Today in our interviews session we have Marius Vetrici from WPRiders. WPRiders is a reputable web development agency focusing on custom WordPress solutions, who have delivered more than 1100 projects during the last 5 years. They know A LOT about WordPress, plugins, and themes.
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Up to date they’ve helped over 500 entrepreneurs launch and expand their online marketplaces, subscription and membership websites.
1. Marius, tell us more about your company and the service you are offering.
We develop WordPress plugins, complex websites and WordPress integration with third-party systems. Our main focus is on quickly building and launching WordPress-based web platforms.
”In as little as 60 days we will Prototype and launch a nice and shiny Minimum Viable Product” via @monetizeinfo Click to tweet
In as little as 60 days we will Prototype and launch a nice and shiny Minimum Viable Product. Our customers just love this idea because they can quickly test a new business idea in a very cost-effective way.
2. What marketing strategies have you used to grow?
I started as a WordPress freelancer on Codeable. Codeable is the best WordPress marketplace in the world, with more than 500 hand-picked WordPress experts. There wasn’t too much marketing for me initially because Codeable was doing all the job for me as a freelancer. I was good at landing projects through the platform, so I started taking more and more projects and booking them in my calendar. I managed to have projects prepaid in advance for about 1.5-2 months. And that was a game-changer because I said to myself – “Hey, you can do better than that!” So I hired my first two colleagues and founded WPRiders agency.
Later on, as an agency, we have developed several other channels. The most notable ones are:
- Partnerships with theme and plugin vendors – they started routing to us the customization requests that fell outside of their support capabilities. We have been working for years with themeisle.com.
- Partnerships with hosting companies – again, one of our key partner is www.presslabs.com – I found we have some common values when it comes to serving customers, like a job well done, honesty and proactive attitude.
- Adwords campaigns – we have tried this for a couple of months, but unfortunately, the low quality of leads and the high cost of acquisition per lead have rendered this channel unprofitable for us.
- Inbound marketing – we have started writing educational content to help online entrepreneurs launch web platforms.
3. How you are using inbound marketing to promote your agency?
I realized there are so many entrepreneurs who struggle to launch their online business. And there’s so much uncertainty and confusion in this process: they don’t know if their business idea will take off; they don’t know which technology to use, or which software company or freelancer to work with. Should they take a technical partner or not? And so on.
For these entrepreneurs, we started to create educational content. We write inspirational stories which are semi-fictional but have their root in real web platforms and web projects that change people’s lives. We create business content about how to start, run and manage your business. We have even created a 72-page comprehensive PDF guide with best practices for launching new online products and services. And we’ve structured our case studies by verticals, technology and project type, so they can serve as inspiration for those in need of new business ideas. Do you want to check some educational projects? Now it’s easy. Or maybe you want to see marketplaces, i.e. clones of Airbnb and Uber? Easy again. Or maybe you want to check some Gravity Forms related projects. Here they are.
In order to publicize this content and help the audience find it, we are leveraging socialbee.io to actively promote our content to Social Media.
Last but not least, we started to use sendinblue.com to collect the emails of those who want to keep in touch and send them a monthly newsletter.
4. Can you share with us your biggest fail?
I spent $200,000 on a software project that never took off. We built inventory management software for small mom and pop shops. This was money earned hard, by working on outsourcing projects, so spending the money on delusional projects was quite painful. After trying several ways to make our product successful, I finally gave up, decided to sell the clients we have and to close the company.
Financially, this was a huge loss. But from a learning perspective, this was worth a couple of MBAs 😀because I had the chance to learn first-hand what it takes to lead a product through 5 different versions, hundreds of customers, thousands of discussions, miles of specifications and test cases.
”Financially, this was a huge loss. But from a learning perspective, this was worth a couple of #MBAs” via @monetizeinfo Click to tweet
5. What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned in your business journey?
First and foremost, I’ve learned what is Strategy and in my case, what is Product Strategy.
In very simple words, Strategy is:
- Where we want to play – i.e. which market, which segment or which job to be done we are targeting
- How we are going to win there – i.e. how we are going to outsmart the competition; why should customers choose us; how we differentiate ourselves; why we are better. Unless you have a compelling reason to charge a profitable margin, neither your customers nor your competitors will allow you to do that.
