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Press This Podcast: Using WordPress to Grow SaaS-based Businesses with Matt Quirie & Larry Vollmer

Welcome to Press This, the WordPress community podcast from WMR. Here host David Vogelpohl sits down with guests from around the community to talk about the biggest issues facing WordPress developers. The following is a transcription of the original recording.

David Vogelpohl: Hello everyone and welcome to Press This the WordPress community podcast on WMr. This is your host David Vogelpohl. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine. And I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week on pressing this as a reminder, you can follow me on twitter @wpdavidv. You can subscribe to press this on iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify, or download the latest episodes at In this episode, gonna be talking about using WordPress to grow SAS based businesses. And joining us in that conversation is a couple of gentlemen that specialize in that. I’d like to welcome Matt Quirie to Press This. Matt, welcome.

Matt Quirie: Thanks for having me.

DV: Glad to have you here. And Larry Vollmer. Welcome, Larry.

Larry Vollmer: Thanks for having me also.

DV: Awesome. I’m really excited to talk about this today. This is an area near and dear to my heart. WP Engine is a sense, sass company providing kind of a platform and services for WordPress. So it involves a WP Engine for nine years of experience. This also, of course, my agency work as well servicing clients. Really what we’re going to be talking about is well, when you’re building digital experiences in WordPress for sass companies, how do you use that as an engine of growth and that’s something that mapillary that specialize and through their company ROI DNA, and so we’re really going to kind of dive deep here today. So Matt, or Larry I don’t know if you have like the same story or like different With a battle started with you what briefly tell me your WordPress origin story?

MQ: Yeah, absolutely. So at our DNA, we really have been doing WordPress since we started two and a half years ago. We’ve done every type of CMS system. You can imagine Drupal Joomla as well, too. But pretty quickly in the first three years, we really standardize on WordPress because of the ease of use from marketers, the flexibility development, great plugins that are tried and true it as well as allowing our customers to have CMS system that they can find resources for themselves eventually released. So we’ve been doing them for a long time pretty much 90% of what we do from CMS is.

DV: Did you first start using WordPress in ROI DNA or had you used it before you started, the agency. Similar story for my agency days I had used WordPress prior more substantial ways per se but really honed in on it. After starting building up the dev team, my agency is so Larry how about you? What’s your WordPress origin story?

LV: Sure. So ROI DNA, I manage a team of developers and engineers. But in 2002, I started my career as a web developer. And in 2005, I started working as a web developer at newspapers. And this is a time where newspapers had to make the shift from just being traditional print to actually starting to care about digital. And the reporters had to start publishing their own blogs. So there were using just you know, submitting story went to the newspaper, and that was it. Now they have to produce additional content to support those news stories via blog posts on the web. Naturally, that led us to WordPress and started my WordPress journey and here I am today.

DV: I like it. We had I think we’ve had a guest yet whose origin story is rooted in the transition from print to digital media like that. Thanks for sharing. Yeah, it was. Yes. So I haven’t even really interesting. I know we have a lot of customers on the web platform that have both the print and the digital publishing arms. So obviously WordPress is a popular choice for that. So I was wondering either if you can answer is fine by me. But like if you could just briefly tell us a little bit more about ROI DNA. I kind of mentioned how y’all specialize in supporting SAS companies, but I’ll be interested more about

MQ: Yeah, sure. I can start that as men. So we started 10 and a half years ago with the people that were tired of working with a hole so we’ve got a new ad sales policy, but we are in full shot digital agency where we focus in helping SAS companies with digital strategy, digital analytics, digital marketing, so which really means we’ve been we’ve been super lucky to work with some awesome awesome clients like we run digital for AWS marketplace, Informatica pager duty. We helped Dropbox grow from 40 to 800 people. Our Facebook group from 3,000,220 5 million revenue. So we really become an extension of the customers we work with and really think of ourselves as part of those teams as well, too. So we’re, we’ve been lucky enough to grow to about 60 plus people now based out of San Francisco and Austin, but with the current situation, everyone is remote.

