Building Better Marketing Automation through WordPress with Adrian Tobey
Adrian Tobey is a young, energetic entrepreneur who’s built a pretty cool WordPress plugin in Groundhogg – something to help with yout marketing automation. On top of creating the plugin we talk quite a bit about college and higher education. He talks fast and offers some great advice so be sure to pay close attention (or slow the episode down!)
- Adrian Tobey
- Formlift WordPress plugin
- WooCommerce Subscriptions
- Easy Digital Downloads
Adrian Tobey: Development only started in August of 2018. I built it myself in two months, and then we brought on our first employee, and then him and I rebuilt it again for our 1.0 launch.
Joe Casabona: Adrian Tobey is a young, energetic entrepreneur who builds a pretty cool WordPress plugin with Groundhogg. On top of creating the plugin, we talk quite a bit about college and higher education. We run the gamut, we cover a lot of stuff here from development to higher ed and learning, and dropping out of school. I think it’s a very interesting conversation in general. He talks fast and offers some great advice, so be sure to pay close attention or maybe slow this episode down a little bit so you can get all of it. We’ll get into that in a minute. But first, a word from our sponsors.
Break: This episode is brought to you by our friends at Ahoy! The easiest way to increase customer engagement on your WordPress site. Install Ahoy! Create a message box, configure a way to display it, and start seeing conversions come in. You can create messages for cart abandonment, up-sales and cross-sells, custom support, and so much more. Ahoy! Has flexible conditions that let you choose exactly where and when you want your message to be displayed. I’ve recently installed it on my own WooCommerce site, and I’ve already seen increased engagement. I know this because of Ahoy! and it’s powerful analytics and reporting. You will see ROI within days of installing Ahoy! If not sooner. That’s even more true for listeners of How I Built It. You can get an exclusive 20% discount on any plan. Visit UseAhoy.com/HowIBuiltIt and use the code HOWIBUILTIT at checkout. Use those today and increase your engagement in sales on your WordPress site. Thanks to Ahoy! for their support of this show.
Joe: Hey everybody, and welcome to another episode of How I Built It, the podcast that asks, “How did you build that?” Today my guest is Adrian Tobey, the CEO of Groundhogg Inc. Adrian, how are you today?
Adrian: I’m doing great, Joe. First of all, thank you so much for having me. I’ve listened your show before, and it’s great to be on. It’s great what you do sharing with the world how we built it, and I’m so excited. Why don’t you lead the way?
Joe: Awesome. Thank you so much for those kind words. I appreciate that. Sometimes I feel like I’m yelling into the void on the podcast, but hearing– I get a lot of feedback when I go to WordCamps and stuff like that. It’s always nice to hear that people do listen and appreciate. Cool, so let’s talk about your product Groundhogg. Let’s get into who you are and what you do first, but I do want to ask you though– I didn’t ask this in the preshow, and you don’t have to answer it because some people might think it’s rude, but you look pretty young. Are you a young guy or do you take care of yourself?
Adrian: I’m 22.
Joe: OK, you’re a young guy and a CEO of a company. It looks like it’s doing pretty well, you have a cool product as we’ll learn. I just wanted to get that out there, and I’m really bad at telling age. But maybe in my infinite wisdom in my 34th year, I can tell now. So, awesome. Let’s start off with who you are and what you do.
Adrian: Yeah, absolutely. My name is Adrian. I’ve been in the digital marketing and e-mail marketing industry for quite some time. I may only be 22, but I’ve been in it for about seven years. I went to university here in Toronto at the University of Toronto for computer science for about three years until I dropped out to focus my efforts in the WordPress community. I used to be a certified partner for a company called Infusionsoft. If you’re not familiar with Infusionsoft, they have many similar competitors out there that you’ve likely heard of. MailChimp, GetResponse, HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, for example. All of those are in the same vein, they all do marketing automation as a service, and I was a certified partner in that community for about five years. In that time I built several WordPress plugins catering to people who used those tools to integrate those tools with WordPress a little bit easier, until finally I took all of that knowledge that I learned being in that industry and building WordPress plugins to build a WordPress competitor for those that people would be able to just install on their website. I think that’s a little of what we’re going to talk a little bit about today.
