Startup Chat #68 – Build your WordPress business with relationships

I presented at my first WordCamp on Saturday, June 28 in Seattle and the subject of the presentation was Building Your WordPress Business With Relationships.

I grabbed this video from the WordCamp Seattle Ballroom livestream, which can be found here.

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I spent a few hours preparing for this presentation, so it was great to receive the below feedback.


Slide 1

You’ve got a pounding headache.

You’re a stressed out, overworked business owner with 101 tasks piled up on your to do list.

Your WordPress site is giving you a migraine, but the thought of using elance or odesk makes your head pound even harder.

Instead, you want to send your issue to someone you can trust. Ahh… Sweet relief.

You jump on the Googles and find a service called WP Curve.

We fix the problem.

We’re the Advil for your WordPress headache.

We’re a name that can be trusted, because you’ve got a relationship with our brand.

Slide 2

My name is Alex and I’m going to show you how build your WordPress business through relationships.

Slide 3

Here’s some background about me.

I’m married to a beautiful wife. Her name is Brittany.

Slide 4

We live in San Francisco.

Slide 5

I have two hobbies.  Playing basketball. Usually against other people.

Slide 6

And eating pizza. The more pizza I eat, the more basketball I need to play.

Slide 7

One year ago, I co-founded WP Curve with Dan Norris.

We offer 24/7 WordPress support to business owners.

We have grown to 300 monthly recurring customers in our first year of business.

We have a fully remote team of 12 full-time developers and are 100% bootstrapped.

We have landed coverage in top tier media outlets like Fox and Forbes.

A bonus fact about our business is that I haven’t met my cofounder, Dan, face to face yet. Hopefully, he’ll be coming out for WordCamp San Francisco.

Dan’s skills complement mine. He ran a web agency for 7 years and has worked with WordPress since then. My passion is building relationships and promoting our service.

Today, I want to show you the exact approach that has helped us grow our WordPress business from nothing to a quarter of a million dollar annual revenue run rate in one year.

Slide 8

There are 3 specific things I’d like you to take away from this presentation.

Why relationships matter – especially for a WordPress business

The 3 different types of relationships you should build

and finally, how to build a relationship without feeling sleazy

Slide 9

Don’t worry about taking notes – I’ve put this entire presentation, including the transcript of my speech here.

If you have any questions, please save them for the end and I will answer them all at once.

Slide 10

I’m going to be honest with you.

Networking events and meetups (except for WordCamps) typically suck for building business relationships. I’ve attended more than 7 events in the last year and here are a 3 problems I’ve found.

Problem 1 – The Silence is Deafening

When the meetup portion of an event starts, there is an awkward silence that rolls over the crowd like the San Francisco fog.

Extroverted people wade through the fog to the middle of the room and have a blast. They chat, laugh and have a great time.

On the other hand, introverted people will shuffle around sheepishly, stare at their feet or quietly slip into the corner.

Oftentimes, the loudest or most extroverted person gets the most attention.

Slide 11

Problem 2 – You Need an Umbrella

There’s always one dork who does this with their business cards at an event.

In Australia, we call it feeding the chooks.

In Seattle, I think you guys call thisMAKING IT RAIN.

Slide 12

Problem 3 – 99% of the time, it’s a waste of time

When you do finally chat to someone, you have nothing in common and you leave with a business card, a greasy handshake and no real connection.

At WordCamps, we get to meet a ton of smart, likeminded WordPress entrerepeneurs, developers, designers and business owners.

But if networking and building relationships in a controlled environment is this difficult and awkward, then how on earth can you strike up relationships with people that have never heard of you before or have never met you before.

It’s no wonder we spend so much time on Facebook and Twitter.

Slide 13

All is not lost.

Let’s start with looking at building business to business relationships. By the way, whenever I think of the term business to business, I think of cheesy stock photos like this:

The truth is that a lot of great business to business relationships are formed during informal catch ups at a cafe. A great business relationship I’ve developed is with another San Francisco WordPress company called Fantasktic.

