Hey, I'm Matt Medeiros. Ask me anything

I want to build a solid product-based business, but I doubt I’ll ever exit the client services space.

One reason is to diversify the income channels and the other is to never lose sight of the end-user needs. If it weren’t for the client services, the product side wouldn’t have been funded or have the insights into the problems we’re solving.

Would I love to be laser focused? Sure, but it’s humanly impossible for me. I’m laser focused on scale and making sure that all of the points touch each other

Client Work to fund and grow the team. Invest that into product which becomes profitable and creates more product. Podcast to organically promote, grow an audience, and find more customers. It all circles back.

That being said, the start of the new year is always super-busy in the client services world and the podcast took a hit in time I could commit. I’ve managed that by moving to a season format, which has been much easier to manage.

On the business front, I have an exceptional team and none of the balance would be possible without them. I also run the business with my father and we both lead biz dev and sales. This is especially important when I’m swamped with product promos, content creation, or just in the trenches working on product.

I like to try a lot and fail a lot. I don’t know any other way to do it.

WPMentor.org is a great example. I blogged about it, launched it, and it had a nice little organic growth spurt – but has fizzled out a bit. I think it’s still a great idea and a good resource.

Before we heavily invested into WordPress, we built our own CMS called http://jaypages.com

It’s still up and it’s awesome :slight_smile: Who knows, you might even see an incarnation of that come to our WordPress products.

Do you feel like your agency growth will come from adding new FT employees to the team or finding talent on an as needed basis --according to the needs of each new client project that comes to the agency?

I listened to the The Businessology Show #32 recently where they discussed the challenges of various Business (team) Models

Whoa, never heard of that before. It’s actually pretty nifty: http://leland.jaypages.com/

How long ago was this built? And when/why did you decide to pursue WordPress instead?

Growth can only come from our ability to sell projects. You’re only as good as your last client.

We realize we’re chewing on a lot right now, but our plans are to stay small and agile. I’m certainly not pursuing 10up size or even WebDev size at the moment. When you have two non-technical co-founders, things are a bit different. We could have made some choices to only outsource in the beginning, but we wouldn’t have learned as much as we did while building a solid foundation for product.

Our client services continue to grow, just not at the rate of some of the other agencies we’re all familiar with. That said, we’re now seeing an organic uptick in leads to the agency. With all cylinders firing like shipping larger projects, product reach, and podcast reach – that long game investment is starting to reveal itself.

I think we started in 2010 and pushed it through 2011.

We started to invest in WordPress because we were getting struck with the digital product bug. Since a lot of our time was focused in WP solutions, we couldn’t see ourselves splitting off and building a custom rig like JayPages. However, it served as a great learning platform on how we wanted to build products. Simple and straightforward.

A lot of lessons we learned there are being applied to Conductor.

Since I am a user of Conductor plugin, I will ask 2 Conductor specific questions:

Have you found that there are any initial misconceptions people have when considering and using Conductor plugin for the first time on a client project?

Have you found that WordPress implementers/consultants generally find Conductor (almost) immediately intuitive to use?

Have you found that there are any initial misconceptions people have when considering and using Conductor plugin for the first time on a client project?

The misconception is it’s a full-on web builder. @NateWr paints a really clear picture here, Disrupting the WordPress experience

This doesn’t happen often and when it does, it’s often the customer who purchases the lower end licenses.

Have you found that WordPress implementers/consultants generally find Conductor (almost) immediately intuitive to use?

As far as I can tell, yes. Folks are still getting used to using the WordPress customizer to build their sites, but the more .org pushes it, the more innovation we’ll see.

I knew Matt Report long before I knew about Slocum Studio and Slocum Themes, and only very recently noticed for the first time a tweet or two from someone on your technical team. That’s always put you firmly in the business/sales camp in my head – a division which gets a lot of grief from developers.

  1. Have you ever considered raising the profile of your technical team?

  2. What are some of the challenges/advantages of running – and being the face of – a software services/products business as a “non-technical”? Anything particular to the WordPress space?

  3. What do you really think of Jetpack? j/k. I’m more interested in a broader set of questions, which I was hoping you’d put to Mr Mullenweg in your podcast but I don’t think it really happened. Maybe they don’t have good answers. They revolve around this quest for 50% market share and the aggressive pursuit of mass adoption. What do you think are the costs associated with that? Do you think it’s possible for WordPress to effectively target enough markets to hit that number? Will the platform and ecosystem have to bend towards certain segments (and perhaps away from others) to make that happen? Will tools take a back seat to services? There’s a lot to unpack there that I feel hasn’t been unpacked yet and I’m hoping you have some thoughts. If not, no worries.

