David Braun and TemplateMonster — From a Web Design Studio to One of The Top WordPress Themes Marketplaces

TemplateMonster was launched about a year before WordPress. What was the trigger for starting a premium HTML templates marketplace?

“Initially, we were a fairly successful web design studio. We had large customers, even companies from the Fortune 500 list. But this business wasn’t suitable for scaling.”

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TemplateMonster — Year 2002 from Archive.org

TemplateMonster is a really cool name and you guys also have an awesome mascot. How did you come up with it? Do you feel that including the word “template” in the name was beneficial for your branding vs. choosing a more generic brand name?

TemplateMonster and WordPress

Only 4 years after your launch you got into selling premium WordPress themes. How did you first cross paths with WordPress and what was the “aha” moment which made you decide to include a WordPress inventory in your marketplace?

About a year ago, I did an in-depth analysis on ThemeForest and CodeCanyon. One of the most interesting data points that I managed to collect was that while only 20% of the plugins and themes inventory are WordPress products, those are actually driving 80% of the marketplace’s revenues. Do you guys see similar numbers? Are WordPress themes the lion share of your revenues today?

Marketplaces

How did you tackle the notorious chicken and egg challenge when you just started TemplateMonster? How did you attract the initial sellers to generate the supply? And how did you drive the first buyers into the marketplace?

How long did it take until you achieved the required critical mass for the network effect to start scaling the marketplace? What was the sign that made you realize that you had gotten there? (e.g. customers #, # of listed products for sale, # of sellers, etc.)

Many of our readers are developers, including myself. Like many people in the core WordPress community, when I start a website I use some free starter theme and build on top of it. What is the typical persona that buys premium themes and plugins from a marketplace? What is the typical journey of a prospect that ends up buying a theme on TemplateMonster?

What were your top 3 distribution channels when you started and how have they changed over the years? Why do you think they worked/work well for you? [Are you guys doing paid ads? If not, why? If yes, what are the most effective channels and mediums?]

Channel Distribution, Wikimedia Commons

One of the main challenges with marketplace dynamics is growing the market share while growing the number of sales your sellers make. How do you tackle this challenge and what techniques do you apply to protect the marketplace from over saturating?

One cool thing I noticed you guys were doing are upsells like a manual installation of the theme for the buyers. What percentage of your revenues is driven by those upsells? Also, how do you scale the process of those manual tasks, did you manage to automate some of them?

“Customer success depends on helping your customers change how they work.”

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The Themes Market

The themes market became very competitive in the past 4 years. As I speak with many theme shop owners, theme authors are exploring alternative revenue streams. For example, I’ve already seen several great free theme shops that are making their money strictly through affiliate marketing. Do you see a reduction in your customer acquisition rate?

The rise of WYSIWYG page builders together with the upcoming release of Gutenberg in WordPress 5.0 may seem like a threat to the premium WordPress themes ecosystem. What is your take on that? Do you feel it has already started affecting the theme marketplaces and how? How will it affect marketplaces like TemplateMonster in the long run?

One of the top complaints I hear from developers about marketplaces is the lack of an option to sell subscriptions. Is that something that you guys plan to address for TemplateMonster sellers? If not, could you explain why?

Tips & The Future

In the past few years, I have witnessed a bunch of failed attempts at starting new premium WordPress plugins & themes marketplaces. It seems like it’s a holy grail that only belongs to early players, like yourself. Why do you think this is happening?

User Experience Diagram, Wikimedia Commons

What would be your one tip or secret sauce for anyone who is starting a templates-based business in 2019?

“From the very beginning, you need to design your system while taking into account the need to micro-segment. And, as I’ve already said, the future of the company will depend on good user experience. You need to make everything very accessible to customers. Be in touch 24/7.”

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Where do you see TemplateMonster in 5 years from now?

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