In today’s episode, Joe talks to Kim Coleman, the co-founder of Paid Memberships Pro – the most complete WordPress membership plugin. She has her hand in all aspects of the development, management, and marketing for the product and the team. She oversees frontend development for the core open source plugin and over 75 Add Ons.
They discuss the value of MVP in growing a business, catering to customer needs, and building and testing new features through the community. They also touch on the importance of formulating the right content for branding, and membership pricing and discount schemes.
What to Listen For:
- 00:00 Intro
- 00:46 Welcome to the pod, Kim!
- 04:12 What has changed over the years?
- 07:02 The biggest concerns are the desire for the developers to refactor some features
- 11:11 MVP on the site’s current workload and paid memberships
- 13:55 Deciding between adding as a core part of the plugin or an add-on plugin
- 17:32 Limiting what the plugin is responsible for in WordPress
- 22:46 The struggle to get content from your customer when building a site
- 27:51 Allowing the community to test newly built products and features
- 30:07 Pricing: during product launch and how it evolved over the years
- 37:32 Turning experiments into blog content and knowledge share
- 40:43 People buy because of urgent technological issues they cannot solve on their own
- 42:31 Running a company and the family together with your partner
- 45:37 Homeschooling kids during the pandemic
- 49:13 Find Kim online!
- Paid Memberships Pro
- Paid Memberships Pro WordPress.org
- Kim Coleman’s Twitter
- Leave an Apple podcast review or binge-watch past episodes
- Send questions to email@example.com for the next Q&A pod
- Visit the WPMRR website
Joe Howard: [00:00:00] Early folks, Joe Howard here this week, I got to sit down and chat with Kim Coleman. So Kim and I know each other pretty well from kind of back in the day. And WordPress, we’ve gotten to know each other a little better over the past, like three or six months maybe, but yeah. Kind of when I was starting off with WP buffs, I definitely remember like meeting her and Jason at like word camp us.
I don’t even know as well. It must be like 2016 or something. I can’t remember if we actually met there, but I remember paid memberships pro being a plug. And I definitely looked up to, I was like, wow, Kim and Jason are doing awesome stuff over there. And still today they continue to do that. So it was really cool.
Being able to sit down and chat with Kim on the podcast live. Really inspiring to hear. What’s led to 10 years of success for her and Jason and the company paid memberships pro 10 years is a long time. It hit double digits. Really cool. And getting to hear what’s driven some of that success. I think is going to be something that’s going to help me to think about how I moved up to the bus forward.
And hopefully you as well as a listener, if you’re running a small business or a company, cool. To hear how she transitioned into paid memberships pro from consulting and services work, she has a real MVP kind of approach to her work at a PMP, a minimum viable product. So they have a really good system for like, How to decide like what they want to push forward.
What do they want to create an ad on plugin for what they want to integrate into the main plugin? What steps do they need to take before they even, you know, talk about plugin development? So we talked about a bunch of other stuff too, but listen into today’s episode to get everything so cool. Without further ado, please welcome Kim Coleman.
Enjoy today’s episode.
the WP MRR WordPress podcast is brought to you by WP buffs. WP bus 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 a 24 seven a 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 all three at WP buffs. All right. We are live on the pod this week with Kim Coleman.
Ken, what is going on? We’ve been friends for a while here, WordPress based. So I know you and I know what you do, but why don’t you tell folks who are listening, what you do in the WordPress space?
Kim Coleman: [00:02:50] So I’m a co founder. We have a membership plugin it’s called Paid Memberships Pro we’ve been at this for over 10 years.
And it’s an open-source plugin in the WordPress repository, and we have a recurring membership. That’s an annual basis for support and automatic updates and some premium extensions.
Joe Howard: [00:03:06] Yeah, very cool. And 10 years, I mean, WordPress has been around for like what, like 15 years, you know? So you’ve been around WordPress, you know, since it was a much younger piece of software, WP bus, like we just went through our fifth year kind of right now, and you’re a 10 years.
So I’m like, I’m looking at you like, whoa, you must like. Three, you have way, a lot of experience with this stuff. So how’s it feel to be like a decade into this product?
Kim Coleman: [00:03:36] Pretty wild. And the first three years were a hybrid of still doing development and project work for customers and clients, and then side building this product along, along with that development.
So I would say 2011 is when it entered, the repository became a product that people could use. And really 2014 is when it. Turned into a business that could support Jason and myself and the team, you know, the two team members at that time. So it’s interesting. The perspective of new people entering WordPress in their perspective.
Of the platform and the new technologies that they’re developing for WordPress and being kind of the old team of it is interesting.
Joe Howard: [00:04:13] I don’t know if I knew this about paid membership pro we’ve been friends for a while. I’m always like learning new things when I have to have people on the podcast, but to pay memberships pro grow out of a need that you had when you were maybe doing more like consulting and services work, and you were like, people needed a membership.
Area. And you were like, maybe we’ll try to build one. And that’s how it came around.
Kim Coleman: [00:04:33] Kind of at that time, the players were S two member wishlist member as two member, I think wasn’t in the repository. So it was interesting to see clients needing this functionality already having a WordPress site that we built for them, and then realizing, could I add an e-commerce component onto it?
And I think in part we used our extra time plus client time to bootstrap and fund that development in a safe way that was sustainable. For us as a young couple with kids and all the fun things that go along with that.
Joe Howard: [00:05:01] Yeah. I’m sure it was kind of slow and steady and making sure that cause to jump fully into like going from services or consulting into like doing a plugin.
It’s hard in a lot of cases. I almost don’t recommend it because it’s like, well, if you have your financials in order now, like totally jumping ship. As opposed to like taking a year or two or three, like kind of transitioned into that maybe a little bit more responsible or your kids are a little older too.
