Maximizing Profitability of Freemium WordPress Themes

Maximizing Profitability of Freemium WordPress Themes

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Over the past couple of years, the freemium pricing strategy has become more and more popular among WordPress theme and plugin shops. Having a bit of experience with selling freemium WordPress themes, it only seems right that I take the time to share what I have learned so far. So here we are!

What is “Freemium” anyway?

Freemium is a pricing strategy by which a product is provided free of charge, although money is charged for proprietary features and functionality. Essentially, it’s a model in which you give a core product away for free and promote paid upgrades to generate revenue.

When adopting the freemium model everything becomes a numbers game. You focus on maximizing your conversion rate, i.e. getting people to upgrade from the free WordPress theme – to the Pro version.

Like all pricing strategies, there is definitely a right and wrong way to play your hand using the freemium model. To maximize your ROI it is essential to setup a cohesive process that can effectively capitalize on any leads that are generated.

Setting up your online shop

On my WordPress shop, ThemeBeans, I am running Easy Digital Downloads, with an array of add-ons that make it a powerfully simple online shop.

I capture leads using the EDD Free Downloads add-on and assign those leads to a product-specific group in MailChimp, with the EDD MailChimp add-on. When an email address is submitted, the lead is sent the download from EDD, with a custom email notification that I’ve setup using the EDD Per Product Emails add-on.

Finally, the lead is assigned to a product-specific group in MailChimp and nurtured through an automated drip campaign tailored to their product.

Email campaigns using MailChimp

MailChimp is my email marketing platform of choice. It’s just simple to use, pretty powerful and the automation features are spot on.

Every freemium WordPress theme campaign that I have set up utilizes at least four scripted emails that are designed to nurture and convert leads. Let’s take a look at the workflows I set up for each of the freemium WordPress themes I offer:

Email #1

The first email I send out is triggered two hours after a lead opts-in to download the lite version of the theme. It is also segmented so that no converted leads will ever receive it.

The goal here is to establish communication by asking how the new theme is performing and throw out a few benefits of having the Pro version. I also offer a 10% discount right off to incentivize the purchase.

Email #2

The second email is triggered three days later, only to those who have not purchased the upgrade. I go into further detail of the features and benefits of the Pro version, outlining access to in-dashboard updates and access to our best-in-class theme support.

If readers are interested, there’s a link to an in-depth post I wrote about the upgraded theme and another discount – this time for 15% off.

Email #3

After another three days if none of the links were clicked in the previous email, the third email in this sequence is triggered. This time I spotlight a “real-world” scenario on how the Pro version of the theme can help folks get more leads. I also provide some rave reviews and a bit more encouragement to upgrade, in the form of a 20% off discount code. Noticing the trend here?

Email #4

The last email I send in this sequence is effectively an exit poll, sent two weeks after the last email is sent, if the user never purchases the upgrade. The poll is a means to both tweak the automated workflow to convey the value of my freemium WordPress themes better and to improve the actual themes.

I purposefully use a plain-text styled message because I want to establish a more personal level of communication at this stage. And even though I do not see a lot of responses, the feedback I do get is invaluable for determining both the effectiveness of my campaign and the product in general.

In Closing

Yes, there are perks to offering freemium WordPress themes – but it’s not all fun and games. There’s a lot of work to be done to make the most of your efforts. Behind the scenes it is so important to capitalize on leads by setting up an effective drip email campaign designed to teach, pursue, and engage potential buyers.

When building freemium WordPress themes and plugins, there is a fine line between intriguing potential customers and ticking them off. It’s all about providing value in both the free and paid products, so that users are happy to pay you for an even better experience – not get frustrated that they’re required to.

The freemium model isn’t for every type of WordPress theme, but when it works – it works well.

The WordPress theme ecosystem is ever-changing and with the amount of competition in today’s market, it’s more important than ever to capture and nurture leads – using the freemium model or not. And if you do go this route, the freemium model isn’t for every type of WordPress theme, but when it works – it works well.

  1. Hey, thanks for such a nice article. Can you tell me what is the conversion rate of freemium to premium? If free themes are downloaded 1000 times how likely are the number of users who will upgrade to premium? Sorry for asking this but I will be extremely thankful if you tell this. You can email me the answers. Thanks mate

  2. Hey Rich!

    Awesome article! Thank you very much for sharing your know-how. I was just curious, when you’re sending the automated e-mails with 10%, 15%, 20% etc.. how do you handle the price reduction? Is it via coupons, are you generating coupons for every email separately? What plugin are you using to generate.. etc?

    Thanks very much in advance.

    1. Hi Peter!

      What I did is setup separate discounts with different percentage amounts within Easy Digital Downloads. Then in my MailChimp sequences, each direct purchase link has that particular email’s discount attached. That way folks don’t have to input a discount code during checkout, which I don’t allow anyhow.

      For example, I may have Tabor10, Tabor15 and Tabor20. It’s a little more cumbersome than other methods, though it’s pretty easy accountability and gets you up and running in just a few minutes.

  3. Thanks for sharing your experience. If possible please share the working types of WordPress themes that work better in the freemium model.

    1. I personally found that purposeful niche themes are easier ask folks to upgrade to. For example, my portfolio themes get far more attention and more upgrades than my freemium blog themes (which had nearly zero).

  4. I had a similar experience with a blog theme. The pro version didn’t work at all and people were satisfied with the free version. I don’t have any experience with other types in the freemium model; All I did was directly selling premium themes which is another story.

    Successful WordPress themes like MH and Zerif are purposeful niche themes, you’re right. Thanks!

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