182 podcast episodes 🎙️

In today’s episode, we revisit an old episode with David Vogelpohl of WP Engine – a platform for site building and management tools to drive more creative agility; cloud hosting and security solutions to enable enterprise performance; and optimization tools to give you ongoing intelligence.

Joe and David talk about exploring strategic partners, adding new components to keep existing clients while continuing to gain new clients to defeat churn, as well as information on acquiring new business and preserving the brand during the integration.

What to Listen For:

  • 00:00 Intro
  • 02:12 Welcome to the pod, David!
  • 03:17 WordPress background and working at WP Engine
  • 05:49 Issues often faced in a large scale business
  • 09:35 The Negative Net Churn
  • 11:11 On acquisition process and success
  • 15:19 The advantages of an acquisition partnership
  • 18:46 How to prepare a business before selling
  • 23:41 What will an acquiring company look for in a business?
  • 28:26 Getting to know WordPress Gutenberg  
  • 35:17 Other configurations made possible with Gutenberg
  • 40:53 Find David online!

Episode Resources:

Podcast Transcript:

Joe Howard: [00:00:00] Howdy folks, Joe Howard here. This week’s episode is a repeat. We decided to throw an already published episode back into the feed. This week, a few weeks ago, I launched an episode all about the WP buffs acquisition of easy, and we checked out a little bit of the data and that got a lot of listens, got a lot of great feedback as well.

So we decided to throw some more content around acquisitions into the feed for your listening. Pleasure. In 2020, I had the chance to talk with David Vogel, Paul he’s from WP engine. If you don’t know who David is, he was the spearhead of the WP engine acquisition of flywheel. And I had the chance to chat with him last year.

And man, this guy really knows his stuff. He was really the linchpin of that deal. And I think, you know, that actually down the line did have a really positive effect on our ability at Wu buffs to do a small acquisition as well. Although it was of course at a much, much smaller scale than the WPC or excuse me, then the WP engine acquisition of flywheel, but still a really cool story called a hero.

Here’s some insider information there and. Yeah, that’s what’s in the feed this week. So go ahead and enjoy today’s episode with David. The

David Vogelpohl: [00:01:22] WP MRR WordPress podcast is brought to you by WP buffs. WP buffs manages WordPress websites, 24 seven and powers digital growth for agencies. Freelancers and WordPress professionals join our white label program.

And by next week you could be offering 24 seven white label website support to your clients and passively growing your monthly recurring revenue or become a WP buffs affiliate to earn 10% monthly payouts every month for the lifetime of every client. And finally, if you’re looking to sell your WordPress business or website, check out the WP bus acquisition unit.

Learn more about all3@wpboss.com.

Joe Howard: [00:02:07] Hey, Hey, WordPress people. Welcome back to the WP MRR WordPress podcast. I’m Joe,

David Vogelpohl: [00:02:13] and this is Baba

Joe Howard: [00:02:14] fat. And you’re listening to the WordPress business podcast. Who’ve got Mr. Fat on the pod this week. What’s going on, Bubba,

David Vogelpohl: [00:02:22] uh, all kinds of stuff, trying to, you know, get the empire going throughout the galaxy and whatnot.

I wanted to take some time to say for the, for the pocket.

Joe Howard: [00:02:30] All right. Wow. You made some time and you’re very busy. Uh, Bounty hunting scheduled to come on the WordPress podcast. We appreciate it. All right, Bubba fat on the bar this week also known as David Vogel. Paul, am I saying the last name? Right. So almost straight, pretty

David Vogelpohl: [00:02:47] close Vogel pole, Baba fat.

Maybe it’s easier to pronounce.

Joe Howard: [00:02:53] Very cool. All right, David. Well, welcome to the, uh, the pod. You’ve had a little interaction that there’d be few busts. You just did a nice. Uh, the webinar with our team, uh, that people can feel free to check out. It’s all about speed and performance over@wpbuffs.com. But, uh, yeah, we did that webinar and then I was like, okay, we gotta have him on the podcast as well, because that webinar went so well.

And it’s just so invaluable. Um, so yeah. Why don’t you give people a little background about. Who you are and what you do with WordPress. Sure.

David Vogelpohl: [00:03:21] Uh, so I serve as the VP of Webster energy at WP engine and basically have a few things that I oversee. The main thing is our WordPress ecosystem strategy. So working with plugin and theme authors, I’m also serve as the brand lead for the Genesis and studio press products.

Those are essentially. WordPress theme products and then embark on various special missions supporting WordPress and the open source community. So mainly just kind of leading ecosystem efforts, if you would at WP engine.

Joe Howard: [00:03:51] Very cool. WordPress ecosystem is a big thing. Did you have background in WordPress and have you done WordPress stuff before joining WP engine?

David Vogelpohl: [00:03:59] Yeah, absolutely. So I ran a WordPress focused agency for five years. I founded that in 2010. Um, and then in 2015 joined WP engine, senior leadership team directly, I had to be painted as a client prior to that. So I still had some exposure company from there. Um, but I’ve been in digital for over 20 years.