Joe: Yeah. So already there are a lot of really interesting things you just mentioned there. First of all, you have been doing digital marketing e-mail for about seven years. If I do my math right, we probably got started in our professions at the same time. When I was 22, I was like, “I’ve been doing this for almost a decade.” And people were like, “That’s insane.” And I’m like, “It’s true.” You also did computer science at the University of Toronto for three years before dropping out. What led you–? You said you wanted to focus your efforts in the WordPress space and on development, things like that. But what was the ultimate decision? Because when I went to college, I did my master’s program too. I’ve got double the amount of years of college, and I think at no point in that journey I would have been like, “I got to drop out of college.” So what was the thing that led you to do that?
Adrian: As I was going to university, I was also working part-time in a digital marketing agency. Which was, as I was saying, I have that seven years’ experience in the industry, but I was doubling up that time at the same time going through university. I was doing that full time and then doing school in the nights part-time, and I just found that as I was going through it I wasn’t getting the amount of value that I wanted for my dollars spent from the university that I was getting just learning as I go through the agency or through the industry, and going to conferences and all of that super cool stuff. So at one point in my last years at university, I started to develop my first WordPress plugin, which is called Form Lift. Form Lift currently has about 1,000 users and makes modest passive revenue for my current company, and it is a form builder specifically for the CRM and marketing automation tool Infusionsoft. So what people can do is they can essentially install this plugin on their site, and they can import their forms directly from their [inaudible] after going through the authentication process. They can import it directly, then use a shortcut to paste it on their website. Otherwise, without Form Lift, you’d have to do the “Send this code to your developer so they can install it on your website,” type deal, which is not the best user experience. But that’s what I built, and I was focused on making that the best that it could be in my last year, in my third year of university. So much so that I neglected some of my university responsibilities. Because I was looking at– I was looking at, “Wow. The user count is at 100, and it’s at 200, it’s at 300. This could be something, maybe. That would be super cool.” I was all excited about it, and it was just studying for my 301 class exam was just so much less sexy than bumping up the user counts. So at the end of the third year, it was the first time I had ever failed a course ever, I failed 263 which is one of the classes where you learn a lot about optimization and runtime and all of that good stuff. I failed that course, and it’s the first course I’ve ever failed in my entire life. That was basically at that point, I’m like “Obviously if I failed the course I’m not really in it, and I’m spending all of this money and tuition at U of T is not inexpensive.” So I’m like, “I’ve learned a whole lot from this whole WordPress plugin adventure and the digital marketing, and I can honestly say if I put the same amount of effort into something that’s like its own business and doesn’t rely on any others, then maybe I could actually grow something relatively quickly that would help a significant amount of people. Rather than just spending all that time and energy sitting in a classroom somewhere at nine o’clock at night.”
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. That makes perfect sense. I think the divergence in our journeys was that I was self-employed through college and I went to get my master’s in part because it would help me stay in school while also building the business before I went into the “Real-world.” I was teaching, and I got an assistantship for the master’s, so it didn’t cost me any money. I was getting a free education, building my business and getting paid, which was nice. I do have one question about the education, the higher education system in Canada though. It sounds like it is very similar to the United States. It’s like–
Joe: Go ahead, yeah.
Adrian: The only difference is that you call everything “College,” and we have a very distinct line in between college and what we call university. College is very much focused towards the actual practicality of the workspace. Trades, journalism, event management. It’s very focused on the practicality aspect of it, while our university system is very focused on the academia. Almost zero practical application whatsoever in any way, shape, or form. Unless you do the university programs that offer co-ops and stuff like that, but while you’re in the classroom, it’s extremely focused on the academia portion. So that’s what I would classify the distinction, and if I were to do it again, I’d probably go to college because I’m much more of a practical person myself. There are lots of people out in the world way smarter than I am that could go to university.
