Moving From Agency to Supporting Businesses and Agencies

Do the Woo - A Podcast for WooCommerce Builders
Do the Woo - A Podcast for WooCommerce Builders
Moving From Agency to Supporting Businesses and Agencies
/

Our guest Marcus not only joined one of the larger and established WooCommerce extension shops in the space last year, but also joined in time for the acquisition of SkyVerge by GoDaddy.

We talk about his experiences around both of those significant points in his life, but also insights into the transition into a larger company and thoughts for builders who are looking to market their own products.

A Chat with Marcus

Noelle and I talk with Marcus about:

  • His journey to SkyVerge and, eventually, GoDaddy
  • Why he left the agency world to more directly support agencies and businesses
  • Moving from a more focused product support to a larger WooCommerce support role
  • What effect all of the current changes in WordPress have been on their collection of extensions
  • Noelle’s favorite SkyVerge extension and why it’s her favorite
  • How the membership extension has adapted and grown with the more recent increase in online memberships
  • The advice he gives new builders on building a WooCommerce product and marketing it
  • What was the biggest personal lesson he learned during the acquisition of SkyVerge by GoDaddy

Connect with Marcus

Thanks to Our Pod Friends

FooSales

If you have a client who is looking for a point of sales solution, consider recommending FooSales. FooSales is the first native WooCommerce point of sale to support in-person payments using Square Reader. To learn more, check them out at foosales.com.

Mindsize

Mindsize has helped individual stores handle hundreds of millions of dollars worth of orders. Their Site Performance Audit with ongoing monitoring and iterative performance improvements are key to help you optimize your next client project. Visit mindsize.com to learn more. 

Bob: Hey everyone, BobWP here Do the Woo episode 146. I'm here with my co-host Noelle. How you doing Noelle?

Noelle: Hey Bob. I'm doing good. How are you?

Bob: I'm doing really good. It's always fun when Noelle comes on, because I don't live in really hot part of the U.S. but everybody's hot over here. Noelle in a different part of the world where she's cold and seeking out the fireplace, right?

Noelle: Yeah, for sure.

Bob: So we're in the opposite season here, but hey, it's all good. So we get through it.

Noelle: Such a beautiful time of the year though. Here, it's just the start of spring and I'm literally day by day, I'm seeing more leaves pop out and blossoms coming. And the garden is filled with bees and butterflies and all that. So yeah, I'm loving it.

Bob: Yeah. That's true. So yeah, you're heading into spring and that's a good time of the year. I like spring and fall. Those are my two that I really enjoy. Well, let's get right into the show because we have a great guest on. Marcus Burnett, how are you doing and welcome to the show.

Marcus: Good. Thank you. Honored to be here. It's definitely a bit warmer. It's full swing of summer for me here in Florida. So I'm looking forward to butterflies and all of that, but we're still a good six or seven months out from all of that good stuff.

Bob: Oh Florida, yeah I've been there a couple of times and once, I think it was in the spring and that was plenty warm for me. So yeah.

Yeah, we're going to dive in with first the big question. Right here, right now, how do you Do the Woo?

Marcus: Yeah, thanks. So I started out doing the Woo using WooCommerce in a small agency here in Central Florida, building websites for clients. And then a couple of years, a few years later now here I am part of the SkyVerge team that was acquired with GoDaddy. And now I mostly worked with a WooCommerce folks in support and events and a little bit on the marketing side. So kind of spinning a few different skill sets there, but mostly helping out all sorts of different folks that are trying to set up their WooCommerce stores and get to business online. Especially here... I want to say post pandemic, but we're still sort of in the pandemic and everyone's had to move online. So there's been a quite a bit of need for support and getting everybody online with WooCommerce.

Bob: Yeah, I bet. I'm going to have Noelle kind of dig back a little bit more into what you've done in the past, in that journey. Because she has a great question, a kind of segue into the whole thing of your transition and stuff. So I'm going to hand it over to Noelle.

Noelle: So Marcus, on your website you say that after working at an agency, you wanted a role that would allow you to more directly support agencies and businesses. So what drove you to make that decision? How did you get to that point?