First time I really started using WordPress though to build sites for others was in 2010, 2011.

Joe Howard: [00:04:28] Gotcha. Cool. So had ran an agency previously and had to be pensioned as a client. So you were kind of, you know, in the WP engine ecosystem, I guess. Yeah, it was a lot

David Vogelpohl: [00:04:37] of fun. I met Jason Cohen, the founder of WP engine, not long after founding my agency.

We had had some connections through other ways and just got to know each other and ended up winning them as a client. And then maintaining that relationship for five years. Um, until I decided to kind of exit the agency business and then join at that time, this the senior leadership team at WPH directly.


Joe Howard: [00:05:03] sweet. So I talked to a lot of kind of small business owners and people who are working for, I don’t know, most people are probably like 5 million in annual revenue. And under like most of the companies I talked to, there are a few that are larger WP engine is obviously kind of on the other side of that scale, I guess, maybe not as big as like a fortune 500 company or something, but, uh, you know, doing over a hundred million in revenue, annual revenue, I think so a little different of a scale than a lot of the companies that come on this podcast.

Um, WordPress ecosystem job must be. Different at that scale, like what are the things that are moving the needle for a company as big as WP engine? I’d like for a company like mine, I could maybe partner with another company and do some work and it may have a good effect for me, but WP engine, you know, there aren’t a lot of other companies that are kind of as massive as WP engine in the space or maybe have raised as much money.

And so what does that look like in terms of like the needle movers for WP engine in the space? What are the strategy or strategies there?

David Vogelpohl: [00:06:01] Yeah, I think, you know, scale is a matter of perception too. I think for a lot of business owners and people just, you know, working in businesses, uh, the size of WP engine is quite large.

Obviously, as you pointed out for a fortune 500 company, that’s not quite the same thing with scale, though, with, with growing larger and larger and larger, you, you CA you face different kinds of challenges. Um, one challenge is churn customers naturally cancel the service for this. That or the other, even if you’ve done everything perfectly.

And so the larger you get, the more cancellations you naturally have, um, the markets you attack, the places you put advertisements that as you partner with trying to get the word out, you’re always having to overcome that. In other words, the bigger your customer piece, it’s the more new customers you have to bring in to make up for the fact that customers kind of naturally will.

Fallout for different reasons. So I think that’s one issue of scale, which is, um, how do you address, you know, the bigger customer base and more of your revenue kind of falling off naturally. One way you do that is by offering additional services and offerings for your customers to buy, give them a path to upgrade WP engine pursues, that by releasing new products, also partnerships with technology.

Strategic partners. For example, one recent thing we released was something called global edge security, which, which adds additional security protections for customers on WP engine. And that was in partnership with CloudFlare, but that gave us the ability to sell. More products to existing customers. So this is one way that you can overcome some of the problems that come with scale.

The other problem that comes with it is each new initiative or the collection of initiatives. You’re trying to get the, grow the company by a certain percentage. I think. This is rooted fundamentally in how your company is structured and the kind of financial and success story you’re trying to sell. In other words, is my percent good enough for you, or is 30% or greater good enough for you and WP engine aspires to be 30% or higher.

And so obviously the. More customers. We have spending more money, the harder that becomes. And I think, you know, we go out solving that in a variety of different ways. Um, but I think the key part of all of that is how can we deliver the most value to customers to earn those additional dollars? Um, get us in.

Position where more of our customers are upgrading. More of our customers are finding value in spending more, but we’re also making the same moves in positions of value for new customers coming through the door. In other words, providing additional areas of value and through that attracting new kinds of customers.

Um, but these are the struggles that every cuss, every company goes through as they go through these phases of scaling.

Joe Howard: [00:08:45] Yeah, well, it’s, uh, interesting hearing about it at a different scale as well, because we deal with churn as well. You know, people stop for subscriptions for this reason and that, and we’re always trying to find ways to, you know, do things like increase sales at certain times.

You know, when, uh, when churn is a little higher, uh, and trying to grow at a rate that is, that makes sense, but it’s different at a bigger company because you have all these different offerings you can, you can give to people. It’s not, you know, WP engine is now right. Not just hosting, you know, you have, uh, you know, studio press as part of the family as well, and a host of other, other companies as well.

So all these different offerings can come in and kind of, I’ve heard of this terminology kind of it’s called net negative churn. And so it’s really about, you want your. Upgrades to just kind of wipe out your churn. Uh, and if you can do that, you’ll be in a really good place. So definitely something that I think that’d be pinch has a pretty good chance of doing with all the different offerings as

David Vogelpohl: [00:09:35] well.

Negative net churn is a magic KPI in growing a company. Look at companies that are successful, particularly public companies. What you’ll see and in the SAS space in particular is that those with negative net churn demand the highest value for their stocks for their company. And the reason is. The revenue that you’ve acquired grows, it doesn’t shrink.

