My long running beef with one of the WooThemes.com co-founder — Adii — has been squashed through email by the two of us. This post isn’t about hate, jealousy, or kicking someone while they’re down. It’s an example of doing things the wrong way.
Woothemes recently announced a price and terms of service change. This is important because Woothemes.com has hundreds of thousands of customers. On the business side, most people running a service or selling their own WordPress products agree with the move and so do I. It’s just not smart to promise anything unlimited or lifetime. I have sold lifetime memberships here on DevPress.com as well and that’s the part where we’re all amateurs trying to figure out business as designers and developers.
What I don’t agree with is how Woothemes did it. Most of the points have been made for both sides through 492 responses to the announcement and through comments on WPTavern.com’s post about the changes. Some of it makes me cringe for the customers because its a bit shady. Secondly, I don’t agree with screwing your customers over when it’s your mistake you’re trying to fix.
Telling customers you’ve considered all the options, this is what needs to be done, and this is how it must be done…isn’t transparency, it’s a lie that asks for blind trust. Reading the announcement from a service provider point of view, I can already tell some of it is bullshit. Even the business people defending the changes know it, but they don’t point it out because they’re not as stupid or transparent as I am.
The majority of people praising Woothemes have a business of their own. It’s only natural to praise a price hike when you want to educate customers so you can charge more as well. However, price isn’t the issue and overlooking how Woothemes is doing it ruins the trust we have with WordPress customers in general.
- A profitable, debt-free company like Woothemes should pay for its own mistakes over time.
- Knowing that you’re going to change your terms of service, you don’t run deals/sales selling the exact thing that you’re going to take away. This is classic bait and switch.
- People complain because you’re on the edge of committing fraud, not because they’re disloyal customers wanting the company to crash. They’re more interested in keeping your company going because they want the service to continue as you’re the only one who can continue supporting your line of products and services.
How you and I can see through the lies
Take ThemeHybrid.com for example, it’s a community one-tenth the size of WooThemes.com (tens of thousands of members). All products are free, the service itself is entirely based on support, and it’s run by one person — Justin Tadlock. Justin’s business is entirely based on time because it takes time to give support and write documentations. He doesn’t have the benefits of selling products.
When your business is selling products, some customers do not require support. They buy because they want the product and simply move on. ThemeHybrid.com doesn’t have that luxury. Woothemes makes some of its money selling products, not selling support.
At the moment, Woothemes has a team of 28 people and profits in the millions to hire new support staff. Justin Tadlock has a team of one and no millions. Yet, the one always complaining about being crushed by support is Woothemes and it’s the same problem they’re using to justify the recent changes.
So I call bullshit. They’re taking the easy way out and making you pay for their mistakes.
What Woothemes could’ve done
Cutting down support is not something you can do immediately. It has to be done over time and it starts with educating your community. Justin Tadlock is able to manage his customer base by himself through:
- creating powerful, but easy to use products that require minimal maintenance
- educating his members to help each other
- writing easy to understand documentations that answer most questions
Hell, sometimes Justin takes vacations or is forced to sick leave and people on his ThemeHybrid.com naturally help each other.
What I’ve learned from this
Nothing really, haha. Although I don’t offer lifetime memberships anymore, I always try to thank DevPress early supporters and lifetime members whenever I can. Actually, I think Woothemes can learn from me and Justin Tadlock.
- Don’t bite the hand that feeds you.
- Pay for your own mistakes.
- Educate your customers. It strengthens your community and cuts down work for yourself.