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Adii Pienaar

Now working on Receiptful. Co-Founder & ex-CEO of WooThemes. Author of Brandiing. New Dad. Ex-Rockstar.

Where's The Premium Plugins?

Following up on my post from yesterday, I've been thinking quite a bit about the lack of premium plugins that are available for WordPress. Compared to the revelation & success that premium themes have been, I would've imagined that there'd be more premium plugins available.

Instead there's only a handful of premium plugins available that I would deem to be worthy options. Most plugins (and themes for that matter) are horribly coded and those developers should be taken out back & shot. :) IMO, these are the only premium plugins that I'd consider using myself at present if I had a need for it:

Not many, right?

I think the main reason for this is that there are so many amazing free plugins that are available. At the moment there are almost 15k plugins available on the repository, many of which are really well coded & solves a mainstream user problem (and is thus valuable).

Coupled with that, I think that (valuable) plugins are really hard to develop (skills-wise) and are much harder than themes. The barrier to entry is thus higher, which means an ambitious WP developer looking to make earn a passive revenue is more likely to go the theme route than the plugin route.

But this has left a major gap in the WP ecosystem... 

Premium Plugins: A Lucrative Opportunity

I think that the above-linked plugins have shown that there is most definitely an opportunity for premium offerings to step in and offer a different type of value proposition compared to free plugins.

Premium plugins can succeed for the following reasons:

  1. Solve a real problem. I think this is the most important point to make: there are still many "gaps" in the WordPress experience - especially as more and more people are using it in different environments & across industries - which means that plugins should address these niches (as they will never be covered in core). Gravity Forms solved WP forms forever and I doubt that we'll ever need another plugin to do that. That's how well they managed to solve a real problem. People are willing to pay - and pay well - to have their problems solved, especially considering the cost of hiring a proper WP developer for a custom project.
  2. Support is premium in itself. I have a lot of respect for the plugin authors that are supporting their free plugins, which thousands and  thousands of people are using. But this doesn't scale well, so most plugin authors offer limited support at best, which doesn't work well with your more serious WP user. Instead they want a plugin that works well out-of-box, they want support on custom integration thereof and they want their bugs to be fixed immediately. This would be easy and part of the business model when selling premium plugins.
  3. Quality over quantity. If you manage to solve a real problem and you offer the premium support to go with it, you don't need thousands of users. Instead you can sell your plugin for $100 for example (if the value proposition makes sense at that price), which means a 1000 customers would equal $100k in revenue. Not bad. I'd also highly recommend using a tiered-pricing & licensing approach in this regard, so that you can basically charge per WP install where your plugin is used (use GravityForms' pricing model as reference).

This is a real opportunity for those that are willing to work hard & release quality code. Fact is that every WP-powered website potentially needs a plugin, but not every WP-powered website needs a theme (most WP users would eventually end up with a custom design, whilst still running the same old plugins). So if you compare the demand for quality plugins to that of themes, you'll find that the demand is so much bigger.

Early movers in this space will be greatly rewarded too (as GravityForms, Wishlist, BackupBuddy & the others have), because there's very little out there at the moment. Your plugin could thus realistically close off a whole section of the potential plugin space and make it your own.

What's stopping you?

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