Webinar | BobWP on Leveraging WooCommerce Community for a Successful Business

    Lavanya Deshmukh
Listen to this article

The WooCommerce space is growing and it’s growing fast.

It’s spawned a whole industry – of service agencies, plugin developers, freelancers, influencers. Bob Dunn and WisdmLabs are both a part of this family that gets bigger every day.

With 2020 seeing a giant boom in eCommerce and new businesses shifting online every day, the industry has never been more viable.
As a newcomer, or even as an old-timer, how do you leverage this and build your business into a success? 

Woo Expert BobWP lets you in on the secret!

This a para-phrased transcript of this webinar:


Shreejith: Hello everyone and thank you for joining us, I am Shreejith and I lead the services team here at WisdmLabs. Very excited to host our first WooCommerce webinar today! So, welcome to the show and without wasting time let me introduce you to Bob Dunn, or as we know him BobWP, who is joining us from California! Today we’ll be talking to him about building successful businesses with WooCommerce, the scope of eCommerce in 2021, his new Doo the Woo website for WooCommerce builders, and much more! 

Thank you for being here Bob, how are you holding up during this pandemic?

Bob: You know it’s been interesting because I am in the (at risk) demographic so I got to be careful but lifestyle-wise. I’ve been working from my home for 25 years, so I am used to it and we don’t have kids anymore. I can feel for people who have all these challenges, suddenly having to work from home and dealing with kids. But for me it’s just a little bit of the fear, you know, the scariness about going out. But I am content sitting here talking into a microphone in my office.

Starting out in WooCommerce & the origin story of BobWP!

Shreejith: There’s something that I wanted to share with the audience. In my talks with Bob, he was telling me that when someone comes up to him with a product, and they are really excited about it, what Bob is really interested in is the person behind the plugin, because he knows that that is what is important. The ideas and plugin come and go, today it’s a hit then tomorrow someone else takes over. It’s the people and stories we have to look into. Bob, how did you mould yourself into this mindset? 

Bob: I’ll go back to before I was working with WooCommerce – to when I was working in WordPress which is so community-oriented.  

Even in my early days of running a marketing agency that was more about the in-person local community one of the first things I learned in business is to listen to people. Do not get in their face, don’t shove your business card in their face. We’re tempted to talk about ourselves, we want to share and that’s human nature. 

But I learned very quickly when going into conversations to take the time to listen and get to know that person because they have a lot to share too.  And it just built from there, and when it got to an online setting,  it became even more so, since I had the opportunity to meet all these people I would probably never be physically next to. After a while, it just becomes a part of you. You got to start connecting, learning about people, and hearing their stories. Now it comes second nature to me.

Shreejith: You’ve been in WooCommerce for a long time! Since its very beginning actually. Would you like to tell us about your journey a bit?

Bob: I was introduced to WooCommerce only because I bought my WordPress themes from Woo themes, you know, back when they were Woo themes. I got to know that company quite well and some of the people there. So when WooCommerce came out in 2011, it was almost a no-brainer.

I had been working with them and I had such a relationship with them, and I thought to myself this is got to be worth looking into, so I just started playing around with it. And I believe it wasn’t too long, maybe a year later, I put up consulting packages on my site. It’s been on my site ever since. I have never sold a physical sold physical product with WooCommerce, but I have done everything else with WooCommerce. Maybe I’ll do that one of these days. But yeah, I wanted to understand it, I wanted to know what was going on in the space and it just naturally evolved. Over time, I got to know more people and I’d pivot my business to pull in more WooCommerce and eventually I go to where I am today. 

Building Relationships in the WooCommerce Eco-System

Shreejith: What advice would you give to someone who’s a newcomer in the WooCommerce eco-system? 

Bob: First of all, always remember when you’re a newcomer – relationships before partnerships. Think of building a personal relationship – through social or one on one conversation. You have to get to know them and let the other person know you. Once you’ve built that relationship that’s when you start looking at a partnership. A lot of people pursue “strategic relationships’ where you narrow onto certain people. I am of the opposite mindset because if I only hang around with people who are successful I am in a bubble and I don’t see the big picture. So I don’t do strategic relationships, it comes naturally. 

Once you do that then you build partnerships. And partnerships are a very odd things right now. Because they were always a lot of give and take. You build it, and you mould it. And now everyone throws out that word easily. I get many emails and the first thing they say is ‘I want to build a partnership with you’, but who are you? I don’t even know you? And then they’ll tell me to join their affiliate! Affiliate to me is where I am a salesperson to you, it’s a small piece of a partnership and not something a partnership is based around.  So it should always be about building relationships with the right people you click with and then building up to a partnership where you’re ready to talk about some serious give and take.

Always remember when you’re a newcomer – relationships before partnerships.