And so I know a lot of us think of churn is only the kind of force pushing down our revenue. But if you can get the existing customer base to spend more by delivering that value, um, your, your growth rate exponentially increases it’s it’s night and day of having negative net churn and not, and in this case, negative is a very good thing because it means your core revenue base is

Joe Howard: [00:10:20] growing.

Yeah. Very cool. All right. So WP engine. What I really liked the branding of WP engine. What kind of, it’s going through this rebrand right now? So we’re always looking for different examples of what other people are doing as a, as motivation for us. But, uh, the I’m just kind of on the WP engine homepage, and you see this kind of a cool symbol, but like most people know w engine for this kind of explosion of colors that’s coming on.

The background’s like a Holy festival sort of color thing almost. You said you’re. Brand manager, uh, not just, uh, for WP engine, but for things like studio press as well. Um, obviously WPN should is kind of at this big scale where part of growth strategy is acquiring other businesses and bringing them into a full into the fold to add a value to the things that you.

Guys already do well. Um, what does it look like to acquire? I guess we can use studio presses as an example, but to acquire another company and try to bring that company into the fold in terms of not just operations, but in terms of like brand perspective.

David Vogelpohl: [00:11:22] Yeah. That’s a great question. Um, my role with city of price in Genesis is, is.

Lead meaning that I oversee the success of the products and brand after they’ve joined WP engine, um, we actually have a whole brand group that specializes on actual brands, but this is more of like, you could think of word of it. Like if there’s a business unit leadership. Now it’s interesting. You talk about the acquisition side because how I got into this role, um, one might.

Agency that I referenced was actually a Genesis focused agency, so that was convenient. But I also led the acquisition team of studio press and Genesis into the WP engine business. This was our first acquisition and I’ve actually been through these of course before, but it was Debbie. WP engine’s first acquisition.

So the first thing that we did in that case, and any other case we’ve done other acquisitions since then, but, um, the first thing we do is we think, well, does this company, does the technology, do the people do their values, add additional value to. WP engine. In other words is the combination of things, these things greater than them by themselves.

In the case of Genesis in the studio press themes, which are also kind of part of that universe. Uh, the product answer was, was quite clear, um, for those unfamiliar, the Genesis community as a global community, with hundreds of thousands of developers rooted in the very old. School days if you would have WordPress.

And so a lot of people we respect are in that community and leaders in that communities from, from the community and product perspective, it made a ton of sense. The people part was next. So then you have to kind of get to know the people that work there as part of the diligence process, kind of get to know what they’re about.

You don’t get to talk to everybody because not everyone’s aware during the diligence process what’s happening. You get a feel for the culture to say, okay, if we worked with these. What would we be able to support them and would they mesh well with the way we work in that case, it was, you know, very well aligned.

So that was great. Then the final piece, and of course it’s much more complicated than I’m referencing here on the podcast, but it’s the integration piece. It’s how are these two brands going to co-exist together? Do they get smashed together in some way? How do you preserve the value of what’s there and not ruin it by making a brand shape?

And this is a process we’re still in the middle of with Genesis press, including our most frequent, frequent recent acquisition with flywheel. And there’s a ton of considerations there. So we go through and we identify what the brand identities are with the value of the products are. And what is the best way?

To begin with, to serve customers in deliver value, but also to do that in a cohesive and clear way in terms of how the brand’s products integrate with each other. And it is by no means easy. It’s probably one of those difficult things I’ve had to do since coming to WP engine and undertake is thinking about, you know, how to honor the people that use the products, service.

These can be a part of these communities. Um, but to do that in a cohesive way, that allows us to invest in those products and invest in those communities. Um, without, you know, letting them

Joe Howard: [00:14:31] languish. Yeah. Actually I’m really glad you brought up flywheel because it was really, when I saw that WP engine was, was acquiring flywheel, I thought, wow.

Like flywheel is a really big brand in the WordPress space and as is WP engine. And so what is WP engine going to do in terms of, I mean, you know, the kind of two decisions, like, you know, I think there’s, like you said, there’s a lot more gray area in this, but you know, a major decision is kind of dewy. Go more of the direction of folding this ended WP engine and kind of have it be part of the WP engine family, or do we keep it as a kind of separate brand and let it be part of WP engine family without necessarily like.

Bringing it into whatever the pure branding or, uh, operations of WP engine. Do you have a, and again, I’m not sure what you’re allowed to say or not say live on the podcast, but do you have any idea of kind of what direction you all are going in in terms of a flywheel?

David Vogelpohl: [00:15:24] What I can share is that at this point it is business as usual for both companies.

I think one of the advantages of an acquisition is that, you know, especially when. The companies involved when they join forces is not having to work on the same things twice. Um, a good example of this is WP engine’s dev kit, and which is essentially like a local development solution for WordPress. And in addition to other things, and then of course, flywheel has their very popular local by flywheel local development product, which is excellent.