Joe: I think that probably the more nuanced description here in the United States is a trade school sounds like college. You go to a trade school to learn a specific craft. Unfortunately, trade schools are still associated with manual labor or out in the field. I don’t feel like there’s widespread popularity for trade schools for programming, for example. Then with college, this is my perception, and I think it’s a pretty good one, a college is a fairly focused– The university will say, so it focuses on– There’s a college of business, there’s a college of sciences, and a bunch of those colleges tend to make up a university. So at the University of Scranton, you can go to the College of Arts and Sciences within the University of Scranton. You can go to the KSOM, it’s the Kania School of Management, which is the business college within the University of Scranton.
Adrian: Yeah. We have that too, in a sense, in university we’re broken up into colleges, although that distinction isn’t as clear. There’s nine colleges, but usually, they are really more just for boarding than they are for the actual academia portion. That system also exists here, but it’s not as fine-tuned as it sounds like it is in the United States.
Break: This episode is brought to you by Pantheon. Starting a new project? Looking for a better hosting platform? Pantheon is an integrated set of tools to build, launch, and run websites. Get high-performance hosting for your WordPress sites, plus a comprehensive toolkit to supercharge your team and help you launch faster. On Pantheon, you get expert support from real developers, best in class security, and the most innovative technology to host and manage your websites. You can sign up a new site in minutes with a free account, and you only pay when it goes live. That is my second favorite feature to Pantheon, only to the easy ability to create dev staging and live servers and push to GitHub. It’s very easy to set those things up on Pantheon, so you can head over to Pantheon.io today. Again, set up a free account and pay only when it goes live. Thanks so much to Pantheon for their support of this episode and this season of How I Built It.
Joe: Then, as far as the financials go, you mentioned that you weren’t getting the value versus dollars spent. Is college, or is university, extremely expensive there in Canada as well?
Adrian: Yeah, it’s not cheap. International tuition is ridiculous. Fortunately, I’m not an international student. But yeah, I know it’s not inexpensive even if you’re going part-time. But yeah, that was my university experience, and it was fun. I would do it again. I was in a fraternity, so that was cool. After that, it was just that I wasn’t getting– As I had mentioned, it was focused on the academia, but I was focused on the practical applications of it. Because at that time a lot of the people or a lot of my peers, they were focused on these small projects while I was out building people tools that people were using now. That felt so much better to me than spending the time, and fine-tuning n squared runtime to get 2n.
Joe: Right. “What’s the big O time?” Or whatever.
Adrian: Big O or Big– What’s the other One? “Big N?” I don’t know, and I don’t even remember.
Joe: Yeah, exactly.
Adrian: I have to– I think the biggest thing I got from my university education is don’t put [for each loops] inside each other.
Joe: Yes. You’re going to crash servers that way. Absolutely.
Adrian: So, I don’t do that.
Joe: Good, perfect.
Adrian: We learned something. After that, I focused on Form Lift for a couple years, and I built it to a thousand users that it’s at now. A modest revenue and it powers a thousand Infusionsoft run businesses, and then after that, the growth stagnated because you can only have a certain percentage of the customers that Infusionsoft has, essentially. Or that if you build a product that is based off of another product, the maximum amount of customers that you can have is the maximum amount of customers that they have. I started to think about ideas that would allow me to grow beyond because 30,000 customers is not enough, and not all of those customers use WordPress, and not all of those customers need your form solution. They already have other solutions, or they have developers. So it gets broken down, and we needed a product that would be available to more people, that would be a lot more accessible– Infusionsoft is the most accessible platform on the planet. It does cost you monthly fees, and those monthly fees aren’t accessible to a wide range of people around the world. It’s not translated into every single language, it’s not all of those things. So I started thinking, “What if we focused our efforts and time into a solution that was like Infusionsoft, HubSpot, GetResponse, and ActiveCampaign, but built it into WordPress? Which over 75 million businesses around the world use, can be translated into every language, is the most accessible CMS on the planet and is free?
