This is the second post in the series about WP App Store. The series aims to chart the progress of the project since purchase, from experiments in marketing to technical aspects of the site. In this post I will cover the improvements to the workflow around on-boarding and managing of deals.
There are some aspects of running a business like WP App Store that will always take up your time. Reaching out to product owners, building relationships and marketing the site. However, there are many repetitive tasks that can eat up time unnecessarily. When I took the site over, the deals were added to a static, simply designed, site and emails were drafted and scheduled in Campaign Monitor manually. Brad had developed a very lean workflow that suited him, but for me coming to the business fresh, I wanted to automate and improve the workflow as much as possible so I could spend more time on building the business.
The first thing I did was convert the static site to WordPress, recreating the site design as its first theme. I created a custom plugin for all the WP App Store specific functionality for the site:
Custom Post Type
The most important thing was getting all the past, current and upcoming deals in a custom post type. This meant that I could enrich the data stored for each deal, previously just a title and start date. A deal on the site means it gets two emails sent out to the subscriber list, the first being an introduction to the product. Usually around 100 words, this copy is now stored in the post content of the deal. With the help of Advanced Custom Fields each deal has a start date, end date (typically 3 weeks after), coupon code, discount, an image for the product and data about the vendor including a thumbnail. Having all this data available for each deal meant that the new design of the site could include much more information about each deal all powered by the CPT.
When all the data is filled in I send a preview of the first email to the vendor to approve. At this stage the deal post is in ‘pending review’ status (so it appears on the front end site as upcoming), and the single-deal template file is styled to look exactly like the first email will. The preview is sent as a link to the vendor using the Public Post Preview plugin.
Before WP App Store I had only ever used MailChimp for email subscriptions, but along with the site I acquired the Campaign Monitor account. After familiarising myself with the site, I started to investigate their API. With all the data about the deals stored in WordPress I had everything I needed to automatically schedule the first and followup emails for each deal.
When a deal goes live a tweet is sent from the @wpappstore_ account, which I soon increased to two more tweets, one halfway through the deal and one the day before it closed. Of course this is a manual task and even with the help of Buffer it still meant some work. But like all great services, Buffer has an API which I have used to automate these three deal tweets, as well as posting to the WP App Store Facebook page when the deal goes live.
I also capture the Twitter handle for the product if there is one, allowing me to use Buffer to post an update about the upcoming deals, e.g.
— WP App Store (@wpappstore_) July 9, 2014
I use the Gmail web interface to manage the email account. Email management has been improved by the use of Canned Responses. This allows me to have various templates of emails at the ready to send out at different stages of the deal on-boarding process. I generally hate receiving cookie cutter, mail merge style emails so even though most of the emails sent out have a template base I try to personalise as much as possible.
The more I use the workflow I have built, the more I see room for improvement. In the future I plan to add integration with FreeAgent, my online accounting software, to automate the creation and sending of invoices to the vendor before the deal goes live.
I plan on using Trello as a kind of CRM to manage the deals through the various stages of the process and will look to perhaps automate the creation of the deal post on the site as the deal card gets moved to the ‘approved’ list.
The time spent on this development has outweighed the time spent on repetitive tasks in the future. It also means I can on-board deals and front load all the work around them as quickly as possible. Once I have written the copy of the first email and filled out all the data, the heavy lifting of the scheduling process is now done in two clicks.
What tools do you use for workflow automation? I would be interested to hear your feedback on my workflow improvements.
PS. You really should sign up for WP App Store for great deals on WordPress products in your inbox.