Right? So they’ve been around the whole time you’ve been here.
Kim Coleman: [00:05:28] Yep. We had a daughter born in 2011. It was June of 2011 that we put the plug in, in the repository and then she was born December. So, and our son’s 2008. So he, he watched the ride, I guess.
Joe Howard: [00:05:39] Yeah, that’s cool. I’m trying to think about like what 10 years of plugin development looks like.
I feel like there’s, you know, when you were at your early stages, I’m sure you were gathering a lot of feedback from your users and trying to create new features. They’re like, what is the last, like, I don’t know, five to seven years look like in terms of building a plugin, has it like, what, what has been your, and Jason’s.
Focus, has it been more like growth focused? Has it been more like, what features do we need? Like how do we just make the best plugin possible? Has it changed every year? Like what does that look like through the years?
Kim Coleman: [00:06:10] You said yes, more often than we are now to adding things to the core plug in that know one or a handful of people needed.
And now when you’re serving, you know, over a hundred thousand sites, You can’t be that dynamically developing. You have to put thought into what you develop. You have to always ensure backwards compatibility. We’re on 2.5 0.9, no, 2.5 0.9 0.1. I think there’s a small release today. So version two was kind of our first feature breaking.
For prior versions, but we try very hard never to do that, just because of the landscape of people that are on different versions for various reasons. So we’re definitely saying no more. We’re definitely looking at cycles of work that will be a complete kind of refactor and looking at the oldest code and trying to catch that up to the standards that we have now.
And then as far as ad-ons, we also did the same thing. We. Created a lot of individual kind of feature plugins to extend the core plug and things that didn’t belong in the core plug in that were unique and not necessarily applicable to every membership site. And now we have this huge code base to maintain.
I think we don’t have them all publicly released, but there’s over 90 repositories that in our GitHub account that have some interaction with the paid memberships pro so kind of narrowing those in and consolidating them. In a smart way. We have a lot of email integrations and now we’re thinking, do they all need to be standalone?
Or can we have one that has modules for the most popular newsletter options that are available to people? So sharing code where possible and being a little more strategic, those are the big life lessons that you’ve learned.
Joe Howard: [00:07:44] Yeah, definitely. I’d love to dive more into that backwards compatibility. Cause that sounds super hard.
Like that sounds hard at one year, like a 10 years, it must be like a really heavy. Consideration everything you do. I’m just thinking about what we do at WT bus, in terms of the software we use, it’s like kind of hard to switch software now. And that’s like a super basic thing. It’s like, well, if we want to switch project management software, it’s like, that’s a huge deal.
Like we’ve got like dozens of people on the team and that’s an enormous endeavor on our end, but it still seems almost like it’s like nothing compared to like backwards compatibility for plugging into the a hundred thousand people are using after 10 years. How does it feel when you’re. Yeah. I mean, I guess I’d want to just pick your brain a little bit more about that and like how that affects your day to day and maybe just like, you want to release a new, the feature.
Well, it’s the first thing you have to look at like, well, how does this, does this work for everybody? Or like when we add this, how do we make sure that nothing breaks from something we released like nine years ago?
Kim Coleman: [00:08:38] Absolutely. Some of the biggest concerns are third. The desire for the developers to refactor something, make it smarter and better.
And then Jason, I have to hold back that bus and say, but wait, this is going to require like database migration and they’re going to have to run that on their site. And. We don’t know what combination of things are also running on their sites and it is open source software. So it’s being used and installed by people of all skill levels who, when they hit that upgrade button, maybe aren’t first testing it in a staging environment or some cloned environment of their site.
And or they’re doing it in a batch. They just check all. That is an update and available to them. And when an error happens, it’s really hard to understand which plug and caused that error. Was it our plugin, what failed in that process and talk them through, fixing it. If they don’t have maintenance like WP buffs or another developer on their team to support them in kind of reinstalling from some previous state where that bug wasn’t existing and helping them forward.
So, That’s like the scary thing, for sure. Yeah. Yeah. It does sound a little scary. And then you look at it, SAS product that’s hosted and they control the code base and they can do updates like this during an overnight window of two hours, migrate everyone’s data in the servers they control and the code base that backs that SAS and the features are readily available the next morning, when everyone logs in.
So it’s kind of a dreamland to look at it that way, but that’s not our model because we like the open source. We like being attached to WordPress for our product, but it is kind of grass is greener. When you look at a SAS option where they can control the update fully.
Joe Howard: [00:10:17] Yeah. I’ve seen some people in the WordPress space kind of leaning into.
More like SAS solutions, more aware, maybe they have a plug or they start with a plugin, but then they’re eventually kind of thinking like, well, what if we just, you know, hosted everything ourselves, or at least for like some piece of this, maybe the pieces were backwards. Compatibility is hardest. And just kind of like have people logging into this area in order to manage this aspect where we can have a little bit more control.
I don’t know much about like GPL licensing though. Is that something that’s like, I’m sure there’s some sort of challenge there in terms of like, well, this needs to be GPL compatible, like. Is there any middle ground in terms of like, can you have a piece of something that’s like a logging area for SAS, but still be technically following the GPL license and open source?
Kim Coleman: [00:10:59] I think similar to that would be plugins that build in kind of data sharing and phoning home. So you’re under the same requirements that GPL would be. So I think as long as you built it in a way that. Whatever data was stored remotely on that SAS environment respected the account changes made on the WordPress site, respected if a person wanted their data forgotten that it would translate through to that hosted SAS thing.