Joe: I’m going to stop you right there for a minute because I do want to get into this. We’re getting into the research portion of the show. I do want to put a bow on our previous conversation though because I wanted to– That line of questioning with college and university was to point out something that I think that’s important, especially in the year 2019. That you don’t necessarily need a formal education to be successful, as we will see. So as we’re moving into now, you building Groundhogg, you had three years of college or university under your belt, but you also were a certified– You mentioned, I don’t think I wrote this down right, but you’re a certified–?
Adrian: Infusionsoft certified partner. Was, formerly.
Joe: Right, absolutely. So you had the formal background in working with Infusionsoft?
Joe: Now I’m sorry to interrupt you there, I just wanted to put a bow on that topic.
Adrian: No worries.
Joe: As we’re building up, you saw that there was a need for something that was different, perhaps better than Infusionsoft. Right?
Adrian: I would say different. Don’t get me wrong, Infusionsoft is a great tool, and all of their competitors are great tools. They all do amazing work, and they help businesses grow, and they fulfill their mandate in a lot of ways. The only thing is that it’s just that a lot of them just weren’t accessible enough for your average small business. Because the reality of the situation is if you’re a small mom and pop shop, you are both the CMO, the CTO, the CEO, as well as the sole employee of your business. You’re responsible for sales, marketing, fulfillment, and all of that good stuff. If you are that person, then you do not necessarily have the time that it takes or the financial resources that it takes to go out, spend a bunch of money on a bunch of different tools, connect them all together, integrate it with your WordPress website, learn how to use all of those tools and just take the time that it needs to learn them, and then implement them, and then act on them. If you were in that position you simply just do not have that amount of time or that amount of financial resources in lots of cases, and especially if you’re in another country where your primary currency is not the US dollar and your primary language isn’t English and all of those things. Then again, that whole process gets even more cumbersome in order to again buy all the tools, implement them, learn them, and then connect them to your WordPress website. That’s why we chose WordPress as our method of distribution for our product. One of the biggest questions that I get is, “You obviously know how to build a tool like this. Why didn’t you build it as a software, as a service? Because you could charge monthly and you could make more money, and you would control all the data and all of these things.” And it’s like, “Yes. While that’s true, that would make it different than any of the competitors that currently exist. What makes it different, not necessarily better but different, is that it is so much more accessible for the much wider community that’s out there. Because it can be– Its open-source, first of all, we take great pride in the fact that anybody can contribute. It’s translatable, it is a freemium plugin, by the way. So our base product, which we give a ridiculous amount of value away with, is absolutely free in the WordPress repository. Those are the things that make it what it is, and that allows businesses who are in that position that they can’t spend the time to learn, they can’t spend the resources and all of that, then they can use a tool that just installs into the WordPress website that looks like WordPress and feels like WordPress, acts like WordPress, and that decreases the learning curve, decreases the cost and all of that good stuff.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. So you actively made the decision to put it on top of WordPress to differentiate it from Infusionsoft? It sounds like you have a good idea of the competition in the space. I like to ask what kind of research you did, but you were in that space, and you saw the differences. The main one I think is really good, because Infusionsoft costs what, $99 dollars a month or something like that?
Adrian: At a minimum, yeah.
Joe: $99 dollars a month is a lot of cake for a small business. It’s the same reason that I don’t use Basecamp because that’s about the same price. Excellent tool, a lot more than what I need and a lot more than what I’m willing to spend on a product like that.
Adrian: Yeah. It’s a question of how much value are you able to extract from it for what you’re paying, right? At $99 dollars a month, until you can get any system set up and working for you, you are essentially just making your monthly donations.
Joe: Yeah, exactly. If Infusionsoft is making me $200 dollars a month, then Infusionsoft is– Or, $300 dollars a month. Then I’m starting to see the value in Infusionsoft. But your product is free to start, so let’s walk through. I’ll link to the website in the show notes and everything like that, it’s Groundhogg.io. You can look at the feature set there. I want to talk about the title question, which is how did you build this? You actively made the decision to make a WordPress plugin, you had experience making WordPress plugins, but making something like this performant, efficient and working within the WordPress ecosystem seems like it could be a little challenging. So I’d love to talk to you about that specifically.
