6 Reasons WordPress Plugin Developers Should Attend Business Conferences

A month ago, I participated in the Prestige Conference in Minneapolis. It was my second PrestigeConf, and my second WordPress business related conference–it was priceless!

 

Prestige Conference 2015 Speakers Dinner

Taken by Mendel at Prestige Conference Minneapolis 2015

 

I still consider myself as a newbie in the WordPress community, even if I’ve been developing WordPress plugins since early 2011. Yes, I participated in two WordCamps (in Israel), but I never got more involved before 2015. There are two main reasons for that…

I was busy and far from the WordPress scene

I was a full-time co-founder and CTO of Senexx (my previous startup). As many of you might know, start-ups require huge time investments which leaves little room for anything else. :) In addition, most of the WordPress-related events were hosted in the U.S and traveling from Israel to the U.S is expensive!

I wasn’t financially invested

My WordPress plugin, Rating-Widget, was just a side-project during weekends. It was organically growing, and that was enough to make me satisfied.. I did it purely for fun, and I didn’t even have a paid model–so there wasn’t any financial incentive.

What changed?

My startup was acquired on June 2014. My wife and I, and our two fluffy cats, moved to NYC in August. I wanted to be closer to the target market and WordPress ecosystem, and my wife wanted to do her MA abroad. It was a good solution, especially since I didn’t have to spend as much time traveling to events, as I would from Tel-Aviv to the U.S.

On October 2014, I started to craft the concept behind Freemius. That’s when I realized there would be no way to succeed with such a revolutionary solution without the community and influencer support. This gave me inspiration and energy to participate in events and meet the crazy smart people I read about all the time.

Why business events?

There are many WordCamps (and most are relatively affordable). So then why bother with the time and expense of a business-oriented conference? I’m “just” a plugin developer, you might say, how will this help me?

Business Conferences Are Also For Plugin Developers

WordCamps are great, and you should definitely try to attend as many of them as you can! It’s a great opportunity to spread the word about your plugin and meet users in person. But, if you want to take your game to the next level to meet the “Sharks”, the business owners, agencies and entrepreneurs creating the products and services that shape the WordPress ecosystem. Throw yourself into the shark tank willingly, and you will reap the benefits. You get to meet the faces and minds behind the products and services, and find new ones you might have not known about. From here you can build relationships that can be mutually beneficial. Important relationships within the community can be HUGE leverage that can help you boost your business to the next level!

1. Learning from people at similar business stages

Whether you are a sole plugin developer, a small plugins startup, or an agency who has plugin products, It’s feels amazing to hang out with people in similar position who face similar challenges as you are. Be humble, and learn from their experience and insights. Become better! Developers you meet can become friends who can give you advice, provide a different perspective, and most importantly a real unbiased advice on your project.

Early this year, I was thinking about removing the PayPal gateway from RatingWidget’s payment options. However, I changed my mind after chatting with Pippin Williamson at Prestige Vegas. We talked about plugin business best-practices, shared different stats and I learned about the percentage of EDD’s customers paying with Credit Cards vs. Stripe.

I quickly figured out that keeping PayPal was the best course of action for me (or other plugin developers) because over 50% of Pippin’s plugins are being purchased through PayPal. When you get feedback like this from an expert it can be invaluable. Such tips based on real experiences are incredibly powerful!

2. Business opportunities

Naturally, events & conferences lead to networking. Networking lead to business development, which leads to opportunities like partnerships, reselling, mergers and more. There are dozens of great forms plugins–so then why do you think Gravity Forms and Ninja Forms are leading the space? Because they are out there, working their magic, building relationships with theme shops and agencies. The bottom line is that they are doing business, and a lot of it! OptinMonster is a great example of a product that was born as a result of a partnership. Syed Balkhi and Thomas Griffin met in a conference!