DV: Right. All right, you know, I have the same policy map. Yes, definitely share those values. So let’s talk a little bit then about some of the strategies that you use with your customers and I guess just in general, as you see in the SAS space. Again, I think these questions are just fine for either y’all. But how do sass companies typically use WordPress to go grow their digital presence or just their business in general? Like what’s the go to move for WordPress?

MQ: Yeah, so I’ll start off. Really when we start we look at the go to market strategy these companies have been the go to for WordPress is really becoming that marketing layer, where they can take the persona based communication layer on We journey mapping and information architecture, and then really build out a bespoke WordPress instance. That’s going to last for three to five years. So for us, it’s really about helping enable the companies with you know, one integrates all b2b tools and b2c tools we
use for all this stuff. It really has all of the plugins you need that are tried and true for years to actually help you expand your marketing footprints. And in one, it really enables the marketers SAS company to have control their own destiny. And that’s one of the things where we looked at other CMS before. It was really kind of engineering dependent. You know, I think when WordPress offers for most of the people out there from SAS companies, like how can I enable engineering to do engineering as well, products I’ve been grabbing for the dev stuff and he would also enable marketing to push as far as they can. With the simple things that should be changes like building and page content. rollouts, even plugins for some people that much but for us really becomes a cornerstone of their marketing efforts to start.

DV: Yeah, I think that’s a really interesting point. I often talk about how WordPress allows organizations to scale their innovation and their voice, right. Every idea is an identikit basic example. And I know a lot of sass companies, when they first start will, you know, build out their website and whatever language their platform was written in and every word, every character change requires an engineer somewhere to answer a ticket. Larry, this question is with a spin off this one a little bit, but this one would be more directed to you. So as you all start working with new clients, like I mean, it sounds like what Matt described was like the advanced answer, like yeah, we’ve got this bespoke model. We’ve got all this personalization layered in when you first start working with the client, like, how if they’ve used WordPress, was it just for the blog is it like, it’s that kind of starting point if they even have one?

LV: So there’s kind of a couple barriers Entry there. Some people have a negative WordPress because they just see it as blogging software. As we all know, it’s it’s completely false. reiterate what Matt said, No, we take a lot of pride in building very easy to use CMS instances inside WordPress. No, we’ve kind of inherited a lot of sloppy WordPress installs. And we’ve been able to fix them again, users get to see, wow, we actually don’t need a developer to enter content. You guys have been able to architect this in a manner that allows marketers to enter content, and allows marketers to ask developers to build feature requests or fix bugs or improve performance work on stuff that engineers are supposed to work on, as opposed to paying an engineer to copy and paste content from a Word doc into a WordPress instance. Yeah, I call this soul crushing landing page.

DV: is someone who’s managed dev teams for a large part In my career, I know how frustrating that can be to engineering team trying to do cool stuff, they keep getting sidelined to do these other things. But it sounds like what you’re saying is that a lot of these orgs are not using it or if they are just very simple ways when you first get going and you feel like it’s like you felt like that was because they really just understand what WordPress was, how do they use it in a way to drive their business forward? Is that fair? Larry?

LV: I think that’s fair. And also, you know, they might have worked with a, maybe a freelancer or smaller company to begin with, who might have just thrown, you know, a premade theme or a bunch of plugins that have solution that really performance or weren’t really easy to use. And, you know, we prefer to build everything custom when we can, and when we do that just makes things easier for a marketer content entry person or whoever it needs to update a page or another page, delete a page, whatever, makes it easier for them to do their job.

DV: Gotcha. So that’s Interesting. So it’s not just the perception of WordPress is a blogging platform and maybe even some experiences with less sophisticated folks who were really building that company needed to drive their growth. I want to get to my next question, which was my favorite question, which is tell me what people do wrong. Tell me their mistakes. But we’re gonna take a quick break.

