companies that are known to use those products. I uploaded those as a retargeting audience to Facebook and then gave Facebook $3,000 for literally zero return on investment.
Lee Jackson: Oh that sucks so much don’t it? It sucks so much.
Adrian Tobey: That was attempt number one.
Lee Jackson: Do you want a hug cause I’ve done this as well by the way. I still kick myself now and again.
Adrian Tobey: That was a painful lesson I have to admit.
Lee Jackson: Thanks for being honest.
Adrian Tobey: Yeah. So that didn’t work. So, I immediately like stopped doing that.
Lee Jackson: There’s a lesson in that for everyone listening when something doesn’t work, please stop. I don’t know who said it but there’s something along the lines of the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. I unfortunately was that guy though. I kept paying on Facebook ads and then realised I was doing it all wrong. Anyway, carry on.
Adrian Tobey: Do you want to know the irony in the whole thing though?
Lee Jackson: Yes, I do.
Adrian Tobey: The ad we were running was a, we had a picture of like money in a toilet because you know, why throw money away to software as a service companies, you know, for not getting any ROI when you could use like our free product, right instead and get like the same results or better. So the irony of the whole thing is you’re running this money, this ad like money going down a toilet and I was literally just like chucking money down a toilet running this Facebook ad.Yeah, so that’s the first thing I did then that just didn’t work. So I cut that out quickly after like a couple months I think next. Then from that point on I’ve only been doing word of mouth, all marketing that I’ve done. I mean, well I met you through word of mouth, I’ve met like Michael Short, you know who created the mastermind group through word of mouth. I met Jonathan Denwood who I currently co host his WP tonic podcast through word of mouth and that’s the way that I’ve just been doing. So what I did initially after that initial kind of like Epic Facebook failure, I just sent out an email to every WordPress based podcast that I could find and I’m like, Hey, I got this thing, I’m not sure if you like accept requests for podcasts, but I’d love to be on yours if you’d have me. You know, this is what I do, this is my company, here’s some assets and here are some reviews that I were able to cobble up from existing users. Can I come? And from the maybe 25 or so emails that I sent out to various podcasts, I got maybe like five responses, but that was enough to get me started. Then other podcasters started reaching out to me, which was kinda cool to come on their podcast and start talking about it once they listened to the other podcasts and me talking about it. From there it’s kind of just been like a snowball effect where I was just starting to meet like so many cool people within the WordPress community.
Lee Jackson: You mean me don’t you? I’m cool person.
Adrian Tobey: Exactly.
Lee Jackson: Just checking.
Adrian Tobey: Trailblazer over here. Right. So yeah, it’s just kinda been like a snowball effect since then. I’ve just been meeting like a tonne of like people way smarter and were more successful than myself and kinda just been like totally mooching off their list.
Lee Jackson: At least you are being totally honest on that.
Adrian Tobey: I will be blunt and honest about it and I am extremely grateful and I would not be able to have done it without people reaching out or me reaching out and you know, getting some help from some very like influential people within the community.
Lee Jackson: The way I found out about you was actually through one of our clients. So one of our clients said I’m thinking of a what CRM system to apply to the new build that we’re doing for them. And they were like, Oh, I’ve seen this Groundhogg. I was like, Oh, I’ve never heard of Groundhogg. So I went and checked it out. This is a few months ago. They were also looking at ActiveC ampaign and everything and I noticed as well on your website that you had like a Active Campaign versus Groundhogg comparison. Nice move, get it for free versus $169 a month. But yeah, so we went through that and we ended up downloading the free version of it as well and going through it. So the client hasn’t made a decision as yet cause it’s one of those, you know, those projects that go on for a while, which is fine because we’ve, we’ve got to go through the design process and all that sort of stuff first. But when it comes to that decision, that’s been very interesting for us because normally we are trying to decide between, you know, a software as a service product and our big questions are can we integrate this? Will it talk with Zapier or Integramat or whatever. Can we, you know, what can we do to communicate between the two? And I was quite surprised by the idea of Groundhogg cause that literally brought everything inside. So I could do email, I could set up my email templates, I can do my email marketing, I can do my automation. Then also had a whole load of ad-ons as well. So I believe I could integrate with WooCommerce. If I wanted to start selling products, I could integrate with Easy Digital Downloads as if I wanted to do membership. So it’s literally keeping everything inside of the WordPress ecosphere. I don’t know. I just made a word up. But that sounds good though. Let’s just leave that in. That’s fine by me. Have you found any pushback then from people? You know, you’re a new company, it’s a new product. It’s kind of a new concept where everything’s inside of your website, which means your kind of response. Obviously you guys have got support, you offer support and all that. But at the same time clients must be a bit scared. I’ve got to look after this. At least if I use Active Campaign I can call them up and shout at them when something’s not working. Have you had any pushback or has it been quite well embraced?