Experience and understanding and all those areas. And yeah, it’s interesting. Even the phone home thing is interesting for WordPress plugins that have that kind of opt in to share my data. Back. It’s a dream come true to get that data back. And you see things like freemium that have that built-in and some data share.
It does help you as a developer guide, how to develop your product when you can analyze how people are using it across lots of installs.
Joe Howard: [00:12:03] Yeah, for sure. I want to talk also about MVP stuff. Cause you mentioned starting small. And building out kind of minimum viable products before kind of going big and as a WordPress plugin, this 10 years old, obviously you’ve had some success with that.
Maybe it looked a little different when you were starting off. And maybe there’s more pressure now that you’re a mature plugin company to, you know, release things that are solid every time. But what does MVP mean to you in terms of, I guess like your current workload and paid membership pro are you in terms of new features and stuff?
Kim Coleman: [00:12:34] We’ve always kind of taken a stance of developer first to a degree. So when we release, if we’re commonly getting asked about something, that’s kind of, it’s going to need customization. It’s not something that we can just say, like if we code it this way, it works for everyone all the time. If it’s something that has some gotchas.
We would develop it first as like a very robust feature plugin or just a code recipe that drops into like a code snippets on someone’s website or like a helper plug-in that people can use to customize for their unique needs. And what is that? There was a little snippet that people can add. Yeah, there’s a plugin called code snippets, which is pretty cool.
I think it has a ton of installs. Do you want to say it has like 2 million installs, but don’t quote me, but it actually adds almost a CPT on the WordPress admin for code recipes that you can drop in and it validates them to a degree to make sure that they’re not going to, you know, activate and fatal error your website, and you can turn them on and off.
So if you had your WordPress website, install this plug and you could drop in a little bit of code that says like, Oh, I don’t want people to have to enter their email address twice. I only want once. So it’s just a line of code before you realized this is something everybody wants. Let’s make it a setting, kind of our MVP approaches.
Let’s make it a code based solution. If we see traction and we see deep interest, then we can move that into more simple setting that doesn’t require code. So that’s kind of how we’ve adopted even to this day. We still have adopted that and kind of get it out there, get it being used, get some early feedback.
Okay, so code snippet first, I think that’s actually like a super smart idea because it allows your, it’s not part of your core plugin, but it’s actually, I think it’s a good thing that it’s not part of your core plugin, because it means like the people who want that thing the most to kind of have to do a little extra code snippet thing, or actually like your like most loyal feature requesters of that thing.
They’re like, I really want this. So I’m going to go use this feature or this code snippet. And it probably means you’ll have like a higher success rate of getting feedback from those people, because. They like went the extra mile to go use it. Right. Is there a line when you and Jason say, we think now we should start thinking about making it either a core part of the plugin or maybe an add on plugin.
Like obviously the plugin is like a much more serious next step. So when do you to consider that like, we’ve gotten enough feedback or this is something we want to move forward with from MVP to, I dunno, maybe like second level MVP and more mature MVP. I think it’s definitely related to. Is that getting requested often, is it causing a lot of support tickets?
So people are more confused by the code snippet approach and we recognize that turning it into an actual plugin, they can drop in and install with a settings page, or like you said, putting it in the core plugin. If we recognize that that helps everybody and reduces support tickets, um, and is being asked for so often, then it makes sense.
Another option that we look at is. If having separate code recipes that don’t play nice. If you configure them in weird ways, if moving them into the core plugin or into an add-on directly will reduce the opportunity for conflict. Then it’s a good time to say let’s put this in the core plug and we’re doing that right now.
We have an add-on for customizing all the email messages that get sent at various. Points. So if you have payment method, that’s expiring soon, there’s an email. If you have a payment method that failed to rebuild, there’s an email. So we’re moving that into the core plugin now because it’s time and it’s been an add-on that’s existed and it’s been asked for, and there’s kind of a limitation in the core plugin of how you can translate email templates.
It kind of came at us in all these directions, like popular, needed by every site improves. You know, translations and are the ability for our plugin to be used internationally. Like. We got do it.
Joe Howard: [00:16:15] Yeah. Cool. I love Dunning emails, especially for membership recovery, but definitely like credit card recovery, like automating that, or even semi-automated that was like a big time-saver for our client success team, because before we were kind of like manually emailing people, like, Hey, your stuff’s running out.
And then we found, you know, I think we use Baremetrics recover for awhile and it’s just like, oh, this is a way easier. You just have a template. And it’s just like, it knows when your, uh, people’s stuff’s running out. Yeah. And integrating that emails stuff into like core plugin is like, this is a great example of like, what I feel like is like you run paid memberships, pro membership, plugin, you know, it’s like at a base level.
What do people think about as a membership plugin, people can have an area in their website where they log in and log out and now have stuff in there for people to have access to. Like that’s what a membership plugin is. Right. But once you get a lot of users, you have people asking like, well, I need to, like, I need to be reducing cancellations of memberships because people pay for my memberships.
Like this is how I make a living. So how do I email people to be able to recover or tell them like a credit card turning out or tell them that their membership, you know, is needs a renewal or something? And now you and Jason have to surround like, oh, okay. So this is a whole nother thing. Like now we’re having to deal with like email and SMTP and making sure emails go through.
And so a lot of stuff can grow out of what seems to be like, you know, us, you know, somewhat niche, like membership area of a site into like, well, it’s got to, once your users grow, you have to do a whole lot of other things as well. How has it been releasing new features like that? Like, that’s a, that’s a, it seems like a big one.
Like where you and or Jason, like, do you feel like you have to do a lot of like R and D around this stuff? Or is it something you like know pretty well as developers in terms of like implementing like email stuff? Cause it seems like it, maybe it’s not exactly the same, like, I dunno development area as like.