Amazing. I actually use that. And so you think about the teams working on both products and they have of course, similar roadmaps and the same is true for how we might optimize cashing or storage or other types of things. And so one advantage of course, is that, well, you don’t have two teams working on the exact same features.

You kind of join forces and do those things even faster. And that’s better for the customer cause you deliver more value and it’s better for the teams because they’re not repeating the work over and over again. At the same time as you pointed out, there’s the notion of the brand and how people buy and how things are priced and packaged and things like that.

And there was actually a lot of anxiety around the acquisition that we were going to come in and instantly raised the pricing on Flywell plans, nothing like that was planned or is planned or anything like that. Um, just to be clear, but the mode that we’re operating in right now is, again, business as usual, we understand that customers rely on both platforms that they, um, have an affinity for both brands.

And that there’s two teams essentially that are, you know, going above and beyond to service this customer. So while we haven’t made any of those decisions today, um, the reason why we haven’t declared any decision or. Kind of landed in that direction is because it’s so important to us to honor the people that rely on the platforms, the technologies, and have affinities towards those brands.

And so it’s definitely, definitely not an easy thing. It’s not something we comment on. To specifics. But what I can clarify is for those of customers, either platform it’s business, as usual for now, the customers, the most important thing to us. And we want to make sure that the customers of both platforms are stable and confident, but also can benefit from those accelerated roadmaps.

So we are looking for those opportunities, but right now it’s business as


Joe Howard: [00:17:41] Very cool. I saw, I talked to a few people on the podcast whose businesses have been acquired. So I’ve, I’ve talked to, uh, So rich Tibor who, uh, who runs coal blocks, uh, and a, and a theme shop as well. But that was acquired by GoDaddy.

Um, I’ve talked to John Turner who runs seed prod, and that business, uh, was acquired as well. Uh, the. So I, so I’ve had experience talking with people about what the process looks like as a business owner, talking to, you know, a potential suitor to come and purchase your business and what that looks like.

But I don’t know if I’ve ever talked to someone who’s done the actual acquiring of businesses. Um, but I definitely have a lot of listeners. We have a lot of listeners who run small businesses. Maybe some of them are agency owners, but definitely a good amount of kind of like people who do plug-in stuff, or maybe SAS businesses who may at some point decide.

It may be time to sell their business. Um, as someone coming from your side of things, who’s really not only, it doesn’t sound like just led the charge on like, you know, in terms of, uh, studio press and Genesis stuff, but the actual acquisition of those, uh, companies, what can people do who are running small businesses today do now, even if they’re not looking to sell their business, now maybe it’s in the next, you know, There may want to consider it in the next five years or so, or even 10 years from now.

What kind of advice do you give to people who want to make sure that their business is ready to take that step? Once the time comes?

David Vogelpohl: [00:19:07] That’s a good question. Now, Debbie P and G we have an Austin legal group and corporate development group who get into some of the finer points around the agreements. And stuff relative to the acquisition in terms and so on and so forth.

But having gone through this a few times here and at other places, I definitely have some, I guess, words of advice to consider the first is to make your business sellable. I think a lot of. Entrepreneurs solo preneurs, um, think from a place of, well, this is my business and it doesn’t really matter what I do.

And I think as you think about that, long-term plan about a possible exit. Even if that’s not your plan today, operating your business in a sellable way. Now, what does that mean? I think one hire a really good accountant and keep up with accounting practices. I think where a lot of people get into trouble when they start to think about selling their businesses, a company that’s larger than them, which will have really good accounting practices will roll in and say, well, what about this?

And what about that? And they’ll view these as Rey they’ll view, poor accounting practices as risks. Like, well, we’re going to have to unwind this and figure this out. Can we really believe this? Information, th those types of questions end up coming up, um, quite a bit. I think the other thing that a lot of people, especially if you have multiple products is look for an opportunity to keep those products separated into different businesses.

Um, in other words, if you have a plugin that does X and a different plug-in that does Y and some themes and, uh, This brand that does one product or service and another brand that does something else. And I remember my agency days, I had all these little sub brands that would help kind of feed the agency business.

Um, but set those up as separate entities because then if someone rolls in, they can essentially buy that entity as a standalone entity with its own books and its own payment processor accounts, and all of these things. If you commingle all of those things and you don’t keep. That line of business in a separate business than it requires the purchaser to come in and kind of unwind those things.

So imagine let’s use a simple example. You have a Stripe account and it collects payments for three of your different product lines or business lines. Well, when someone wants to buy one of those products, they have to strip that payment process out, you know, set up their own. Payment processing process, I guess, or account for that particular product line.

And then integrate that into their business. It’s a lot easier if they can just pick up the company and all of the systems of all of the contracts in one, go and drop it in out of the acquisition. Of course, the challenge is this is creates a lot more operational load for you. But for those, I know that own multiple brands, especially in the WordPress space, I have the most confidence in those that have kind of separated them into their own.

Of course, you know, company entities to have the ability to kind of quickly offload those. If a suitor comes by talking about an acquisition.