Adrian: Absolutely. I would like to start off by saying that this entire project would not be possible if PHP didn’t get it to 7.0.
Adrian: There is a lot of back end stuff going on here. We keep it as lightweight as possible, and a lot of it is– If you’re familiar with the WooCommerce subscriptions plugin, what they do is they have this back end event queue manager type deal, and they have a cron job that runs every minute to check if there’s anything going on that needs to happen. If there’s something that needs to happen, then it executes it at that time. We were in a very similar system, so all of the automation and all of the e-mails and all that stuff that needs to happen gets added to a queue. We have a cron job that you can choose what time you want to run it off. If you want to run or off the regular WP Cron, or you want to use an actual cron job, you can choose. We basically collect anything that needs to happen, and we essentially iterate over whatever needs to happen and send it out. That process can be pretty heavy on PHP 5.6, but thankfully technology has gotten to a point where that whole process is, in terms of time and computing power, has been essentially cut down by a third. So it makes it possible in a lot of cases, and then beyond that, I just borrowed a lot of the UI and the experience that I had from building my previous plugins. I learned that custom post types in this instance was not the way to go.
Joe: All right.
Adrian: So our– One of the neat things about Groundhogg is that the database is completely separated from anything that’s in the WordPress default. So a lot of our queries and lot of our stuff is a lot faster than other plugins because we don’t use– Because you don’t have to search through the massive post database. All of our stuff is completely separated, so if you wanted to migrate your Groundhogg installation completely from one website to another website, completely separate it. If you wanted to delete Groundhogg for whatever reason and you say “I never want to see this thing again,” then you would be able to do that because it just wipes all the databases and those are gone.
Joe: I’m going to stop you right there because this is very interesting to me. Did you try it with custom post types first?
Adrian: No, we did not. I skipped that process entirely. Form Lift uses custom post types, and that’s why I decided to go a different route.
Joe: I see. So you have the experience to know “I’m tied a little bit too much to the posts and post options table.”
Adrian: Yeah, essentially. I figured out how to integrate with the– I built my own metadata DBs and all of that stuff. It works well, and that allows a ton more flexibility for Groundhogg to essentially grow without being hindered by performance and stuff like that. We have a lot of add ons as well that again install their own databases just so scaling doesn’t become a problem, because when that post types table gets big then you start to experience that performance hindrance and we didn’t want to deal with that. If you have 20,000 contacts and those 20,000 contacts are in your post type table, that’s problematic.
Joe: Yeah, absolutely. Especially if you’re running this in conjunction with an online store, an online store with WooCommerce, you can blow out a database quickly. You keep saying databases because I want to understand the technical details as best as possible, do you mean tables within the WordPress database or a completely separate database with the same user?
Adrian: No, it’s tables within the WordPress database.
Joe: OK, cool. But it’s your own table set, your own prefixes, stuff like that?
Joe: Cool. I figured that, but I wanted to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding you. Cool, so in not using custom post types it looks like you have a pretty good tabs interface. How much WordPress core code are you tapping into? Obviously, you’re generating the admin screens and things like that, but do you have your own whole set of classes that you’re using to generate certain functions and stuff like that?
Adrian: We try to use as much core functionality as humanly possible. Again, one of the big things for us was that it looks like WordPress, feels like WordPress, and acts like WordPress in order to cut down on the learning curve as much as possible. If you go to the e-mail screen, you’re going to expect to see a list table of all of the e-mails that you’ve written. No fancy stuff, It just looks– If you go to your post screen, you want to see all your posts, you go to e-mails, you’re going to want to see all of your e-mails. It acts in very much the same way. There are, however, a ton of custom classes and stuff that we built in order to make building out extensions as easy as possible, so another huge thing for us is we are a freemium plugin. We offer extensions and add ons as our revenue generator, and we want to be able to build those as quickly and fastly and easily as possible, so all of the databases are extendable and all of the admin pages are extendable, and all of that stuff is extendable. It was super important for us and for other developers as well who want to create their own additions to Groundhogg, that is where we want to end up. We want to have a community similar to that of Easy Digital Downloads and WooCommerce, or Gravity Forms. With all of these third party developers also building their own solutions, we want that. So we’ve made a ton of extendable classes and stuff so that people would be able to create those things and then add them to their own store. They can sell them on our store or anything of that nature. That being said, we use as much core code as we possibly can, but there’s, of course, things in WordPress that is limited in, and we’ve built classes and functions around that. One of the big things that we’ve done is I built– Or, we’ve built Groundhogg twice already. So from the ground up, we actually– Development only started in August of 2018.
