Hey WordPress aficionados, we are back with yet another interesting talk from our Pirate Interviews series. This time, it’s Nemanja Aleksic from ManageWP who will share his take on the WordPress community, hosting, and the WordPress market in general. The topics are diverse, so you should not miss this one.
But before that, don’t forget to check out our last interview with Adrian Spiac from TranslatePress on how to build and promote a product in the WordPress space. Moreover, if you want to get more inspiration from WordPress experts and business owners, don’t leave until you go through our entire section of interviews with beautiful WordPress folks.
As for Nemanja, it’s his turn today to tell us his insights on building and growing with our CMS. We actually met Nemanja at the most recent WordCamp Bucharest edition and we invited him to a casual interview, which we did between speakers’ presentations.
Nemanja is a WordCamp speaker himself, though he wasn’t speaking that day in Bucharest. He is a product marketer at ManageWP and GoDaddy and is in love with the WordPress community, which is actually the reason why he started a career and remained loyal to our CMS during all this time.
Here’s Nemanja Aleksic sharing how he went from a developer to a support guy and then a marketer, and how the best marketing consists of telling the truth and not trying to “sell mist”, as they call it in Serbia. WordCamps’ takeaways, hosting business… read further for an overall view of the WordPress community. Or just watch it because we have a video version, too (open the embedded tweet to the right to see all the answers).
Question 1: How did you get started with WordPress? pic.twitter.com/uDjshwuG0Q
— ThemeIsle (@ThemeIsle) October 27, 2018
Nemanja Aleksic Interview – “Make your users happy, make them your advocates”
How did you get started with WordPress?
As many others did, I started freelancing back in the 2000s. I was looking for a change of career and I was always good with computers, even from ZX Spectrum. I was always messing with things, breaking stuff. So when I realized that I could make this a career, I started first working with Joomla (I know, I know, I’m sorry), but at some point when WordPress started to get off, I got introduced to the WordPress community and I was blown away and then I switched over to WordPress as CMS of my choice.
Did the community make you switch?
Yes, yes. Because there was so much more content out there, so many people were willing to help, so much more advice, so much more everything, which is even today the biggest trend of WordPress.
You love computers and programming, but right now you’re a marketer. How?
Yeah, it’s a strange choice cause I always said that I’ll never do three things in life: support (because I hate dealing with disgruntled people), public speaking (because I’m terrible with crowds), and marketing (because I hate selling mist, as we say in Serbia). But it turns out that I got the opportunity to get deeper in WordPress by joining ManageWP, a company that was founded back in 2010.
There, a learned a lot about WordPress and through my work in the support team I started profiling myself as somebody who’s got a good emotional experience and I realized that marketing is something that’s pretty good for me in the sense where I’m more of a no-bullshit kind of guy, with a focus on product marketing. So the actual stuff that we can build and how do we promote it to users, as opposed to just taking something and selling it.
You’re back in Bucharest after 24 years. How has it changed?
It’s been really exciting, I was here in 1994 so I worked with a lot of Romanian people. I remember, when I was a kid, we were on a winter holiday and we actually watched when Ceausescu was taken down. So it was a direct feed in Belgrade.
When I came to Romania (to Bucharest, actually) in 1994, I saw that you’d started this transition; people were still poor but the optimism was seen on every corner. Now I’m happy to see that you made a long way since then so people are healthier, happier, and they have more means to live and succeed, so I’m really happy for you guys.
What about the Romanian WordPress community?
So the first time I’ve heard about the Romanian community was actually in Bulgaria, at WordCamp Europe. There was a big community meeting where a lot of people were asking about how to kickstart their communities and how to help put together the first WordCamps. And right about at the same time as we were looking to start WordCamp Belgrade, there was a group of people from Bucharest who were asking the exact same questions for WordCamp Bucharest. And fast-forward one year, we got the first WordCamp Belgrade and first WordCamp Bucharest.
You guys are doing great and the community is growing and I think the best thing that I like is there is a lot of collaboration between the regional communities and you can see a lot of faces in different countries, at different WordCamps, meaning that there’s a lot of collaboration between us.
Does offering maintenance or hosting services beat building themes/plugins?