Joe Howard: [00:22:00] Cool. That’s excellent advice. Uh, so hiring an accountant is one of the first things I did at WP boss, because I did not want to do that, nor am I a good selection to do with balancing of books.

Although I studied math in school, so one might think like, maybe I can do the numbers, but just not really something a, the minutia of that is not, does not match exactly what my brain wants to do. So yeah. I’ve hired an accountant. So I think I’m pretty good to go there. One thing I will admit that I have not done a good job of is separating different businesses into different areas.

So we run WP buffs, and then we’ve also opened source WP buffs and done WP MRR, which is this video course, all those payments come through the same Stripe account. So I’d have to separate those. If I wanted to do, you know, treat those separately, WP MRR is kind of like under the umbrella of WP buffs. But one thing I do think is kind of annoying sometimes is when I sign up for something, I give someone my credit card information, and then I get.

Like an invoice from Stripe or something. And it’s like, not that company at all. And it’s like, what is this? Like, this is random. Like, what did I buy from this? I didn’t buy this. And to me that’s like not good customer experience. So I guess that’s also me admitting, like, you know, we don’t do it perfectly either.

Um, but I think you’re you’re right. You want to prepare. For this kind of thing in the future, if it’s something you’re interested in, but you can’t do everything today, uh, sometimes you just have to kind of keep moving and then fix things as, as you go. Yeah. How about, uh, I mean, I would love to also just kind of get into.

I don’t know if we can use financial examples from acquisitions you’ve done, because I know a lot of times those numbers are not public or not. Uh, yeah, there’s some sort of document sign that says we’re not going to talk about exact numbers, but in terms of like financial health of a business, um, what does the acquiring company really look for in terms of that accounting?

Are they looking. I think probably this is business dependent, right. And it’s context dependent. But, um, often are you looking at kind of what the profit margin of the business looks like or you’re looking at what the just general revenue is? Are you looking to see how just maybe purely integrating that business into your own business can help your existing business grow?

Maybe it’s a little bit of all three. What is the. Financial side look like from an acquirer’s point of view,

David Vogelpohl: [00:24:14] there’s probably a breaching in the area where I’m, uh, less, uh, knowledgeable. Uh, however, what I can do do is kind of talk about it from the high level. Um, I think it depends largely on the suitor, the person who would acquire you and what their intent is.

Um, there’s different kinds of suitors, um, or kit different kinds of purchasers. So in WP engine’s perspective, typically what we’re looking at is. Is there, is there some sort of product or cultural synergy between the company and WP engine? For example, if studio press sold for waves, then that would not make a good fit for the kind of acquisition we wanted to do, which was to say, okay, if WP engine is a platform, plus this other thing together delivered a better experience.

That that’s fundamentally what we w we were optimizing for. There’s other types of acquirers. Um, someone might. Uh, what to acquire your business, reduce the costs of the business, increase the profits and leverage those changes in order to get the payback from the acquisition. Generally, most people are looking at your business relative to how much profit it generates, how much revenue it generates and what the growth rate is or is not.

And a lot of the times that value of the acquisition will be based on that kind of core value, meaning that. Without changing anything. This is what the company is worth is another way to think about that. And of course the amount of money and the profitability and the growth all drive that value. Now what I believe everyone ultimately does an acquisition for that is to say, well, we’re going to do other things on top of that, that will allow us to get extra value than what the core value of the businesses.

So for example, in the, we’re going to buy your company and you know that the. I guess it’s the pretty woman example that the type of acquisitions that Richard Gere was doing in that movie, we’re going to buy your company and we’re going to, you know, gut it and make the most amount of profit from it.

That’s one type. That’s not the kind we do. Um, but I think no matter what it is, whether it’s, you’re going to invest more in it, that’s fundamentally we did with Genesis and studio presses. We quadrupled the engineering effort in those products. Well, it wasn’t a gutting exercise. We figured by making those products better, integrating them with the WP engine platform, that the collection of all that stuff would have greater value.

But generally the value of business is going to be based on your revenue, your profitability and your growth rate. And then the, the entity buying it is saying, okay, that’s what we’re going to value that at. It added its base, but we’re going to do other things, whether it be gutted or invest in it to try to get this multiplier effect out of the acquisition.

And so that’s how I generally think about that relative to why people buy and how they think about the value of what they’re bombing.

Joe Howard: [00:27:02] Yeah. Wow. I think there’s a lot. In there. Um, and good knowledge for people who are, you know, interested in putting themselves in a position for that. Um, you know, I think for some people they have thoughts about, maybe I’d do that in the future.

Some people not so much, but I think in my opinion, it makes sense to put yourself in a position for that to happen, just because a lot of that is good business practice. Anyway, it’s not just for the sake of maybe wanting to be acquired in a little bit. It’s just like if you’re in a position to. You know, we’re an acquisition is going to be healthy for business to want to take a look at you.