Adrian: I built it myself in two months, and then we brought on our first employee, and then him and I rebuilt it again for our 1.0 launch. Because it wasn’t– The first one wasn’t object-oriented at all, it was all functional, and that was a haphazard mess. It worked, though. It did work.
Joe: You got your MVP out the door, right? That’s the important thing.
Adrian: We got our MVP out, exactly. It did work, and then we’ve rebuilt it as object-oriented for our 1.0 release, which was our first time we ever made any money.
Following that, that one also works well, and that one is currently the one that’s available in the repository.
But for our 2.0 launch, we’ve gone– But that was old world. So all the classes are like prefixed, and you have your giant includes file, and a bunch of admin checks and all of that good stuff to load it in as efficiently as possible, but still not as efficiently as possible as it could be. Our 2.0 version, I checked out how Elementor goes about their inclusion of files and their structure and how they do it. I also checked out some of the newer versions of some of the fancier plugins that are out there, and they’re all using auto loaders and name spacing and all that stuff. Our 2.0 version is going to fall in line with the new way of developing WordPress plugins, which is auto loading and name spacing, and all of the syntactical sugar that comes around with our 7.1, 7.2 and 7.3 PHP versions and a lot of the later WordPress core that’s now available. Gutenberg, blocks, and React, all that good stuff. So that’s our 2.0 version that’s almost done. It should be released in about Q3, which will be nice and we’ll come with a lot of those extendable classes that I was talking about earlier to allow developers to create the tools that they need.
Break: This episode is brought to you by Cloudways. Are you facing performance and security issues, or launching your ambitious project with WordPress? Look no further, Cloudways has got you covered. Their managed WordPress hosting is the best choice for websites looking for ultimate speed, advanced security, and 24/7 expert support. Now a lot of hosts promise a lot of things, but they have a whole bunch of features to choose from including cloud providers like Digital Ocean, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud. You can quickly and easily get up and running with your WordPress website without the need to be a system admin. You get a CDN, scalability, staging, and backups out of the box. I recently set up a WordPress website on AWS with Cloudways, and it was by far the easiest experience I have ever had with AWS. Cloudways works as an extended team for individuals and businesses, handles all of the server management, and lets you focus on building amazing websites for your ever-growing business. If you like what you’ve heard, start with a three day free trial of Cloudways now. Don’t forget to use the promo code HIBI20 for a free $20 dollar hosting credit. Head over to HowIBuilt.it/Cloudways today.
Joe: Do you find keeping up with the ever-changing landscape of development is hard? Again, not to draw attention to our age difference, but when I was 22, I was fairly into like whatever the latest new shiny was. But even then, I was very like, “I don’t know, the way I’m doing it works now.” And now at 33 years old, I’m like, “Do I need to learn React? Is that going to help me in my day to day life?” But you mentioned that this is iterated pretty quickly, and you’ve adopted– I think that the main difference is you’re not adopting the new shiny, you’re adopting the best practices. Do you find it’s hard to keep up with that?