Josh migrates WordPress sites. His clients need small fixes, support and maintenance. He doesn’t offer this type of support.

Our clients need site migrations.

Taking note of this,  I sent Josh this email – you can grab it from wpcurve dot com backslash pizza.


Hey Josh

My wife works in the same building as you. I’d love to catch up for a chat and hopefully a burrito. We get a few migration requests a week and are looking to build a solid partnership.

Cheers, Alex


Josh replied later that day and we set up time for a coffee. After a few emails and some due diligence, we realized the relationship was a no-brainer. We refer each other a handful of customers a week and it’s great for both of our businesses.

The return on investment of building business to business relationships can be astronomical. It only cost me a few hours of my time, a few bucks for a bus fare and a few cups of coffee and this relationship is building our business every day..

Over the last 12 months I’ve talked to the founders of WP Valet, Maintainn, WP Site Care, Codeable and WP Fix It. Even though they are technically our competitors, the WordPress community is a small place and there is plenty of work for everyone.

Who knows where your business and your competitor’s business will be in 12 months. It pays to build relationships.

Slide 14

Here are my 7 steps for building business to business relationships.

Step 1 – Do your research – spend a few hours on researching the person you are meeting with. Luck favours preparation.

Step 2 – Explain what’s in it for them – don’t ask to pick their brain, instead have a specific ask and be clear about what you’re looking for.

During the meeting:

Step 3 – Be honest – if it’s not a good fit, call it out and save both of your time

Step 4 – Focus on next steps- you could review each others services or share recent customer feedback to make sure you’re happy with their offering

The meeting is done, now it’s time to formalize the relationship:

Step 5 – Find a model that works – some businesses will want an exclusive partnership agreement, others will be happy with a handshake arrangement. Figure out what you’re both comfortable with and move forward on a low-risk, one-month, trial basis

Step 6 – Follow up – they are just as busy as you, so check back in after a few days to make sure the conversation is still moving along

Step 7 – Maintain the relationship – set a regular time to catch up and review how the partnership is going

Slide 15

Finding companies to build B2B relationships with  is easy.

Look for companies who already have relationships with your ideal customers, but are selling them a product or service that is complementary to yours.

Here are 5 ideas for businesses that might complement your WordPress business::

  • Marketing agency
  • Hosting provider
  • SEO provider
  • Theme shop
  • Software development company

For further reading on how to build business relationships, I highly recommend Jason Cohen’s recent article on his Smart Bear blog – it’s called Why startup biz dev deals almost never get done.

Slide 16

Let’s move on to building relationships with influencers.

An influencer is a person who speaks to your audience, but has a larger platform than you. Seth Godin is an influencer for marketers. Tim Ferriss is an influencer for life hackers. There are dozens of influencers in the WordPress community, you just need to find a way that you can help them out.

I want to walk you through an example of a great influencer relationship that helped grow our business.

A new customer signed up for WP Curve and he had a site that was built to promote his speed reading iPhone app.

We work really hard on making sure a new customer has a great first experience and this particular client was very happy with the work we’d done. As we did more and more work and started to build a relationship with him, we realized something.

He was kind of a big deal.

Slide 17

It turned out that the client was Clayton Morris, an anchor on FOX News. He loved our service and he invited me to the FOX studio in New York City. We talked about WP Curve at length. It was a turning point in our business and it all came about because we went above and beyond in helping him out, before we knew who he was.

Slide 18

In the months prior to the Fox interview, we had been developing relationships with online influencers like John Lee Dumas, Chris Ducker and Noah Kagan. These relationships all followed a similar pattern:

We would provide as much value as we could.

For John and Chris, we earned their trust by doing excellent work and they signed up as paying customers for our service. We now have footer links on both of their homepages that send us around 400 visitors and 5 to 10 customers a month.

For Noah, when we found out he was going to visit Australia, we created a list of must visit restaurants that was mapped to his itinerary and we also created a custom list of Australian slang terms. Noah has been super helpful to us and has connected us with a bunch of other influencers.