  4. How does incumbency in the WordPress space compare/contrast to incumbency in other industries? I’m thinking of a few kinds of incumbency in the WP space: a) the Automattic/WordPress™/JetPack/ma.tt-in-the-dashboard variety; b) the reputational variety (influence of WP rock stars, particularly around endorsements); and c) the straightforward legacy product variety (Contact Form 7 is probably a good example here). I suspect most of these are common to other industries, but I have neither the experience or education to know.


When starting out, how did you go about getting potential interviewees to talk to you?

What’s your favorite ice wine?

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Have you ever considered raising the profile of your technical team?

Do you mean on an individual basis or in terms of the projects we put out? I’ll address the project awareness, if that’s it.

As I mentioned above, time is the enemy. I’d love to say we have a super-awesome growth-hack that everyone would love to read about on Hacker News, but I don’t have one. I don’t have a finely-tuned “say no to everything”, give your client this handbook, and reap the rewards at the end of the rainbow formula to success. It just doesn’t happen in this line of work until you’ve hit optimal cashflow levels. (Recurring Revenue + New static work) - Costs, to put it simply.

We are the 99%.

We aren’t blessed with being globally recognized – yet. We aren’t being referred by adjacent vendors in our industry – yet. We don’t have the fanciest of portfolios (http://slocumstudio.com/case-studies/) – yet.

Which dovetails into your next question:

What are some of the challenges/advantages of running – and being the face of – a software services/products business as a “non-technical”? Anything particular to the WordPress space?

The challenge we faced was, we weren’t able to do the work that came to us.

Sure, I could build a WordPress site and customize it like any other consultant/power user, but that was the extent of it. We could have idled along at that for a while, but we had always wanted a product focused company and building a strong team was a priority.

Again, I’ll use Jake and Brad as examples – two technical founders. Two developers that could not only produce the work, but were also well known in the community which is by and large driven by reputation. We were just getting into the market, I was still learning where to begin.

The downside of that? We don’t always land the shiniest of projects. We say yes to things others would say no to. We’re still very profitable, but they aren’t headline material. I had a lot of failures along the way of hiring the wrong contractors when we needed more bandwidth.

On to the flip side, I knew I had to build some type of reputation and that came in the form of a podcast and really putting ourselves out there.

A lot of the attention is spent on developers and developer focused content in this space. Look at this forum, look at ManageWP.org and look at high comment threads on Tavern/Poststatus. Business/marketing/tech news isn’t as popular and I don’t know if it ever will be. Yes, there are unicorns like Chris Lema that come along, but those are moon shots that are rare.

There’s 1 of him and 99 of “me’s” out there and that’s a good thing. A rising tide raises all boats. I’ve carved out a niche within a niche. It’s not a very big audience, but I’m thankful for the folks that do listen. I might not hold any credibility within the developer circles, but that’s okay with me.

Over 100 episodes of Matt Report & 5,800 subscribers to our Slocum Studio YouTube channel, leads me to believe I’ve built a decent cache of industry knowledge to which I leverage in sales calls. For better or worse, we put ourselves out there in combo with our past work and let the client decide if that’s good enough for them. In most cases, it is.

What do you really think of Jetpack?

I think there were some answers to that within my interview with Matt, you just have to listen deeper. He’s a pro at this you know :wink:

I like to think of Android vs iOS. Think fragmented vs refined. Loosely controlled vs very controlled.

If 50% is the mission, we’re going to see more control over the experience of .org installs and finding themes+plugins. You ask what will take the hit? I’m afraid it might be us.

Android: Many manufacturers each with their own flavor of the OS and various hardware specs. I love my LG G3 w/ Lollipop, but when I use iOS8, it’s so much damn smoother. Why? Because Apple holds the entire experience to themselves. This is why I brought up the Disrupting the Experience thread and this is why I say, we might be in the crosshairs.

Distribution is super-important (read: Array moving to TF) and .org is a great source for this. If WP wants a smoother onboarding process, with a richer experience in terms of design and extending function, that’s their first roadblock to get through. No more shitty themes and plugins that aggravate the enduser.

Or give them Jetpack.

Sadly, I don’t know how they will push the 3rd parties to improve, but I think it’s coming. Getting a theme reviewed and approved is already painful (overblown imho) and it’s only going to get tighter as time goes on. Plugins see much less policing, something I still don’t fully comprehend. (sheer volume? Man hours?)

A number I’d love to know is the total valuation of the .org theme + plugin repo in terms of premium upsells. Just throw out a number: $30 Million. Someone is watching that firehose - what will they do with it? Someone must be looking at this and realizing that authors are profiting off of this unintended marketplace and fragmenting the market at the same time. Yes, I know, open source but don’t forget about 50% adoption. Something has to give.

One last conspiracy theory on 50%: WordPress as an application layer that you never see, rolled into the vanity metric of that 50%. In other words, not just blogs or websites as we know it, but powering apps/platforms.

How does incumbency in the WordPress space compare/contrast to incumbency in other industries?