Marcus: Yeah, so I worked in a small agency here in Central Florida for, oh man, the better part of 10 years or so before leaving at the end of 2019. So having worked in an agency, I was very directly working with clients and all of that. What I really wanted to do is kind of take a step back and help other folks that were doing what I was doing. Sort of help lead and help teach the folks that were in my position rather than derive that direct client face to face type of work.

I think it stemmed from a desire to just want to teach and share what it is that I do. I do that in a number of ways through blogging and writing content, through events and stuff, through GoDaddy Pro. We can get into some of that stuff. But what I really wanted to do is take what I had learned over the course of that 10 years or so, and apply it to helping other agencies and other developers do that same work. Rather than the daily grind of doing it myself, which is a lot of fun, but I wanted to share some of that and not just keep it bottled up inside my head.

Noelle: Awesome. Yeah. I can imagine that over the course of 10 years, a lot of knowledge accumulates. And it's wonderful to be able to share that with others. When you got into web development and you started learning, what was that like for you? Because I know that one of the reasons why I love, for example being on data Do the Woo is because when I learned, this is now for me eight years back, I'm totally self-taught and it was Googling all the things and learning like that. And that's why I love teaching and sharing nowadays. What was that journey like for you?

Marcus: Yeah, a 100% the same. The majority of what I've learned over the course of my career has been self-taught. So I'm kind of a designer first, developer second in this industry. And it started in high school. I really wanted to design things. I started way back in the day with making lots of mixed CDs, if folks even remember what CDs look like. And I wanted to create labels in those cases that the CDs went in and all of that. So it started out with Photoshop, learning how to design those things. And then it was cool because I had this thing that I had made that I was proud of. But then I could show it to my parents, show it to my friends and that was kind of the limit of the reach.

And so what started there was, "Well, I need to put this on a website. I need this design to get out there onto the web so that other folks can see it, not just my parents and my friends at school or whatever." So started creating websites, HTML and CSS to begin with just so I could get some of that out there. A few others. It was the kind of early days of the web. So naturally build a site for a band. You make a site for your family. It was all real simple stuff. So it started there. And then after graduating from college, I started working at the agency actually that I was at for 10 years. Started working there and there was a need with some of the clients there for us to adopt a content management system.

So we actually started with Drupal and worked in Drupal for the better part of about six years or so. And then as an agency collectively, we decided that we weren't super happy with the future direction of Drupal and started looking at what else was out there. And WordPress had kind of evolved from being that blog only platform to being this multipurpose platform with WooCommerce, with the e-commerce stuff and all of that. So ended up along the way there. But yeah, like I said, at the very root of it: it was back in high school. Just designing stuff and then having that need to get what I had created out to the rest of the world.

Bob: It's interesting because I started in the early 1980s. And I actually took some college course, a year long college course in computer programming: is what you called it back then, and learned five languages, COBOL and assembly language and Pascal. And it was a horrifying one year and afterwards I remember our instructor said, "Well, everything you learned will be obsolete in the next six months." It's, "Oh, well this is great." But that was my first touch into the computer world.

And then shortly after that, we moved to California for five years and I started getting to do desktop publishing and that's where I basically self-taught myself with design and stuff. And that was another interesting thing. But I digress, going way back: too far. But in the days of a lot of people can't even relate to.

Now I know there's a lot of people out there that know SkyVerge, but tell us a little bit more about SkyVerge and the products you have.

Marcus: Yeah, SkyVerge. I started with SkyVerge just over a year ago before the acquisition. So I don't have a huge history with SkyVerge, but SkyVerge is essentially an extension, a plugin shop focused specifically on WooCommerce extensions. I'm sure many folks know about your WooCommerce memberships and Local Pickup Plus. There are a number of them that are relatively popular.

So I started there back in April of last year and just like I said, wanting to support the folks that were me essentially in the agency. People that were doing the client work, building their own sites, doing that on a daily basis. But yeah, SkyVerge is at its core, a shop dedicated to building WooCommerce extensions. I believe they're over 60 of them in total that are still available on the WooCommerce.com marketplace. In addition to being available through GoDaddy is managed WooCommerce platform as well.

