How to promote your business at WordCamp and WordPress Meetups
Vito PelegFounder of WP FeedBack
Thousands of people attend WordCamps and WordPress Meetups each year with the aim of networking and promoting themselves and their business. But what is the best way to actually do this?
We spoke to Vito Peleg who has successfully used WordCamps and WordPress Meetups to create significant buzz for his new plugin WP FeedBack. He revealed to us how he managed to network with the most influential people, how he got the attention of the attendees with a marketing campaign and how he managed to speak at a Meetup.
How the rockstar lifestyle prepared Vito for WordPress plugin marketing
So obviously you've done a lot of things in your time but I think the one that will intrigue people is your time as a rockstar. What was that like?
So actually it’s very much similar to launching a product. Being in a band gets you prepared for business even if you don’t want to do it because, basically, no one cares about music. That’s the essence of it. So you have to force it down people’s throats to some degree just to get known and be noticed above the rest.
How did it prepare you for the world of marketing and launching your own products?
So we launched six albums and every album you do a proper launch. You need to find their audience and identify the marketing streams and how you are going to get this in the hands of people. You do projections of sales to see what budgets you can allocate. It’s all exactly the same processes that you do with launching a pop product.
And did you ever imagine that you'd be going from the back of the van touring for gigs to launching your own plugin on Wordpress?
Not at all. I think that this was kind of a transition that happened naturally for me. We were kind of doing well at least from the outside because within a couple of years we’ve gone from just a handful of people in the crowd – like 10 to 12 people including the supporting bands – to playing in front of thousands of people every show and releasing two albums worldwide and playing with artists that just a few years before that we were listening to and you know and admiring. So from the outside, it seems like these guys made it. You know but we were still dead broke sitting in that van and trying to get some income just to see who can sponsor the next thing or basically pay rent for the next month for the house that we weren’t using here in London. So that’s when I started building websites and a lot of the stuff that I did with the band helped me score the first few clients. These were my case studies.
Before WordCamp: Planning how to make the most of it for your business
And so one of the things you mentioned is the community in WordPress. One thing I was wondering is how did you approach promoting WP FeedBack at WordCamp?
So I came prepared. So first of all, I looked at the entire list and there were 3300 people on the attendance list and I literally went through each one of them to their Twitter profiles to see who they are. And I made a massive list of people that I wanted to find at the event.
“I looked at the entire list and there were 3300 people on the attendance list and I literally went through each one of them to their Twitter profiles to see who they are. And I made a massive list of people that I wanted to find at the event.”
So by being prepared, I allowed myself to leverage a lot more than most people I would imagine managed to achieve in these three days.
Did you email them beforehand?
Emailing these people before doesn’t really work. These people have their own thing you know. I know because I’m running my own business that 90 percent of the communications that are coming to me are being blocked either by my team or by myself.
But when someone is there and they’re smiling at you and you get to shake their hand and tell them how you are affected by their product or how you find that connection to spark a conversation it’s a completely different ballgame.
And this is one of the biggest reasons why everyone that is listening to this podcast needs to go to any WordCamps they can. I’m actually already booked for WordCamp US and I’m going to go to WordCamp Brighton as well.
And there’s one happening in Tel Aviv as well in September that I’m gonna go visit. So I’m already scheduled until November on multiple events like this.
And even though I think that most of the people that actually I wanted to reach out to within our ecosystem already were at WordCamp you can never stop enhancing that relationship. Now I’m back and I’m going to do the follow-ups. Some will stick some will just keep ignoring you or won’t find the time to do it but then you see them again. That’s when you enhance that relationship even further.
I think that’s something that we did really well as a band. It was a thing that we employed a lot. So, for example, we went to Download Festival. You have around one hundred thousand people going there. These were all our target audience.
So we tried to look at this from a different angle. What can we give or what can we do for the audience that they will appreciate? So we did like bandanas that we gave away with the band logo and we did about a thousand of these things and we gave them as people were standing waiting to go into the event. We just gave out these bandanas that everyone wanted. And for the rest of the festival, everyone was walking around with the Chase the Ace bandanas.