That just means you’re running a good business anyway. So it’s kind of seems to all fold into the, into the same thing. Um,

David Vogelpohl: [00:27:42] totally. I mean, you have audits, you have legal requirements. Um, you never know what’s going to happen. I mean, even if you were thinking about like, if he was this independently owned business and you were to pass on or something, like making it easier for the people that might inherit that business from you, I’m guessing you probably have a closer relationship with, but my point is that.

You’re right. These are good practices. And by following those practices, it’ll help you beyond acquisition. But certainly if that opportunity runs across your play, you don’t want to lose it because you spooked some buyer because your accountings are wacky or you have your assets. Co-mingled in weird ways.

Joe Howard: [00:28:17] We have some show notes, had some show notes that we’re going to go through. Some stuff we kind of went into acquisition world because man, that stuff is super interesting. And I, I just wanted to talk more about it, but we’ll take a little bit of a left turn here and talk a little bit about, uh, we’re and Gutenberg.

So we have here kind of in show notes, how, uh, we’re pressing Gutenberg can help solve the exponential landing page failure, paradox. I wasn’t aware of this paradox. Maybe you could tell me and our listeners a little bit about it. Yes. Yes.

David Vogelpohl: [00:28:43] Yes. I, I, uh, it’s interesting. So we all are familiar of course, with AB testing and, um, a friend of mine ran a company called experiment engine.

Her name is Clairvaux wa lawless. She eventually was. Uh, her company was acquired by optimized glee eventually became the VP of product at Optimizely, but she had shared this stat with me from her experiment engine days, uh, for people using that platform anyway, 80% of B’s and an AB test failed to be the a 80% of the time.

Yeah. When a marketer and designer sit down to actually make conversions go up. They actually fail at that. And so that’s the failure part of the landing page failure, paradox, meaning I can,

Joe Howard: [00:29:28] I can for sure. Vouch for that because we AB test all the time and very often the B or the test we try, that’s not the constant where we had before.

The new thing we tried doesn’t do as well as the old thing. So it happens to us a lot.

David Vogelpohl: [00:29:40] Exactly. And so if you watch shows like. Netflix is madman. Actually, I think that originated on a different network, but it’s like the old school, the advertising and marketing was like, we’re all going to go out and get drunk and come in in the morning with a perfect idea.

And that’s going to be the perfect idea. We’re going to make millions of dollars. And what we found through AB testing is it doesn’t work that way at all. As a matter of fact, most of the time we’re wrong in what our assumptions are, what our guesses are, what people want to hear. So why does Gutenberg help with this and how does this problem now exponential?

Well, I think what we’re seeing is in the early days of AB testing, it was very linear. We’re going to AB test our homepage. We’re going to AB test our traffic from Google. We’re going to AB test our traffic from Google on this keyword. And we would isolate sections of traffic in order to. Customize those messages.

And I think as time’s gone on and there’s been more and more channels, more and more segments of channels and more and more needs to iterate on new ideas with personalization. We see that problem getting even worse. Now we’re not just customizing messages for sources of traffic or keywords or the homepage, but even though.

Individual personas or cohorts of people and sometimes even individual people. And so one of the things I’m most interested in with Gutenberg is this ability to create content quickly, to get new ideas to market quickly. And in that’d be patients case. For example, we use block-based building approaches, our marketers built 2000 something, landing pages and product pages and stuff last year.

Right. They needed to develop herself on 24 of them, which meant that they were able to iterate 2000 times without having to go bug a developer, to create the new page, to test the new level of messaging. Um, and I think this is a huge value that Gutenberg is delivering. So we have more and more reasons to iterate on our messages.

And I think Gutenberg’s timely because it now allows our marketers and content creators and non-technical site owners to try and iterate those messages more quickly. Um, and to get those to market. I mean, frankly, within the same day, a lot of the time we were going from like three week turnaround times on landing pages, after, you know, a wireframe meeting and a design meeting, and then go code that design to now arming our marketers with a bunch of predesigned pre-configured blocks that they’re able to churn content out in a day.

Right. Test those messages move on to the next one. Um, and so that’s where I think Gutenberg is so powerful in this context. Yeah,

Joe Howard: [00:32:01] I love the idea of just iterating on ideas faster. Um, a lot of times, and our experience with this is, is this as well that our marketing team, isn’t the most technical of our teams, uh, and to do something advanced, a lot of times you need to grab the developer and say, Hey, could you help me to build this?

Like, I want to create this landing page. Can you help page builders have come in and help with that as well. But I totally agree. I think Jen, or excuse me, Gutenberg also. Uh, helps tremendously with this. If we can, uh, give marketers the tools, they need to build something that is just as good and just as beautiful and just as functional as what they could have built with pure code with something that’s drag and drop with something that’s blocked blocks and modular, uh, it makes the process of.

Just launching something or putting something to market much faster. Uh, and as we all know, taking the, you know, you need to have statistically significant AB testing. You have to have a certain amount of traffic on it. It takes you three weeks to put the landing page up. Then you got to wait another week to get some traffic and see how it does.