From a company perspective, hosting business is probably better in the long run because, if we look at it like this, people start as freelancers or building websites. So that’s a feast and famine cycle: you gotta work to get paid. You stop working, you stop getting paid. So the first step is, you get into some sort of a maintenance contract and you get recurring revenue without having to actually work on the time.
But then, there’s the next step where you actually create a product – it could be a theme, a plugin, hosting or something else – but then there is the logical next step. The only problem that I currently see is that there is a great volume of low-quality themes and plugins, so getting into the market is very hard right now.
We got the situation where the whole market is getting consolidated meaning there are fewer and fewer great companies but they are producing more themes; on the other end, there is a ton of low-quality plugins that might be good, but they are not supported well, they don’t have a big enough team and they will probably end up being abandoned one year from now.
Can a hosting business guarantee you financial stability?
I wouldn’t say go for hosting because people need to think about providing solutions, not features. You need to focus on what customers need. If a coffee shop down the street needs a website, it doesn’t mean you just have to put up a website and you’re done. You actually need to help them put up their online presence and then maintain. So, in that sense, you become their right hand, their expert and that’s a much healthier relationship for both you and them.
Tell us one thing you learned from WordCamps that helped you very much either professionally or personally.
To ask questions. The most beautiful thing about WordCamps are not the talks per se or the swag (even though many will tell you the swag is awesome) but the fact that you have so many different profiles in the room and you sit right next to them. You just need to introduce yourself and ask a question and that person will give you an honest answer 99% of the time (at least in the WordPress community).
They might not be a better developer than you are but they might know a thing or two that you don’t know. They might help you with the business side of things because the one reason I started doing talks at WordCamps because I realized I’m not that good of a developer and, by switching to ManageWP, I stopped coding entirely. But more importantly, there are a lot of development talks but not a lot of business talks.
So we have a situation where people who know how to create really good websites end up charging 50 euros for them. Which is terrible because they will give up, they will switch to being a chef in a restaurant or something else and we’ll lose a good developer.
So getting your business in a good shape and getting it off the ground is just as important as creating good websites.
Who is doing incredible things in the WordPress space right now?
Well, I will always nominate our team but, in reality, we are currently trying to tackle one thing and that’s like get the capability where you can migrate your website from staging to live and to a local host and back without having to lose any information. It’s something that we’ve been working on and right now we managed to create the ability to migrate from your local host computer to a live server and back without having any application on the desktop. So it’s all done for browser.
The next step for us is to create a database emerging functionality where you can have a live e-commerce website that you can clone to a staging area; do some stuff like an update or something and then clone it back without losing all the orders that you had in the meantime.
But if I have to nominate somebody else, I would say Health Check. I’m really excited about the whole project. It’s basically a plugin that enables you to troubleshoot your website and to create a series of recommendations like what do you need to do to improve your website even if it’s breaking down – like this is the individual component like a plugin or line of code that’s actually breaking. It’s still in the early stages so it tends to break the website as much as fix it but if the community gets it off the ground, that would be a fantastic asset for everybody because everybody will be able to use it.
What’s the one marketing strategy that always proves to be efficient when you want to promote a product?
In the WordPress space, I would say utilizing the user base and the community. If we look at other conferences and other communities, it’s much more ‘us versus them’ mentality. So you have the companies versus the attendees, who are the users.
In our community, there is a lot more mix; these two groups are intertwined so users are at the same time both the service providers, speakers, and organizers. We realized early on, if we can put up a quality product and make our users happy, they will amplify your message tenfold.
So right now, what we’re seeing for ManageWP is, we get spikes in traffic, spikes in sign-ups from different locales, different countries. We didn’t do anything but then we realized somebody held a talk on efficient website management and they said “oh, we love ManageWP, you should try it out”. We’re investing zero efforts directly but, on our end, what we are doing is to make that promise to the users and to keep up our end of the deal and they are telling everybody about it.
So make your users happy, make them your advocates. That would be my advice.
That sums up our Nemanja Aleksic interview. If you have any questions for him, please leave them in the comments section. Also, if you have any suggestions for who we should talk to next, feel free to give us some names, as well!