How to Develop a WordPress Plugin Strategy

The number of available premium WordPress plugins has soared in recent years with the rise in popularity of WordPress CMS.

Behind every great product is a well-executed strategy. From the design of the product to marketing and customer retention, a plugin strategy needs to look at the bigger picture.

In this post we will look at the process of developing a successful plugin strategy.

Designing the Product

The most successful products solve a common industry problem. Whether it aims to bring new functionality or improve overall workflow efficiency, the product needs to be designed with a specific aim in mind.

Generally speaking, there are two types of plugin products: vertical and horizontal. The type you choose will determine how you design, develop and market your plugin. Vertical products are built for a particular industry, for example finance, property or medical whereas horizontal plugins can service a range of industries with similar, but not identical requirements, for example, analytical software or our GDPR Cookie Compliance plugin.

Both types of products have their pros and cons and knowing your target audience from the start will enable you to identify the best development strategy.

The first step in any design process is research. You need to identify your target audience and actively gather information about their workflow activity. This will help you identify the problems that your plugin needs to solve, the value it needs to add to the user and the best way to present it to them.

The next step is to research what other plugins are out there and analyse what they do well and what could be improved. Read WordPress blogs to keep up to date with the latest trends, ask your target audience for feedback on ideas and conduct a SWOT analysis to better anticipate what problems you could run into further down the line.

Think carefully about the features you want to include. Sometimes adding as many features as possible to a WordPress plugin is not a good idea. The majority of your users won’t use them all but will still receive a plugin that is large and potentially bloated with unnecessary code.

Before the plugin is released, it’s beneficial to offer a select group of users access to a beta version of the plugin. This enables you to gather feedback, make adjustments and fix any bugs. In selecting your test group, make sure to include different types of customer from your target demographic. These customers should differ in age, job level and computer literacy to give you as broad a range as possible.

Choosing a Distribution Model


Self-distribution of your premium plugin is normally done via your website that is usually running a WooCommerce system behind it. This is the most rewarding but also the hardest way to distribute your premium plugins.


  • Minimal fees to 3rd party companies.
  • Control over pricing tiers and licenses.


  • Development and maintenance of the entire e-commerce shop including: user accounts, digital downloads, generation of invoices, the licencensing system and prevention of its misuse, security, automated plugin updates and more.
  • Marketing. If you build it, they won’t necessarily come so you need to invest time and resources into marketing your product.


The biggest marketplace for WordPress plugins out there is CodeCanyon. You need to submit your plugin for their approval first after you follow their specific guidelines. Very often, CodeCanyon won’t accept your product as they only take plugins that they believe will be a commercial success.


  • Great for getting exposure for your plugin as it provides a ready-made marketplace audience.
  • You don’t need to worry about the logistics of selling: payments, returns, licences and delivery of your plugin.


  • CodeCanyon will decide the selling price during the approval process.
  • They take a large percentage of your sales.
  • You are tied to selling exclusively on CodeCanyon if you want a larger percentage.
  • They can remove you from their platform at any time.

Choosing a Revenue Model

WordPress plugins are priced as SaaS products – that means that the customer is charged a tiny percentage of the real costs that went into the development of the plugin. However, the total amount of users who purchase the plugin can make it all worthwhile as they collectively fund the development of the product.

The main decision will be between recurring vs. one-time sale.

Most premium plugins nowadays have an annual subscription model: they will automatically charge you every year to keep their product up-to-date, release new features and provide on-going support.

One-time sale is increasingly very rare. It used to be the main revenue model for WordPress plugin developers until about 5 years ago when things started to change rapidly.

Without on-going stream of new sales, the development of the plugin and especially the on-going support cannot be sustained which is why one-time sale is no longer popular nor a recommended model.

Choosing a Price Model

Customers often make their buying decision based on value for money. The type of premium plugin that you develop may differ in price and complexity to the next, but the one key selling point that should remain constant is that the value of your service should outweigh the price paid. Typically, there are three main premium plugin sales models:

Customer self-service

  • The most popular and lucrative sales model is self-service.
  • The product price is relatively low, but the level of support required is minimal.
  • Customers can choose from a range of packages online themselves, which keeps the sales costs down as there is no human contact.
  • Examples of this approach are our own premium WordPress plugins.
  • Although this model requires a fair amount of work up front to create the documentation and clear product offering, the time saved in subsequent sales keeps costs low over the long-term.


  • With a transactional product model, your plugin will offer more complex solutions at a higher price.
  • With a higher cost comes the customer expectation that personal support via email and by telephone is readily available.
  • The miniorange SSO login security for large organisation is a good example of this.


  • There is a point beyond the transactional model where the software becomes more complex by handling essential business functions for large organisations.
  • The marketing software Salesforce, for example, assists users with lead generation and is a critical sales tool in many large organisations.
  • It offers a selection of powerful analytics and reporting tools, providing their customers with valuable insights into their business.
  • Since every organisation has specific requirements and challenges, enterprise software needs to offer human contact as part of their service.

Complexity is your starting point for figuring out the level of support you’ll need to provide, which will consequently dictate your price point.

Marketing your Product

The final and ongoing stage in any product development strategy is promoting your product to potential customers. Typically, premium plugin companies market their products in various ways, depending on where their target audience is likely to be found online. Some strategies include:

  • Freemium model / free trial
  • Inbound marketing
  • Promotion on social media
  • Upselling additional features
  • Offering incentives to share the product

One of the most effective strategies for attracting new customers is offering a freemium version or free trial of the software. Enabling new users to ‘try before they buy’ works well as there’s less need to sell your software based on promises. Instead, you can showcase the benefits and features through your marketing and then let the product speak for itself.

No matter which sales model you use, or what type of premium plugin you develop, the key factors in a successful product strategy remain the same: know your audience, solve a common problem, provide outstanding support in whichever form is most appropriate and offer a free trial.

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