And it was a huge boost for us after the event and we could see it in the statistics. You look at Google Analytics you can see how many people visited thanks to this campaign. And so now I took the same approach.
I want to get your checklist of the things to decide before you go to WordCamp. You said you research the 3000 or so attendees there. How many did you identify as ones that you wanted to connect with?
Possibly 40 people.
How did you decide that they were the ones that you wanted to get in touch with?
I tried to hypothesize partnerships ideas of how can we integrate our forces or if they share the same target audience as me. I could give you an example of a very nice person that I met over there that is not on the list. Matt from GiveWP has a plugin for charities to do charity donation forms and his target audience is nonprofits and charities around the world. Obviously, that’s not my target audience so that’s why I kind of kept him out of the list even though it was really nice to meet him.
On the other hand, people like Amir Helzer (founder of WPML and Toolset) were pretty close to the top of the list of people that I wanted to talk to. I value what he’s doing and I think that we share the same values for the business in terms of quality support, in terms of creating innovative products rather than just something that is already out there.
So WPML is the go-to tool when you’re thinking about a multilingual website. People that buy Toolset are not the average people from DIY websites. Not people that are just building their own website. These are proper professionals because they need to handle complex systems and these are the people that I’m looking for as well. So that was a natural fit from that sense. So you just need to find that bridge.
And then once you have, let's say your list of 40 did you say to yourself I’m going to speak to every single one of them?
Yes. The best way even there is being introduced by others. Whenever I made like a proper connection I tried to leverage that as a way to make the next connection. You’ve got to have that charisma and you’ve got to have that drive in you and a solid passion for what you do or else you’re just going to fade into the background with so many people in there. So you want to make sure that you’re coming at it with confidence.
At WordCamp: How do you speak to the most influential people?
This might be a stupid question but what do you actually talk about when you meet these people?
So the way I went about this is I never even mentioned my product. As you start the conversation it will get there. You know if it’s a good conversation they will ask you about your product and that’s the best thing you can do because then you can go into your pitch and even do a little demo with it.
“I never even mentioned my product. As you start the conversation it will get there. You know if it’s a good conversation they will ask you about your product and that’s the best thing you can do because then you can go into your pitch and even do like even a little demo with it.”
One of the coolest things is that I’ve been on many podcasts that others have seen me on and that really helped break the ice from that sense.
More than that I had the survey that I did that literally pointed out a few of the key players for me. The people told me who they’re using you know. So we had about 40 percent using Elementor, for example. So I started with this and I went around to these founders showing them the statistics of what we found. And they found it really valuable for their own kind of purposes.
You mentioned how you managed to get on podcasts beforehand and that was a way to get recognized by influential people at WordCamp. Is that something you did with the purpose of basically getting known ahead of WordCamp? How did that come about?
That was one of my go-to-market approaches for the plugin itself. Again with the band, you know PR was a huge thing. You have magazines and you have radio stations. So I’ve been doing interviews for a long long time. So I feel comfortable doing this already.
And so that’s the way I like to look at this. For me, it was just a way to put the name of the product out there. As you can see when I’m doing these things I do talk about the product but it’s not the focus. I tried to just give value to the listeners and we kind of pick a topic that I can feel confident talking about and share my knowledge and hopefully it will come back in the future in the form of customers or collaborations or partnerships and or this kind of stuff.
“I do talk about the product but it’s not the focus. I tried to just give value to the listeners and we kind of pick a topic that I can feel confident talking about and share my knowledge and hopefully it will come back in the future in the form of customers or collaborations or partnerships and or this kind of stuff.”
After WordCamp: How to maintain a good relationship with your new contacts
What happens next? How do you maintain a relationship with these people now that you're not with them face to face?
This is the hard part actually because even if they don’t want to talk to you when you’re in front of them they’re not just going to turn away and start walking away right? They’re going to be polite and going to talk to you a little bit and then just not reply.
So this is the tough part: making sure that you follow up and that you have something solid to offer. I went to WordCamp in London just a few months ago and there was a really interesting talk by Radost who is the partnership manager for SiteGround and she was talking about the partnerships in our ecosystem and the way that she kind of solidified it.