Plugin stuff, membership stuff. Oh, email is like, feels like a somewhat different area.
Kim Coleman: [00:18:09] Yeah. We try to like limit what our plugin is responsible for in the WordPress site to a degree. So we can help you make an easy to use tool that. Edits those emails and makes them have the right look and feel to match your site.
But when it comes to how they’re being delivered, it’s so server and host dependent that it’s outside of what we feel like we’re responsible for more recently, we integrated directly with send WP, which is a service through the Saturday drive team. And it was easy to integrate with. And we have a good relationship with them as a company.
And there’s a number of people who activate pain memberships pro and begin using ascend WP account because it’s fairly low cost, I think at $7 a month or $9 a month and gives you some reporting tools. But if you have a WordPress site, Hopefully you’re on a strong managed WordPress host or have a good hosting environment that is looking at how email deliverability works and kind of being your support system for that.
If it’s not something you have skills in, for sure.
Joe Howard: [00:19:07] Yeah. I love that. We feel the same way. W both sits, like what do your like website edits cover? What do they not cover? And we like are very robust and like what it covers, what it doesn’t cover, but it still seems like every week there’s like some edge cases.
If someone comes in and is like, what about this thing? Or what about that thing? It’s like, oh, like it’s a new thing in WordPress, you know, just cause there’s always new stuff happening in WordPress. So it’s like, we’re always evolving that. So I totally kind of understand what that feeling’s like, but in terms of the teaming up with other companies and like everybody focusing on where their best, I really liked that idea.
And I know San WP pretty well in their email solution. There. It was solid. So I think you kind of working together on that. I think everybody benefits because then you don’t have to worry as much about the email stuff. You know, you can work with them on that and they’re experts in that area. Then you can continue to be experts in membership stuff.
Didn’t make it make sense.
Kim Coleman: [00:19:54] You made an interesting point about. That a membership site in its most basic form is a login and maybe some protected content. And as we’ve grown, we’ve seen the, how extensive people want to get with what they’re protecting in the content or what features of their membership are and how they’re trying to kind of piece together.
All these different features and value adds to their membership site. So it’s interesting for us to see that there are still sites that are very basic. They want. You know, a protected category of articles and it’s just vanilla, everything painters SYSPRO and WordPress, and you’re good. But then you look at the other side and there’s people that want communities and events.
And, uh, you know, discounted products or free shipping on products. And they want to like have custom forms where people submit information and it’s a back and forth kind of like a coaching environment. So we do have to kind of put a, a rope around what we say is the features of the membership plugin.
And then what’s an integration with another plugin that does that feature. Well.
Joe Howard: [00:20:54] I mean a hundred thousand users is a ton and they’re all doing different stuff. So it must be a challenge walking that line also of, you know, at the core, our plugin does this great thing, but there has to be some more things that it does also to cater to so many users.
So yeah, I mean, I’m sure every week when you’re in your meetings every month, when you’re like feature meetings, like, well, it’s a whole new reassessment of kind of like, okay, what are we doing now? Let’s stay, try to stay true to our north star. But while there are like 30 users who asked support for this feature, like, okay, maybe we should do a code snippet for that.
Or like, so I’m sure it’s always active.
Kim Coleman: [00:21:29] There goes to the people building membership sites because the number of thought leaders creating content and saying, this is what a membership site looks like. And you got to have a course. And if you don’t have one. What are people gonna pay or how are you going to prove your membership had value if you don’t show them, you know, progress and these types of things.
So I think people building membership sites are second guessing what type of content to build, because they read an article that says you should definitely have a community. Why wouldn’t you create a private Facebook group for your membership or have a buddy press community. And I think it kind of confuses their original idea of what their membership would be, and it makes it.
They feel like they’re trying to feature, match and feature parody to what the recommendation is for what a membership site looks like.
Joe Howard: [00:22:11] Yeah, totally. This is like, what are the best practices of doing anything? Like you could Google it and find your like, listicles, like your 10 most important, you know, aspects of, you know, building a membership site.
Like one, you have to have a community. Like if you don’t, you suck, you know, and it’s like, well, the best practices are great. They’re good. Like guiding light, but like. Remember that like the person who wrote this is probably like five years individually near, like maybe they’re like 20 years into their journey.
And like, it’s okay not to do everything right away. In fact, you probably shouldn’t try to do everything right away. Like do a few things like you were talking about, right. MVP and start small and kind of build from there was always time to build more out there. So, yeah. I’m sure that’s a challenge for you, like actually working because your goal is to help people build.
The best membership sites they can. And that can be a challenge around just providing the tool, like just providing the plugin is a challenge, but also like helping people to like actually use the tool correctly or like in the best way possible. From your perspective, as a team who have a ton of knowledge about like, who are your best.
Call customers yourself. Like you probably have a list of like your a hundred, like most successful membership sites based on whatever metric that may be. And you could probably say like, well, here’s how they started. Here’s how they do this. Here’s how they grew it to this size, et cetera. But I’m sure a lot of people they’ll do that.
Google something and like, you know, think they have to do X, Y, Z when, so I can, it’s not super important. So I don’t know if you’ve, if that’s been part of your. Kind of journey of paid membership pros like paid memberships, pro yeah.
Kim Coleman: [00:23:39] Agency work. When we created websites for people, anyone who does agency work will identify with this, the struggle to get content from your customer.
So you’re building a site, it has placeholder text and you’re like, where’s the content. Or even choosing a theme or building one, they want to look at examples. And then they’re like, okay, like, that’s pretty looking. I’m going to I’ll find texts for that box on that theme demo. And then they, they didn’t really think content first.
