What I learned in a year with Sports Bench

This week marks the one-year anniversary for Sports Bench, a WordPress plugin/theme package that keeps track of sports stats for a league.

It originally started as sort of a senior project to put everything I had learned so far together to see how far I had come. Of course, school and life got in the way and heavy development didn't start on it until the summer of 2016.

But then in December 2016, I released it out to the world with no expectations on how it would do. So what have I learned in the past year selling a product in the WordPress sphere?

Marketing is a must

Field of Dreams is a very good movie, but its most quoted line, “If you build it, they will come,” isn’t really true. Sure if you build a baseball field, ghosts of players past will show up, but anything else won’t be that lucky.

I came into this project with basically zero marketing experience. And I had no expectations about how well it would sell. This was all going to be a learning experience so I could be better in the future. And needless to say, I’ve learned a lot during this process.

I originally launched the plugin by selling it on this site only. That garnered a grand total of one purchase. In January, I began selling it on Codester. And then in June I started selling the plugin on CodeCanyon and Mojo Marketplace. Those marketplaces forced me to get better with marketing materials.

And the results have been improved (albeit in a relative term). I’ve now sold 20 copies of the plugin, which isn’t great, but is better than expectation of zero. Plus, I’ve accomplished my goal of learning how to market and sell a premium plugin, so that’s a plus.

Development is never done

So at this point, a number of my themes and plugins in their respective WordPress directories have reached the limit for features for the foreseeable future. But that’s far from the case with Sports Bench.

This is the fourth major update to Sports Bench since it was initially released last year. And I still haven’t gotten through half of what I eventually want to have in it. It’s a never ending development cycle.

And then there’s always the features that customers come up with and want in the plugin. There have been a couple of features added into the plugin that have been suggested by customers. And there’s a list of other features waiting to be added. So development will almost never be done.

Customer support is number one

But the most important thing I’ve learned is handling customer support. I had some experience with this with the free plugin and themes I have on WordPress.org, but when you have someone paying money for a product, the pressure to help goes up a bit more.

I’ve learned how to prioritize problems and how to figure out what the source of the problem is and how to solve it. I’ve also learned how to deal with people, which isn’t always the easiest thing for a developer.

And that’s important because it helps you keep customers and they’re more likely to recommend you to other people who have a similar problem. You can do all the marketing you want. You can create a great product. But if the support isn’t there, it’s not going to matter in the end.

So learning how to do good customer support has been the biggest thing I’ve learned so far. Plus, it’s awesome when someone’s able to fix a problem they’ve had trouble figuring out. Feels so good.

Here's to another good year

So 2017 wasn’t too bad for Sports Bench, but I can’t wait to see what the next year has in store. There are lot of changes and additions I hope to make over the course of the next 12 months, and hopefully I continue to learn more in the process.

So if you need something to help keep track of stats for your league, I hope you’ll give Sports Bench a look.