You know, if you get it out today, you wait a week. Then next week you’re able to see did this test work or not? Let’s. Iterate on it again. Oh,

David Vogelpohl: [00:33:08] and that’s so challenging. I mean, you also pointed out the page builders. I mean, I certainly love Ella mentor and BeaverBuilder and things like that. I think they do an amazing job and I think it’s cool to now see some of those capabilities in WordPress core with Gutenberg and the new block editor.

And I think, you know, all of those are great choices for achieving this type of value out of a brand. Um, but yeah, all of that iterating and all that, you know, time between idea and reality. Especially when you have lots of cohorts and lots of testing and you want to try to fail fast. It’s just not conducive to that.

And so I think these types of approaches approaches, you know, will dominate the web in the future. And I think, you know, as we have our development team is funny. I remember when Gutenberg came out at, someone said, Oh, what do we need to developers and designers for anymore? Um, I don’t know about you. We didn’t lay off.

Anybody we hired actually more of them. Um, and the reason why is because they were arming our marketers with a greater collection of these website components, but also more sophisticated ones, ones that were integrated with other things that, uh, behaved differently based on say personalization or the person’s persona or where they came from, whether they were a WP engine customer or not, that might fundamentally change the type of.

You know, offer content, you put on a particular webpage. Well, you can, pre-configure all that. Pre-code all that into the blocks or components you enable your content creators with, which means that it’s not just a design tool. It’s not just a layout tool, but rather it can also be an integration tool. And one example of this is our news and resources.

Element which pops in latest news and blog posts from different publications. We run one called torque and one called velocities and the WP engine blog and the content creator landing page creator just drops that into the page and it magically connects to all those other things. So, um, it doesn’t have to just be the simplified design tool or a component tool, but rather you can actually include, you know, really technical, functional stuff.

That’s super cool to give the content creator right there at their fingertips.

Joe Howard: [00:35:12] Yeah, love that. Yeah. Speaking of things you’re doing with Gutenberg, what else does WP engine and I guess the WP engine family doing with Gutenberg, I mean, you’ve got a ton of different, uh, 10 different businesses, I guess, all under the WP engine umbrella, but you’ve got flywheel.

You’ve got Genesis, you’ve got studio, press and WP engine in general. What kind of other Gutenberg projects you have going on?

David Vogelpohl: [00:35:32] Well, if I want to show someone the magic of Gutenberg and the magic of WordPress, I actually show them another acquisition. We did the same year of studio press. It got a little overshadowed, I guess I just want closure side, but it’s a Tomich blocks, which is, I just been floored by it.

I mean, it was an opportunistic acquisition. Um, shortly after studio press it blended well with that, we’ve actually integrated. Atomic blocks into the studio, press premium themes products, meaning they kind of auto install when there the themes leverage the library of atomic blocks there. Um, but in the latest version of atomic blocks, 2.0, Mike McCallister, the lead developer there added in this notion of section and layouts.

So it’s not just that you have a. Set of pre design premium blocks, if you would. And this is a free plugin on wordpress.org, by the way, but you also get different layouts and configurations of them. So in other words, I want a pricing grid. Uh, I want, you know, a different type of header, basically, these pre.

Laid out iterations of blocks that, I mean, you can just click a button and then boom, all of those elements are right there on the page. Uh, they can include design controls, you can kind of make it look like your brand and all that kind of stuff. So you still have that, those capabilities. Um, but what it’s putting at your fingertips is just jaw-dropping.

I definitely use it when I want to share the magic code blocks is also good. Um, there’s a bunch of other. Um, kind of library type plugins in the ecosystem. They’re also doing excellent jobs, but what I’m probably most proud of from WP engine on the block front is definitely atomic blocks.

Joe Howard: [00:37:11] Yeah. Awesome. I have dived into both a ton of box blocks and code blocks.

I think those are the two I’ve kind of played around with. I know that there are others out there. Um, but yeah, I mean the amount of things you can do and just the number of things you can do way more easily than with the old editor is pretty astounding. I mean, you can. Put together really professional, like highly refined page, like super quickly.

Um, I think people who have experienced the page builders, you know, that, uh, Beaver builders now mentors of the world Elementor is re excuse me. Uh, Gutenberg is right there with, uh, in terms of like drag and drop functionality, especially when you incorporate those, these block

David Vogelpohl: [00:37:48] editors. I think it’s interesting.

I think Elementor, and BeaverBuilder for me are actually much further along in their core state. I mean, they’ve had gears to do this tons of rows using a Gutenberg isn’t even a year old yet. It was launched December of last year. I think they’re fundamentally different approaches to leveraging component basis.

Systems, although Elementor has Gutenberg capabilities within it, leveraging some of the Gutenberg technology within Elementor itself. Um, but I would personally say those products are way further along and, and this, this notion of componentized page building and site building and componentized design, I think Gutenberg is it’s early days.