Adrian Tobey: Of course. You know there’s always, you know, whenever there’s a new idea there are always naysayers and like, but the, you know, we’re responsible for education. So we actually have a whole article dedicated to, is it a good idea to self host my marketing automation? There are pros and cons to each one. So like for example, the cons of like software’s a service and we’re upfront about this and we’re not like trying to hide the truth or anything, but like you know, for example the cons of softwares and services that you own, nothing, right? So if they want to see, you know, if they find out, like for example, a lot of those companies are basically United States and marijuana is illegal and still many of those States, and it’s not legal Countrywide. So a lot of those companies will say, Hey listen, if you’re doing like cannabis based products then you are not allowed to be on our platform. So if they find out that you’re doing cannabis based products, they’re just going to shut your account down, your list, your emails, everything, and there’s no recourse, right? So you own literally nothing. You are essentially just a renter. You are renting space on their platform for a certain period of time until you stop paying the bill and then you’re kind of like out of luck. While on like a self hosted platform, I can’t go and shut down, shut you down. I’m not responsible because it’s self hosted, it’s open source, it’s on your WordPress website. So wherever the laws where you are apply them, that’s totally cool and I’m cool with that. Right? So you get to own your, you know the, a lot of the, as your business grows, a lot of people tell you, well you gotta own your tech stack, right? You’ve got to own your platform because if you don’t all your platform, then you’re basically just at the mercy of the companies that you’re renting space from. On the flip side, if you own all right, if you own that tech stack, right, if you do decide to self host so that you’re not renting space, you become responsible for that self hosting and you become responsible when things go wrong and you become responsible for scaling and all that stuff. So you have to make the decision is it more important to me to own my platform or is it more important to me that I don’t be responsible for that platform? Right? So we’re up front with the decisions that people have to make for deciding whether they want to go with like Active Campaign or if they want to go with Groundhogg. I think we make a good case for self hosting because a lot of people like the fact that they get to own their data, like their build doesn’t scale as their contactless skills. Like active campaign can get really expensive really quickly above like 5,000 contacts and you start shelling out a lot of money monthly. But you know we don’t have that with Groundhog. You can have a million contacts and your bill will still be the exact same, right? You just the yearly licencing fee and like call it a day.
Lee Jackson: Well if you’ve got a million contacts, imagine your database and your security and everything would have to go up a little bit, wouldn’t it?
Adrian Tobey: Yeah. Well you’d have to scale your hosting. You don’t have to say a scale you’re hosting accordingly, but if you like have a woocommerce thing on your site, you have to do that anyway. Right. So that’s, that’s a common conversation that we have as well. It’s like, well this like slowed down and crashed my website. It’s like, Hey listen man, as your business grows, you’re just going to need to scale up your hosting. Like you can’t expect to run $1 million business on $3 a month hosting. Like you just can’t expect to do that. If you’re doing like 20 orders a day, get hosting, that’s going to be able to support 20 orders a day. Right? Don’t go get cheap posting and if you load up Groundhog on good hosting, then you’re going to have good results and that’s kind of just the end of it. So that’s a conversation that we have to have people like it’s going to slow down my site or not. No, it’s not. If you have appropriate hosting for the amount of traffic and the amount of emails that you’re doing, then you’re not going to have a problem hosting is generally a lot cheaper than paying like huge SaaS bills for like marketing automation anyway.
Lee Jackson: Yeah. Because there’s so many other costs built in any way with the SaaS companies. So they’ve got an entire teams to pay, et cetera. They are providing all sorts of services that go beyond? They are almost like the hosting company as well because they’re hosting all of that or an architecture, et cetera. So that’s a big difference. Now the pricing model that you’ve gone for then, so with Groundhog, you went for like a freemium version, which there’s a lot of tools in there for free, which is quite impressive. How did you decide to price up everything else? How did you decide what to give away and what to charge for over the course of getting everything set up?
