Can Plugin Developers Succeed on the AppSumo Marketplace? — Freemius

If you’re a new plugin creator, there’s a good chance that you’ve probably heard of AppSumo. For new plugin creators especially, AppSumo can seem like an answer to your prayers. For us developers, creating the plugin itself is the “easy” part — but the real struggle comes in trying to market and sell it, and that’s why the idea of launching via AppSumo is so appealing to get our first plugins off the ground.

As soon as I read Puneet’s experience with AppSumo Lifetime Deals, I ran off right away to apply.

They informed me during the application process that they receive thousands of applications and that only a small percentage of applications get accepted. They also mentioned that if they were interested in my product, I could expect to hear from them within a few weeks.

Well, a few weeks went by, and I didn’t hear anything, so I assumed that my collaboration with AppSumo just wasn’t meant to be… Or so I thought.

Around six months later, I got an email from AppSumo with the subject line “You’ve been chosen!”

It turns out that I wasn’t accepted for their Lifetime Deal (LTD) launch, but for a new initiative that they were rolling out called the AppSumo Marketplace.

What is the AppSumo Marketplace?

With a Lifetime Deal, AppSumo puts a lot of work into writing a captivating listing for your product, complete with a professional how-to video and a full on marketing push. All you have to do is give them a few details, then you can basically sit back, relax and wait for the sales to start rolling in.

The marketplace is a little different as you’re required to submit the majority of the content for your listing while filling out your Marketplace application (more on that later).

There also won’t be any active promotion of your product on their part until you reach a certain amount of 4 or 5 star reviews. Instead, AppSumo encourages you to get the word out about your listing.

Another way that the Marketplace differs from LTDs is that they are “evergreen”, whereas LTDs are for a limited period of time.

AppSumo Marketplace Application Process

After deciding whether or not you want to move forward, the next step is to fill out the application, which will pretty much become your deal page. You’ll have to provide all sorts of information about your product and business, as well as logos, and screenshots of your product. You’ll also get instructions on how to set up the redemption flow on your website and send AppSumo the license codes for your product that will be distributed to new customers.

If you’re using Freemius to handle the sale and distribution of your plugin like I am, you’ll want to let them know about your upcoming AppSumo launch sooner rather than later. You’ll need their help to create the license codes needed for your deal, and they can also help you resolve any unexpected issues that may popup during the application process.

For example, after I submitted my codes, AppSumo let me know that all 10,000 of them couldn’t be used because their system no longer accepted codes with special characters. Fortunately for me, Vova from the Freemius team was able to help me update the ones I already created so that I wouldn’t have to generate a whole new set of codes.

Once the application is filled out and the redemption flow has been created and sent over, it’s time to sign an agreement. After you agree to their terms, they’ll get to work on creating your listing and testing your license key redemption flow.

About a week or two later, if there are no problems with your redemption flow, codes, or application, you’ll get an email that your listing is available for your review and will soon be going live. Be prepared for less than 24 hours notice.

Once your deal goes live, you’ll start getting pre-sale questions via email and on your AppSumo page.

Here’s my deal page:

One thing to note is that you do not get a notification when you get new questions or reviews on AppSumo, so be sure to keep checking your page regularly for new posts.

Making Sales

Of course, unless you’re actively promoting and sharing your offer to other people, the amount of sales you get on a given day will have a strong correlation with how visibile you are in the marketplace.

According to AppSumo, they have multiple algorithms that are being tested at any one point in time. These impact how the products get ranked in search results, and there are a number of factors that impact these rankings.

For example: Deal Page Traffic, Sales, New Buyers, # of Reviews, Quality of Reviews, Past Purchases — just to name a few.

So, think “Netflix” because no two people will see the same products on their page. All of these algorithms are being tested simultaneously with the end goal of increasing discoverability and conversion rate, which means you can expect to see your sales fluctuate from day to day as your position in the marketplace changes.

Another driver of sales are reviews, and AppSumo offers incentives for getting a certain amount of 4 or 5 star reviews. This is a good way to get some help from AppSumo to promote your deal. Potential promo bonuses include things like a shoutout in their FB group, a “ Meet the Maker “ interview, email callouts, and how-to videos.

The Pros of the AppSumo Marketplace

Drastically Lower Commission

This means there is potential to make as much money as you would with a LTD, but with much lower risk of being overwhelmed by new users (as Puneet mentioned in his article) because you shouldn’t get as many sales due to the lack of extra promotion on the part of AppSumo.

As someone who is launching a new and potentially buggy product, and who has never experienced supporting customers before, I realized there was potential to make a similar amount of money as a LTD, but with a lot fewer customers to support.

I wouldn’t say this is the case for everyone — but my point is the marketplace has less potential for sales volumes you can’t handle when you’re just starting out like me. (Fortunately, the lower commission helps to balance that out.) That being said, Lifetime Deals may be a dream come true for some developers with more experience.

Flexibility vs Freedom for your Pricing Strategy

With marketplace deals, the only restriction is that you cannot offer your product for a lower price anywhere else.

In addition to that, after 120 days, you can remove your listing at any time.

Instant Credibility

I couldn’t get a single person to sign up. Even people who mentioned they were looking for the exact software solution I was offering shot me down.

I was starting to doubt the whole thing until AppSumo came along, and considering how hard of a time I was having getting people to use my plugin for free, I couldn’t believe I was actually making sales within a day of my deal going live.

I was starting to doubt the whole thing until @AppSumo came along, and considering how hard of a time I was having getting people to try my plugin for free, I can’t believe I was actually making sales within a day of my deal going live.

Tweet

I even made an announcement about my AppSumo launch in the same Facebook group and email list and sure enough, I made a few sales there too.