DV: Welcome back to press this WordPress community podcasts on w Mr. This is your host David Walpole and speaking with Matt query and Larry folder using WordPress diggers, SAS based businesses right before the regulary you shared some insights on how SAS organizations kind of get started using WordPress or level of sophistication and experience. I want to switch it up a little bit, man, I guess I’ll go back to you. What mistakes do SAS companies make when they use WordPress? Like what do they do wrong? What’s that thing to go look for if you’re starting to optimize sass companies

MQ: So as you know, WordPress has a bunch of sites, we could download the newest theme that’s been put up for 40 bucks or 200 bucks or whatever, that fits kind of some sort of shell idea what your business is going to be online. And while it’s great for various small businesses, if you have any intent to scale or maintain to really grow into most companies, we do what their series ABCD you know, 100 million Arr, all the way through IPO and beyond that. So when we look at those things, all those companies started out small and I think the biggest mistake all Do with a WordPress instance is picking that theme off the shelf and then trying to adjust and manipulate that theme into what they really want it to be, instead of taking the time to build it from scratch in WordPress, which works much better, especially when you have upgrades in the in a system like WP engine or something that come naturally with it. In taking that extra time to really lay out you know that that communication, journey mapping flow and the information architecture and then really, it’s a little more expensive. It’s not that more expensive to build out a bespoke fit for your WordPress that’s not going to break. I think that’s the biggest mistake at the start.

DV: So obviously, people can leverage the starting point, right, a lot of people use sample their starter themes. So it sounded like just using a premade thing might not necessarily be the biggest problem as much as trying to kind of optimize your business and your message to fit. Whatever the theme delivers. It sounds like what you’re saying is that People should be purposeful with their WordPress site and not try to shoehorn it into a starting point like.

MQ: I agree. I think there’s two things in that factor that one is, you can take a WordPress theme like it’s good, great to look at for references, and they’re great to look out for you can build, I would still probably build it clean code to start anyway. And so that that’s taken as guides and kind of maps. But when you implement them, it does come with a lot of additional plugins that you don’t need things that could slow down your SEO and things to look as well too. So if you do choose a theme, really look at how its structured, really have someone evaluate whether or not all the plugins attached to a theme are necessary, and evaluate how it’s gonna affect your work.

DV: Yeah, which ones you want to retain? You’re talking to a big theme guy with big Genesis guy. Leave the Genesis basis, you can add WP edge and so this is one of the things that we think about extensively in our themes is like, well, what are those starting points? What are the extensibility But to your point Particularly with a sass company, and particularly with larger companies thinking about like, well, I’m going to use that jump point or am I going to go from scratch? But no matter what I do, I need to essentially build that kind of custom funnel for my business. Larry, what about you? What mistakes Do you see when SAS companies use WordPress?

LV: And we didn’t agree with Matt on that one. And just to kind of touch on a couple more facts. I’m thinking about scalability from the beginning, I think is very important. You know, you might spend six months of workforce hours building out something from premium theme, then you experience a period of explosive growth. And you realize you need to start integrating other third party marketing tools, Salesforce, Marketo, HubSpot, drift, what have you. And sometimes that stuff becomes problematic because the code is kind of already written for you trying to log jam some things into places that they don’t really belong to you spend a little time customizing something right off the bat. And architecting a nice advanced custom field setup. Within WordPress in the beginning, the when you visit the second, third fourth iteration of your website, you can go to market and six weeks with a new front end, as opposed to six months because you have to rebuild everything. We can take the data from the back end custom fields, and literally pump that into any WordPress page template or set of custom fields. So that, like I said, your time to market is six weeks, not six months.

DV: Right. So it sounds like kind of also that that notion around like shoehorning your digital strategy into kind of a premade prescription for that. And then not taking into account your you mentioned scalability, which I thought was interesting because I always think like traffic volume, but you’re also kind of talking about that through the lens and scaling your digital strategy meaning Am I going to be beholden to the way a certain plugin works? Is the content going to be extensible? Would you say that’s true?