She broke it down to a few steps as to what you should focus on when you’re approaching people that are busy you know. So you start by creating that connection in one sentence of why they should care, basically. And then you tell them what you want, straight away, and then you give a call to action of how you can make this happen.
“You start by creating that connection in one sentence of why they should care, basically. And then you tell them what you want, straightaway, and then you give a call to action of how you can make this happen.”
So that is the kind of format that everyone can use to follow up in an efficient way. I think that most follow-ups scramble or kind of fall between the cracks because there isn’t a genuine thing to talk about.
So now that you're back from WordCamp Europe. Is there anything that you learned from the experience?
I learned that I’m not going to miss any other WordCamp Europe ever. This is the place to go to create new relationships and meet the people that you see through the screen for years. They come to you in person and you actually get to talk to them and people come from all over the world. That was amazing for me.
I didn’t get to go into too many talks this time. I was more like just doing the hallway kind of method on this one. And I think that was a popular way to do it. So now, for example, I came back from there and I straight away got in touch with WordCamp US and I offered to be a sponsor there.
I’m going to sponsor it but I don’t want to sponsor it with a booth or something like that because what I noticed is it confines you to an area and that you just stand there waiting for people to come to you instead of initiating conversations.
“I’m going to sponsor WordCamp but I don’t want to sponsor it with a booth or something like that because what I noticed is it confines you to an area and that you just stand there waiting for people to come to you instead of initiating conversations.”
The advantage of the sponsorship is your logo will appear on the website. Having a base gives you the excuse to stand there. You know where you stand next to a place and no one’s coming? Then that’s when the phone comes out and you start looking into your Facebook feed even though you have 3000 people around you and each one of them can change your life if you do it right.
Other avenues besides WordCamp to promote your business
Besides WordCamp you're obviously busy promoting WP FeedBack as much as you can. What other avenues have you found that have worked for you to give the plugin as much exposure as possible?
Partnerships are the biggest thing. Partnerships are very hard in most industries you know because people always look for their own cynical agenda let’s say. But that’s not the case here with WordPress.
When I was going into it I was like OK I’m going to offer them some money or I’m going to offer them some percentage but most people that I talked to were like “I love the product. I think it’s a great fit for our customers.” They want to provide value to their customers more than they want 10 percent of every sale you know.
So that’s kind of the way to go about it. As long as whatever you’re doing has a good product-market fit and people want it then partnerships are amazing not only with other products but there with influences.
So there are people that are doing YouTube videos and there are people that are managing Facebook groups and each one has their own tribe. So having again genuine relationships and genuine talks with people about how you can collaborate and how what you’re offering can benefit their tribe was the best thing that we’ve done.
Other than that do remarketing on everything. You know whenever someone visits the website you got to have marketing ads running on Facebook and on Google just to drive people in because people are just busy. And if they visit the website once it already means that they have some kind of an interest in what you have to say or what you have to sell. So just by reminding them at a later day, they’re like “Oh yeah forgot about this one but I did want to look into it.” So that’s a great way to leverage additional sales.
I really want to go into talks. Actually right after this conversation, I’m doing my first talk here in the WordPress Meetup in London. That’s gonna be my first experience with actually delivering a proper talk with a presentation and so on. It’s a little bit out of my comfort zone but that’s exactly the stuff I’m looking for.
You know I have something to say and I think that it’s going to be really valuable to the 60 or 100 people that are gonna be there later today. I’m gonna do it you know and I’m gonna face it and hopefully, this is the first step into doing talks in WordCamps. Hopefully next year I’m going to WordCamp Europe as a speaker rather than an attendee.
How to get accepted to speak at Meetups
For your upcoming Meetup how did you get a chance to speak? Did you have to apply and send a pitch over?
So, first of all, I went as an attendee and spoke to people. If people are looking for shortcuts, sending an email won’t work if you haven’t been to an event ever and it’s in your hometown unless you have a bunch of experience.
But if you’re part of the community and you have something to share with the same community then it’s a natural fit. But you don’t want to chime in from outside. You just want to be part of it.
“If people are looking for shortcuts, sending an email won’t work if you haven’t been to an event ever and it’s in your hometown unless you have a bunch of experience. But if you’re part of the community and you have something to share with the same community then it’s a natural fit.”
