WPML is the paid plugin of choice for multilingual WordPress site builders.
Amir Helzer is the founder of WPML, a multilingual plugin for WordPress. He’s been delivering a leading product in the WordPress plugin market and running a successful remote workplace environment for several years. We took a few minutes to discuss product market fit, marketing strategies, success and inspiration. We hope you enjoy the following interview and we thank Amir for his time and generosity.
WPML.org has millions of visits each month. You have a domain authority of 80 and 5,000+ root domains linking. You’re widely considered to offer the best multilingual WordPress plugin money can buy. What’s next for WPML? Where does it go from here?
The WordPress ecosystem is dynamic and we are a part of it. Everyday, larger and more complex sites move to WordPress and many of them need to run multilingual. Our next technical challenge is to allow everything, no matter how it’s built, to run multilingual. We are already designing a new API that will let big plugins and themes register custom structures for translation. Then, it’s our job to allow users to translate these structures, in a natural and human way. WordPress went from “blogs” to “brochure sites” and now it’s going into web apps. We believe that a more flexible translation interface will be very important for this evolution.
The techniques always evolve, but the basics are constants. Build what people need, sell it at an affordable price, give the best support possible and they will come and come again.
Imagine someone who fits into your ideal target market. Who are they? What do they do for a living? What problem do they face and how does WPML solve it?
Typically, they build websites for their clients and they need to build sites in multiple languages. We see that people today choose WordPress because they know that it’s possible to build good multilingual sites with it and using WPML.
How has your marketing strategy for WPML evolved over the last five years?
The techniques always evolve, but the basics are constants. Build what people need, sell it at an affordable price, give the best support possible and they will come and come again. Sometimes people think that giving their work away for free is good for clients. We know for a fact that it’s problematic. While a talented developer may come up with an excellent product and give it away for free, he will not likely be able to maintain and support it in the long run. I think that our clients are happy that we charge for WPML. It means that we owe it to them to maintain the plugin, develop it and support it properly. When products are free, this relationship cannot exist.
Email, Organic, Pay-Per-Click search advertising, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – the list goes on and on. With a lean team, how do you decide what to spend money and resources on and what to avoid?
For us, it’s all been organic searches. I hear that email campaigns work great too. I tend to auto-delete marketing emails, so it’s probably a matter of subject and personal preferences. I use Twitter for fun only. It’s difficult for me to invest in marketing channels that I don’t use myself as a client and don’t understand.
Do you have a proactive SEO / link building strategy or just a really good product people want to talk about?
Sorry, no real magic. We’ve been around for a while and we work with a lot of partners. We write about them and they write about us. This cross writing is not designed for Google or for SEO purposes, but to help our clients find good products that work well on multilingual sites. Seems like Google appreciates this too.
You have a very robust blog. How does your blog tie into the success of WPML?
The main purpose of our blog is to update our clients on our development and communicate with them in an open and informal way. When we have a major feature idea, we usually write about it. We get amazing responses, which help us shape the product. Of course, we always announce new versions and invite people to give us feedback. I reply personally to every comment that calls for a response. Our clients know this and it sets the stage for a nice relationship. I like writing in our blog and I like responding to comments. Recently, another staff member Agnes started writing case studies in our Wpml.org blog. Agnes is our new community manager and she does an excellent job. I enjoy reading her case studies and I think that I’m not alone.
You don’t offer a free trial but you offer a money back guarantee. Have you experimented with free trials? What was the result? If not, why not?
Either people need our product or they don’t. If they don’t really need it, they don’t need a free trial or to buy it. If they need WPML, they will have to invest in it, even if we give it away free. When you go multilingual, you may need some minor updates in the theme, like to style a custom language switcher. Then, you need to translate content and see that everything displays right in all languages. Getting WPML for free will not make this entire effort free. So, we just sell WPML and we offer refunds to anyone who’s not completely satisfied. I can’t share numbers, but our refund rate is extremely low.
Let’s talk inspiration – who or what inspires you?
I met Vladimir Prelovac, from ManageWP, and was deeply inspired by his attitude towards life, clients and business. I went on to read a couple of books that he recommended in his WordCamp Europe presentation. I also enjoy reading Chris Lema’s blog. I haven’t met David Heinemeier Hansson from 37signals, but I want to very much. David’s early talks inspired me deeply. That’s from before we started to work on WPML, but I think that it set the general direction.
You do not have a physical office, WPML employees work remotely from anywhere in the world. Please speak to how remote employees shape your company and products. As your company grows do you see yourself needing a centralized physical office or would this hinder growth?
All remote. We have an office for tax purposes, but there’s no point visiting it. I like our current situation. It’s nice and friendly. We get together once a year, mostly for socializing. There’s too much food and alcohol in these events to actually get any serious work done.