LV: Very true. Yeah. You know, there’s a time and a place for those themes, you know, small to even maybe small and medium sized businesses can leverage them. Like I said, if your business experiences a period of explosive growth, no, just think about that from the onset, and it will save you a lot of headaches in the years to come.

DV: So this question I guess for either you what is the most unique way you’ve seen a sass company integrate their back end with the WordPress front end so for example, on WP engine will personalized content on the website if they we know their customer from poor dollars? I say give examples. Like what are the coolest or most unique ways you have seen people do stuff like that?

LV: Um, so for us, kind of beating a dead horse here. Sorry. But uh, you know, I think building the Easy to use CMS from the onset is the best way to make sure you have the most unique set up for your WordPress instance. As far as some of the personalization stuff and account based marketing and no tools is of that nature. I think Matt could probably touch on that.

MQ: So I think from a unique spec perspective, we’ve actually had companies have done the front end and back end and WordPress from the whole SaaS based service application being actually a WordPress framework and automatically identify who’s in the login state. We work with demandbase drift, Salesforce, so a lot of personalization, content stuff becomes automatic with our thinking is we’re really thinking about count based marketing all the time. And I think some of the new most unique ones are really knowing Okay, the identification of this company has come to your website. Most likely it’s one of three or four people then serving up that content through a WordPress interface with some b2b bespoke tools. That you’re using in a way that really kind of leverages all the data you’ve had about that person so far and takes them on that next step in the journey. those are those are super fun for us to see come to fruition. And one of the most exciting things I think that’s integrating right now with most of our clients to WordPress, as well, too, is drift as a conversational marketing tool. You know, for us, for me, I’ve been in AV testing, as on omniture as your board customer advisory board for eight years between now maturing Adobe for targets, that kind of stuff. And the data and AV testing is near and dear to my heart. So seeing this evolution of conversational marketing that’s just tied right into these websites really quickly. We’re, I think it’s exciting from a new evolutionary WordPress reading, start taking data from the conversational marketing and have that populate pages that you have as templates. And also a lot faster to like you mentioned at one point that, you know, death by 1000 landing pages, or something like that, but I think now we can actually Fast Forward conversations have many more conversational marketing pieces that are In this era Oh land and have that inform you landing pages, we’re even saving a ton of work of cranking out landing pages because we’re not going to start cranking out once we know a directional conversation that’s going to happen.

DV: it sounds like from the high level, the idea there is kind of most unique ways you’ve seen is connecting that users contacts with what they’re experiencing and the messages they’re receiving the conversations they’re having on the WordPress site, providing that kind of back in the context of the, you know, in the context of the service they received in the SAS layer. Okay, that’s really interesting. I have another side question on this. Very little bit of a curveball here. All right, but we’re gonna take a quick break.

DV: Welcome back to press this the WordPress community podcast on w Mr. We’re in the middle of our interview using WordPress to grow SAS based businesses. Matt right before the break we were talking a little bit about the most unique way you’ve seen SAS companies integrate their back end you talked about this notion of like personalization, kind of understanding where the user is, in their journey delivering the right content on the WordPress side. Have you seen a lot of examples of like, literally using WordPress as part of their SAS either for content management, or the other way around? Where like messages that need to be delivered? Or the SAS users are delivered on the WordPress site?

MQ: Like, yeah, two pages on pages? Yeah, I’ve seen clients inject, you know, content that’s being pulled right into the WordPress site from, you know, unique identification layers of who they have as a customer on that site, for sure. I think, you know, that’s we’ve been lucky enough to work with, I don’t know how many enterprise companies 10 half years, probably 100. It’s pretty, it’s really interesting to see like that. WordPress, from CMS standpoint, it’s been so flexible, that, you know, multi billion dollar enterprise companies can use it as well too, and just drive through that. So I, you know, I think it’s cutting edge for people to do that, you know, it’s probably one out of 100 marketers turn to actually take conversational marketing and pushing automatically in what people are doing is taking the conversations that we’re contesting a bunch of conversations and then rewriting pages really quickly. So, taking 180 testing guest pages to start.