Bob: When you were at SkyVerge, and I know that it was a shorter amount of time before it was acquired, there was more of a focus of product support obviously. Whereas when you move to GoDaddy, I see you are listed more as WooCommerce support. A bit broader area. So how did that play for you? Was that an easy transition? Because it sounds like you weren't tied into just product support for years and years and years, and then go into the broader more WooCommerce support. So was that an easier transition or was it still kind of a little bit jarring to be, "Okay, I'm not just focused on the product anymore, I'm open to everything WooCommerce."

Marcus: Yeah. It wasn't too bad. I was there for about, I want to say six months or so before we officially became a part of GoDaddy. Without getting too much inside baseball, essentially behind the scenes we still have kind of a core group of folks working on the product side. Supporting the plugins, supporting the WooCommerce.com marketplace when customers are purchasing over there. And then we have another team that's kind of split off that more so handles the manage WooCommerce side. So yeah, it wasn't too big of a transition because we sort of have dedicated teams internally for both of those. And we've moved back and forth a little bit between them depending on volume and necessity and all of that. But for the most part, everyone kind of knows the role and knows what it is they're supporting.

I think the general support of WooCommerce overall though was very interesting. Because it opens you up. One of my favorite things is seeing just how agencies and developers use WordPress and WooCommerce, and use the tools, the plugins that they use, how they're using them and all of that. And kind of opening that up to the entirety of WooCommerce really gives you a better sense I think, than just kind of this niche world of how people are using your own 60 plus plugins. That's interesting in and of itself, but opening that up to WooCommerce really gives you a broader perspective of the sorts of things that people are trying to do with their WooCommerce stores. And how they're using your plugins and other plugins. How they work together and the sorts of goals that they're trying to accomplish. So yeah, to answer your question, we have separate teams. They're one and the same, but sort of dedicated to their own pieces. But I really like that we have that avenue to see what it is that folks are really trying to do with WooCommerce as a larger picture.

Bob: With everything going on with WordPress right now, full site editor, blocks, inbox. Everything, just a massive amount of things that are kind of changing. And we got Woo blocks and they're trying to move along with WooCommerce. But with WooCommerce "Hey, we're lying on top of WordPress. So got to do that." With these recent innovations and changes in WordPress, has that directly affected you as an extension shop? Or is there anything that has been particularly challenging? Or also are there opportunities that you're seeing really open up for you that this is bringing to the table?

Marcus: Yeah. Surprisingly for us, not a ton. We do have a couple of places where we've done some integration with blocks, with the block editor and stuff. But since our shop doesn't focus really on themes and just plugins specifically, there hasn't been as much movement on the block stuff. One that comes to mind would be WooCommerce memberships. We have WooCommerce memberships that allows you to set up granting access for customers as they come in. They either pay for or register for a membership. And then they get among other things, the store owners can grant access to content.

So that would be one place where we do have specific block integration, where within blocks you can choose whether or not that block should have access to a membership plan that a member has. And you can select multiple membership plans or whatever. But that would be kind of one of the use cases where we've sort integrated in with blocks. But because blocks are a lot on more of the layout and design side, at the moment there hasn't been a whole lot for us to touch other than just minor adjustments and feature functionality.

Bob: So Noelle, do you have a favorite SkyVerge extension?

Noelle: Actually, you know what? I do. I had the pleasure of working with the measurement price calculator for a recent project. So in this case, it's a fabric stolen haberdashery in the UK and it was just what we needed. And what I love when you purchase a plugin that is a quality product, it's intuitive, it's really quick to set up and obviously the time that I needed support it was great. So I'm always for it but I also have used the import export suites quite a bit. And yeah, know many people who use the plugin. Say yeah, but that was an interesting one. And that's something that's different from some other plugins out there. You don't have a lot of options when it comes to that. And this one was just yeah, they sell pretty well.

Bob: Cool. How about another one of your extension? Let's talk, the membership extension. With everything that's been going on, has there been no major changes to that? Has it been pretty much status quo? Or are you adding more features. Just give us an update around the membership extension.

Marcus: Yeah. I think the memberships plugin is thankfully pretty robust on its own. That's not to say that there aren't improvements and features to be added there. In fact, over the last, I would say couple of months, we've done a few things. Like you said, with the pandemic and people really having to move online. Especially there, we've seen a large uptake in membership sites. And a lot of those have been kind of surrounding the e-learning space. Places like gyms, fitness centers and that sort of thing where people couldn't physically be there, they had to set up online classes and continue their business model online somehow. So there's been a lot of that.

Marcus: There were a few adjustments that we made there just within the last several months or so. One is surrounding e-learning. We added some specific integration with LearnDash and Sensei LMS for some auto enrollment type stuff, when you register or at least option to allow the store owners to decide whether or not some auto enrollment is happening there. There's also sort of a teams extension to memberships. Which allows you to bundle sort of a group of memberships together. So that it consolidates that under one billing.

I know that we're adding some things there that allows the team owners to see sort of course progress of the folks in their team and that sort of thing, with again LearnDash and Sensei. But we've also left that open enough that other LMSs can be clicked into that same system. I'm not sure, we may or may not add additional ones over time, but it's been built in such a way that LearnDash and Sensei aren't the only ones that can be hooked into that system and use the same features.

And then certainly the Gutenberg edit, the block editor is huge and that's likely the way forward for most folks. But there are also the page builders out there that are pretty popular Beaver Builder and Elementor and Divi and all those. And we've added some features through to memberships for allowing the same thing that I was talking about with the blocks being able to grant access to individual blocks. We've done the same in the last few months with some of the page builders as well to add options, to be able to grant access to certain parts of a page or widgets. Whatever they're called depending on the page builder itself.

But yeah, there's innovation to be had in those spaces certainly. We're always getting feedback from folks on the support side to see what it is that people are trying to do with the plugins. And given enough traction for any given thing where we're likely to put that on the board and see if it makes sense for us to add for everyone. So we're always looking for ways to innovate and push all of those forward, especially when everyone's moving their businesses online or even starting their new businesses online first. Which is just a necessity in this day and age.

Pod Friends: You do what you are good at, and when building your client's WooCommerce shops, often it's the perfect opportunity to partner up with someone that fill in those gaps to make your client 100% happy. Mindsize has helped individual stores handle hundreds of millions of dollars worth of orders. Their Site Performance Audit with ongoing monitoring and iterative performance improvements are key to help you optimize your next client project. Visit mindsize.com to learn more.

Pod Friends: If you have a client who is looking for a point of sales solution, consider suggesting FooSales. In fact, FooSales is the first native WooCommerce point of sale to support in-person payments using Square Reader. Now you can use FooSales with the Square Terminal for your client projects. And the icing on the cake is that it not only works with FooSales iPad and Android apps, but the the Foo web app. To learn more, check them out at foosales.com  

Bob: When it comes to builders, which is a lot of our audience. And you, you kind of have a touch point on both sides of it. And I know you've been with SkyVerge for a limited amount of time, but still you've been in the space and you understand development. From your experience, what is your advice kind of two part. One is to these builders that are first thinking about building extensions. What do you think is the number one piece of advice for them as they're going through that process of wanting to build just even specifically for WooCommerce. And then the other part, which I know you have some marketing too, is what is the biggest piece of advice them as far as marketing that first extension?

Marcus: Yeah, definitely. So just anecdotally speaking, I have three or four extensions that I've built. Real small free extensions that I just share through my site. I think the biggest thing really just anytime you're trying to start a new thing, start a new business, start a new extension, widget, whatever: just make sure that... All of mine have stemmed out of solving a need that I have, so I think people underestimate how often when they have a need, there's probably a need for others to have the same thing. A lot of times you just think, "Oh, it's just this one-off thing. I'm just going to do it and move on with my life." But there's a decent chance that if it's something that you need, especially if it's let's say just e-commerce related and not specific to a client, there's probably a need for someone else. And that would be a great place to start. I think keeping it simple, just solving one thing, one little thing. And see if that gains traction and build up from there.

There's definitely the temptation to want to build this full featured behemoth of an extension, because you don't think anybody's going to care otherwise. Well, the ones that I've built have solved a very small need. It was a need that I had. And I felt it was certainly something that somebody else might be interested in, and so I kind of bundled it together. But it solves one problem, but it does it well. And I think that's a great place to start. Just start with solving one problem well, and you can always build up from there. What's the saying? Done is better than perfect. You don't need to build. Don't need to build this huge thing and take six months just to find out that either people don't care or people do care and maybe aren't willing to spend a bunch of money on that. Or somebody has come out with a solution to the thing you were building in the first place before you got a chance to get out there.

So yeah. Just find something that you want to solve, solve that problem, bundle it together and get it out there. You can always build it up from there. On the marketing side, I don't know. There's all sorts of different things that come in on the marketing side. You end up with search engines and getting the word out there. I think being involved in the community is a huge way on the marketing side to kind of get the word out about things. Different social media, Facebook groups, Slack channels, that sort of thing. I think just being in those spaces, being involved, providing value will naturally get some eyes on you and your product. And then you can find the right times to inject a link when somebody asks, "How do you do this with WooCommerce?" "Oh, I built a plugin that does exactly that. Maybe you want to check it out." And you can share that link in that space.

So I think just being involved in the community is a huge boost. I think this probably is separate podcast entirely, a separate topic, but community involvement I think is a large part of the future for marketing efforts in general. I think there was a huge focus on SEO and social media, but once everybody focuses on SEO, the playing field is level again. So it's finding that next evolution of what's coming. And I think community involvement, because it takes some effort and some time is kind of that next place where marketers will be able to engage and really share the things that they have going on.

Noelle: I'm hearing more and more on the marketing side that people are craving genuine interactions. So yeah, that makes sense. You can't fake community support and helping others, you either do or you don't. So yeah. And that's something, being involved with the community. I come from the land of the theme builders, I started as a Divi user when I had a need for a web shop long time ago. And kind of stuck around there and... Now I'm thinking where I was going with my thought. Oh yes, marketing. So I personally don't do any marketing. However, I do really enjoy spending time in Facebook groups. And would comment Facebook group as well. And I've just found over time that naturally people start DM-ing me because they looking for help with stuff because they see you interact. And yeah, that's how it works. Overtime you will stand out.

Bob: Two very good points. First of all, the scratching your own itch and doing one thing and doing it good. I remember writing about a lot of extensions of WooCommerce. And I can't remember how many times I would start one out and saying, "Okay, this is one of those things that does one thing and it does it good. It's not going to do it all, the bells and whistles but when you need this done, this is a solution here."

As far as the marketing, I was just talking to somebody today, they're new to the WooCommerce, WordPress space. A lot of them come in headstrong and just promoting and shoving stuff down people's throats and stuff. And I always fall back on, start talking to the community, start listening to people. And I think that's one of the things most people have to really train themselves to do is, join these communities. And a big part of that is sometimes just sitting back and listening and watching, rather than always barging in here and there. Yeah, you can in good conversations, but don't force yourself into things. Find the natural segue into it, into these community conversations versus just being trying to yell, "And here's my product, here's my product. Hey, have you seen my product?" And stuff.

And there's a lot of them that I've talked to that it's suddenly this realization that maybe they come from a different space and they're just thinking, "Okay, this is how this community works and you've got to build that trust." So that totally makes sense. And I know that SkyVerge has a history behind them. And all the different times I met them at WordCamps and dealt with them through support and had them on the podcast. I can't remember, I think Becca might've been one of the first way back, way back, long time ago. She was on the podcast once or twice on a couple other podcasts.

Let's close it out with your biggest lesson learned in this. And again, you are fairly new to SkyVerge, but you did have to go through this process. It was you're there and suddenly now you're over here. Was there anything super helpful during that process for you yourself personally?

