How We Acquired A WordPress Plugin And Grew Revenue 50%
Hello! Who are you and what business did you start?
Site Alert was acquired by the team at Southport Ventures in April 2021. Although we are not the founders, we have found a good home for this great product. We purchased the product from Frank Corso, a dedicated and vigilant developer that wanted it to end up in good hands. We liked the metrics, the customer base, and the quality of the codebase. This was an easy deal to love, and the business has only grown since we purchased it.
Southport Ventures is an acquisition fund focused on profitable, mission-critical, B2B SaaS businesses. Nicholas Evans and Trevor Ewen founded Southport Ventures in early 2021 to acquire great bootstrapped products in the space. Nicholas has a strong product management background. Trevor is a software engineer.
Site Alert is a lightweight monitoring tool targeted at small business owners in charge of 1-50 normal websites. The pricing is very favorable for a non-technical business owner to receive easy monitoring without going down the rabbit hole of IT monitoring, in a much more complicated sense. Critically, the project notifies for downtime, checks for broken links, checks for broken images, and does page performance analysis. All this is within one simple interface with a plug-and-play model.
Since our April 2021 acquisition, we’ve continued to run it well over 50% net profit margin while also growing it 51%.
How did you find the business and what made you think it’d be a good acquisition?
We met the founder via a conference and networking group called MicroAcquire. Given the nature of the community, it is common for founders to sell products. We were particularly interested in this one, because of the reasonable terms relative to the customer list and quality of the code. “Set it and forget it” is thrown around a lot, but that is the case with this product. It allows us to focus our initiatives on growth moves and not get caught up trying to improve an already great customer experience.
The founder had run the business as a successful hobby project for several years prior. He was an incredibly skilled developer and very active in the WordPress community. As a result, he had a great deal of organic growth through the WordPress plugin marketplace. His reasons for exit were not financial, he just wanted his time back for other initiatives. This was the basis for our favorable terms because it’s much easier to provide a great exit for a seller if they have goals other than money, particularly if you (the buyer) can serve those goals.
Goals: Quick transaction, asset sale, fair price, and customers will no longer reach out to the seller. In other words, we’ll respect his desire to get out of the business.
Describe the process of launching the business.
When we acquired SiteAlert, we immediately recognized the brand needed a facelift. We launched a brand new, modernized design. Nicholas Evans headed up this process. Since he comes from a design and UX background, he made quick work with a theme we purchased.
In addition, we had an existing business doing software development (Southport Technology Group). We were able to onboard existing clients to the platform and “Eat our dog food” as the industry term goes.
Nothing is truly automatic, but it’s hard to beat good organic growth with real creators and business people that rely on a useful service.
From there, it’s been smooth sailing finding new avenues of promotion and getting the platform out to business owners that want an alerting system full-featured and cheaper than something like Uptime Robot.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
Good customer service is a must. The product is very user-friendly, so we have little inbound for customer service. When we do, we have the time and energy to make it happen (because it’s such a small fraction). Beyond that, we are responsive to feature requests. We are currently in the midst of a marketing campaign to increase exposure and let small business owners know there is an all-in-one solution for site monitoring, broken link checking, broken image tests, and more.
Our top channel remains as such, and it’s one we accidentally walked into via the acquisition. The product sits on top of a free plugin in the WordPress plugin directory. The network effects in the WordPress marketplace have provided a steady stream of customers and contributed primarily to our existing growth metrics.
In addition, we have added Google PPC to increase acquisitions outside of the WordPress marketplace. The goal is to increase conversions for non-WordPress-based hosts because we bear some risk in our centralization on that platform.
Still, the WordPress channel endures as our strongest. PPC is a tough game, and something we have put in place mostly as an alternative, but not something we expect to spend a lot of time on.
How are you doing today and what does the future look like?
The product has done well. 2021 has been a great time for new business upstarts and enhanced web and eCommerce needs for business. Monitoring and peace of mind is critical part of that journey. We are just happy to offer the easiest solution for solo and small entrepreneurs. The free WordPress plugin has 285 5-star reviews and over 239K all-time downloads. The plugin continues to get numerous downloads every month and regular positive reviews.
We've grown revenue 51% since buying it in April 2021 through a combination of experimenting with pricing and paid to advertise. We’ve also maintained a net profit margin of well over 50%. In 2022, we’ll experiment with some newsletters and other forms of paid advertising. We may hire a content creator to write more articles for the blog as well. Our goal is to continue to grow revenue by 50% per year while maintaining high-profit margins.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
I will answer the question from the perspective of acquisition. Nothing is truly automatic, but it’s hard to beat good organic growth with real creators and business people that rely on a useful service.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Amazon Lightsail has been an amazing and affordable deployment platform. The services are written in Flask (Python framework). It is very friendly, and we have enjoyed working with it.
We use WordPress for our marketing site and blog so we can use our plugin on our site (it’s always good to dog food your products). We use Stripe for payments, ProfitWell for revenue/churn insights, fullstory for funnel analytics, and ConvertKit for marketing email sequences.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
Podcasts: Startups for the Rest of Us, Businessology, Side Hustle Show (Nick Loper).
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
The acquisition is a great way to get started. If you don’t have an idea, you can always unload one (or many) from others trying to move on.
Where can we go to learn more?
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
Get our 5-minute email newsletter packed with business ideas and money-making opportunities, backed by real-life case studies.