3. Marketing, marketing, marketing…

Well… if you consider yourself as a WordPress plugin developer, my wild guess is that you know how to code WordPress plugins! The difference between a plugin developer and a plugin business–is the developer’s ability to sell the product. Unfortunately, most plugin developers are great at coding but they lack the skills to make sales. It’s not surprising, since we spend so much time perfecting our plugin that our marketing and branding skills suffer. Heading to business-oriented conferences will help you to improve those skills whether by hearing what others have been doing, or attending marketing related sessions.

4. Serendipity is awesome!

When I was a kid, my father said to me – “if you don’t play the lottery, you’ll never win it”. I love this sentence, since I find it proves true for in many aspects of life. If you don’t take chances and generate opportunities, they just won’t happen. There’s no better way to explain serendipity than sharing a personal story from the last Prestige conference in Minneapolis:

I arrived to my hotel a day before the conference. While I was checking-in, a big man approached me and said he recognized me from my twitter profile pic. He told me I should come and hang out with him and his team later in the lobby. Since I’m inherently terrible at multitasking, I didn’t manage to catch his name and what he wanted from me, so I went up to my room.

After a quick shower, I browsed the conference attendees twitter list, and recognized his picture. It was Kiko Doran, one of the co-founders of the conference. I went down to the lobby, and met with Kiko, Josh & Brittany. We had a really nice chat, and Kiko kindly invited me to join the speakers dinner.

Suffice to say, it was fantastic! I had a deep conversation about credit-card fraud with Jason Cohen, the founder of WPEngine, I played darts with Chris Carfi from GoDaddy (he won, probably because of the cowboy hat), I met with Peter, Shane and Ried, the Modern Tribe gang, got Martin Sawinski’s feedback on Freemius, partner at 3five, and I listened to a live local band with Kiko, Travis Totz, partner at Westwerk, and Jeff Chandler, founder of WPTavern.com.

Just to summarize, I met with all the three leading WordPress agencies founders / partners, with the founders of the conference, the founder of the most powerful WP hosting company, and the founder of the most popular WordPress blog. Isn’t that crazy?

Here is some math… There was a 33% chance to book that hotel (since I was looking only on three options), and 16% that I would arrive at the hotel during the 4 hours Kiko was there with his gang in the lobby (4 out 24 hours). This is 5% chance that I would meet Kiko the day before the conference which lead to all of that. How’s that for serendipity!

I am certain of one thing, without all of these statistics, is that all of that wouldn’t happen if I were coding home.

5. Become part of the clique

Speaking of marketing, if you want to join the “influencers pack”, you have to market yourself and build real relationships with them. Hanging out with speakers and influencers in a casual atmosphere is a great way to start it.

6. Great People!

On the social side, the WordPress business community is just awesome! A group of very approachable, brilliant, fun & like minded bootstrapped entrepreneurs. The reason I loved the last Prestige so much (besides the great sessions), was because I had the opportunity and pleasure to get acquaintance with almost all of the attendees.

Prestige Conference 2015 After-After Party

Taken by Mendel at Prestige Conference Minneapolis 2015

My Takeaways

Conferences can be expensive–including from the conference ticket, the plane ticket, and necessities like the meals, or bar tabs. That doesn’t even include the time away from the office where you could be doing “work”. However, conferences provide a unique convergence of networking, learning, and fun into a single package. A good conference forces you to grow and challenge yourself.

During 2015, I participated in three non-WordCamps, WordPress-related events: Prestige Vegas, Loop Conference, and Prestige Minneapolis. If you’ve made it this far, you can see how much I’ve gained from going to these events. Friends, connections, and opportunities that can really impact my business. I’m planning on going to more conferences, and I’m sure you’ll find me at many of them.

What’s next?

PressNomics, scheduled on March 3-4, 2016 at Phoenix. I have heard great things about it from fellow business owners and I am looking forward to it.

As part of the WordPress giving back culture, we joined as a community sponsor to PressNomics. Since I’m evangelizing business-oriented conferences so much, and would love to see more fellow plugin developers participate in those events, we decided to giveaway one PressNomics ticket – for FREE!

Whether you are a sole plugin developer, or a business owner, I highly recommend you to attend! I’ll be there happy to meet you in person and learn about you and your WordPress plugin business.

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