I think products like atomic blocks, even code blocks, other things like that. It’s really leveraging that, that baseline. The capabilities within WordPress core itself to create those experiences and in the Genesis and atomic blocks worlds. What we say Genesis in particular is that a Genesis is a product that developers use to create experiences that content creators love to use.

So in other words, as you think about atomic blocks, for example, using Gutenberg is kind of the core atomic blocks has delivered value on top of that, that makes it a joy for content creators to use in many, many more contexts. Then the, what are called the core blocks, the blocks that come with WordPress are able to do straight out of the box.

And so I think when you augment with products, if you have a dev team that can create. Custom blocks do crazy stuff. It’s that flexibility. That is a lot of that value of Gutenberg. And of course also being a part of WordPress core. But in my view, I think, you know, in a lot of those respects Elementor and BeaverBuilder and things like that, I’ve had a lot longer to build that value.

And so I think in the, in their core product, They’re they’re further along. I think when you start augmenting with atomic blocks, custom blocks, you built yourself, what are the value starts to balance out? But I’m a big fan of both of those products.

Joe Howard: [00:39:48] Yeah. Very cool. David, I think that’s an awesome place to wrap up.

Uh, I’m actually super excited to see what Gutenberg looks like, you know? In two years in five years, I think your rights, you know, the page builders have had a long time to really refine their product. But Gutenberg is, is still, uh, an infant or maybe a teenager at this point. So I’m interested to see what happens as it, as it grows up.

Cool. We have now three. Things we’re going to do to end the show. One of which is new for listeners. So let’s go with a new thing first. Um, we have a little discount code for WP engine. Uh, people are interested in WP engine. They can get a little discount. You want to give people that discount code? Sure.


David Vogelpohl: [00:40:25] WP buffs 20, and uh, that discount code will give you four months free on our annual plans.

Joe Howard: [00:40:34] Four months free on annual plan. So people out there I’m sure using all sorts of different hosting, but if you’re interested in moving to somewhere new or you’re just starting a website and you’re looking for hosting, um, you can grab four free months, WP bus, 20 a discount code over at WP engine.

Cool. All right, listeners also know what’s, uh, what’s coming up next. I always like to give our guests, uh, the ability to tell our listeners where they can find them online. So maybe like social profiles, websites, all that jazz,

David Vogelpohl: [00:41:00] make it easier. Check that out. Hit me up on Twitter at WP David. The

Joe Howard: [00:41:06] nice, Oh, I like that.

Very cool. Easy to remember too.

David Vogelpohl: [00:41:11] That’s easier than

Joe Howard: [00:41:12] Paul. Sorry. Yeah, exactly. Last but not least. I always ask our guests. To ask our listeners for a little five star iTunes review for the show. So if you wouldn’t mind getting a mobile ask, I’d appreciate it.

David Vogelpohl: [00:41:27] Absolutely. Uh, definitely give a five star review to this podcast would be awesome to see that.

And, uh, thank you for doing that.

Joe Howard: [00:41:37] Yeah, I appreciate it, David. Thanks. Very good. There have been far worse on the show and that was one that was definitely, definitely one of the top ones. So all good. Cool. If you are a new listener. Go ahead and finish some old episodes. You already been Joel, your game of Thrones.

You’ve binge all your Netflix shows go and build something that’s going to help your business grow. I’ve got a lot of old episodes, so go check those out. WP mrr.com/podcast. If you’re going to go leave review, leave David’s name in there and something you learned about the episode. That way we can, uh, Take a little screenshot and forward it to him and give him a thank you for being on the show and yeah.

Helps us to know what other, you know, what episodes people are most interested in. So we can do more content like this. Cool. If, uh, yeah, if you’re leaving a review WP, mrr.com forward slash iTunes, redirect you right there. Make a nice and easy for you. If you have questions on the show, if you have questions on the show, if you have questions for Christie and I, who are on the show, email them in to yo@wpmrr.com Kristi and I had just released, I think.

Uh, whenever this is coming out, it’s a few weeks back. You go and look. So it’s we got, uh, some Q and a episodes were answered some listener questions. It was a ton of fun and we want to do more of them. So, yeah, sure. Just questions@yoatwpmrr.com. Yeah. WP mrr.com. If you’re an agency or. Freelancer and you want to do more monthly recurring revenue stuff.

And you’re really tired of like having a good month and then having a really bad month. You’re like, how can we make this more comfortable and more scalable? Yeah. All that stuff that, you know, you want to do with your business, check out WP MRR video course, uh, WP buffs. Open source 24 seven support. Do it yourself.

Take the video course, everything we’ve learned at WP buffs that you can do, uh, everything we’ve done and more than half of the time. And please be sure to grab that 75% discount that’s on the site running right now. Also be sure to grab that WP boss 20 discount code over WP engine. If you’re looking for new hosting, that is it for this week, you will catch us again in your podcast player at next Tuesday, David.

Thanks again for being honest and real.

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