Objective: To summarize the end to end experience of building and closing a productized support business.

Background: wpSaaS officially opened its doors in Jan 2018 as a full-time productized technical support solution for WordPress theme and plugin developers. Prior to that, it had been run as a part-time venture for about 2 years. We grew to a team of 7 (two of which maintained employment with clients after we closed) and six-figure ARR in the first year. We supported WordPress and expanded to SaaS products.

After 12 months, I made the decision to close the service This site is kept online for the startup community to have access to its resources and as a reminder of what my team and I learned.

Below are some summarized lessons that I and my team, and maybe my customers learned about Startups, Fundraising, WordPress, and ourselves. This is a summary and may not catch every detail. You can always reach out to me for more details here and I will respond as time permits.

 

Pros

    • Which (wpSaaS) customer type worked well and which did not.
      • Worked Well | Good fit
        • Clients that owned multiple businesses.
        • Clients that had full-time jobs.
        • Clients that had purchased their business.
      • Did not work Well | Not a good fit
        • Clients who wanted to be engaged with each support interaction.
        • Clients that were very close to their business and wanted to stay close.
        • Clients that unstructured operations and lacked policies.
    • Revenues and profit margins were good as long as they were calculated properly.
    • Good talent was easy to find.

 

Cons

    • StartUps are often very agile in their needs and by nature are constantly changing. That does not lend itself well to the structure that a productized service offers.
    • Support is often an educational tool for StartUps / early-stage businesses and thus the interactions with customers are important depending upon the companies objectives. These types of conversations are best handled by decision makers - usually founders - of the business.
    • Some clients did not understand what they needed or what we actually provided. We did a better job of selling than educating in those cases.
    • There was a consistent request for more services (may not be an issue) but at the same rate (likely an issue).
    • Team Challenges A players versus non A players.
      • Our A player performed well. More expensive and well worth the investment.
      • Our non A players had the following challenges:
        • Inability to retain information.
        • Inability to critical think.
          • Overly dependent upon processes and saved replies.

 

Stats on common problem types and solutions for WordPress and SaaS products.

    • Billing Issues - By far this is one of the most common problems responsible for 15 - 30% of all of the support requests.
      • Example - My account was renewed and my credit card was charged and I did not authorize it. Most of these were situations where customers forgot or in some cases denied that they signed up for the service.
    • Most of our busier accounts were around 5 - 10 requests per day. Other accounts may see 5 - 10 per week.
    • WordPress
      • Issues - 70% of the time the issue was related to a theme or plugin conflict.
      • Which themes and plugins caused the most conflicts.
        • Caching plugins
        • Plugins purchased on marketplaces
        • Heavily customized plugins or themes
      • Customers expectations of support
        • We did everything including educating the customer on WordPress, customizing the theme or plugin.

 

What we did right

    • We set boundaries on our services and stuck to them.
    • We communicated frequently with our clients through monthly reports, direct emails Slack, and occasional phone calls.
    • We were transparent with our employees and clients.
    • We maintained good communication with team members.

 

What we did wrong

    • We set boundaries on our services and stuck to them. Some flexibility may have helped but generally, once the cost associated with those changes were presented to clients, they changed their minds about needing the additional services. Too far outside of these boundaries and our model would have collapsed eventually.
    • Targeted businesses with too little revenue and lack of understanding of structured operations.

 

Respectfully,
Kyle M. Brown
Founder - wpSaaS

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