InterconnectIT WordPress User Guide outperforms Spectacu.la by 600%

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WP User Guide

Last Friday, we saw an interesting Tweet by Dave Coveney, the director of InterconnectIT. It said, “Our WordPress User Guide makes double the money each month than Spectacu.la ever managed.” Coveney and company closed the doors at Spectacu.la, a theme shop and project of InterconnectIT, in September of 2010 after less-than-inspiring sales. I contacted Dave to see if he’d be willing to share more with us, which he thankfully did.

Spectacu.la’s mission was to create high quality themes for free and to charge for support. Unfortunately, the £25 membership for support was not a big revenue source because support was generally not needed. The WordPress User Guide was a starter-kit to teach people new with WordPress how to get started. Spectacu.la was the original home of the WordPress User Guide, and it ended up being the biggest driver for new subscriptions, not the themes. So InterconnectIT shut the doors at Spectacu.la and migrated the User Guide to the main site.

Many of the subscriptions to Spectacu.la were by developers that wanted to supply the User Guide to clients. In order to further meet this demand, InterconnectIT turned the User Guide into a standalone product: a rebrandable, customizable one. They also offer it without branding as a free pdf for personal use.

They decided to change the price of the User Guide from £25 to £75, as it saved developers hours of work developing their own branded guides for clients. They were pleasantly suprised by what happened after the transition, and Coveney shared some of the results with us:

Immediately we’re getting purchases at around 2x the rate of the subscriptions, but at 3x the price.  In other words, turnover is up 600%.  Same product, sold by the same people, but in a different way.

Money wise – well, it’s not amazing, but it does make maintaining the user guide cost effective now.  We’re not talking beer money so much as mild and unhealthy alcoholism at this point.

So while they aren’t fully supporting themselves with the new structure, the success of the switch is obvious. Dave shared one final thought with us as to their decision and the future for InterconnectIT:

[InterconnectIT] didn’t study marketing, and took no real interest in it. […] It probably cost us an awful lot of money, because we didn’t understand how products can generate real income even when you aren’t coding. I can assure you, however, that over the coming year we’re re-examining everything we do, and you’ll love what’s coming ;o)

I’d like to thank Dave for his honesty and for sharing their story with us. You can follow him on Twitter @davecoveney and be sure to check out the InterconnectIT WordPress User Guide.

This story shows us how much the way in which marketing and branding digital products can affect end results. For other sellers out there, have you ever had a similar experience with your WordPress products? How have you noticed changes in sales by adjusting your tactics?

8 thoughts on “InterconnectIT WordPress User Guide outperforms Spectacu.la by 600%

  1. Before I started my wp theme business I read Purple Cow by Seth Godin. If your themes are not remarkable you will fail. If you just doing what everybody is doing, whats the point? There are thousands good free wordpress themes out there, and people will get free before they pay.
    People will only pay if you create something unique and remarkable, If you not creating purple cow, you are wasting your time and money.
    Best of luck with your new business,
    Marios

    • That advice carries through to just about everything, I’d say. If it’s not something remarkable, it’s not something people will pay attention to. Good though 🙂

      • Ryan, I agree with you 100% but all the wp theme businesses that closed down lately, did not have anything special to offer. People are afraid to create something unique and remarkable, because they rather be safe and follow the trend. Most people are afraid of criticism so they create something safe and boring.

        Why so many people come to wpcandy everyday, if they can go to other wordpress site. Because you created the purple cow, and I am sure you are now enjoying the ride 🙂

        • Glad we aren’t yet safe or boring 🙂

          Honestly, I think a big part of it is realizing that what you, the creator want, is probably something many others want. That’s all WPCandy is: a site that I wanted to read. I would argue that those theme vendors that succeed are creating to please themselves primarily, and then finding those that are likeminded afterward.

          • Very well said Ryan. 37Signals calls it “scratching the itch.” I am amazed at how you find these WP success stories. Keep it up!

    • At the time there was nothing wrong with our themes, although by today’s standards they look dated. And themes like Blend (which is still popular and has a modest following) offered several unique features. Caribou was the first WP theme that offered sections. Still is a rare thing, though we’re dropping support for that theme soon as there are better ways to achieve what it does.

      However, the features offered weren’t aimed at the right people. We didn’t aim at designers or developers. And with the exception of our simpler blogging themes, didn’t aim at normal bloggers either. We made our market small. So although Caribou led us to work with http://www.telecoms.com and helped us into the enterprise business, it didn’t of itself lead directly to any real revenue.

      Then there was the psychological problem – we never wanted to build a general theme business to go head to head with the other big names in the market. Not our thing – we’re a quiet lot with an enterprise focus. Spectacu.la was an interesting diversion, but, at the time, not for us.

      But what selling the guide has shown us is that a product that doesn’t sell well as part of a bundle can do a lot better when separated out, even if it costs a lot more. So this experiment shows that the profitability of something is not directly related to its quality or desirability as a product, but a lot to do with how well it’s marketed and sold. And having redeveloped some of the very high profile themes out there we can confirm that many are nothing like as good as either their marketing or their fan base would suggest.

      To use your analogy – it’s all well and good making a purple cow, but if it’s a cow only a small number of people will want then it’s probably best not to sell as part of a four cow bundle with three black and white cows. Just sell it separately, at a higher cost, because it’s uniquely desirable to those in the market for purple cows.

      Maybe.

  2. David I do agree with you, its not easy and you don’t know if you created something remarkable, you might think its great but if the customers are not buying then you will be out of business very soon.

    I think Ryan got it right, “I would argue that those theme vendors that succeed are creating to please themselves primarily, and then finding those that are likeminded afterward.” This was my approach I couldn’t find unique themes for designers and artist so I created my own, and then others came looking for the same exact themes.

    David I wish you guys best of luck, you found what works for you,

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