They didn’t think. What message do I want to convey? They thought, oh, here’s a box with a heading and an icon and you know, a hundred words, I’m going to write something and fill that in. Cause it’ll make it look nice. But the same thing is kind of true for membership sites. They fill in the blanks of what features they should have.
Rather than stepping back and looking at the content that they do have, and it does hold up launch for a lot of membership sites who they keep pushing out. Oh, well, I have to write a course now and, oh, well I have to have an ebook now. So they keep pushing out the launch stage the stage where they can start getting feedback, the stage where they can have some like early adopters who help spread the word and kind of reach a critical mass to say, We demand an ebook.
We’re ready for it, create it for us. And then it’s a lot more natural to create kind of, or they get hung up on the minutia of kind of design and features that aren’t yet important. Like you’ve just started out and you’re starting to worry about like, how are people going to gift membership? So you start worrying about things.
When you have zero members, you’re worried about how are they going to gift it. How are non-existent people going to send a gift? You’re like, not yet later, not yet. You know, I’ve learned a lot about human psyche.
Joe Howard: [00:25:11] Yeah. Yeah. And then totally comes back to the MVP stuff you were talking about. I find this probably is a little bit different when you’re really starting off than when you’re a more mature company.
Like if you were to like release a totally MVP feature in the plugin, like. Probably at a ten-year-old plugin. You actually don’t want to do that anymore. Like, probably like there may be some aspects of MVP, but like, it probably has to be like pretty good once it’s like plugged and released for people to like, continue to have a good experience with your plugin.
Because now instead of like two people seeing it, it’s like probably like. 10,000 people are going to go and see that feature somewhere. So it’s probably important that it’s solid at that point. And for me, it’s somewhat similar. Like I, for better or worse, my mentality still is like, I’m very like MVP.
Like put it out there, like Stephanie present done fine. It’s fine. Like, it’ll suck for a little while and it’ll be better. But Nick is on my team and he’s very much like, no, we should probably make this better. Cause like people are gonna see it. So. And I still struggle with this as well, but definitely people who are starting off, like, and if you’re like managing membership sites or you’re building membership sites, or you have a membership site, you know, using paid memberships pro or, you know, another solution, I think like we’re trying to do, you know, we’re starting a community, WC bus community, actually, it’s a WP MRR community and Kate is on our team.
I don’t know if you knew that Kate is a bus now, should we have a water or a slack group? And she was like, guess what announcement cool. Awesome. Yeah, she’s been man. She hit the ground running and she’s been awesome so far. I’m super excited to work with her, but she’s helping us to build out a WP MRR community.
And so we’re definitely thinking about like, I’m like, let’s get it out. Like let’s launch it. And she’s being very much more thoughtful in terms of like, well, let’s create like a good MVP instead of like, About MVP. So she’s putting a lot of time, like, how’s this going to be a great community for people, a great area for people to come into, but I’m always going to be pushing the envelope a little bit in terms of like, well, let’s get some people in there trying it, like, let’s get some feedback from people.
Like I want to do a beta before we actually go live with it and stuff. So I think if so I just talked for a long time, but. In essence, what I’m saying is I love the ideas MVP is. And I think like if you’re going to air, especially when you’re starting off and like, no one’s seen it yet. It’s much better to like send it off when it’s not ready then to go over analyze and go too far.
Because what you start off with is never going to be what it is when it’s finished. You’re going to build it based on feedback, based on how users experience that you’re always going to pivot somewhat like the idea you have at the beginning is never what it’s going to be a year from now. You know, that it paid membership pro very well.
I know that at WP bus, because what we thought it was going to be a totally turned into something different. So. I love MVP. And I think like put it out there, let people mess with it a little bit and see what happens. Immunity.
Kim Coleman: [00:27:49] It’s something that it needs people to make it interesting. So for you and for designing one and saying we’re going to launch one, it means we need the whole WP buffs team ready to participate and keep conversations.
Flowing and interesting. It would be like walking into an empty bar and you’re like, oh no, one’s here. Is this a bad bar? Like, should I, or a bad restaurant, should I not be here? But to walk into a vibrant community, you’re like, oh, this is cool. This is where people are talking, you know, I’m coming in.
Joe Howard: [00:28:16] Totally. And it’s community. It’s like the people make the community. So like, I kind of curate a community to a point. Like, I can’t just like say, I want you to have this experience solely and like, That’s all you’re allowed to have. And then people come in and are like, okay, I guess I’ll do that. Like, well, they’re going to come in and probably like want to somewhat like walk their own path.
And so I’m going to watch their path and say like, well, how could we make this even better for you? And that’s how I think building that, you know, kind of comes to fruition, but okay. Sorry. I know I went off on a little bit of a community tangent, but I also want to come back a little bit into pricing for paired memberships, pro paid membership, pro premium WordPress plugin.
I like to talk about pricing, honestly, especially with someone like you who’s been around for so long and plugins been around for so long. You probably have a pretty good idea about. Pricing. You’ve probably done a little bit of experimentation along the way in terms of pricing. I’m sure it’s changed over time.
I’d love to hear the journey of kind of like what was pricing when you first launched the plugin or maybe it was free and the repository with the premium add-on I think it’s still like that, but there’s a premium version of it that people could still buy at some point. How did the pricing start and how has it evolved since, since it was first launched?
Kim Coleman: [00:29:27] Yeah, when we started, we thought. We would have a monthly, so we’ve completely changed because it’s now annual. And we started, I think we were like nine 97 per month and it was support. And some download only, you know, dot zip plug and file downloadable extensions, and access to some of those recipes. We talked about that we publish on our site.
