How You Sell Matters – Our Story

Sometimes, it’s not just what you’re selling, but how you’re selling it that really matters.

Way back in 2008, we decided to launch a WordPress themes club called Spectacu.la.  We had a couple of nice blogging themes that had been targeted for a marketplace, but as that marketplace got canned we found we had nowhere to sell them.  We figured it was worth getting our investment back.

But it failed, massively.  Although we got some decent attention for it, the income it brought was negligible.  The only real benefit, we found, was that it opened doors and helped us in our more custom aspirations.  Great, but in the meantime we had a site with assets that required some looking after.

However, it limped along, gaining and losing members steadily, but never enough to make anything close to a profit.  But we spotted something – almost every single new member didn’t join to get support for themes but to gain access to the editable version of the WordPress User Guide we offered.  So we had a support forum with tumbleweed blowing through it, whilst we were still getting sign-ups.

Realising Your Assets

This is where we had a moment of realisation.  We’d only supplied the user guide as a bonus extra.  We always thought our most valuable assets were the themes.  But in fact, the themes weren’t that amazing.  Good, of course, but nothing to get too excited about.  However, a user guide that could be rebranded by trainers, educators and theme designers?  Well yes, that’s got value.

In fact, when we investigated further we realised that although it was our prize asset, there were some significant blocks.

Bundling Isn’t Always Best

There’s an instinct to think that offering a big package of features is the best option.  You can have this, and this, and this.  Spectacu.la was a bundle.  But most people didn’t want most of the bundle.  So here’s how they felt… “hmmm – I only want a quarter of this bundle.  It’s not great value for me!”  That in itself acted as a block.  Then they also had the relatively time consuming sign-up process before they could start to download.

Pricing Is Important

So, that was our first set of epiphanies – we knew we had a good product, and we knew it was sold badly.  So, what to do?  Obvious – sell it as a digital download.

And look there – in the chart below you’ll see that there’s a sudden lift in the rate of income.  The chart plods along in the Spectacu.la years (and the line charts all memberships including non user-guide downloaders) and then suddenly ticks up in early 2011.

Dollars Are Even More Important

The next decision we made was to switch to pricing in US Dollars.  We didn’t want to – accounts wise it’s a pain as each guide, to us here in Britain, sells for a slightly different price depending on the exchange rate of the day.  But we could see that we made proportionately few sales in the US, and rather more elsewhere.

It’s harder to see the effect of dollar pricing just yet, but September took double what August did.  One noticeable difference is that we received just three of the optional donations in August, and thirteen in September.  We’ve also noticed that donations from US residents have gone up dramatically.  Before it was dribs and drabs, and now it’s usually a donation every other day.

Conclusion

Well, we’re not done yet.  In the future we’re going to offer regional options – Eurozone buyers will be able to pay in Euros, Brits in GBP and Americans in USD.  Similarly, we may offer reduced prices to those in poorer countries – it’s noticeable that we’ve only had one purchase ever from sub-saharan Africa, for example, yet we know that many of our old free themes have proven popular there.

We also have to be a little careful – our changes tend to coincide with new releases of the user guide – so the figures are harder to tease out.  However, when you compare like-for-like there is still a significant improvement in sales with each change we’ve made.