I don’t know if I have a good answer for this. I think it’s difficult in the open source space and in this WP vacuum we live in.

I hope I don’t offend anyone with this phrase, Too many Chiefs and not enough Indians.

Everyone can be a Chief here, which is good and bad. See someones code and don’t like it? Contribute your own or worse call them out on it. See a plugin and want to do something else with it? Fork it and make your own flavor. All of this leads to positives and negatives for WP.

I count mostly positives.

Let’s look at the hottest tech company right now, Periscope. Purchased by Twitter before they even went to market. A homerun before even getting to the plate to swing the bat! Enter in their rival which was available before them, Meerkat. Don’t worry, with $12 mil recently injected by Greylock, they sit comfortably at a $50m valuation.

Scaled down to our size, could a plugin shop akin to Meerkat be as valuable as fast when faced with such a competitor? I won’t argue if that 50m will make them sustainable, but it’s sure nice too see in the short-term.

If you forked WooCommerce and revamped the UI, could you be as valuable out of the gate? In this industry?

Matt, do you hate open source? No, in fact, I love it. It’s why I continue to invest in it. Like WordPress, I’m in it for the long game.

My first interview was someone I knew from a local WordPress meetup. Episode 2 and beyond, I was just cold calling people I had followed on Twitter.

In fact, episode 2 I opened up with telling Curtis Mchale that I’ve been stalking him :slight_smile:

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Any in which I’m sharing with you. Arms interlocked, of course.

My favorite movie starring @tom is, Snatch.

Thanks for the great answers @MattMedeiros, particularly the conspiracy theories. Always useful to have that kind of critical inquiry around, as long as we can all be adult about it.

I actually intended the question about about incumbency to be about your experience in non-tech industries. But your comparison with the startup world is really interesting. In that sphere, I suppose the VC community is it’s own kind of incumbency. Is incumbency more powerful in young, cash-flooded industries with few competitors? I don’t know. Maybe it doesn’t compare with the WP space.

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a more noticeable item on the redesigned version of slocumthemes.com is your offering of installation assistance and set up services on your themes

  • Are you positioning installation/setup services as a gateway to a more
    extensive/deeper customer relationship?

  • Are you positioning installation/setup services as a primarily a solution intended
    for the DIY client? (i.e. a productized service)

What is the primary source of your new project leads for agency projects? (twitter, theme+plugin sales, specific purpose landing pages, referrals, cold calling etc)

If you mean more revenue, yes. It’s also a decent price anchoring to our custom agency services. Most work we do falls in the 8 to 15k range. A funnel someone could possibly take:

Free them > Pro theme for $59 > Hassle-free setup $499 > Custom build $5k.

Basically you can do it yourself for free, or pay us a sliver of your marketing budget for a complete setup. Need something custom? The cost is 10x because there’s 10x more work involved. Scales from there.

So that fits the DIY or someone who just wants us to get it done. It’s a natural extension to theme sales for us.

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If you were in charge of WordPress.org, what would you change? Particularly the theme and plugin directories and its currently (mostly) non-commercial nature.

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Now that’s a loaded question :slight_smile:

On my wish list is some form of “trusted theme author” badge. Something that would allow us to push updates to themes quicker and generally have a faster path to push out theme updates. Something similar to how plugins work. It’s painful and time consuming to build all of your themes one way and have different opinions on approval across the review team.

Chicken or the egg. There’s not enough reviewers now that the incentive was removed. Perhaps we can solve that by funding the review teams?

There’s a lot of money that passes through the repo in terms of premium upsell. Can .org get some of that along the way? In my interview with Matt, he mentions that pursuing the 50% is a benefit to developers. The bigger the platform, the bigger the opportunity.

Sure thing, if you can be found.

Improving the search and marketplace overall is something I’d aim towards. I think Matt is currently against introducing something of an app economy, but while we all take aim at other marketplaces for “bad practice”, why not make .org home to the “official partners?” We’re all (most of us?) playing by the book in terms of coding to WP standard – how 'bout a nudge in our direction?

Look at Shopify for instance, there’s a partner program and an app store. There’s a constant marketing effort to promote those that do great work around their ecosystem. The Matt Report for .org, really. I’d like something like that to happen on .org, even if it’s not to the scale of their platform. Something that stimulates the business for people who are verified/certified/skilled in WordPress. Link it up to jobs.wordpress.net in some form or fashion.

Look, there are smarter people than me that can layout the piping for this, it would take some time to implement, but I think it could solve pain points and drive innovation. Who knows, we could be headed there?

(After typing all of this, I realize that something like that would probably go to .com first (in some form) before .org ever saw it. It’s already monetized, funded, and the experience is controlled.)

That’s all! Thanks so much to Matt for participating, and all the question askers. Lots of interesting stuff in this thread. :smiley: