WooCommerce Relationships with Spencer Forman

Do the Woo - WooCommerce Podcast, Community and News
Do the Woo - WooCommerce Podcast, Community and News
WooCommerce Relationships with Spencer Forman

Spencer has been in the WordPress space for a long time, the the web for even longer. His interest in WooCommerce started early as well and led him to creating LaunchifyWP. When he starts out the podcast stating if there is one plugin your site should marry, it’s WooCommerce, you know the chat is going to be interesting. With his experience and insights, Spencer Foreman, the Lou Reed of WordPress, does not hold back.

A Chat with Spencer:

Anna and Jonthan talk with Spencer about:

  • What makes WooCommerce the one plugin your site should marry
  • How Spencer started with WordPress and WooCommerce
  • Moving from a social networking context to WordPress
  • What have been the high points over the years influenced by the potential of WordPress
  • Spencer’s focus now and what he is most passionate about
  • Why he considers all online business owners to be in the membership business
  • What are some of the mistakes he has seen with builders and the thoughts about business as a membership
  • The guidance he gives to builders who are good at the technical side, but want to improve how they approach marketing and building relationships
  • What are the elements of trust when choosing a plugin
  • Using feedback on social for building products as validation
  • What has given Spencer the confidence to invest in building for WooCommerce
  • Any future concerns for WordPress or WooCommerce
  • What advice he gives to new builders and if there still time to build something in the ecosystem that really matters

Connect with Spencer

Thanks to Our Pod Friends

Mode Effect

When it comes to building Woo sites for your clients, and everyone has their own strengths. If you need help with your clients conversions and revenue, the team at Mode Effect can be a part of your strategy to help clients avoid the hassle of management and training. Partner up with Mode Effect and let them help you keep your clients running smoothly in the long term


If you are looking for that right plugin for your clients Woo shop, chances are YITH will have what you need with over 100 plugins available. For example, memberships and subscription plugin is perfect for selling videos courses lessons and consultancies by restricting access to members only and creating recurring income. And that is just a small sample.

Jonathan: Welcome to Do the Woo episode 138. Anna, how are you?

Anna: Hi there. Way too warm for this season. But all good. How about you?

Jonathan: I am enjoying air conditioning and how do you feel about not having Bob here? Do you think we're going to do okay?

Anna: It's weird. I don't know if I can make this with you, but I'm going to give it a good try. I hope Spencer will help.

Jonathan: And Bob's in the background.

Anna: Yes, yes.

Jonathan: Spencer.

Spencer: Hello, hello.

Jonathan: Welcome to the show. It's good to have you.

Spencer: It's good to see you here on your home turf and you as well, Anna. Anna where are you located by the way?

Anna: I'm in, Eastern Europe somewhere you've never heard of maybe. Or maybe you did. Did you hear of Romania?

Spencer: Of course, I just was wondering because we've got these heat waves and cold waves. I'm in Chicago. And so we're in the trough where instead of being hot, we're just getting cool, rainy. And I was just in California last week where it's an oven, depending on where you're at.

Jonathan: I'm in North Idaho, and two weeks ago, we had 114, which is ridiculous for us, very uncharacteristic.

Anna: We're a little bit delayed, but we can feel that too.

Jonathan: Spencer. How do you do the Woo?

Spencer: You mean, how do I consume the Woo?

Jonathan: Well, you can take that question however you want. But that's the classic, that's where we start? How do you do the Woo?

Spencer: I tell people, if they're... And this is not a gratuitous compliment to WooCommerce. But this is factual, I say if there is one plugin that you are going to marry, it should be WooCommerce. And here's why. All the other relationships you have are based upon mutual benefit. And those plugins should be singular in their purpose. But WooCommerce has managed to arrive at a place where it is, I think should be in the core of WordPress, quite frankly. And so I tell people, there are a number of benefits even if you do not sell anything that you should be using WooCommerce. And I would be happy to elaborate at such time that is appropriate. But the idea is, it is the one plugin that should be in everybody's WordPress stack.

Jonathan: So Spencer, you've been in this ecosystem for a bit. We have a lot of things to talk about with WooCommerce. But let's get into your background here. When did WordPress first come under the radar for you?

Spencer: I was at the early days. I started in 2006, which I think was right around the time that it was Matt and four other people. Maybe he was a year earlier, but it was really, really sitting around a campfire days. And in those days I came from a SaaS experience from a platform called Ning where I had, working with a partner developed a solution that we made widgets and solutions for work and play that ran on that platform.

Ning was a social network platform builder that was freemium, which is a term you don't hear as much these days. And it was some really cool leftover technology from Marc Andreessen's venture capital Inventures, and they didn't know what to do with it. So they said to everybody who was interested, "Come build what you want for free on our platform." And I said, free as in, I can sell stuff to other people that are your clients. They said, "Sure."

And I don't think they ever met anybody from Chicago in that area, because next thing they had the proverbial stadium with everybody coming to the stadium, but they forgot the beer and the hotdogs and the cheerleaders and we built all those things and sold them. And then all of a sudden one day their venture capitalists said, "We gave you guys $100 million. And we're giving this for free. And these guys come in and you let them come in and they're making all the money, I think we should shut them down."

And essentially, that's what happened. We had a very short run very profitable, very exciting. That was before Facebook days. But then WordPress became known as the thing. And after we were done working for some of the competitors of Ning and getting rid of that, like this platform is going to compete against Facebook, which nobody then believed. We moved on to WordPress and WordPress was exciting for one big reason. And still is. I mean, the thing that's exciting about WordPress name another platform that is open source that has this much involvement, and yet people are still able to make money on it. It just doesn't exist.

Jonathan: So you're in the social networking context. And WordPress at the time when it started out was very much focused on blogging. Was it just the open source that was attractive? What was it that was the attraction there when you're coming from this social network, platform thinking context?

Spencer: Right. So I'm a pilot I've been since I was 16. And I enjoy videography and photography and creative endeavors. And at that time, YouTube was still very new. And so what I was doing with this was primarily creating my own social network for trike pilots and experimenting with the various features and so forth.

As you correctly point out in those days, WordPress was very rudimentary, we didn't really have the template hierarchy. We certainly didn't have a lot of plugins, everything was DIY. But I immediately was attracted to the fact that, look, if we could build code, with the help of a professional developer on a platform, a person like me with no real coding experience can learn to code and build stuff that would be sellable on this platform. And I can do it as I go. It was super sexy and appealing. And so in the early days, what I taught people was more of my marketing expertise, entrepreneurial expertise on what we had, and how to use it for making solutions for business owners. So I taught freelancers how to use the rudimentary stuff, to help other people one step behind them. But over time that evolved.

Jonathan: So it sounds like you recognized something in WordPress early, that made it attractive that wasn't about the features, it was more about its nature.

Spencer: Yeah, it was like imagine a Home Depot opens. And all of the stuff there is free for you to take and build what you want. Sure, the shelves are kind of bare at first, it's a smaller Home Depot, but it's still Home Depot, I mean, the LAMP stack, the core foundation, the being able to look up on Google for instructions from Tom McFarlane, or something like that, Justin Tadlock, about how to do something. Those guys really taught me how to code. And the JJJ, who's a pal of mine now, online, it's like, those guys were foundational as the early helpers, or the early contributors to WordPress and making me believe, wait a second. I don't need a professional developer, as a partner. I could take my expertise and desire to do something and make it happen on my own. And then I just conveyed that knowledge onto people one step behind me.

Jonathan: So you saw that early. You recognized WordPress's potential in early stage. So what was just the high points of that arc? Like what have you been doing and WordPress for the past few years.

Spencer: I came in at the social network aspect. So again, John James Jacoby was in charge of BBPress. And then then there was BuddyPress, the really rudimentary social network. And so I started in that avenue trying to replicate what we were doing with the Ning platform or the social goal platform. They had hired myself and my partner at that time. Once we're done with that, I was like we've got this audience. So I bridged the gap over to WordPress and brought a lot of those people out there.

Spencer: Anybody who really wants to dig up ancient history, but is curious. In those days, it was a big deal, if you got mentioned in TechCrunch it was the heyday. We got mentioned, like three, four or five times, some of them complimentary, some of them not, as soon as they realized this guy from Chicago was, well, maybe like I am today, not playing ball with us over here. But I brought that information and that knowledge over to WordPress and tried to make it easy for people to understand, hey, there's an alternative to being on a platform. You can maybe make this happen on your own with a few plugins.

And that worked out really well. But then it evolved into a relationship with somebody I met a who was running 1stwebdesigner.com at the time as an advertising model site for articles about doing web design in general, very heavy on CSS, HTML, PHP, and stuff that we needed to know then. I said to him, "Look at the magic trick I did over here. Let's partner up." He had about three 4 million visitors a month on his website, and he wasn't selling anything other than ad space.

I said, "We can sell membership and teach people how to do this." And that's when I created what was called oneWD.TV, which I hated the domain. It's ridiculous. Nobody knew what that was. But it was from first web designer. So oneWD.TV. And that was around the 2011 era, I think, maybe 2010 and '11. So it was a couple years after we moved over. Then I did that. And then that worked really well for three, four or five years until the page builders came along.

Anna: Hey, Spencer, I was just curious out of all the WordPress related initiatives you had so far, because I've seen quite a few also on your profile. What is it that you are focused on right now? What is it that you're most excited about?

Spencer: The thing we do most now is we're showing people that WordPress is actually a platform. So WPLaunchify is my primary consultancy branch. That is what shows people if you came to WordPress, your experience could be very similar to like if you went to Shopify or Wix, or Weebly, or Squarespace or any other platform, even the CRMs. They don't have 265,000 competing plugins and themes that you have to figure out how it works. Or even if there's a .com and a .org. There's so much confusion in WordPress now, for somebody who comes in from outside our world.

Spencer: It's like, if you've never been to a Grateful Dead concert, and you go for the first time, somebody who's been to Dead concerts, that's where you get this and those people are doing that and everybody knows it. But to an outsider WordPress is unbelievably confusing. So what we're doing is making it simple, that somebody can come in and understand, "Wow, a stack of very particular plugins accomplishes 95% of what you want."

And then here's the use cases you can pick from and you can always add your own stuff. But similar to what I was saying to Jonathan, the page builders, as well as Gutenberg have now changed the way that we make sites. So the choice numbers are consolidating. And I love this. But that's where WPLaunchify and myself are trying to be at the forefront of this. Because it doesn't seem that Automattic wants to be there, they want to do something different.

Jonathan: Where does WooCommerce come into the picture for you? Because 2011 I think is when, if I'm recalling my history as it was about the time. Where does Woo first come into this? You've been into WordPress, you're seeing where things are coming. Maybe you'd already played with some ecommerce, talk me through when that first came across your radar.

Spencer: I mean, you got to also understand that the gateways were not mature. I don't know what day Stripe came along. But when Stripe came along, that was like every holiday combined into one because up till then you had PayPal, or you had to go to authorize.net, or you had to bring a blood test to the bank to get permission. Now you can take credit cards without the aggravation of PayPal.

So in the early days of the social network stuff, I do remember that we were probably taking PayPal subscriptions. Because I remember there was maybe one or two people from those early days that just forgot to ever cancel. And six years later, they're still paying through PayPal. So around that 2011 time, we started to say, "Hey one of the components that you can give to your clients as a freelancer in this, we're teaching you to make WordPress websites for businesses is eCommerce." And it really became important as well when the WooCommerce subscriptions came along because now PayPal, Stripe gateway, WooCommerce, WooCommerce subscriptions at the heart of any business is always going to be some component of taking money.

Whether it's a subscription membership, whether it's a one time consulting fee, even if it's just donations. They didn't have Gumroad. But at the time, they had these like one off, I can't think of names of them. There was one that was really janky. But really big at the time, it was like some dude in his basement, where it was the only way to get paid on a recurring subscription. But the interface looked like it was done with early days of whatever, HTML. And it was like, now we can get rid of those and instead use a beautiful interface. Even simple as it was.

Anna: Since you mentioned subscriptions. I found one gem in one of your LinkedIn posts. You said something around the thought of, "Attention to all online business owners. Regardless of what you said, did you know that you are actually in the membership business?" And I was thinking, can you maybe expand a little bit on that thought? And how these principles apply to ecommerce store owners?

Spencer: For sure.

Anna: I mean, is it really true for all big online business owners. And how does that work?

Spencer: Actually, I mean, great question. I love that. I love that you looked that up too, because I think more than ever today, we're in what we call the membership economy. And this has been true for a couple years. But now think about it. It's so hard to build a new relationship because there's so much noise, so much traffic so much competition. I've always said in my teaching and OneWDTV, that was what I taught is the business of marketing psychology. Dating is like business, business is like dating.

If you meet somebody, you have to follow the same social graces of human interaction with a business prospect as you do with a human. Like, hey, if it's a guy and a girl, a guy and a guy, doesn't matter, whatever your orientation, if you meet somebody and you're romantically interested, you have to start with, "Would you like to meet for coffee, and let's get to know each other for five minutes first." Before I run into the, "Here's my family, and let's get married and run off and have kids or something." And in business the same way.

So when you think about it today, it costs so much time, effort, grief, popularity to get an interested lead or prospect anyway. You can't afford to let them go from just one purchase, you have to figure out a way to sell your services, sell your product, sell your information, in a way that keeps them looking to you as their expert. And I think that's true in relationships as well. Even if it doesn't work out with the dating thing. You could still be friends, you could still help somebody out because you built that trust, you built that knowledge of how they think.

And I think that's the foundation of any good business today, even if it is a large ticket selling. Maybe they're not going to buy another $10,000 thing. But guess what? Clients come to me all the time with like $300 to $500 an hour questions because to them, it's worth it to come back for that.

Jonathan: So let's apply this idea to builders, so you know the ecosystem fairly well. There's a lot of folks building plugins, themes, et cetera, for WooCommerce. What are some of the mistakes, like if you take this idea that we should be thinking about business as membership, this long term relationship? What are some of the mistakes that you see most often?

Spencer: Well, a couple things. We did learn in the One WD era in particular, we learned that you shouldn't if you're smart, teach people how to make money due to their own sales capabilities. So this is a very fine distinction, but for example, me teaching you a skill like how to build a website. And that by the way you can sell that is different than me teaching you how to make a living building websites. One of them is teaching you a mechanical outcome that you can achieve regardless of your ability to talk to people. The other one is me teaching you how to be a salesperson or a marketer or a schmoozer, which is a French term.

I can't guarantee that somebody can make a living if they're really good at technical stuff, but really bad at talking to clients. Because the bad at talking to clients part is going to be the same detriment as if I was trying to teach you how to meet a romantic partner. And you can read all my stuff, but you literally cannot have a conversation at coffee, it's going to be really hard for you to meet somebody.

So the number one mistake is making a business that's linchpin is relying on the variability of people's own marketing skill. And I'm going to use another controversial one. I have really good friends like John Locke. And the other day, we were on with Rand Fishkin on the show, who are SEO experts. Pick the thing that you can demonstrate statistical results for. I could never demonstrate to anybody SEO benefits. In fact, I oftentimes give John a hard time about it. Because I say I don't believe in SEO, I believe in relationships with the actual people that I meet through other means.

I do not think I would do well in any business where I'm trying to sell something that I either don't believe in or can't deliver a result. And I think a lot of people make that mistake. And finally, the other thing is, I see this all the time and it applies universally. I do not think in today's world, you can get away with a business unless you're venture funded or you're really a well to do person already, without putting your name and face and personal reputation on the line.

Because social media will not let you escape the wrath of public being able to figure you out. So you're better off going forward, saying "Hi, I'm Bob Smith, or Susie Smith." Or whatever I am. And this is what I'm trying to do. And being honest that nothing yet, but a little bit more than to pretend you're some nameless, faceless brand, or using one of those robot voices, and then your videos all sound like they're coming from overseas or something. Just be yourself. Because in today's world, especially with AI coming along, everybody can fake it. Very few people are willing to stand up and look in that camera and say, "I don't know much more than you, but I know enough to be worth it to you." And I think that's the secret.

Anna: So we're getting to relationships.

Spencer: Yeah.

Jonathan: If I'm a builder, then, if I'm wanting to get into this space, let's say I have an idea for a plugin. What kind what guidance would you offer to someone who's new to this? Maybe they don't feel very confident in the marketing the sales side of things. They're more on that technical side of what they can build. What guidance would you give?

Spencer: Two tips. Number one is be the birdie on the hippo's back. Okay, so you ever see those picture of like hippos, they don't mind the birds on top, because the birds eat the bugs. And that makes them happy. And the birds eat and the hippo's happy. Everybody's happy. It's a symbiosis. There's an infinite number of popular plugins. Hey, guess what, how about WooCommerce? I build LaunchFlows. Guess what LaunchFlows is? It's the birdie on the WooCommerce's back. There's already millions of people who love WooCommerce. But unfortunately, at least for now, WooCommerce doesn't understand how to do sales funnel stuff.

And so I take what's wrong or what's missing, I build that. And now I can market into that audience specifically, who are welcoming me with open arms like, "Where have you been all our lives?" Now, I have to admit that Adam Preiser and Sujay were both the ones that lead the charge with CartFlows. That's how I got interested in it. Because CartFlows was a product I had some involvement with and was interested in. But LaunchFlows came from being a birdie on a hippo's back. And that's always been the thing, finding a pain that exists with an existing plugin. And being able to make an add-on are what open source allows.

And then the second thing is, it's controversial, maybe because it's not a yes or no answer. But remember, I said I originally had a technical partner who was necessary because I knew nothing of coding to get me into a very complex REST API world. If you start with an existing plugin, and you modify it or add to it, it's far, far easier to teach yourself how to do that. Or if like you said, you're a technical person to start with now, you don't have to say as much to do as much but you should still follow the same rule.

Which it pains my heart By the way, there's so many great plugins that are written by people who don't need to speak English per se, but like my God, I'd rather hear you speak in broken English and say, "I'm so and so from so and so country that developed this plugin." And then the rest is easy then to have these plugins that now exist where you don't know who the heck is the developer. And where did this come from? Because that makes me uneasy as a buyer. If I'm going to put something into my eCommerce site from somebody, I don't know who's the person responsible. It's a trust issue.

Anna: Are there some trust elements that you're looking for when you choose a plugin?

Spencer: Yeah, I mean, I think it's a lot of social reputation, social proof. So here's an example. I'm not picking on the WooCommerce particular plugin, but we think WooCommerce subscriptions or WooCommerce Stripe gateway are essential. The WooCommerce Stripe gateway is an official WooCommerce plugin, there are two or three or four other competitors. They did something where they removed one of the conditionals that allowed it to check whether this was a generic checkout page or not. And they just randomly did it, it was just a common mistake, they took out one of... They took out two of the three conditions to check whether this Stripe gateway should appear.

Well, they didn't consider that all the sales funnels plugins, all the add-ons CartFlows, and WooFunnels and LaunchFlows, all of them are on pages that are not the official checkout page. So everybody's site for eCommerce broke all at once. And when we went to the actual repository, the person there answering the door was like, "We haven't heard of any of the stuff, you must be wrong."

And so all of us were forced into a position of having to say, "We're not really wrong, but we're really more surprised by your response. Here's the photographic proof and the site proof." And as soon as like three or four or five of us proved it, it was like the adult came into the room and said, "Get out of the way, kid." It's like, "We're so sorry, you showed us where the code is broken, and we fixed it." But that's an example of where, if it was a third party and not the official plugin, would never go back to using that plug in again.

But because it was the official plugin, and there was clearly like a mistake with the person answering the forums. But yet the adults came into the room fast enough. It caused damage to a lot of people, but not enough damage to ruin the reason to keep using the plugin. There's another example from a couple weeks ago, I'm not going to say the person. You know of it, because I think we're talking about on the show Jonathan, of somebody who had a free plugin that worked with your avatar. And they decided to turn it into a premium plugin by swapping out the code. But they made the other mistake, Anna, they were known. They had a name and a face. But they came in guns a blazing. "We can do this because you guys are all idiots." And essentially destroyed any of their goodwill, which is the opposite side of the coin.

Anna: It happens to the best of us. But since they're such big players, and people love them, do you think that they will be forgiven? Is there a way to redeem their reputation?

Spencer: Yeah, yeah. I mean, that's the point of being a person. So I always say, and we were joking about it before the show. I'm like, "Look, I'm very strong willed, strong, opinionated." That's my nature. That's how I just live my life. I'd rather be me. But there have been times recently. In fact, I do my mia culpas. And I give out ponies all the time.

If a customer on LaunchFlows has a bug. And I'm like, "Is it a bug? Is it a bug?" If I find it's a bug in there. I'm like, "You're right, I'm wrong. Here's a pony." And I put up an animated GIF. Or the other day, Andrew Palmer and Vito Peleg were telling me a couple months back about like, why LTDs are this new hot thing for selling your plugins. And I'm like, "Oh, you got to be an idiot to that." Sure enough, they discovered something. I hadn't thought about it and I launched a LTD. And I had to do a public apology. So the thing is, I would rather beg forgiveness than ask permission. So go with your instinct, but be prepared not to be less than a human being about it. Everybody makes mistakes, just own up to them.

Sponsor: Hey BobWP here and I’d like to take a moment to thank to of our Pod Friends for their support of Do the Woo

When it comes to building Woo sites for your clients, and everyone has their own strengths. If you need help with your clients conversions and revenue, the team at Mode Effect can be a part of your strategy to help clients avoid the hassle of management and training. Partner up with Mode Effect and let them help you keep your clients running smoothly in the long term, at Modeeffect.com

If you are looking for that right plugin for your clients Woo shop, chances are YITH will have what you are looking for. With over 100 plugins you will find that sweet spot.For example their memberships and subscription plugin is perfect for selling videos courses lessons and consultancies by restricting access to members only and creating recurring income. To compliment that plugin, the YITH Dynamic Pricing allows you to create your own Amazon Prime like benefits and discounts for your members. Visit Yithemes.com to check out their extensive collection of plugins.

And now back to the show.

Jonathan: So imagine you've got a builder, they're newer to the ecosystem, or maybe they've been there for a bit, but they're feeling like they want to improve. Maybe they're more technically inclined, but they feel like they want to improve how they approach marketing and how they approach relationship building with customers. What guidance would you give? How do you learn that? How do you get better at it?

Spencer: You just got to interact with human beings. I mean, that's the part that's hard. I grew up in a different era, because I'm 72 this year. And in my day, we didn't have the-

Anna: You're what?

Jonathan: I don't believe you. I thought it was 80, Spencer.

Spencer: That's in my mind. I'm 54. Nevertheless, I did grow up in an era where I think socially, even 30 somethings and 40 somethings were raised differently than somebody in their 50s. We didn't have the benefit of people at our fingertips for relationships. It was all about relationships first. We invented excuses to get out of our house and move out of our parents house and get on with our life and do stuff because of that.

Spencer: And I think that's hard because today it is very easy. And I find I'm a victim of it myself. To kind of go into your social media cave and just only communicate with clicks and little short messages. I think you need to go and find interesting pain points that fascinate you, work for free to solve those pains until you become somebody that those people in that community trust enough. And then if you find that there's a common level of pain, you could try to offer a solution that is a saleable solution. So in other words I needed a back scratcher, I saw why I could build it. "Hey guys, do you like my back scratcher? I can show you how to make it or I can sell it to you." That's the way that I've always found to make a good business in almost any kind of economy or community.

Jonathan: One of the things that I've seen go really well as builders who will go into like the WooCommerce Facebook group, for instance, and ask questions or chime in on things. I've seen folks test ideas. It's like, "Hey, I've got an idea for a potential product, does anyone think this would be useful?" And using that to do validation. And you're right it's still there's this human element where you have to have those conversations, you have to connect with folks and find out like, Hey, what do you need? What are the pain points that you've got?

Spencer: The thing that I would say is, and I don't have a black and white answer for this is that, I like the idea. And I use the metaphor of changing the engines on the airplane while it's in the air. So if you come to a scenario where you think there's something that's useful, try to make it for yourself. And if it works for yourself, show the actual thing that you've made as it is. In other words, don't spend a lot of energy or attention on your title, your landing page, or whatever, that's just all fluff.

I'm socially an acquaintance of Noah Kagan, who was an original expert in this, we used to play chess online. But he's the original expert of selling the most janky How To Videos long before the AppSumo days were big. And he would get away with it. Because at the end of the day, that's how people interact on a normal level anyway. If your friend said, "I'm going to show you how to do something." They're not putting up a big, glorious website and all this formal stuff, they just send you a video and or point you.

Jonathan: And a lot of people take a lot of time trying to get everything just right, get the landing page just right. "Oh, I've got an idea for a plugin. So I'm going to go and build it. I'm going to do all these things." And like no, forget that. That's fine. Those aren't bad activities, but they're not the most important activities. And to your point about like a conversation with a friend. If you're going to connect with people, that's not going to be why you win, all that work you put into it. And I find it's often a way that even if it's subconscious, we delay having the real conversations.

Spencer: You just keep painting the fence and nobody's actually coming into the yard. And that's the problem is that it's really scary and hard. And I mean, listen, I admit this, because I have to teach people that have social fear and anxiety. That's why I said earlier not to try to build a business on teaching people how to be good marketers, because that means you're trying to teach people to be different than their nature.

Listen, the world needs marketers, the world needs developers, the world needs introverts and extroverts. It's not like you should be this or that. But it's clearly easier for an extroverted marketer type to go and sell stuff than an introverted bookworm. And that doesn't mean yes or no, right or wrong, better or worse, it just means that's true. So if you've got those skills to make something, you could get a partner. Or you could do it in a way that is still honest but maybe it's type written, or maybe you pre-record your videos instead of doing live events. But put yourself out there and put the product out there. Because the people who want to buy it will validate the idea before you've painted your fence 100 times and spent all the effort for nothing, or vice versa.

Jonathan: You've invested a lot into WooCommerce as an ecosystem, like you built businesses. What's given you confidence? What gives you the confidence to do that? So you've been in this for a while.

Spencer: I mean, the thing that immediately comes to mind is I have to thank Mike Jolly. I've never met Mike Jolly. I've met almost everybody else that's relevant to me. And I'd like to meet more, because there's so many people that contribute. But one of the things I love about Mike Jolly is the fact that Mike Jolly's mindset, and I believe he's British. He is British.

Jonathan: Yeah.

Spencer: Okay. So my protege, Luke Stacy is British. And there's a certain difference in the mindset, which makes us a good partnership. Because I'm the guy that's the weird American salesy marketing social person. I got to thank Mike Jolly not only for how awesome the code is, I mean, it's like that team of everybody under his wing is making something that's really solid, which is why I say marry that plugin. But I have to thank him for the fact that he steadfastly has refused every single attempt by any person, including myself to include features in WooCommerce that do sales funnels or anything other than the Home Depot like experience.

And the reason I'm thankful to him is because his steadfast resistance to that has made most of my recent livelihood possible. In other words, he sees the world of WooCommerce as it's a Home Depot first, foremost and always, and will give you all the tools you need, which leaves the door open to guys like me to be the birdie on the hippo's back. We'll take care of the sales funnel part because they can very easily spend two minutes of time and make sales funnels in WooCommerce. I've suggested to you several times, somebody from WooCommerce should just give me a call and put me on staff because I can give you a million pieces of data about how to do this. But the fact that they don't do that means that they've left some food on the table for everybody else.

Jonathan: So I'm curious. And this is something that I think, in general, when you have these larger ecosystems, and you're building within it. So let's say WooCommerce decided tomorrow to do that. To build like a more integrated... To think about commerce more broadly. And this idea of membership and making it more utilitarian. What does that do for you and your business.

Spencer: I move upstream. You see, my business is not about software. LaunchFlows is a software product that I built as an accessory to my main consultancy and knowledge base. I talked to Bob about this, Bob Dunn and we share the same thing. In order to make yourself future proof, especially when you're 72 years old, you can't tie yourself to today's software. I mean, I've been around long enough to remember when we were building Dreamweaver sites, or Adobe Flash sites, and Macromedia was a company.

If I tied my business to that I'd be dead or a dinosaur. Instead, I'm the guy that knows the latest and greatest technology and how it works for whatever platform I'm on and I make it my business to stay one step ahead of the entire rest of the universe of business owners. Because as long as you do that, you can continually ride the front of the wave forward. I say this all the time, WooCommerce and WordPress are not going to stay static.

I mean, you've got all the stuff with like the JavaScript front end, and you got the themes... I can go through a whole list. Everything is changing. If I tried to build a business that my livelihood was built on that was this one plugin, forget about it, it'd be the end of the world. Because as soon as things change, or worse. Remember how he told you the story of how one day Ning's venture capitalists realized, "Hey, Foreman and that other partner of his or making all the money, why not turn them off?" Well go search out that stuff, you'll see the story, they just turned us off along with, like 12,000 customers. I already know how that story ends. So by not being focused on the software or the technology, but more about being the knowledgeable person I think that's how anybody can survive.

Jonathan: You mentioned the page builders earlier, I think those are good examples. For a number of those people went all in on a page builder ecosystem. And that's not a bad play. If you look to the future, though, and especially if you started to see Gutenberg and full site editing, and those things come along, and say, "Okay, this is going to change."

And if you're all like, "No, we're going to build our entire business on a particular page builder." And think well, as long as you accept that may not be a long term business, then fine. But in general, if you want to stay in business, you have to continue... I love that idea of thinking, just move up market anticipate it. Expect that at some point, the especially in this open source world. At some point, the special thing that you developed either gets absorbed into core or becomes fairly commonplace. Then it's like, "Okay, well, what's the new problem that I can focus on solving?" Because there will always be new problems to solve.

Spencer: I mean, I've got a great example of this. So Sallie Goestch is one of the regulars on the WP Tonic show. And she and I, like I was saying about SEO, how I would go after John Locke and say I don't get it. I would hassle Sallie indefinitely because as an Elementor fan and prior a Divi fan, but now in Elementor fan, I was very frustrated until very recently, with the slow progress of Gutenberg to become just functional enough to use.

I mean, it was like weirdness galore. But as of late, I think with the help maybe of a few accessory plugins, which by the way, are all free, it has crossed the threshold. And so now, I came out in regards to another very esoteric page builder, which was Oxygen. The sales funnel community and the designer community of Oxygen are the most passionate people I've ever met because they would literally drive themselves in their children off a cliff Thelma and Louise style just because oxygen said so even though they admit that Oxygen breaks the core behavior of the WordPress themes.

So like I told you the intro story, I refuse to comply with that. I said LaunchFlows won't work with it, because it just doesn't show the theme page. Now, there was somebody who came up with a fix for that. But I was always giving Sallie a hassle. I said, "Oh my god, it'd be so much easier if at the core level of WordPress, at the editor level if I could just make these checkout pages with the same beautiful stuff that's already available. Everything will be simple." Why? Because then you could just have something like we figured out a solution, spit out the core page content and put it inside of whatever page builder you're using. And I think that has arrived.

But the lesson from that in relation to your question is this, see where things are going and try to meet them there instead of following where they're at today. Because the thing I can guarantee you, I'll go on record and maybe if anybody cares, we'll look this episode up in a year, I guarantee you Elementor will survive. It has 10s of millions of users. Divi will survive, it has 10s of millions. Beaver Builder, probably it's kind of on my watch list of I don't know if it's enough to survive in its feature set.

But my God, all these other little communities of page builders, if they want to survive, they're going to survive like little nightclubs survive because they have 100 fans. They're not going to survive when you can go into the core of WordPress. And that, gosh darn Gutenberg is so awesome and so free and so like with stuff in there, and then when you talk about your earlier question. How can I, as a birdie on a hippo's back make a living. Guess where you look? WooCommerce checkout pages, sales funnels with Gutenberg. Because as soon as that's core into WordPress, you can have people with money hunting you down to get what you're offering.

Because unlike a ballerina site, or a hobby site, or a baseball team, that's like a bunch of kids, people with stores have money. People with money, care about them working and getting it done. And whether it's a couple $100 here or a couple 1,000 there, when people have real money, those are the people that will pay for your plugin and make it worth you to do it.

Jonathan: And I think it's important there too, to also challenge preconceived notions. I noticed a lot of folks in the builder ecosystem will kind of do what others have done. It's like, "Oh, what do I charge for my plugin? Well, I'm just going to kind of look around. And I'll just pick an arbitrary price." I've talked to folks get into Woo for the first time who were having a hard time with how cheap the plugins are.

Spencer: You mean that they're not cheap enough, or they're too cheap.

Jonathan: That they're too cheap. It's like, "I have a big business. I'm moving for something else over to Woo, you're telling me that I'm going to have the core of my business on a $200 plugin."

Spencer: By the way, what's interesting, too, I want to just clarify something. My other thing was an example of how Sallie was right. I was wrong. But in regards to your current question, I find that the paradox of WordPress puts people into two camps. You've got one camp of people that are WordPress first. And you've got people that come from other SAS products and CRMs first. Hello, anybody who's out there listening, if you want to make money and WordPress, focus all your energy on the people coming from Salesforce or HubSpot, or Infusionsoft, whatever, because they're going to come in, and they're going to be like, "What you're saying for a year, it's going to cost me the same amount as one phone call to a Salesforce consultant, and I own it and I control it."

That's 100% of what WPLaunchify is designed to reveal. Because those people are out there looking. And unfortunately, or fortunately for me, they don't get or understand what's wordpress.com or wordpress.org? Or how do I get started? It's all jibber jabber to them. So what we're trying to do is make it as simple as Salesforce's sales page. That guess what, you need a CRM capability with a CMS, it's all built into one stack. Here's the stack you need.

Jonathan: My last question for you. So we have 17 plus years of WordPress, WooCommerce. There's a lot of momentum there. You've been watching for a long time, you've been a part of the ecosystem. What's your concern... Do you have any concerns for the future of WordPress and Woo? I guess what could go wrong? What could kill it? If you take your background in Ning, what you observed?

Spencer: So here's what I feel is going to happen. I don't think it's any secret that there's a pulling of interest between the investors in Automattic and the users, the developers, the community, of WordPress. And there's been some back and forth that has nothing to do with me between Matt and the founder of Wix.

One of the things that I said, which I still believe is true, is the Achilles heel of Automattic, not of WordPress, per se, but of Automattic is that it's open source at its core. There is nothing stopping the founder of Wix, who has a $15 billion market cap from paying a couple hundred million dollars to Elementor's team or somebody else, and building a fork of WordPress that solves a lot of the problems that aren't being solved. Now do I feel that's a danger to the community here?

No, it's a benefit to us. Because there's a lot of complaints that I have about the speed, like I said, of Gutenberg's development or the accessibility issues. But that's the danger to Automattic. And so what you're seeing now is somebody like a Wix founder could take the software, put it out there and just be like, "Hey, man, you get all the freedoms and all this stuff promised, but everything works properly. And by the way, the benefit of all these extra things." That's, I think, a real potential possibility.

Jonathan: It is interesting to see as more of the outside, as bigger companies start to get more involved. They see WordPress at this point is huge. You look at how big it is, the influence it has over the web as a whole. What's it going to look like as more outside interest comes into the project and recognizes the opportunities.

Spencer: Remember, Linux. Linux was open source software. And it wasn't until I think Red Hat or one of the other competitors monetized it and put professionals to develop it and decided to do things to prevent other people from being legally able to copy it that it evolved into a full fledged product that at the time was sort of interesting compared to Windows. But I see that metaphor here. There's lots of people that want WordPress as ready to go solution. And if that can be wrapped up into something that doesn't feel like you're sort of locked into a Trojan horse, then it will work. But otherwise, I think somebody is going to try to do that, either at the hosting level, or at the page builder level, or maybe just as a goof to be an accessory to something else.

Anna: Spencer, I have one more question for you. What's your thought or your piece of advice for people who are becoming builders. They're at the beginning of their career? Do you see that there's still time to become a really, really good builder and do something that matters?

Spencer: I do and here's why. The cool thing about what we're talking about is that we used to have five toys, then we had 500 toys. Now we have 5,000 toys. So now WordPress, I think is crossing what 40 something percent of all the internet websites with CMS. So that's millions and millions of users and thousands and thousands of toys. Pick a little group of people that have one particular pain. Now, there's so much space for everybody.

I mean, it can feel overwhelming, like hopeless at the same time. But if you think about it, you don't have to solve the world's problems, you can go into your own little community with the group of 100 people and solve them and make a livelihood. That's you're your own little version of Seth Godin, or whoever said that originally. Your 100 true fans. So I'm saying that the excitement of WordPress moving so fast is that there are more opportunities than ever before.

But don't try to solve the big stuff first. Solve the thing. And along with that, I really encourage people, Chris Coyier, is who taught me CSS and I told you like using Stack Overflow, but also like Todd McFarlane, and Justin Tadlock and John James Jacoby, they were all my inspirations taught me a lot of PHP and functionality, WordPress. Go out and learn the mechanics, as well as the psychology because I think that's going to make you more powerful as a person selling the product.

I feel my advantage over Sujay and Adam, Adam is a brilliant YouTuber, I only have 7,000 people, he has 200 something thousand. But he serves a different community. He serves the newbies that find him on YouTube. I serve the people coming in from outside CRMs who want a business solution, they need a higher level of expertise. So you pick your niche, you pick your audience, you pick your skill set, but having that triple threat of knowing the psychology, knowing the code a little bit and knowing what the pain points are, will allow you to act more quickly, versus having to rely on other people.

Anna: So you heard him guys, go out and learn. Spencer work and we learn more about you?

Spencer: Primarily, I would ask people to go to WPLaunchify.com. It's our discovery tool. It's now out of beta. It allows you to see what I've been blabbing about here, which was find out for your own use case, or those of your clients, what stack of things would be useful. And then we're still experimenting with what's happening next. And I can give you a hint, the consolidation of WordPress has made it really important to me to go back to an idea that we used to do which is not just to be consultative and say go get your own server and put it on. But to offer like start to finish for anybody, "Here's what you need in WordPress as a platform. And by the way, here's a ready to use box of stuff."

We avoided that for a while because WordPress was changing and it was hard to keep up like I said chasing the changes. But now we've reached a point that with this tool in this method, you can either get the advice you need for free or hire, or you can even get the ready to go solution. And to me the service that's nice about that is that unlike a platform like ClickFunnels, unlike Kajabi, or Shopify, with WordPress, you can learn what to make, either make it yourself or get it from us. And then it's yours. You own it, you control it, you can take it.

You can't take ClickFunnels with you, you can't take Kajabi with you. If you build your entire business you're married to them for as long as you want that business to exist. With our solution you have an open source own it, control it and if better, you're an implementer. Many of our more successful clients are actually intermediaries who take what we've shown them or built for them. And they go sell it to doctors or lawyers or carpenters or whomever because that's the beauty of it. We had a big client that was a bookkeeper instructor. It doesn't matter with WordPress because you don't have to send them to somebody else's platform. You can own it and white label it and have it yourself.

Anna: Awesome.

Jonathan: And I want to say a special thanks to our two pod friends Mode Effect. And yes, Mode Effect is a fantastic agency. You can check them out modeeffect.com. And YITHthemes.com. They've got a bunch of WooCommerce plugins. Spencer, thanks so much for joining us.

Spencer: It was my pleasure. I loved your questions. I love being here and I look forward to seeing the episode when it comes out.