Building an Awesome Demo for Your WordPress Theme or Plugin

Building an Awesome Demo for Your WordPress Theme or Plugin

As another year draws to a close, it’s time to start thinking about business goals for 2017. Do you know what the coming year has in store for your WordPress business? A better question to ask may be: do you have a plan in place to ensure your WordPress business grows and thrives in the new year?

For developers selling WordPress themes or plugins (or for those of you currently considering that business opportunity), now is a great time to set your products up for success. Client work is about to slow down as we move further into the holiday season and as businesses freeze spending while reviewing the coming year’s budget.

If you know you have a high-quality product that makes the experience of using WordPress and building a website better, spending some time building a high-quality product demonstration can help raise awareness of the quality and functionality of your product or service.

So why not take advantage of this downtime to work on your sales and marketing strategy, and do what comes most natural to you: developing a demo of your theme or plugin.

Are Product Demos Right for Your WordPress Business?

The business of WordPress theme and plugin sales seems fairly straight-forward, right? You develop an amazing product. You put it up for sale. WordPress users find it, purchase it, use it, and love it.

As you know though, getting your product found is only half the battle. You’ve still got to sell people on it.

If you’re a developer of WordPress themes or plugins, you also need to be ready to assume the role of marketer and salesperson, too. This doesn’t mean you need to call prospects or place paid ads online. Instead you should play to your strengths.

That’s why plugin and theme demos are often a logical choice for developers.

Product demos are a passive way to sell the value of your product. In other words, you build them and then allow the product test to speak for itself. If done right, these are an effective and efficient way to market your product and brand. And, because they’re built right into your website (like WPMU DEV does with their theme and Upfront demos), the sales process can be completely self-guided by your soon-to-be customers.

Here are some other reasons why product demos are great at converting more visitors to paying customers:

  • Less Pressure: Prospects don’t have to commit to pay for a little-known plugin or theme that sounds promising, but may still be a risky investment. Plus, people love getting free stuff.
  • Instill Trust: You’d be hard-pressed to find a brand-name WordPress developer who doesn’t offer live product demos on their websites. Do you know why that is? Because it gives customers more reason to associate their brand with reliability and quality workmanship.
  • Accurate Representation: You might not have the “perfect” words to sell your product. But, if you can give prospects the opportunity to test drive your tool both on the front-end of a website or in the back-end of WordPress, that may be all they need to see that it’s a worthwhile investment.
  • Ease Concerns: What if someone left a review of a previous iteration of your plugin being buggy, but it’s since been fixed? A free demo allows prospects to put those concerns to rest by trying it out themselves.

While there is the potential to increase sales from product demonstrations, there is also the possibility that they have the opposite effect. If your theme or plugin is rushed out the door or is not yet fully vetted, bugs and other UX issues could deter prospects from making a purchase. There is also the case of Affiliate WP who, for reasons unknown, found that product demos led to less sales.

There is no right or wrong decision here. What it boils down to is finding a marketing and sales tactic that works for both you and your prospects.

We provide demos for all of our Upfront themes.
We provide demos for all of our Upfront themes.

Best Practices for Building WordPress Product Demos

For those of you who decide to build demos for your WordPress products, keep in mind that it should accurately reflect the experience of using it. It should also give prospects a sense of satisfaction, like “Hey, I didn’t know drag-and-drop was possible here!” or “Woah, this is going to save me hours in collecting leads!” WordPress is synonymous with ease of use, and so too should be your WordPress solution.

To help get you started, I’ve compiled the following 10 best practices in demo building.

#1. Create Relevant Site-Wide Promotions

Calls-to-action (CTAs) can be tricky. You know you need them, but sometimes the placement and frequency that you think is acceptable just doesn’t work. When promoting theme or plugin demos on your site, be sure that they not only make sense (would you place them on your Team page?) but that they’re also not overwhelming. Keep them simple, straight-forward, and easy to find.

#2. Include a Sign Up Page

Your theme or plugin demonstration may be given away at no cost, but that doesn’t mean it’s “free.” So while you might not need testers’ credit card information at this time, you should be asking for their email address if they want to gain entry to the demo. You can ask for this either through a sign-up page or a pop-up.

#3. Send a Pre-Demo Email

Every time someone requests access to your demo, an automatic email should be triggered. It can be a quick “thank you for trying our product” or it can be a simple reiteration of what they’re about to experience. Ultimately, you want this brief message to demonstrate your professionalism and also ensure that testers remember you as being a supportive and knowledgeable developer.