The key thing to remember is that, influencers have thousands of followers and get asked for help all the time.

Instead of doing what everyone else does, try and stand out.

Slide 19

Here are my 7 steps to building relationships with influencers::

  • Give
  • Give
  • Give
  • Give
  • Give
  • Give
  • Ask for a favour

It really is that straightforward. Sometimes, the influencer won’t reciprocate your generosity. That’s OK – don’t worry too much about it. Take note of what worked and what didn’t. Adjust your approach the next time around.

This was a popular slide…

Slide 20

A great place to start building relationships with influencers is your very own WordPress community.

Here’s a list of 7 WordPress influencers you should try and build a relationship with..

  1. Chris Lema @chrislema
  2. Matt Medeiros @mattmedeiros
  3. Troy Dean @troydean
  4. Brian Krogsgard @krogsgard
  5. Brent Shepherd @thenbrent
  6. Brennen Byrne – he’s here… @brennenbyrne

So you’ve got the names, but how do you help them out?

You could invite them on to your podcast or create a guest post for them. You could send them some research that might be useful to their business. You could review their product or service and share it on YouTube. As long as you’re helpful, they will take notice. Continue being helpful and when the time is right, you can ask for a favour.

Here’s an article by Neil Patel about how to build relationships with influencers.

Slide 21

The most important relationship you can build is with your audience. We have a secret weapon that has helped us keep our annual advertising spend to less than $200, but has also helped us generate 25,000 visits to our site each and every month.

It’s called content marketing.

First, let’s define what content is. There are a bunch of different types of content that you can produce, including blog posts, infographics, how to guides, podcasts and whitepapers. When you produce great content, you get the opportunity to speak to hundreds or thousands of readers. They can interact with you on your blog, leave comments or email you directly.

Content helps you build trust with your audience, which is the foundation of building a long term relationship.

Over the last year, we’ve experimented with a bunch of different content types and I want to share a secret with you.

Slide 22

People LOVE how to guides.

If you can come up with a detailed guide that solves a problem, your audience will love you for it.

If you need content ideas, take a look at the questions your customers frequently ask you and create answers to them.. If you really want to stand out, try experimenting with transparency in your content.

For example, you could share some of the challenges you’ve faced in your WordPress business and how you plan on overcoming them. On our blog, we share our monthly revenue figures and while that was hard for me to accept at first, the trust we earn from being truly transparent easily makes it worthwhile.

Slide 23

Creating great content takes time and patience, so if you’re looking to get started, here are my 7 principles of great content. Great content has

  1. An eye-grabbing headline
  2. Easy to read
  3. Worth sharing
  4. Useful
  5. Valuable
  6. Actionable
  7. Evergreen

Slide 24

Here’s a bonus secret.

If you don’t love writing or don’t have the time to produce content, there are literally thousands of awesome writers who will happily guest post or write for a small fee. You can post an ad for $50 on the Pro blogger job board and you will find writers who will create excellent content for just a few hundred dollars.

For more information on content marketing, check out Dan’s practical guide to content marketing.

Slide 25

It takes time and care to grow a relationship, whether it’s with a business, an influencer or your audience.

If you put in the effort, are genuinely helpful and try to add as much value as you can, you’re going to find yourself with a ton of new relationships and some really exciting opportunities knocking at your door.

Here’s my challenge to you.

I want you to walk away from WordCamp with one new relationship. You can use the principles I’ve mentioned here as a jumping off point, and remember the final golden rule of building relationships.

Quality trumps quantity. Be patient, be interested and be valuable. You’ll be surprised what happens next.

Slide 26

If you liked this presentation, please share it or leave a comment on the blog. Your feedback is welcome!

By the way – if you want feedback on your business or business idea, my co-founder Dan loves to pick them apart. If you want to catch up for a coffee with me, you can find my details on backslash pizza. I’m always looking out for new relationships.


Thanks for reading and please let me know if you have any questions in the comments.


Hi, I'm Alex McClafferty. I'm the co-founder of WP Curve.

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