Adrian Tobey: Again, so many lessons learned in such a short period of time and I wish that what I knew now, I knew going into it and I think it would have made getting up and running a lot easier. But I’ll give you like the full run down. So when we started with basically copied Easy Digital Downloads, I used their product to sell my products and I thought they had a good business model. I enjoyed being their customer and I’m like, I’ll just do what they’re doing because you know, I don’t know any better. At the time they had their all access pass thing going on. So you basically just bought the all access pass for like $800 and you got everything. And I’m like, all right, that’s cool. I’ll pay it, you know, yearly fee. I’ll get download the extensions that I need, whatever. You know, I got, I got funding now from my grandfather so it’s all good. It’s all gravy. So I did that and then I noticed months later that they actually changed the way that they do their pricing. So now they have like packages that have different levels of add ons in them leading up to like, they’re like covenant all access pass, which is like a different price now altogether.
Lee Jackson: Yeah, I think it’s quite expensive now.
Adrian Tobey: Yeah. So I noticed that they did that, but I decided to like keep on trucking with the way that I was doing it. Cause it was, it was working right. It was making money. I was, I was not profitable yet, but I wasn’t, you know, I was working people enjoyed it. People like the fact that it was kind of just like one price. But I focused at the time, I learned later from, from Chris Badgett, from lifter LMS, who told me.
Lee Jackson: Another great guy.
Adrian Tobey: Another great guy, and I owe a lot to this guy actually. So if you don’t know who Chris Badgett is, go look him up runs Lifter LMS. He is just a like a wealth of knowledge.
Lee Jackson: Previous podcast guest as well.
Adrian Tobey: I owe a lot of our success to him, but he told me that free is not a pricing option. Free is a distribution model and at the time I had free on my pricing page. So if you went to the pricing page, you actually saw a call out and it’s like all of these features are free, right? Then we’d show the column there was like, all right, or you can buy extensions individually or you can buy our all access pass and just get everything right. So that was my pricing table and I learned that that was just a terrible idea because it didn’t put the focus on getting customers to actually, you know, share the wealth and give money to my company so that we can actually continue to operate successfully as a business. It put the focus more on getting more free users from .org and put the focus on just expanding the user base as quickly as possible and not the focus on actually creating revenue, which is important for a business. Would you not agree?
Lee Jackson: Amen. I always tell people you’ve got a responsibility to your clients to be a profitable business, so you can be that to look after them.
Adrian Tobey: Absolutely. I just, I wasn’t thinking of that mindset. I was looking at the active installation count. That was the most important thing to me at the time. Cause I just wanted to see like explosive growth. Then I learned that, you know, that’s not necessarily like the be all and end all right. You gotta be a business and you gotta be sustainable. So with recommendations from Chris Badgett and also Chris Lemme, I went to his Cabo Press event and that was awesome and I learned a tonne of stuff all over again. I learned to actually remove like free from the pricing and I’m now currently just using free as a distribution method.
Lee Jackson: That is so wise. I’ve never thought of it in that way by the way.
Adrian Tobey: So right free is not pricing free is distribution. So we give away like the free product and then pricing is solely focused around things that actually cost money and that was like a super huge lesson that I learned. I think the original question was how did we decide to put, you know, what we did into free and what we did and to paid and this was also a big learning curve. So originally Infusionsoft or Active Campaign came free. That’s if you installed Groundhogg for free, all of this stuff that you could expect from either of those platforms to a degree was available in Groundhogg. So basically you could cut your Infusionsoft bill, use Groundhogg for free, and you have the same level of expectation. That was not sustainable because if we continued to do that and we actually just made this change recently, like November 1st, if we continue to do that, we would, you know, there’s no incentive at that point for people who are switching to actually provide any sort of money. Again, as you said, we have a duty and responsibility to be a business that’s going to be around a long time to support our current customers. So we made the decision to actually scale back the amount of features that we offer in free. We grandfathered everybody who already had it because, you know, we’re not dicks.
Lee Jackson: Thank you. Carry on.
Adrian Tobey: We want to make sure that we’re not like screwing anybody over, like hurting anybody’s business, but for new people, we scaled back the number of features. So basically there’s enough to get you started, right? So you can send an email, you can create a funnel, the whole CRM. So the entirety of the CRM is free. Kind of like how HubSpot offers the entire, the CRM for free. We do the exact same thing. There’s no limits on contact records, on emails sent or whatever. Eventually as the business grows, they’re gonna end up needing to do like cool things. Or if they have like an e-commerce component or if they have a learning membership component, like an LMS, then they’re eventually going to need to share some money with us so that we can create revenue and then provide them those features. So we currently have a good, better, best pricing model or a basic plus pro and then we have an agency licence and we put all of our integrations into the pro plan. So if you got to do like some crazy Ninja stuff with Lifter LMS or woocommerce or EDD, Zapier, AWS, whatever, all of that, like super hardcore stuff is in the pro plan you’re already paying for those products. It’s not an incredible expense to just pay a little bit more in order to be able to get those and kind of like make it all work. Then we have our plus plan, which is kind of the middle of the road. Now if you don’t have any integrations and you kinda just need like to expand Groundhogg’s feature set, then that’s what you need. It has all of our add ons in there, like sales pipeline, booking calendar, really simple payments and a couple other notable ones.