We keep some of them behind the paid memberships paywall, so that. The wrong developer or non-developer, isn’t accessing a recipe and trying to use it without kind of the ability to ask for support about it. So it was like nine 97. I think that lasted for three or six months and people would stay for three months, cancel and have consumed a lot of support time.
So this Jason talks about a lot value pricing pricing, where the user sees the most value is where you. Kind of have to anchor the pricing on. So for us month one, if you ask for tickets and then month two, you ask none, then you’re attaching value to number of tickets. So for $10, I got four tickets, month two, I paid $10.
I didn’t ask any questions. I could cancel. Why do I need this? So then we moved. We said, this is really annual. It’s kind of front-loaded. All the support happens in the first three months. Really. We have customers that, you know, still continue to open tickets over time, but that’s when they’re building and that’s when you’re starting.
And when you have the most issues potentially. So we went to an annual model and we had two levels that were very similar. One was called core. And that was, I believe it started at 47, but it kind of settled in at a $97 per year. And then a plus that was one 97. They both got support in the same type of support, but at the $97 level, you didn’t get access to all of those.
Premium extensions. So it was still, you know, free, no technical support, no premium add-ons and then a support only, and then a support with premium ad-ons. And that middle level was not very popular. People were getting that middle level and wishing they had the ad-ons and it was creating more confusion.
And it was like, wait, what, what level did I get? I don’t really get it. Um, so that consolidated down into just that plus level and we introduced. Uh, higher tier level above that for three 97, we called it unlimited, but that was a totally decoy and it’s not a popular level. I think he would be like a hundred a year of that level.
I mean, it really is there because. Three levels looks better and the best one is in the middle and it’s highlighted in a way. So, um, most people are, are plus level. That was one 97 for many years, and we raised prices. And when we did raise prices, we always grandfather everyone into what they’ve been paying.
We don’t upcharge anyone. And we also ran a sale during that time. So everyone that was already paying one 97 a year was locked into that rate. Anyone who was curious about it and on the fence could join in at one 47 rates were going up to two 97. So it was a big. Opportunity for people to get in at a cheaper price.
Good opportunity for us to kind of have the cash, right. Flux. Um, and then, so that was two 97 with a one 97 annual renewal. So we had reduced annual renewals and we took that away in 2019. I want to say, and we made it the same price every year to renew also kind of a confusion people would. Kind of cancel and not know what they were supposed to pay.
They’re like I was paying one 97, what should I be paying now? And we had a lot of support around that. People whose accounts lapsed. Then we had to find a way to give them the one 97 price and all the logic related to having all these prices. In our history. There’s a very big recipe that says, what should I be paying for the people just running on our site.
So everything kind of simplified when it became two 97 renews annually. You’re good. That’s kind of where we settled at. I don’t know that we’re running any more price experiments. The only one we’re going to try, we have not yet tried is related to like the perpetual sale, which we don’t. Really advocate or love for people who don’t know what perpetual sale is.
Like every time you come to the website for the next four hours, it’s going to be on the sale price. But actually it’s perpetual, it’s always available at that sale price, but we are going to try when people get to the checkout page, just throw a, like extra 10% off on there and we’ll see how that works.
Joe Howard: [00:33:31] Yeah. We’ve kind of. Steered more away from discounts in general, because we want to be like seen as a premium solution for people, but we still do some discounts like with our affiliates, especially because like that just helps them improve conversion. And I like the idea of experimenting with discounts because you don’t have to do like a 75% discounts.
Like you can do like a 10% discount and see how it affects conversion. Right? You like put a little pop-up on your checkout page or on your pricing page. This is like, Hey. Like you can get 10% off, like right now, if you want it to and just see like, Hey, 20 people shut down instead of 10. Well, that’s like, that’s good.
Or maybe it’s like, no more people did. So then you say, okay, a discount didn’t really work. I don’t know if those numbers are statistically significant. Maybe you need a hundred instead of 10 or a thousand, but regardless, that’s an interesting experiment to see if that works. The perpetual discount is an interesting one to me.
So it kind of comes back to like a challenge. I feel like I have around. I probably a lot of business owners around, like, I want to do something that works that will help my business financially, but I also like want to be like an ethical business owner or like a morally sound business owner. I don’t think there’s anything really wrong with running it like a constant discount.
You know, there are a lot of. Sites out there running WordPress things that like always have one price crossed out and say, you can get it for this price. And like in four hours, this is going away. And so, and I’ve seen those in some pretty successful plugging companies. So clearly it works. Like, I feel like you could do some testing and get some like that to work.
But like, is it really a perpetual discount if you do it that way? Like, is it something like, I dunno if I feel weird about it or not? I think probably I do cause something, that’s why I’m talking about it here. It’s like something makes me feel weird, but clearly a work’s too. I don’t know how you like, think about that.
Like, is that something you feel like you want to try out and like, see if it worked like run the experiment with it.
Kim Coleman: [00:35:19] We would run the experiment only because we use our own plugin to sell our own membership. So what we do from an experiment standpoint becomes blog, content and knowledge, share to other.
People building membership sites. So we’re always interested to kind of be the Guinea pig and run that experiment ourself so that we can say, Hey, this really worked. We might not keep doing it for these reasons, but if it’s something you’re comfortable with and want to try, you know, here’s how you, first of all, set it up and here’s the results you could expect.
Jason, read an article. I will try to find it and I can. Put it in the comments of the podcast, when it publishes about the psychology of buying things that are on sale and how people feel better emotionally after having bought something, if they got it on a discount. And Jason said to me, you know, who am I to deprive people of that feeling of happiness?