DV: Yeah, one of the examples we have at WP Engine is we have a feature called transferable installs where site developer, a freelancer agency can transform site to a client. And the client lands on the page to accept the transfer. That page is in WordPress pulls in the agency’s logo and things like that to help reassure the client accepting right transfer. And this is kind of our, quote, unique example. But I mean, I’m like, pained to think of other examples like that, where people are really pressing the edges with it. So I’m glad to be able to have this conversation with you all today. How I can.

LV: Yeah, please do I’m sorry. If I can try me with one point I think we’re going to see and we’re seeing right now more and more the reverse of this question. Instead of how our sass companies integrating their back end with the WordPress front end. How are they changing, migrating their back end to a WordPress back end into any front end period, the concept of headless which is a conversation for another day. But I just thought it was an interesting kind of take on that question.

DV: Yeah, I think in a course that’s kind of what I was implying there that extensible nature and WordPress with the REST API, it’s extensibility, if you will. And that’s also interesting because there’s headless, which most people refer to in the jam sense. But now, of course, we’re also talking about a consumable by many things. But yes, I think we need to do another episode on that not too far from now. Next question, though, from the high level, what steps do you walk through new SAS company with as you’re identifying the best place to start, like when you have a new SAS company, as a customer and your agency, like, what are the things you look for? How do you how do you know where to get started?

MQ: Yeah. So what we look at to start from the from this is one new SAS company, who are the personas we’re going after and how we try to communicate with personas. And that’s primary decision maker, maybe secondary decision maker and then the tertiary influencer at max. Then we take a next step and say, what content Do we need to align to those personas? What do they need to see from the high level of the website coming in to know that the key features of your product match what they’re looking for, but also give them that depth and breadth of content that surrounds that without over inundating them with a Tolstoy novel on the first page, you know, it’s really that nuance of, hey, this products got what I want. Okay, I can dive deeper in these segments. If I’m at, you know, advanced user or something I want to see that way deep in the weeds. I’ve got that information. And then from there, what we advise the sass companies on is okay. That’s your personas you’re targeting. Now, how does the journey map and the information architecture has to be aligned for each of those unique journeys in how does that To connect to the other tools you have from your CRM tool, that’s the AV marketing tool to the rest. And then we say, okay, great WordPress outline for your sites can be XYZ with information architecture, here’s how each journey map works, and then goes to Larry’s land of setting up the back end or your back end site.

LV: So for developer, myself, managers, in developers and engineers, it’s kind of like a dream to have, you know, I don’t have to make any assumptions, I get to focus on the dev side of things. You know, in the old days, you’d have the client come to you and say, Hey, I need X, Y, and Z. And then as a developer, you have to make a certain set of assumptions that might not be the best, because that’s not your area of expertise. That is professional marketer and our entire team ROI DNA, they give me entire roadmap an entire journey. They say, Larry execute this, this and that X, Y, and Z, A, B, and z. And I get to take it to my team. And that’s what we get to build. I really like that.

DV: So really starting with that persona, the user and kind of taking it all the way through to Get mapping it all out. So by the time your engineers have it, they can run instead of ask questions. I love it. I wish we had more time to go deeper, but we are at time. Thank you so much, Matt, Larry, for joining us today.

DV: Awesome. If you’d like to learn more about what mapillary are up to, you can visit ROI DNA comm like to thank everyone for listening to Press This the WordPress community podcast on WMR. Again, this is your host David vocable. I support the WordPress community through my role at WP Engine. And I love to bring the best of the community to you here every week.

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