Lee Jackson: I have no idea what birthday automation is.
Adrian Tobey: So if like someone gives you their birthday, you can send out an email on their birthday is basically like how that one works. Then in our basic plan, we basically just have the basics. So we have pro funnel features. So some new actions and benchmarks that you can add into the funnel builder, which I’m sure we’ll probably talk about shortly. We have the SMTP integration, so if you want to set up an SMTP service, there’s a bunch of free SMTP add on, so you don’t need to use ours, but we support ours. So if you need support for it, we’ll help you.
Lee Jackson: Yeah, I learnt something about that, there’s actually as well, if you were to use some of these SMTP services, I think it was Matt mentioned in a previous podcast, the funnel when we did the funnel podcast a couple of episodes ago. Some of these don’t actually allow you to route promotional emails for them that are only meant to be for admin emails, et cetera. Depending on the package you’ve bought. Which surprised me, I didn’t realise that. So I could’ve been breaking a few of the rules in the past when I was using Mautic.
Adrian Tobey: I’m not familiar with that either I send all of my stuff through like Amazon SES because like they’re super cheap.
Lee Jackson: I think they’re fine. I think it was just some of the other services, Amazon SES are fine but you guys also provide your own SMTP service anyway, don’t you as well?
Adrian Tobey: Actually we are discontinuing that actually.
Lee Jackson: Oh are you? Oh that’s good to know.
Adrian Tobey: So something I learned at Cabo press was like, stop doing things that don’t make money.
Lee Jackson: Well if that didn’t make money then that makes sense. Okay. That was ridiculously cheap as well. I think you were suddenly like credits at like 20,000 or something.
Adrian Tobey: Yeah, so just stop doing things that don’t make money. We built a relationship with a company called Send WP which is run by James laws and the guys that Andrew forms super great people. Uh, and we’re just like recommending them when people instal Groundhog now because like that’s super cheap and super simple. It was like $9 a month for unlimited emails. The cost to spread among all of their accounts. So the company’s profitable overall and we’re just happy to just like provide people with a way simpler way of sending emails then our sending service, which has like DNS records and like there was just a whole lot of pain points and setting up our service. So we just decided to call it didn’t make money anyway and yeah, so that’s being discontinued in 2020.
Lee Jackson: Yeah, this is really good. I love how honest and open you’ve been though. Cause this is valuable lessons I think. Well, obviously this is great for agencies who are looking for a solution that is not one of these paid for solutions. So few you’re an agency that’s looking to host something for yourself. Folks, remember you can check it out over on groundhogg.io but while I’m loving about your openness and transparency here is that we’re learning a hell of a lot of lessons from you on things that we can avoid either as agency owners or also plugin developers. Cause we’ve got a huge amount of the WordPress community are listening and they’ve got their own products that they’re developing and you know that lesson there we can learn in both agency life and in a product development life. If it ain’t making money then stop doing it. Things like that are really, really valuable lessons as well.
Adrian Tobey: There are three ways to like turn up, you know, make a product properly a like charge more. It wasn’t really worth it for us to charge more at that point because they could just then go get, we have an official AWS SCS integration. That’s what our sending services based off what people would sign up through our AWS account to send emails but the markup that it would take to be profitable, you know, people would just go get their own. So it just, it really didn’t make any sense unless we like went down the road of like actually building a proper service. But we just, we don’t have the resources to do that at this point. Maybe down the road and that’d be super cool to look at in the future. But we’re just, we’re currently not there, so we just decided, you know, it’s not making money and like it’s a huge pain point for people. Like they, they, when they sign up, they sign up for this thing and then they can’t get you to work right away and it takes like 10 days for them to be able to send an email. Like that’s just a poor user experience. So we just decided to call it and then send him, he offers a great user experience for the most part. So it’s easy. It was an easy choice for me.