Marcus: Yeah, I think for me it has been, I don't know if I want to call it a game. But maybe it's a game. A game of getting to know as many people as I possibly can. So when I worked at the agency for years and years, we were max five people at any given point. We had some people come and go over those 10 years, but it was very small. We served just the kind of folks here in the Central Florida area for the most part. And then moving to SkyVerge that went from five people to 35 people at the time. So already it was a big move from, "Okay well, I already knew these other four people really well, really intimately. Now there's a group of 34 people that I don't know as well. So let's get to know some of these folks." And that was great as far as organizations go: 35 isn't huge, but it was bigger than what I was used to.

And then being acquired, we went from 35 to, I don't know what it is over 7,000 or something like that. And while my day to day it's still a lot with those 35. There are a lot of different branches to the GoDaddy organization, a lot of folks. So I think getting to know who's in charge of what, who can take care of what issues that we might be having, who can I talk to that can help actually push products forward and take some of the customer feedback that I hear both in support and in the communities.

I spend a fair amount of time in the WooCommerce Facebook group and the WooCommerce Slack. So taking some of the feedback that I get there and presenting that to the right folks so that we can push the products forward. Make things better every single day. Figure out what the pain points are and really attack those and get things fixed up. And just better as a whole has been just getting out of my comfort zone a little bit and just reaching out to people and saying, "Hey, here's who I am. This is what I do. I'd love to just chat with you a little bit about what you do and how we can work together on XYZ, different projects and pushing things forward."

I am somewhat of an introvert. So reaching out to people cold and saying, "Hey, let's talk." Especially, I've been working remotely for the past year as has most everyone else. But because I had to, not because I necessarily wanted to. But those 10 years at the agency I was in person and not used to being on video calls all the time. So I've gotten a little bit of practice over the last year or so. But the introverted side of me is not used to reaching out to people and saying, "Hey, let's get on a video call and kind of talk about what we're doing and how we can work together to push things forward." I don't want to call it a struggle because it's been really fun, but it's definitely a bit out of my comfort zone generally to just kind of sit face to face with someone on the video call and just chat with them.

Bob: Well, I think for sure a lot of us can relate to that. We've all been through that and sometimes still through that.

Noelle: I can relate for sure. Yeah.

Bob: But anyway, this has been a great chat. I do want to just get my own little plug for SkyVerge, do check them out. They do have a lot of plugins. I've used some or quite a few over the years, and also I've written about them. You can find a lot of those on the site here on Do the Woo under our build a blog. But Marcus, where can people connect with you online if they want to reach out to you?

Marcus: Yeah. Like I said, the community stuff is a big push for me at the moment. So love to have people join us at events.GodDaddy.com and checking out some of our webinars and meetups there. I host at least one each month with someone else from our SkyVerge team usually. So come check out what we're chatting about. Those are all WooCommerce specific and we chat a lot about our extensions, but some about other resources and extensions that are outside of what we've developed as well. So love to have people join us there. Otherwise me personally probably the best way to contact me is on Twitter. It's MarcusdBurnett on Twitter.

Bob: Cool. Very cool. Well everyone, I appreciate you tuning in. I'd just like to give pod friends, two of them, a shout out: FooSales.com and MindSize.com. You heard all about them midway through the show, so do check them out and I appreciate their support so much. Noelle, always a pleasure having you join me as a co-host. I'll just give everybody a heads up next month, Noelle will be having a new co-host she's tickled to death to get rid of me. I know she is. But no, seriously she will be. We're kind of shifting up some different stuff on the podcast. She's going to be having fun talking to some WooCommerce people with our other co-host Ronald. So be looking forward to that. How do you feel about that Noelle?

Noelle: Yeah, I can't wait. It's going to be great. Me and Ronald already chatting away on Slack. So yeah.

Bob: Yeah. All right. And once again, thank you Marcus for taking the time to be on the show.

Noelle: Thanks so much Marcus.

Marcus: I really appreciate you having me on.