– Bob Dunn

Shreejith: There are a hundred different ways to build relationships, do you have some examples that we can get started with?

Bob: In the WordPress space that there are a lot of influencers, big people, or stars, however you want to label it. We always think we need to connect to them because those are the ones that have the audience. Well, you can try to reach out to them, a lot of them are very open, but if do just don’t do it blatantly like a sales pitch – like so and so I would love if you’d write about my extension. It’s like wait a minute, where did this come from?

Start building relationships with anyone at any level. Anyone who starts showing interest in you, start showing interest in them, their Twitter count doesn’t matter. We measure too many things, we start thinking about how popular they are, how this person will help me. Start thinking that there is interest there – we’ve had a conversation on Twitter, we had a great back and forth and maybe there’s a point down the road where you say hey let’s jump on zoom and connect. And go in with no expectation, this is what I’ve learned in my 27 years of experience.

People always say, go in with goals- you’ll talk to this many people, you’ll make these many connections and you’re stressed because in the back of your mind you’re thinking you’ve got to accomplish something on your first time meeting this person. The minute I stopped listening to this advice and started walking in with zero expectation things started happening naturally, the conversation just flowed. And even if they can’t help you in terms of business, you never know, that person may remember you and say that’s a great chat we had. And they might connect you to someone else who can. You have to be patient. You have to take any little opening and figure out the best way to approach someone without feeling like you’re barging in and saying ‘let’s start a relationship right now’! It has to be something that grows a little bit over time. 

The Scope of eCommerce in 2021

Shreejith: Alright Bob, let’s move away from WooCommerce for a second, to a more broader subject. We are currently living in a very ‘interesting’ time for eCommerce, aren’t we? In this Covid-19 induced ‘new normal’, people’s shopping habits have heavily shifted from brick and mortar to online shops. I mean, we’re probably seeing an unprecedented boom in the eCommerce sector. Do you think this consumer’s shift towards eCommerce is permanent? How does that affect not only retailers but also businesses related to eCommerce – the builder community? 

Bob: I am gonna answer this in 2 approaches – one my own personal experience and other from listening to other people.

Personally, I have started ordering online more, all the time now. And I can tell you that this is going to be long term. I am not a store shopper, I hate shopping. So for me, personally, it’s a done deal. No matter what changes I am an online shopper now.

What people are telling me is that yeah, its long term because I think humans, by nature, we adapt to new habits. There are lot of people now who are suddenly comfortable ordering online because they were forced into this situation. It is not necessarily the best way. And a lot of people I think they are at a business inception point because unfortunately, businesses have had to close, which has had a dramatic impact on a lot of people. I feel for them and it’s easier said than done to tell them to jump online and sell. It’s challenging, there are a lot of pieces to it.

But I think a lot of people from here on in, even when this gets better, they are going to start looking at an element of e-commerce in their brain a lot more. They are going to think I probably should do this both ways.

And then I think there are people that will say I am going to start something and it will be online and I will not look at building a shop because of their experience. A lot of companies that have employees, are permanently going distributed. All of this is going to be interesting for the economy in all countries. There is going to be a lot of shifting done, it has opened up a lot of opportunities. And I hate to say that because it’s terrible because of everything this happened but at the same time there’s hope that there will be other opportunities that open up even for people who have been affected the most. But definitely, it is permanently changed it and set a new mindset and habits for people.

Growing your WooCommerce Business

Shreejith: Alright Bob, let’s dive a little into the WooCommerce Ecosystem now. Both of us are a part of it, you are an influencer and WisdmLabs provides services and builds products based on WooCommerce. To someone who is building a business with WooCommerce or maybe trying to grow an existing one, what tips would you have for turning it into a success?

Bob: I am going to drop a little self-promotion here. I recently talked to Chris Lema about all of this on the Doo the Woo podcast and he has a lot of ideas, so I encourage you to check that out.

So, we look at it as entering this WooCommerce space. You’re entering a space that has the challenge of all these people and what they’re gonna want. And if you haven’t been doing a lot of WooCommerce, you’re going have to really wrap your mind around how to build an ecommerce business. It wont suddenly pick up. People are gonna want new stuff, unusual stuff which dint come along initially. You need to be prepared and really looking at those projects and asking lots and lots of questions.

One of the giveaways or things I am gonna give from the podcast was I asked Chris Lema the same about product-sellers and it was so interesting, he said that when you’re building something, do not build it for developers, build it for users and merchants. A developer has a mind set of ‘ I can probably code that in’. So they’re not really your customers. So if you’re starting new, especially if you’re thinking about product, you should know your customer. As many product makers I’ve talked to in the Woo space , what I am doing now is talking to their peers really connecting with them, instead of getting their product out in from of the merchants.