Lee Jackson: No, that’s absolutely awesome. So what are you, I mean that you’re allowed to share, what are your kind of future plans over the next kind of maybe 12 months for Groundhogg? Do you have new add-ons planned? Are you doing any special offers for anyone who might be interested?
Adrian Tobey: So we’re kind of at the end of like a big production cycle right now or leading up to the end of a big production cycle where we kind of, we have like over like 40 add ons and extensions and integrations at this point and we don’t have a big team. So we built all of this stuff and now we’re kind of like at the end of the production cycle of building things. Now we’re going to like focus on education. Like we have documentation that needs to be written. We have courses that need to be created and now it’s like, all right, so we have all of the software, but now we need to provide the resources, tools to help people be successful with our software. We have that to some degree and we have our Facebook group and like people in our Facebook group are like super helpful with other users and then you know, if someone’s not getting an answer, we’ll jump in there and make sure that they get an answer. But we just need a little bit more formalised education system and we have office hours and stuff like that. But you know what I’d ideally like is like someone buys the thing, right? Then I can direct them. All right, here’s Groundhogg Academy or whatever. Go there. You know, and spent like the day pushing seven videos to get started. That’s ideally where, where I’d like to be heading in the near future is just making sure that the educational resources are there to support people using our stuff.
Lee Jackson: Now that’s a similar journey to us. So a lot of people aren’t aware that I also have another business and we’ve got a product in the events industry. One of the things we did was once we kind of got our product matured to the point where it did everything that it was meant to do really, really well and people were happy with it, we then realised that for people that were onboarding, who we weren’t able to give as a hands on experience as the first clients who were helping us develop the product, we realised that we needed to get all of our education in one place. So we worked for a good few months making tonnes of documentations and videos, et cetera. But like your Academy idea, ours was just like a knowledge base, but that’s a really good idea. Just having a place for people to go to, to go and learn those things, but also to learn techniques cause it’s not just about learning the product has it, but it’s also learning good techniques for managing data or creating effective funnels, et cetera.
Adrian Tobey: Yeah. So like, you know, it’s marketing automation, right? You need to know a little bit about marketing. If you want to really make that work, you know really, really well. You have to know how to write good email content. You have to know what is the concept of a sales funnel? You don’t, bunch of people go in the top little, a few people with money come out at the bottom, right? So not everybody knows those concepts, right? A lot of people when they find us to, like I heard about marketing automation on a podcast, but I’m not really sure where to start and I don’t have an educational resource for those people. I have to send them off to like a digital marketer or like Russell Brunson to go learn those concepts.
Lee Jackson: And then he’s going to sell them Click Funnels.
Adrian Tobey: Yeah, exactly. So yeah, or like Ryan Deiss is going to, is going to sell them like a, I think they’re like promoting Active Campaign or Infusionsoft still. So I don’t have a resource right now to train those people and I think offering that portion is going to help us make current customers and new customers just more successful in one. They’re more successful, more successful. So everybody’s happy.
Lee Jackson: Awesome mate, you’ve been absolute legend. Thanks so much for your time folks. Remember you can check out the product over on groundhogg.io. You can also check out the old products as well and have a look at that, that’s over on formlift.net. All of the links are in the show notes for everything that we’ve discussed today including that article that was mentioned earlier about the self host versus automation and sorry, self hosted versus SaaS products. Also shout out to Chris at Lifter LMS and also other Chris for the Cabo press. I will put all of those links as well in the show notes. Adrian, thank you so much for your time. All that is left for us to do may is to thank you profusely. Thank you. And let’s kick you off the show. All right, well I had a great time.
Adrian Tobey: Thanks for having me. I appreciate the opportunity to kind of like share my journey and my experiences and if you ever want to have me back on to talk maybe like next year about all of the cool things that I learned that I wish I knew now coming up I’ll be happy to share those too.
Lee Jackson: I promise to take you up on that. Also last mentioned, I forgot you mentioned Jonathan Denwood please folks, go check out the WP tonic show as well. Do two shows a week, I believe and you guys have like the news Roundup, is it Friday still? You do it?
Adrian Tobey: Yeah. So we do the panel on Friday, which is like all like the WordPress news and then we have an interview show on the Thursday where we find someone in the WordPress community making waves doing cool stuff and talking about other cool stuff.
Lee Jackson: Awesome. All right folks that’s wp-tonic.com again, links will be in the show notes. Right I’m definitely kicking you off now. Go on sling your hook.
Adrian Tobey: Bye.
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