The WordPress page builder space is a tough market right now. There are plenty of options available to consumers and the looming shadow of Gutenberg is hovering over the entire space. To succeed in that environment you need a unique angle and Offsprout has done that by building a product targeted towards web design agencies and freelancers.
Sam Brodie answered my questions about Offsprout concerning its inspiration, setting themselves apart from the competition, handling such a large product with so many features, marketing, pricing and Gutenberg (everyone’s favorite topic).
Can you start by telling me a bit about yourself and your background with WordPress?
Hey, I’m Sam Brodie, the co-founder of Offsprout. I got my start in WordPress almost 10 years ago building websites to sell my beats (I was a hip hop and pop producer). Then friends started connecting me with people who were in need of websites so I started freelancing.
I was making decent money and was even subcontracting for 10up, the VIP agency, back when they only had around 10 people. But I was still trading time for money.
So in 2013, I co-founded JurisPage, a productized agency focused on web design and marketing for attorneys, with a friend of mine from college. Being productized and in a niche, we were able to grow quickly. So quickly in fact, that JurisPage was acquired in 2016 for 7 figures after just 3 years.
Now, I teach about the Productized model, and my new business, Offsprout, is a WordPress website builder for agencies looking to build any client website in minutes.
What’s your quick pitch to potential customers on what sets Offsprout apart from the competition like Elementor or any other popular page builder plugins out there?
Offsprout was built from the ground up to be the best builder for freelancers and agencies. The other builders focus on DIYers. But Offsprout is solely focused on enabling freelancers and agencies to build and manage client websites faster.
Obviously there’s an insane amount of design flexibility so that agencies can respond to any client design requests, but we spend a lot of time thinking about how to enable agencies to do their job quicker because we realize that web design is becoming more and more competitive and that keeping costs down is really important for profitability. We want to reduce the time that it takes for our customers to create new sites as much as possible so that they have a project profit advantage over their competition.
So we have features like the Site Grower, which allows you to build a fully designed site with all of the pages you’ll need in just minutes. We have centralized color schemes, fonts, and button designs. And we have a really robust way to design the headers, footers, sidebars, archives, 404s, and other sitewide areas using Structures.
There’s a lot going on with Offsprout: a free plugin, a Pro version and even a theme. What were some of the difficulties you encountered developing all of these different products?
“A lot going on” – yeah, I agree with you there. We’re actually going to be simplifying our offering soon. Until now you’ve been able to buy the Pro and Theme separately. However, all of our customers have opted to buy the bundle, which was our hope anyway. So we’re soon going to be bundling those together for all purchases and introducing a low-cost, 3-site license tier, and a middle, 10-site license tier. But back to your question…
We’ve always had a focus on page load speed – in fact, all content is saved straight to HTML so that no additional processing has to be done when a visitor loads a page. So, initially, making sure that the builder view and the live view were exactly the same was a bit of a challenge.
Additionally, since we were adding so many features so quickly, the UI slowed down a bit.
Since then though, we’ve had time to improve performance and we’ve gotten over the early stage architectural issues so that we can now build without worrying as much.
Offsprout is geared towards freelancers and agencies which I have always thought was a great market for WordPress plugins and products. How do you market it to those audiences, and get the message across about all your products, effectively?
Marketing is always the name of the game, and, candidly, it has been a struggle to get the word out. We know that we have a great product and our customers are loving it. But breaking through the noise, especially in the page builder market, is not easy. Bigger outlets are hesitant to give us coverage because we’re new and not backed by a large company, though we are funded through the JurisPage acquisition so we’re here to stay.
That said, courses and and coaching for agencies have been great sources of leads. I think people often think of courses as a revenue generator rather than a marketing tool but it can be a really effective way to establish authority, which in turn helps earn your audience’s trust.
Next, we’re slowly but surely making inroads in the WordPress community with reviews on sites like WP Mayor. I think YouTube will also be a great channel for us going forward.
And I speak at WordCamps when I can, which has been a good way to get in front of new people.
You have a monthly pricing option which is rare amongst WordPress plugins. Do you have a lot of takers at the monthly level, what was the reasoning behind monthly versus annual choice, have you tried other ideas in the past with different results?
Since our launch, we’ve always had a monthly option and about half of our customers are on monthly plans. I think WordPress plugin developers look at the market and don’t see many people charging monthly so they’re afraid to break the mold. But for us, we want to make sure that early stage freelancers don’t have to invest a year’s worth of money to start using Offsprout. Instead, we want them to get in, see how awesome Offsprout is and how much quicker it is to build client websites with it, and we’re confident they’ll continue to stay.
Which leads me to the other concern that people may have, which is that someone might pay for one month, download the plugin, and then cancel. We just haven’t seen that and so far have great retention.
I think if you’re pushing updates and new features consistently like us, having a monthly option is a great way to get more people in the door.
I have to mention Gutenberg in this interview somewhere. What is your take on Gutenberg in its current state, it’s future potential and how any of that will impact your business with Offsprout moving forward?
In its current state, Gutenberg is good for writing blog posts. But it’s just nowhere near as robust as Offsprout or many of the other page builders. I think 3rd party developers will probably be able to get it closer, but it’s unclear to me just how robust Gutenberg will be. And so the impact on Offsprout isn’t entirely clear at this point.
But we’re definitely keeping up with Gutenberg’s development and looking at ways in which we can integrate with Gutenberg, like converting Gutenberg blocks to Offsprout modules or even having the ability to use Gutenberg blocks alongside Offsprout modules. There are a lot of possibilities so I’m excited for Gutenberg to mature a bit so we can dive deeper.
Either way, I think there will always be a place for website builders, especially those like Offsprout that are focusing on agency features and not just ways to enable the average person to build her own website.
What’s coming next for Offsprout in the rest of 2018 and beyond?
We have a WooCommerce extension that will be out fairly soon that’s pretty exciting and gives you a lot of flexibility in designing single product pages and product archives so I’m pretty excited about that.
We also plan on releasing our developer documentation and module starter plugin so that freelancers and agencies can start building their own add-ons, whether they’re for a single project or as their own product.
But we’re most focused on building more centralized site management features. I don’t want to give away too much yet, but the agency features that we have in store are going to be really awesome. And because Offsprout leverages with WP API for everything, we’re in a great position to do some really unique stuff!