So that’s really important to remember – if you’re just at that starting point. As many as time as I’ve screwed up, and I’ve done many things that failed, we learn from them and that’s cool. Failure is not bad. Don’t jump on the ecommerce bandwagon because everybody is take it step by step because its a whole different animal. I am not even a developer and I understand this part from having talked to people.

Don’t do it on a whim, really understand what is going on. There are so many resources out there. WooCommerce slack is great place to start. I go in there and I am in a daze because I don’t know what 90% of these people are talking about. But get in there because you can learn a lot in there. It’s a good move, wade in to the eCommerce space, there’s just as much competition out there so you have to realise that you have to build it up. People you know don’t build it and sit there and say everybody come see me. And we all know that doesn’t work.

And if you’re going to say yourself ‘I am going to become a WooCommerce expert, you should also know about other options there are like BigCommerce, Shopify . People are going to be constantly asking you about them – WooCommerc or Shopify? Be prepared, do research, listen to people. Likely at some point there is going to be some point where you need to say okay, obviously the choice for them is not WooCommerce. Don’t become a WooCommerce fanatic, and ram it down people’s throat. Remember what the customer needs. 

Shreejith: Yes definitely! That is a practice even we follow, we don’t pitch WooCommerce if it doesn’t work for them . And that really sticks with them. And even if they don’t work with us , they refer us later because they like that we don’t push our services and products. 

So, we obviously love the ‘Doo the Woo’ podcast here at WisdmLabs.You’ve had many interesting conversations with a lot of successful entrepreneurs and key people in the WooCommerce space. What are some of the best insights you’ve derived from these talks? Would you like to share them with us?

Bob: I have asked this question to my 3 co-hosts and a lot of their answers resonated with me. One of them was , a lot of people in the WooCommerce space have a real desire to make things happen. I dont want to throw out the word passion. But they have this energy. They are ready to get in there and dig into things. So there’s this determination that I see over and over in lot of the people we talk with. Its exactly that, it’s so true. 

The other thing is that some of them didnt really always think they could do it. They thought eCommerce was a scary big animal. And it kinda of is in a sense. I found it overwhelming in the begging. But don’t let the concept of it scare you. A lot of them were at a point where they said I cant do this or I was really hesitant to do it because it seemed like a monster. Now, they are doing WooCommerce and doing it successfully because they had the skills and determination of taking it to the next level by understand it and using it. These are people who are excited about what they are doing, they all have different stories.

The last thing I’ll mention is that a lot of these product-builders created it out of their own needs and then ended up selling it. They started seeing the same thing being asked for over and over again, and then said well, this might be something other people need so they turned it into a product and it became successful! That is where a lot of agencies have an advantage where they see these needs. 

Shreejith: That’s exactly how we ventured into products, because we were a services company! So we do have the advantage of talking to the end user.

WooCommerce Builder Community & the Doo the Woo website 

Shreejith: How do you think the WooCommerce community could benefit from connecting with each other? And anything you’d like to tell us about your newest venture – the Doo the Woo website?

Bob: So a lot of my focus right now is on WooCommerce builders and I think first of all, we’re learning from everybody.

I have taught people stuff for ever and ever and I don’t really think of my spot as a learning spot where you come to my site and learn code , there are a lot of opportunities to do that. The benefit of connection (and of the Doo the Woo website) is of hearing people who have been there and done that.

And sometimes you need that boost, especially if you’re in a spot and stuck in your business. You can listen, whether its on my podcast or talking to someone. Listening to others and suddenly hearing something that makes you go ‘that’s exactly how I felt’ and I am not alone, this person pulled through, so can I! That is huge!

And that’s because we’re human, but I think especially builders get into their own little space, in their code bubble, lot of them are very introverted so hearing other people is a big part of it. Its not always about I have to be constantly talking to people. I am not really into that. One thing I’ve done on the site is looking in to how do I benefit the person I am talking to and how does that help them connect the community, so you look at it in a lot of different external way. It is something I can talk about a long time. It just has so many benefits.

Once you start building those relationships, especially to people who are new to doing business for themselves, its not a competition. You have to be connected to your peers and people who are doing the same thing you’re doing. We’re all trying to sell ourselves but if you I am not connected to them I am just going to lose out on the benefit of being able to once a while chew something off somebody you know.

My site even, one of the things, somebody says everything they say has resonated with me, well let me see if I can connect them to you and you can start a conversation. Its is important to feed off each other, understand what the other is thinking and you really cant get into the community until you get into their brains. What so and so thinking about this and yes that makes sense. And you realise that that is someone you eventually want to know. 

Further Reading:
‘Do the Woo’ – A New Hub for WooCommerce Builders Community

Lavanya Deshmukh

Lavanya Deshmukh

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