The total lack of interest I faced in the beginning was incredibly frustrating, but, in hindsight, it makes sense. My plugin is essentially a shopping cart — something that obviously requires a ton of trust from the person signing up to use it. So of course there’s going to be some trepidation when a complete unknown with no history of selling any type of software is the person behind it.

Needless to say, that was a huge hurdle to overcome on my own. Fortunately, Studiocart was accepted into the AppSumo Marketplace. Just like that, it seemed more legit and the idea of giving it a try was a lot less risky. And this instant credibility is something that multiplies itself over and over because as more people try and use Studiocart — they leave reviews and spread the word to others. All of which helps our reputation and social proof grow.

The Community

Now Let’s Talk About Some of AppSumo Marketplace Cons

Requires More Work

Lower Perception of The Quality of Marketplace Deals

However, I think this can be overcome by engaging with the people who leave questions on your page and encouraging your buyers to spread the word and leave positive reviews.

Net 60 Terms

Things Can Change

For example, when my deal went live, there was a promo incentive for getting five reviews. I got to five reviews a couple of weeks later and reached out to the AppSumo team only to find out that the minimum amount of reviews needed to get a promo incentive had gone up to 10.

Keep in mind that what you might see now could be totally different in a few weeks or months.

Should you consider launching a WordPress plugin via the AppSumo marketplace?

The marketplace is best if you are offering a novel solution or approach to solving a problem that’s commonly faced by business owners and entrepreneurs. For solutions like these, it’s great for building your user base and also very helpful for getting social proof in order to get more people to use your product. I wouldn’t suggest it for niche products that target a small audience.

How much have I made from my AppSumo Marketplace deal?

Here’s a breakdown of the numbers as of January 28:

* When my deal first started, the arrangement was that you get 90% for the first 90 days, then it goes down to 70%. But they changed it recently to where you get 70% from existing AppSumo customers and 95% for new AppSumo customers making their first-ever purchase from day one.

And here’s how much revenue was generated by month-by-month:

Tips for Having a Successful Marketplace Deal

Focus on Getting Reviews Over Sales

Asking for a review after providing support: Anytime I helped a customer out I made sure to follow that up with a request to help us by leaving a review. Doing this produced the majority of my reviews.

Building it into my welcome sequence: When a user redeems an AppSump code, they’re automatically added to a welcome sequence that gets sent out by my autoresponder. In one of the emails, I added a clickable rating scale survey directly into the email body:

When they click on one of the choices, it takes them to a form asking them for additional feedback based on the rating they chose:

Then, after submitting the form, they’re shown a thank you page that directs them to reach out if they need more assistance and to leave a review on AppSumo.

I used Typeform to build this out, but you could easily use a paged Gravity Form with conditional logic, as well as a bit of custom html to embed a clickable rating scale survey into your emails.

Be Flexible and Willing to Adapt

But, this valuable intel won’t amount to much unless you’re willing to act on their feedback.

When my deal first launched, the idea of offering multiple site licenses wasn’t even on my radar, and I started out by selling a single-site lifetime license for $79. But after getting feedback from the AppSumo community and looking at the other plugins in the marketplace, I decided to up the website limit on each license to 5, and allow buying (or as AppSumo calls it, “stacking”) three codes to get an unlimited license.

I’ll admit that I did hesitate to announce this change. Considering my original offer was just a one-time payment of $79, I already thought my deal was insanely low. Especially when compared to other similar products on the market. But in the end, I had two choices: stick to my guns and just make a few or even no sales, or I could adapt and give myself a better chance of generating the momentum and revenue I needed to move my business forward.

And, if you can act on suggestions and implement feature requests, it gets the community even more excited about your product. They know they’re contributing to the evolution of your product and will want to see it succeed even more because of that.

Put Your Best Foot Forward

Right after your deal goes live, the folks at AppSumo will ask you to write a pinned post by posting it as a ‘question’ to your marketplace listing. When you do, the next step is to let the AppSumo team know so that they can highlight it and pin it to the top of the questions section.

Whatever you do, don’t pass up this opportunity to speak directly to the community and introduce yourself, especially if you’re still building your reputation as a plugin creator!

Whatever you do, don’t pass up this opportunity to speak directly to the community and introduce yourself, especially if you’re still building your reputation as a plugin creator!

Tweet

AppSumo will provide you with a couple of examples, but do a little research of your own by finding some of the more popular marketplace deals and looking at how they’re written. This is a great source of inspiration that will help you figure out the kind of language and tone that appeals to the AppSumo audience. I suggest doing this not just just for your pinned post, but for your overall deal page as well.

On a related note, you don’t want to overlook your website. This is one area where I definitely could have done better. When my deal launched, my plugin website was little more than a landing page for a waiting list sign up, my documentation was nowhere near complete, and there were even a few broken links that could be found around the site. This understandably resulted in a few questions early on about me, my business, and my level of commitment to the plugin.

So, before your listing goes live, make sure your website is ready for prime-time, with everything in working order and easily accessible information about your plugin and business. Be sure to include must-haves like pricing information, a full explanation of features, a demo of what they’re getting, an about page with a bio, and a public Roadmap (bonus points if people can upvote features).

All of this gives AppSumo users reassurance that you’re serious about your plugin business, and that the plugin they’re about to buy will be around for the long-term.

Go in with Realistic Expectations

But, I figured those were unicorn scenarios, so I didn’t even entertain those kinds of thoughts. And, good thing I didn’t, otherwise, I would be feeling pretty disappointed right now!

Conclusion

Before offering an AppSumo Marketplace Deal, I feared my plugin business was over before it even started. But that’s all changed now that I have the market validation, feedback, and social proof/reviews that I desperately needed to get things rolling, and I’m excited to see where Studiocart goes from here.

Originally published on Freemius blog on March 3, 2021.

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