I have also learned I need to build my marketing and sales team at a time when I don’t really need them. If I build those when I need them, then it’s a bit too late. A business needs to keep in balance both the ability to generate work on a repetitive basis as well as the capacity to handle the work that you generate. In other words, keep in balance sales and operations.
”I need to build my #marketing and sales team at a time when I don’t really need them” via @monetizeinfo Click to tweet
The other important learning is that Success is a matter of going over the expectations. I am successful every time I manage/set the expectations, and then I go beyond that level. My service could be the best in the world, but if the expectations are even higher than that, I will be regarded and perceived as a failure.
Last but not least, I’ve learned the importance of company culture. In WPRiders, my current agency business, I have drafted our mission (our reason to exist) and values even before I made the first hire. Then I ensured all the people I hired are in tune with our values.
6. You manage a dev team. Any tips for keeping everything organized?
The easiest way to manage people is to hire the right people so you don’t have to micro-manage. Then to endow them with your trust. This is easier said than done, but it is crucial. If people have the right mindset and share the same values, you will be moving together in the same direction naturally.
Next, to ease the burden of repetitive work and to ensure the same quality of service across all the projects, I wrote down our working policies. We have written policies for development, for project management, for sales, for hiring, etc.
Once the tasks and projects started to accumulate, we needed to take control of our work. For this, during the last five years we have been using Asana for project management, Harvest for time tracking and ForecastApp for workload management.
7. What advice do you have for anyone that’s doing WordPress development and want to start an agency?
There are many things that you need to get right and in alignment in order to have a successful agency. But here’s my shortlist of the top things:
- Make a written commitment to yourself to be successful. Write down your success declaration. This commitment will help you do the right thing at the right time in spite of difficulties, challenges and road bumps.
- Get a mentor, someone more experienced than yourself. How will this help you? It’s like you are driving with your driving lights on only, but then the mentor comes in and lights up the long-range lights. Of course, you will see “farther” and “better”.
- Read books or listen to audiobooks to learn new things. Aim for at least one book per month.
- Find ways to generate new leads in a controllable, repetitive manner. Own this process. Don’t rely on word of mouth only as this is pure luck. And one cannot plan for being lucky.
- Ensure you have a backlog of paid projects for at least 2 months in advance.
- Ensure you have a cash reserve that would cover 3 months of taxes and salaries.
- Hire people in tune with your values. And, yes, write them down before hiring.
- Think about your differentiators.
- Do you have deep knowledge about a vertical?
- Do you master a technology/process that only a few people/companies have?
- Do you have a close relationship and they trust you?
Most of your strategy attributes will be copied by your competitors. But the more you look for and build differentiators, the longer you will stay in the market.
8. In your opinion, what’s going to be the next great feature in WordPress and developers should prepare for?
I foresee two things will happen:
- Web and mobile development will blend more and more. Developing web and mobile applications will use the same technologies.
- The next big leap in WordPress and web development will not come from inside; rather it will come from other technologies like AI and Virtual AR or BigData.
”The next big leap in #WordPress will not come from inside; rather it will come from other technologies like #AI and #VirtualAR or #BigData.” via @monetizeinfo Click to tweet
9. Who have you looked to as inspiration throughout your career? Any books, blogs, movies you recommend?
Richard’s Branson’s Losing my Virginity – for courage and creativity.
Napoleon Hill’s – The Law of Success – the most comprehensive and profound book about success
The Rework book – for simplicity.
12 Elements of great management – for company culture and employee engagement.
Building a story brand – for brand strategy
Principles – for sound life and work principles.
Nonviolent Communication by Marshall B. Rosenberg for learning how to communicate effectively with people around
The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey for learning to be productive in your thinking
10. What you enjoy doing in your free time?
I play board games with my two sons, we go hiking or cycling.
I also practice Vipassana/Goenka meditation.
11. Do you have any plans (personal or business) that you can share with us?
Yes, sure. I’ve recently attended the IMD Advanced Management Program in Switzerland where I had learnt how to innovate as a process, not by accident and how to come up with new and disruptive business strategies which are sound and complete.
So, I am working with my team on developing some new online products side by side with our Agency business.
Thank you, Marius, for your time. I encourage all our readers to connect with Marius and try to learn as much as possible from him. He’s a really smart, dedicated entrepreneur.
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