#4. Use a Demo Builder Tool

Your WordPress plugin or theme has already been created, but do you know how to turn it into a live, editable demonstration? With demo builder tools like Moto Press you won’t need to. As an added benefit of using a demo builder tool, many of the best practices included on this list are automatically integrated into the solution.

#5. Set Limits

The way a demo typically works is that a separate sandbox (i.e. test site) is created for each user. This allows them to demo the product as they see fit—deleting elements from a theme, applying new settings to a plugin, etc.—without having to worry about other users changing their settings. However, as each new sandbox is created, more weight is added to your server.

That’s why you’ll want to establish automated cleanups. These will clear out old demo user accounts and sandboxes. This will also help you set a limit on how long each person has to use the demo (since they shouldn’t have unlimited access).

#6. Direct Testers to Next Steps

Once users have satisfied their curiosity giving your plugin or theme demo a test run, make that next step an easy one. Include big, bright CTAs within the demo builder so prospects know where to go to sign up and purchase the product. You should also include buttons that help them return to your website, if that’s what they want.

#7. Connect Your CRM

The last thing you want to do is spend your time manually capturing each person’s contact or payment information. If you’re involved in WordPress sales, you need a customer relationship management (CRM) tool, regardless of what you sell or how you sell it. CRMs help save you time, create consistency in customer engagements, and also improve your ability to convert casual bystanders into paying customers.

Once you have a CRM working for you, be sure it’s connected to all your demo sign-ups and purchase forms. This way you can collect visitor information, follow up to see how the demo went, answer further questions, and keep them on your mailing list for future product launches.

#8. Add a Promotional Toolbar

Hello bars and other notification toolbars are an especially helpful and yet non-obtrusive way to promote content, services, and products on a website. For product demos, these can be used in one of two ways:

  1. On the website to promote the free demo of your new plugin or theme.
  2. Within the product demo to promote related content or products back on your website.

You never want your marketing efforts to focus on driving a single sale. They should be cyclical: “Oh, you like this theme demo? Have you tried this plugin that enhances the slider feature on it?” Leave visitors to manage their self-guided tours of your plugins or themes. Then be ready to gently nudge them towards what they should do next with a promotional toolbar.

#9. Study the Stats

Statistics are a critical part of understanding what’s happening with your website and conversions. If you’re not already using Google Analytics, you’ll want to make sure you have it in place before launching a demo. It’ll help you identify:

  • Were there drop-offs in traffic before visitors started the demo?
  • When did the drop-off happen? At sign-up? Before?
  • Are the demo CTAs difficult to find?

You’ll also want to use your demo builder tool’s built-in analytics to find out:

  • How much time are testers spending in it?
  • Which of your products are tested most frequently?
  • What percentage of testers don’t convert?

By looking into user behavior, you’ll have a better idea of what needs to be done to the user experience on your site as well as within the demo in order to improve conversions.

#10. A/B Test!

Affiliate WP is just one example of a company who found that live product demos didn’t work for them. Rather than write this sales and marketing tactic off completely for your own WordPress products, you should run an A/B test on your site. This will at least give you an idea of how effective the demo is in converting prospective customers.

It’s important to pay attention to post-sales results, too. Let’s say you run an A/B test that offers a demo to half of your visitors and no demo to the other half. You find that less demo testers convert than non-demo testers. But what if the converted non-demo visitors sign up for your theme or plugin, but then cancel anyway?

In other words, your product demo may actually be an effective way to let visitors determine whether or not your product really is right for them. Without the demo, you may end up with less committed customers and have to deal with all that red tape to get them refunded or cancelled. Then you’ll have to start all over again in the hopes of generating replacement revenue from other customers.

One WordPress theme or plugin may work for some, but it might not be right for others. Demos may actually save you from a lot of undue work and help you to gain more satisfied customers in the long run.

Wrapping Up

There are many ways to convert prospective customers, but if you have a plugin or theme you’re trying to sell, it may be beneficial to you (and them) to offer a “test drive” of it. Prospects need to understand the real value of the product you’re offering, and hands-on experience with it may be the best way to truly show them that.

Have you ever been surprised by how good a WordPress product was after doing a demo of it? What was it and why?

Brenda Barron

Brenda Barron Brenda is a freelance writer from Southern California. She specializes in WordPress, tech, and business and founded WP Theme Roundups. When not writing about all things, she's spending time with her family.