Four and a half years ago, I released Restrict Content Pro on Code Canyon.net. It was not my first big plugin, nor even the second, but it was the first one that I developed a more intimate relationship with. I heavily relied on the plugin for my own site and thus had a greater commitment to it than the large plugins that came before. For the first two years, the plugin thrived. I updated it constantly and continued to push it further and further. In 2014, however, I began to lose touch with the plugin as my other two big projects, Easy Digital Downloads and AffiliateWP, dominated more and more of my time.
I continued to let Restrict Content Pro dwindle for nearly two years before making a decision. I had several options. I could let it die a slow, drawn out death, I could sell it, or I could work to bring it back to life and let it kick ass again.
I chose the last of the three options and, over the last five months, my team and I have been working to revitalize the product that was once the majority of my monthly revenue. It has a long way to go but we're making significant progress and I'd like to share some of the journey with you now.
Among the very first steps was to set goals. What exactly did we want to achieve beyond just keeping Restrict Content Pro alive?
Ultimately, there were a few specific goals we had in mind.
First, we wanted to transform Restrict Content Pro from a good-but-simple membership plugin to a full-featured membership platform that is a top-contender among other membership systems. Doing this was to require a lot of work but, if done properly, should lead directly into the success of this project.
Second, we wanted to double or triple Restrict Content Pro's monthly revenue within six months and then continue to grow it monthly from there. At its peak Restrict Content Pro was earning ~$7,000-8,000 per month. Once the project began to lose attention, that number steadily dropped each month, as should be expected with any project that doesn't receive the attention it deserves.
Accomplishing these two goals would make the revitalization project a success in my eyes.
Addressing pain points in plugin features
In order to transform RCP into a full-blown membership platform that was as good as or better than the plethora of other options, we really had to add a few specific features that'd been missing. Since Restrict Content Pro was released in January of 2012, I had a huge list of pain points the customers often encountered. This gave us a very good idea of what we should focus on first in terms of development.
Some of these features included:
- Pro-rated upgrade and downgrade support between subscription levels for members.
- Expanded merchant processor support. PayPal and Stripe were the only two options for a very long time.
- Dripped content to aide in member retention.
- A full REST API to provide developers with a platform to build upon.
- Improved WooCommerce integration.
- More intuitive interfaces for configuring member-only content.
- Umbrella memberships.
- Improved administrator areas that are mobile friendly.
As of yesterday, every one of these features has been completed and is available as part of the core Restrict Content Pro plugin or as one of the many "pro" add-ons.
Many of these features are ones offered by other available membership platforms, but a few of them really help to set Restrict Content Pro apart. For example, RCP is the only membership plugin for WordPress that offers a full REST API. It is also only one of perhaps two or three that offers grouped (umbrella) memberships, which is fundamentally important to a huge number of organizations.
Part of building a successful product is offering the "standard" features. Another part is offering the features that set you apart through exclusivity. We have succeeded there and we will continue to succeed as we develop Restrict Content Pro further.
Increasing revenue by raising the average customer value
Research into revenue models has proven time and time again that it is easier and more profitable to increase the value of your existing customers than it is to acquire new customers.
Restrict Content Pro has had a fairly large number of customers over its lifetime. Between the time it lived on Code Canyon and the time it lived here on Pippin's Plugins, RCP acquired some 5,700 customers. What this number really means is this: we can dramatically increase our monthly revenue if we can find a way to encourage those 5700 customers to renew and/or upgrade their existing license keys.
If we encourage just a small percentage of those existing customers to upgrade their license from the first level to one of the top tiers, we can meet our goal of doubling or tripling our revenue.
With AffiliateWP, we learned that using a model where add-on features are available free of charge to high level license holders, we could dramatically increase the average customer value, especially if enough pro add-ons were available to sufficiently justify the higher cost.
We decided to implement this same add-on model for Restrict Content Pro. By implementing many important features as add-ons available to top-tier license holders, we gave existing customers a significant incentive to come back and renew and upgrade their licenses, while simultaneously encouraging new customers to opt into a high level license instead of the basic license.
