Helping people who don't ask for help

So I am trying to maximize revenue from my Freemium plugin, https://www.sunshinephotocart.com. I have an almost perfect 5 star rating (one person just gave a 4 star because they thought I wasn’t giving enough features away for free, grr). I get this rating because the plugin is quite awesome to toot my own horn but also because I spend a lot of time providing quality support to make sure users have it working.

Anyway, within the plugin I have some admin_notices that appear after a certain amount of time. The first is 7 days after installing asking them to take a survey in return for some credits towards premium add-ons. The second is 14 days later asking for a review on the WordPress.org forums.

In those survey results, I would say 1 out of 5 complains that something within Sunshine isn’t working right for them. However, these people never post anything to the forums or try to contact in any way to get it resolved.

I feel like this kind of person assumes a WordPress plugin, even one as complicated as a complete e-commerce plugin, should work out of the box on any WordPress install with any theme and any plugin combination. As a developer, I know that isn’t possible but I guess I can see how an end user could make that assumption. In every single case (so far), I am able to find a solution (sometimes a bug, more often a theme conflict).

I want to reach out to these people and solve the problem for them. The reason being is if they don’t think Sunshine even works, they are likely to A) Give an unjustified bad review or B) Never buy a Premium add-on.

Does anyone do anything special to try to reach out to users to make sure all is going well?

The only idea I have is to add another admin_notice saying to the effect “Hey, if you see something not working tell me about it and we can work to get it resolved”

Just because you put that 7 & 14 days notifications, I won’t use your plugin. There is big talk about those notifications being abused on WPTavern.

NOT SAYING YOUR PLUGIN ABUSES THINGS.

Are you looking for your plugin to reach techies on the WP universe or “regular people”?

Most of us techies know how to fix things. If you ask for payment for support, as in annual, monthly, etc…regular people will just uninstall your plugin and put another one.

This may not be related to your plugin specifically but one of the issues with “freemium” model is that a lot of people will download your plugin for free but are not necessarily the users or customers that are ideal for your product. A lot of them may be tire kickers but only a few will actually have the potential to convert as they will have a genuine problem that they are looking to solve. Add to this the whole thing with WordPress that plugins should be free (users with sense of entitlement) and you have a difficult problem to solve with freemium.

I encourage you to talk to the users directly as much as possible specially the ones who really tried to use it. Now that may be difficult to track as to who really tried to use it but I will leave that genius task to you :). Once you identify that set of users (hopefully within the first 7-14 days), you can reach out to them directly and have a conversation.

Also, don’t worry about every user that is downloading your plugin. Remember, if something is free, people WILL download it and perhaps even say a word or two about it. Not a whole lot you can do there. Worry about the users who are likely to be your customers. Ignore the rest.

Lastly, about notifications. I would rather add a notification saying “Something not quite working? Talk to us and we can help”. Make it easy for them to ask for help and you will surely hear from serious clients. Don’t make them take a survey for free credits etc because frankly, it does not add a lot of value for me as a client to do surveys just to get some add on credits specially when I am not even liking the free product yet. So add-ons credit is not a good offer anyway at this stage.

I did read that article and all the discussions and agree many plugins abuse the notices (Yoast SEO - holy hell, you don’t need to notify me every flippin time the plugin has been updated - I know, I updated it!). But like popup windows that ask you to sign up for an email list - they are highly annoying yet highly effective. It’s one reason why I have so many reviews on the WordPress.org site - because I simply ask for a review. It’s also the only way I can get people to fill out my survey and get the feedback which I can use to make a better product. I do think there needs to be a separate Notifications center instead of being displayed directly on the page in the admin area - absolutely all for that solution. Now the design of my notices is 100% WordPress styling. I don’t throw ridiculous custom notification designs and I feel I am using the proper colors/CSS classes (so basically I don’t make them all the red/warning notice to scare people).

Anyway, the audience are mostly good WordPress users but not WordPress developers. They basically never dive into actual files and rely solely on the WordPress admin area to configure things. I offer 1-on-1 support (support tickets) if someone buys an add-on, otherwise they can post in the WordPress.org forum for the plugin and I do answer all those… eventually (usually within a week).

I think Freemius had a great idea of including a popup that shows when the user goes to deactivate the plugin which asks why they are deactivating. Let the user choose a reason and try to rescue the person from themselves if it makes sense to. I do get a lot of people who simply just don’t read what the plugin is about and are trying to solve a problem Sunshine is not at all intended to solve and those people are obviously not my customer base.

I am considering the support notification first (5 days, give them time to find a problem first), then the survey (10 days) and last the review request (15 days). I did try longer time periods for the survey and review request (30 and 60 days) and basically those came to a complete stop - nobody filled them out anymore. Nobody has ever complained about the notices so I think I have done a good job at having notifications that are relevant and not overwhelming.

Sure, but these people also don’t leave negative reviews. They use it, see that it doesn’t work as easily as they expected (even though these expectation may be waaaaay to high), and move on. The complaint exists only because you specifically ask for feedback.

My approach with my plugins is that if someone needs help, they’ll ask for it. Sometimes, if they try it and then decide not to use it because it doesn’t do what they expect/want it to do…so be it. The best I can do is make my plugins as easy to use as possible (and I spend a lot of time on that) and instead of wanting them to come to me to ask for help, I aim for a situation where they won’t even need help to begin with. My goal is to eliminate the need for help.