Who am I because of the icky feeling I have with say, you know, even though my product, I know that it’s two 97, I’m going to say it. Four 57 and you’re saving this amount and it’s actually two 97. Cause that’s what these perpetual sales really are. It’s lying about your real price and having people pay your real price anyway, the price that you’re comfortable selling your product at.
Joe Howard: [00:36:28] So, yeah, that is super interesting. I never really thought about that psychological aspect of buying a product. I think I’m saying this from a position of privilege. So let me just ask this, my next comment with that, but I feel the opposite. Most of the time. Well, okay. I feel like what you just said psychologically.
Like I like getting a discount when I’m buying from like a fortune 500 company or like Amazon, like, yes, I got a discount. Like, fuck you, Amazon. Like, I got this for cheaper, but like, if I’m buying paid membership pro and like, you gave me a discount code, like I wouldn’t use it. I’d like actually pay you for the full amount.
And I, I like to do that with a lot of smaller businesses around because I feel like I want to pay more. I don’t know. Do you know what I mean? Because it’s like, well, it’s like, I’m paying to help, like. Kim and Jason like run their plugin better. And like, they probably want a client who’s going to pay more anyway.
And like, does it affect like me? Like, no, I pay for a yearly plugin to run WP buffs.com. Like it’s literally, like, I don’t think about it. So why do I need the discount now? It’s like, well, I’ll pay a little more, try to do that around. And I don’t know if like that. I’m thinking from like higher quality customer, lower quality customer thought peer also, it’s like, I don’t know, like, am I a lower quality Amazon customer?
Because I like to get discounts. Like, do they want people who want to pay more for stuff? Like, I don’t know. You know, when we have done deep discounts, like we got all like trash customers, sorry, people who. The fact that 40% discounts, like you are not our ideal client. Like you wanted the cheap thing and you wanted a few edits your first month and then cancel just like you were saying, right.
A few support tickets and then canceling. So sometimes I think like raising prices is going to like, actually like maybe avoid some of those lower quality customers are not doing discounts like avoids lower quality. I don’t know. We have to do some more digging, I think, around that analysis of client base to like, see if that’s true or not.
Kim Coleman: [00:38:13] Yeah. What’s interesting with our product is there’s lots of reasons people buy. Even though it’s all open-source and on GitHub people buy because they don’t know that GitHub exists, even though we’ve said to them, you know, you can get all of this code. Just go here. People buy because they’re facing like an urgent technological issue.
They cannot solve on their own and we can immediately help them solve it. And there’s a lot of Goodwill in that relationship. When I gave you money, you fixed my thing in a day. Thank you. You know, I’m here and some people buy reluctantly and those people who buy reluctantly and buy on sale, like you said, those are the worst people.
Joe Howard: [00:38:49] Yeah. There you go. That’s the combo. It’s not ideal. Uh, right. I want to start wrapping up, but I would be remiss if we didn’t bring Jason into this conversation. Do you and Jason run paid memberships pro together? Talk a little bit about that because 10 years together, we were talking before we started recording here, like 10 years of.
Working together and not just in like, like a corporate environment, like you two running a business together all day, every day, and then you’re done with work for the day. Well, nothing changes in your relationship. Like you were still teaming up to like run your family and run the rest of your life. So you don’t get many breathers from each other our time apart, probably.
I mean, you’re doing stuff together all the time and there were a lot of WordPress. Companies like that, like smaller press companies or agencies where it’s like, you know, a partner team, not just professionally, but personally. And I always like to hear kind of what that’s like from your perspective, running a company together for 10 years and a family together, has that been.
Kim Coleman: [00:39:46] The biggest thing is the pandemic kind of changed a lot for us and for our work, we were busier than ever with work.
We were busier than ever with our kids and it made me, I specifically take a hard look at. The times that I interrupt his work because he’s there and present with me in a way that I wouldn’t do that to a coworker that was not my spouse. I would not expect the same, you know, always available to me, always there to fix or bounce an idea off.
We joke in our team. Like if you need something urgently from Jason, tell Kim, because Kim’s going to go say, Hey, they’ve been slacking. You. You know, go talk to them. So it’s a, it’s a shortcut to getting your item to the top of his list in a way. But I think through the pandemic, I became more aware of the moments where I would be interrupting and I started making separate lists to say, like, these are things that I need to have conversations with you about and let’s schedule that.
And dedicate that time to going through that list of items. So I wasn’t constantly pulling from him and we’ve been trying in our team to, to like divide what we’re responsible for to a degree, which it’s funny, you know, it’s been we’re high school sweethearts, so we’ve been together since I was. 15 turning 16, and I’m going to be 38 this year, so a really long time.
So we have figured out the, like how to fight, work things, how to make decisions without having terrible feelings, how to let it go. All of that kind of over those many years together, but more so through the pandemic, realizing that when we were more busy and the team is growing, we need to give each other the authority to be in charge of different things.
And we can ask for each other’s opinion about it. But we don’t have to have a hundred percent consensus on every decision that’s made and a hundred percent kind of approval before progress is made and it’s evolving. But I would say since the start of this year, 20, 21 specifically, I’m going to say I’m doing a good job at it.
Joe Howard: [00:41:45] Yeah. It’s good to give yourself a pat on the back. It’s funny actually hearing your experience when you’re working on a plugin with your partner. I feel a lot of the same ways in my relationship with Nick, actually, Nick, maybe it, maybe Nick is just my work husband. I think maybe that’s just how it works, but like, When you say we don’t have to come to consensus on everything and we can like split those responsibilities and let be like, that’s totally how our relationship has been too.
It’s kind of like, as the company’s grown and matured, like just things have gotten bigger. We just can’t always talk about everything that’s happening. Like we just kind of have to trust each other and just make sure that, you know, Responsibilities are recorded somewhere in that, you know, we’re prioritizing our lists and working on things that will hopefully unblock each other and help each other out.