Adrian: It’s certainly difficult because what happened was in for our original– Our 1.0 build, which was our first foray into proper object orientation. So prefix and class names and having a super huge includes file, which is the way that easy little downloads did it. I don’t have original ideas. I adopt the best practices that I see other people doing, and I’m like, “If that works for them, that’ll work for me.” And then I do it that way. I modify it to whatever my own needs are. First, what I did first was I checked out the current version available for easy digital downloads, without looking at what they were building. So I built it the way they built it, but not the way that they’re about to release their new version. But, I digress. They did all the prefixing, and the huge includes file and our original actual plugin instantiation file is also built very similarly. I copied a lot of their– Or, modified a lot of their database files which are way different now than they were originally. But to begin with, they were pretty similar. Going through that process, I’m like, “This is looking good. This is looking good.” And then Elementor came on the scene for me. It was on the scene before I started, but I didn’t know about it. Then I started using it like “This is super-efficient, super-fast. How did they do that?” I started checking their back end out and like, “This is so much cleaner. There’s a whole ton less code. I can find files so much easier.” If we built it this way, I believe that developers– And that’s who we want to attract, would find it way easier to work with our tools. I made the decision at that point. It’s like, all right. I found this as a developer to be so much easier than the way that we’re currently doing it. So we’re going to spend the time and the due diligence that needs to happen in order to be able to convert our code base to this. Problem is, we have twenty-five add ons that also need to be converted. Fortunately, there’s not a whole lot of extensions in the wild at the moment, so developers don’t need to be angry at me. Hopefully, this will be one of the last reiterations that takes place. It’s a big one. Hopefully, we’re able to stick with this for a good long while, but we ourselves need to go back and rewrite essentially twenty-five extensions. Some of which are fairly heavy in terms of the amount of code that they contain. We built a calendar extension, so a booking calendar. Something like you use Calendly, for example. If you didn’t want to use Calendly, then we would offer an add on for that, and we’d built it. It is– It’s pretty monstrous in the back end, but it needs to be converted now. That’s currently what [inaudible] over there is doing.
Joe: But you make a good point here. You’ve iterated over these things quickly, but now you’re finding what you believe is the best architecture to take you through to help other developers. Because that’s a great point. You could have held off and then maybe you could have blown up and gotten popular, and then 100 developers created extensions, and then you would have 100 or probably 90 developers being mad at you that you’re changing the architecture to make your product better because it makes more work for them.
Adrian: We don’t– We’re doing that now so we can avoid it later.
Joe: Yeah, I think that’s a really good point. As we move into the tail end of this episode, we talked a lot about– You covered the whole gamut pretty much that I like to cover, which is your pricing structure, the architecture behind it a little bit and what you’re working on. But what are your plans for the future of Groundhogg? As far as features go, you’re working on this big architectural redesign, and you have all of the core features are free. So if people want just a simple sales pipeline or marketing automation tool for WordPress, they can go and download it. I’m probably going to download it shortly after this interview because I’m looking for a good tool. Then the add ons are where you make your money, but what are you– What are your plans for the future as far as features go?
Adrian: One thing that we’re working on right now is a partner certification program. There’s not necessarily any code involved in that, but one of the things that we want to do is build a community around this product like WooCommerce has done, and Gravity forms has done. We want a community to surround this because when there’s a community around it, it can only make the product better and it can only benefit more people. What we’re working on right now is a partner certification program, so if you want to implement Groundhogg for other businesses or you want to learn how it works, or you want to get some good tid bits of information, then someone would be able to sign up for that. It’s a 10 part course of which 30% is now recorded and is currently being edited. Go through that, you can get your badge and your certificate, and you can essentially go to your clients if you’re a freelancer or go to a business and say, “Listen, I know. I have my certification. Would you like me to help you implement this tool? And you can make residual money that way. One of the other things that we’re working on is our open marketplace. So we currently sell all of our add ons through our marketplace, but we don’t only want to sell our add ons, we want to sell everybody’s add ons as well as our funnel templates. One of the big things that was super important for us was templatization and importing and exporting, which was one of the biggest drawbacks that I found of any software as a service tool was that sharing was complicated and difficult and costly. One of the things that you can do is if you build a pipeline or a funnel or an e-mail in Groundhogg, you can export that to a JSON file and bring it to whatever other WordPress website that you want and install it there. You can also sell those on our store and then you can make money that way. We’ll write you a check essentially for anything that you sell and send it to you, or PayPal or however you want to get paid.