Most admin notifications are, in my humble opinion, almost in the same polluting category as banner ads, popups, unsolicited emails (spam or legitimate), etc.

Sometimes, if they try it and then decide not to use it because it doesn’t do what they expect/want it to do…so be it.

While if this was a small plugin that solved a very niche or specific thing I would agree. However, because my plugin is inline with Easy Digital Downloads in terms of scale, it is quite easier to run into some small issue because of a theme (in most situations) or a conflicting plugin - and then the user stops and blames Sunshine and then leaves without saying something. I see that user as lost money and I am trying to push this from side project to full time business and am trying to squeeze every dollar out of every user, so I am looking in every which way to get even these users back on board.

And for every user that does say something, there are many that are don’t. I could have many bugs out there which are causing people to not get on board but I simply am not aware of yet since the number of installs is still relatively low, just over 1000.

My goal is to eliminate the need for help.

That is my goal as well, most users never ask for help compared to the number of installs my plugin has.

My biggest stumbling block is theme integration - usually a poorly coded theme over steps it’s bounds with either JavaScript or CSS (example: input fields styled in a way so they are white text on a white background unless it has a theme specific class and then the user blames my plugin because there is no visible number in the quantity field). There is not much my plugin could do (short of !important the hell out of every CSS declaration, which I done at times, but the goal with theme integration is to have it slide into an existing theme’s styles) to make this problem easier to solve - they need a little help. Something like WooCommerce, they (now) have themes which boast “WooCommerce compatible” and the templates have been tested with WooCommerce to confirm they work well together reducing those theme conflicts. I obviously don’t have that market share to demand theme authors of photography specific themes or the generic themes (like X) test their themes with my plugin.

Most admin notifications are, in my humble opinion, almost in the same polluting category as banner ads, popups, unsolicited emails (spam or legitimate), etc.

Without using admin notifications, does anyone have ideas on how to solicit for a survey/feedback? How do you get in touch with a user when you cannot add them to an email list on installation? The only way is to contact them via the plugin itself and as far as I can tell admin notifications are really the only way to do so until there is some kind of internal Notifications system.

Can’t you create an FAQ of the most common questions you get asked? That way you don’t have to keep answering those same questions?

It is not about answering questions over and over, it is about getting people to ask questions in the first place instead of running into a few small hurdles and giving up when they are easy hurdles to get past with a little help.

Maybe try asking different questions on the survey?

"if you encountered an error, was it with:

  • installation?
  • integration?"
    etc

Interesting question, and not one that has an easy answer.

First off, it’s not surprising to hear the “notification” method isn’t very effective. I’d imagine people are experiencing “notification blindness” (in the same vein as banner blindness) thanks to all the popular plugins that abuse them.

It’s tempting to say “you can’t help people who don’t ask for help” or “you’re over-analyzing users that weren’t that interested to begin with,” but I don’t think it’s that simple. This sounds like it would be a perfect use case for SIDEKICK, which WP Engine implemented recently.

With inline, interactive tutorials…otherwise support-shy users can still get their problems solved while using the product themselves.

First off, it’s not surprising to hear the “notification” method isn’t very effective. I’d imagine people are experiencing “notification blindness” (in the same vein as banner blindness) thanks to all the popular plugins that abuse them.

I actually have not tried the notification method for this specific issue… yet (it is going to be in the next release). My other notifications are actually quite effective (survey and review requests). At least, I feel like I get enough survey submissions and reviews from people to make it worthwhile without a single person complaining - I don’t have actual stats on them though.

My new notification is going to appear in 5 days (others at 10 and 15). Right now it reads:

I hope Sunshine is working well for you so far! If you do run into any issues with using Sunshine or customizing it, please check out our support area to look at our help articles or the support forums to ask a specific question. I want to make sure Sunshine is working well for you. In almost all cases Sunshine works great out of the box, but with the infinite number of plugin and theme combinations in WordPress a few tweaks might be necessary and I am here to help.

I think a lot of novice WordPress are used to poor support from free plugins. They either assume it will just work right off the bat (which most small plugins should, but again my plugin is not small) or they assume that if it doesn’t work exactly as they want it right off the bat there is no hope and walk away to look at another. They may ultimately try a couple other plugins and find they don’t work and then will settle on one of the other hosted non-WordPress competitors because they have the reputation in the industry.

It’s tempting to say “you can’t help people who don’t ask for help” or “you’re over-analyzing users that weren’t that interested to begin with,” but I don’t think it’s that simple. This sounds like it would be a perfect use case for SIDEKICK, which WP Engine implemented recently.

I have considered the walkthroughs that plugins like Yoast includes in their SEO plugin. However, I always find myself closing those on any plugin that I install because I want to get into using it first and then learn about it later if I can’t figure it out on my own. I don’t want to spend a ton of time reading the instructions first :slight_smile:

I do want to do more inline help stuff throughout the plugin. Maybe an option users can enable/disable (don’t annoy experienced users with constant “Do you need help?” stuff). But what I have found is that many users have issues with mostly theme conflicts, there isn’t really a video tutorial or help bubble I could add to address that. The notification is still the only real idea I have to let them know they can ask a question for help.