That’s just kind of how it works. Um, how has it been having older kids? During COVID have you been as all school, but at home? I don’t know if you help. Some people I know in WordPress space do homeschool period.
Kim Coleman: [00:42:42] In a Montessori environment, which is already kind of set up with smaller classrooms and a little bit more protected.
And they haven’t had major issues. They stayed open through all of this, this event, but we took the kids out. Um, cause we didn’t really know what would happen, especially starting out the school year. Last September, we did not know. If it would all close immediately or how things would go. I think they went better than we expected for the schooling environments, but we’ve kept the kids home and they’re done, which is sad.
Now we’re getting to summer we’re vaccinated. So I think we’ll, we’ll slowly open up and let them start seeing friends, but it’s still a risk for both of them to get this, but yeah, they’ve definitely seen us working a lot more than they did. And I will say even before they were home with us 24 seven. We would work at night and they would see that, or they would see us having work conversations at dinner.
And if it was ever stressful, they would internalize that now it’s all day, every day. So to them, you know where we used to work all the time. Now, that’s like, that is way higher. They’re telling everyone, mommy and daddy are okay. Well, you would be at school. You want to see what we’re doing, but their perspective, it was interesting.
I’m interested to see what they do with their lives and whether they start a business or not having grown up with us, working together and having our own business.
Joe Howard: [00:43:51] Yeah. Are they drawn to it? Cause they’re like, oh mommy and daddy did this. And or are they like, Nope, like that doesn’t seem like my cup of tea at all.
You know, my mom was a doctor and like, I was never gonna do that.
Kim Coleman: [00:44:01] So daughter plans to own her own business she’s nine. And she says that she will start a company that does like marketing through virtual reality because she has the Oculus headset. So she’s like why aren’t businesses creating kind of marketing games?
Through virtual reality, releasing them for free. I’m like, this is great. Do it.
Joe Howard: [00:44:21] She’s ahead of the curve. Yeah. Go for it. Very cool. Nice. Okay. So I know that you and Jason are very busy right now. I have a little, um, like slack. DM going on with Jason and mark. Ben’s a keen, it’s kind of like, like a little investment chatter because I saw that Jason, I didn’t know this, but Jason like used to like, be more serious into like the like personal finance, like investments.
See, I know he still does some that some investment stuff, but he used to be like, Like instead of paid memberships pro like he did like that kind of work, like he had a blog and stuff. So I think I saw a tweet that he had and I, or mark had a tweet. And so I started a thread with both them and be like, Hey, like I know you to do investments.
Some are involved in like the investment world. I had known nothing about it. Like I have a little app on my phone where I have, like, if you put $5,000 into an account and like, you know, buy some Tesla or whatever, but it’s like, I don’t really know that much about it. So I wanted to like pick their brains about it.
So. They’re talking to all this stuff. I’m like, oh, I should probably Google that what that means, but I’ll make sure I I’ll send a few less messages there. Cause I know it. Yeah.
Kim Coleman: [00:45:17] Nah, he loves it. It’s kind of his passion. I think to a degree, our watercolor and our team channel is often like really just stuck conversations.
It’s all like, what do you think something’s dropping? Is this a buying opportunity? And I’m like, look at the cake I made, you know, and they’re like, okay.
Joe Howard: [00:45:34] Yes, yes. Buy the dip. Okay. I know what that means. So my lingo is catching up. So cool. Kim, thanks for hopping on. This is a ton of fun. Second to last thing I like to ask you for is just where folks can find you online.
Where can they go to grab the plugin? Or can they go to buy the plugin? Where can they find you online? Social media, all that jazz.
Kim Coleman: [00:45:53] Definitely. So the plugin website is paid memberships, pro.com, and it’s also available in the wordpress.org repository. You can search for paid memberships, pro memberships.
We’re one of the top two for me. I’m on Twitter. Mostly. I think that my Twitter handle is Coleman K eight three. So you can find me there.
Joe Howard: [00:46:10] Nice. Very cool. And last thing I like to ask our guests to do is to ask our listeners for a little apple podcast review. So if you would mind asking folks to leave us a review, I’d appreciate.
Kim Coleman: [00:46:20] Absolutely. If you’re listening and you enjoyed our show, we really hope that you can leave a recommendation and a rating for apple podcasts. Thank you.
Joe Howard: [00:46:28] Yes. If you leave a review WP, mrr.com forward slash review redirects you right there. If you’re on a Mac or apple device, you can just leave a star rating, but if you leave some comments there, it helps us.
No, what additional kind of podcast content we should have on, if you’d get a few reviews for this podcast episode, we’ll have Kim on again, we’ll do more pricing episodes and MVP episodes. So that’s always helpful. So go there to leave a review. If you have a couple of minutes, if you. Are a new listener.
We’ve got a bunch of old episodes, WP mrr.com forward slash podcast. We’ve got a search box right there. You can search for anything you want. You search for pricing. And this episode will come up and search for MVP. This episode will come up, but we’ve got a ton of other great content, 150 ish, other episodes we’ve done go and binge some old, uh, episodes at the end of this pandemic.
Let’s get out of that. The bingeing of the Netflix and Hulu and HBO. Get into the bingeing of something that’s going to help us grow our businesses. So check that firstname.lastname@example.org. That is it for this week on the podcast. It will be in your podcast, players and YouTube again next Tuesday, although for YouTube it’s Thursday.
So cam thanks again for being on. It’s been real.
Kim Coleman: [00:47:38] Perfect. Thanks so much, Joe.
Joe Howard: [00:47:40] Yeah.