Joe: Kicking it old school.
Adrian: Probably, PayPal.
Joe: You avoid fees with a check.
Adrian: Right. So, we do it that way. Again, it all comes back to building that community. The tool is great. The software, the code base, is getting there. The add ons are being all that, but right now we’re focused on building community. Because if there’s a community surrounding it, then the only people that can benefit from that is the community.
Joe: That’s fantastic. I think that it’s true that we’ve seen products grow because of their community. Elementor is several years younger than Beaver Builder, for example, but it’s grown a lot faster than Beaver Builder. I think in part because of the community and the audience that they’ve been able to appeal to. So I think that’s a really good point. We’re going to wrap up here with my favorite question, which is, do you have any trade secrets for us?
Adrian: Yes, I do. I teach this, or I just stuck this into one of my videos for the partner certification program. The biggest thing that holds people back with our product or any product for that matter is the inability to launch. Usually, this stems from “It’s not ready, it’s not good enough, it’s not perfect. What if people fall through the cracks? I haven’t thought of everything,” and all of those doubts or self-doubts stem from fear. But here’s the deal, and the hard truth with that is that you’ll never know unless you show it to somebody. So when we had our minimum viable product of Groundhogg, I knew that it would have to be redone eventually. But I needed to get it out there because I needed the feedback from people to let us know what we could improve on, the feature set that needed to be added, I needed to hear from developers and hear of some different ways of approaching object orientation or functionality or anything. And that goes for the e-mails that I write and the funnels that I build as well, you will never know, or you will never as a person be able to think of everything that could possibly go wrong or anything that could possibly go wrong when you launch something. The only way to find out is to actually do it and then get that feedback, to get those responses, get the angry customers that want to chew your ear off and get the happy customers that are super glad that you did what you did. It’s super hard to please everybody, but at least you’ll know how you’ll be able to optimize it after you’ve shown it to the world. So if you are sitting on a product or a service or a funnel or a campaign right now and you’re trying to think of all of the ways that anything could possibly go wrong and fix it before you launch, stop what you’re doing right now and go launch it anyway. Because I promise you that if there are holes to fix, they will become apparent, and you will be able to do that as you go. But you will never know until you do that. And you might be surprised, maybe it’s accepted well and there’s nothing that you need to change. Then you could have saved yourself a whole lot of time.
Joe: That’s great. I love that a lot. It goes back to what we talked about before, launching the minimum viable product and getting it out there in people’s hands. So Adrian, thank you so much for joining me today. Where can people find you?
Adrian: If you want to find me, you can reach out to us @GroundhoggWP on both Facebook and Twitter. Keep in mind that Groundhogg is spelt with two G’s at the end, so that’s Groundhogg on Facebook and Twitter. If you want to reach out to me personally, my e-mail address is info@Groundhogg.io. You are more than welcome to reach out to me. Ask any questions that you have, I make myself super accessible, and if you have any questions, feel free.
Joe: Thanks so much to Adrian for joining me today. Like I said, it was a really fun conversation. We probably covered more ground than usual. He talks fast, and I talk pretty fast. But I liked our conversation around higher ed. I thought that was just super interesting. I also love that we get pretty technical in how he built his product and how they had to refactor it. I thought that was cool, and how he pulls inspiration from other places too. So if you liked this episode, I would appreciate if you subscribe to the show. You can head over to HowIBuilt.it/Subscribe to subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts. Thanks so much to our sponsors for this week, those are Ahoy! Pantheon and Cloudways. To learn more about them and get all of the links to everything we talked about, head over to HowIBuilt.it/137. Before we go, I want to tell you about a free workbook that I’ve put out about how to launch your own podcast. Lots of people have been asking me how I’ve launched my podcast, so I put this free workbook together that’ll help you make some decisions. It has some worksheets and checklists and things like that. You can download that, again for free, over at HowIBuilt.it/LiftOff. Thanks so much for listening, and until next time, get out there and build something.