So I just went to a few of them. And when I was ready I just spoke to them. Paul and Dan the guys that are running this and then said “All right guys I want to talk. When can we do this?” And they already know me.
So it was an easy thing and they knew that I probably had some interesting things to share because I did scale pretty fast. I went through this journey of freelancer agency product.
So when you went to the organizers did they ask you what do you want to talk about? And did you have to explain to them what your speech would be?
I did. They sent me a form. They said “Yeah that sounds great let’s do it. Here’s a form to fill it out.” Pretty much just the same way I did with podcasts as well.
What's the form like? Is it just normal basic questions about you or does it ask for details of what you talk about?
You’ve got to say that [details of what you talk about] and a little bit about you. So you do your little pitch of who you are. And that’s it.
The reason why I created the talk for today is that I asked them “What do you guys want me to talk about?” It was kind of stupid of them to say no. After they told me that this is what they want. So they told me that they want to do a little more on the business side and that most stocks are really really technical and that sometimes scared people off.
So they wanted to do something more about business. So perfect, business is my forte. So I wrote something based on that.
I thought it wasn’t going to happen until September. That’s what they told me. But they actually sent me a message the day after saying “all right let’s do it in two weeks.”
Promoting your product at Meetups
How do you plan on reaching out to the 60 or 100 or so people that will be there?
So first of all, I’m going to give away these booklets [the survey from WordCamp Europe] so that everyone has this valuable information first of all.
We do this stuff all the time within our ecosystem for clients. Say you create a book or an e-book and you give it away in return for an email.
So I get their e-mail and that’s an instant connection with them. They go into a list and then you know they’re gonna be nurtured up the value ladder so that, hopefully, if the product is a good fit for them they’ll come in as a customer.
What are your plans over the next few months? are you trying to attend as many Meetups and WordCamps as possible?
So there’s one in August in Brighton here in the UK and there’s another one in September in Tel Aviv and then there is that one in November in the States.
I need to follow up. I have 40 people to follow up with and create some incredible incredible partnerships. Whatever happened in those three days would have taken me three years to get to. To find these people and to get them to look them in the eye and have a meaningful conversation with them that will potentially lead to something bigger. So now the game is to execute basically.
Advice for budding entrepreneurs hoping to start their own WordPress business
I can’t believe it's only been two and a half months and you've already got us in this position.
To be honest, you know I was just waiting for the stress to kick in but I’ve been doing client work for so many years and client work is so stressful man it’s crazy. The expectations are so so high from every single customer that comes on board. That was a lot. More stressful than doing this.
This is a walk in the park. You know I’m just talking about the product that I love to people I have something in common with. I think that’s one of the biggest things here. In most cases you’re selling to people who are not people you’d go out for a beer with after you’ve finished a project.
But talking to other designers or developers or other people that are within the space, that have gone through the same journey or that you can learn something from them makes it so much fun you know. I was just having a great time talking to all of these people and the fact that the product is successful at such an early stage just proves that I know what my problem is and I created a solid solution to tackle it for me. And because the rest of the people are like me it makes sense.
Imagine that I came up to you and said: “I'm thinking of starting up my own plugin, have you got any advice for me?” What what would be the first thing in your head you think?
Instead of going down on the product route straight away you want to start with doing client work. You want to start with building websites and serving people because it’s very little to do with the actual function of the product. The way I see it now it’s a lot more about the service that you give to your customers and the experience that you create for them.
So by building websites for other people you’re kind of doing that same thing because what is a website? It’s a product, right? You build it, you build products basically every single month on an expedited process with time pressure on you with the clients breathing down your neck. And this is like the best way to kind of at least in my mind to dive into this process and learn how to run a high-quality business. Because if you managed to do this even with a small number of customers and a small number of people on your team once you do that transition to product everything is so clear and so kind of like easy going.
We already have the support this setup. We already know how to do that kind of stuff. We already know how to market the product because we marketed it. We’ve seen our customers go to market with their ideas with their products and with their kind of solutions. And we actually help them do it as well in terms of actual marketing.
So I think that would be my best advice. Don’t try to skip steps because then it’s just not going to work.