The concept of the pro add-ons was fundamentally important to the success of this project. Ever since Restrict Content Pro was made available on pippinsplugins.com in 2013, it was priced based on the number of sites supported by the license. For example, a single site license was $42 and an unlimited sites license was $132. Being that the only distinguishing difference between the license levels was the number of sites it permitted to be activated, the vast majority of customers purchased the $42 license. Now there is a significant difference between the Personal license and the Professional license; that difference being the access to the pro add-ons.
Getting more hands on deck
Restrict Content Pro, like nearly all of my original plugin projects, began as a solo project run purely by myself. I was the developer, the sales person, the support team, the tester, and (originally) even the accountant.
I've written about it before and I still feel the same today. Easily one of the best decisions I've made for the health of my business is bringing on other team members. Easy Digital Downloads was the first to get additional team members, followed by AffiliateWP shortly after. Restrict Content Pro, however, remained as a solo project all this time. I kept thinking about as my personal "pet" project. It was the project I worked on when I was tired of Easy Digital Downloads or AffiliateWP.
In order to accomplish the goals outlined above, however, keeping me as the only person working on the project wasn't going to cut it.
John Parris joined the Easy Digital Downloads team full time in summer 2015. Later that year he began to express a lot of interest in working on RCP and membership sites so when the time came to put another team member on RCP full time, he was a logical choice. John is now working almost exclusively on RCP and has been fundamental in moving the project forward.
Michael Beil has been an unstoppable machine of efficiency in the AffiliateWP (and recently Easy Digital Downloads) support teams. Along with his prowess in support, Michael is a great tester and so getting him involved with Restrict Content Pro was an easy decision.
By involving these team members in the project, and staying actively involved myself, we've had great success in transforming Restrict Content Pro back into a vibrant and successful product that is here for the long game.
You can run a marathon alone but a relay takes a team.
Improving development activity
One of the many signs of a dying project is the cease of active development. Restrict Content Pro was no different. In the last two years, the plugin only received occasional updates and rarely, if ever, did those updates include anything beyond minor bug fixes.
To grow Restrict Content Pro into a strong product, we needed development activity to be constant. The same goes for non-development activity, such as marketing efforts and documentation improvements.
A lot of development work was required in order to get RCP to the basic level it needed to be at, but the development won't stop there.
As shown by our blog, we've been very actively releasing updates and new add-ons for Restrict Content Pro. This is a trend that will continue for the next several months and beyond.
The results thus far
We have a very long way to go but so far the results are very promising.
In terms of increasing development activity, I believe we've been incredibly successful. Since April, when we officially began this project, we have released:
- Two major updates for the core Restrict Content Pro plugin (2.5 and 2.6)
- Pro add-on: Group Accounts
- Pro add-on: WooCommerce Member Discounts
- Pro add-on: Restrict Past Content
- Pro add-on: Drip Content
- Pro add-on: Site Creation
- Pro add-on: Restriction Timeouts
- Pro add-on: Help Scout
- Pro add-on: Hard-set Expiration Dates
- Pro add-on: REST API
- Pro add-on: Custom Redirects
- Free add-on: EDD Wallet integration
- Free add-on: EDD FES Vendor Limits
Several more pro add-ons are in the development and planning stages and the next major version of Restrict Content Pro (2.7) is in the planning stage.
Revenue wise, I feel we've done well. Our goal was to double or triple the monthly revenue within six months. In March, 2016, RCP brought in $7,700. Last month, July 2016, it brought in $11,400. August, 2016, is estimated to bring in a little over $12,000.
We're at the five month mark and have increased monthly revenue by about 1.5. That's not double yet, but it's getting close. Within another few months, I expect we've surpass $15,000 in monthly sales. Even with just an increase of 1.5, we're still looking at more than $100,000 in annual revenue, and the monthly revenue is higher than it ever was in the past, so we're succeeding.
Overall the project has been a success and is something we will continue to work on for many months to come.
Restrict Content Pro will be one of the premiere membership platforms for WordPress.