When I was at Wordcamp Wellington 2018, I was asked by one of the attendees “Why we sponsored Wordcamp, since we’re such a small plugin, and the chance of getting a return was slim to none?” My response was “basically to get some brand awareness” we’d already sponsored Udaipur and Mumbai, where we realised that there was an interest in what we were trying to achieve with Booking X. I was asked pretty much the same thing in Sydney and most recently in Brisbane, and gave what was becoming the standard answer “brand awareness”. It wasn’t until I was waiting at the airport on my way home from Wordcamp Brisbane 2018, that I realised there was more to it than brand awareness.

One thing you need to know about me is that I’m an introvert and until recently have pretty much always worked alone. Apart from my first web developer job with a “start-up” (1998 – 2000), I have been a one man band. I first started using WordPress in 2008 and with the encouragement of my wife, went to my first Wordcamp in Sydney 2012. This was probably the biggest eye opener, professionally, of my life. I honestly didn’t realise there were so many people passionate about something I enjoyed so much. Over that weekend I spoke to 1 person, though I did listen in on countless conversations. After that I started going to a few meet-ups but with the birth of my daughter I disappeared back into the shadows.

In 2012, I needed some booking functionality for a client site I was working on and since there was nothing suitable I hacked something together. It wasn’t pretty but did the job, I did think it would be  a good WordPress plugin, but due to the time limitations of having a young family it fell to the wayside. I tried outsourcing the development but that was a headache, so nothing happened until 2017 when I decided to put my time and resources behind what I called Booking X. I’d recently met a talented developer while I was in India and together we decided to make Booking X a reality.

The booking landscape had changed a lot in the five years since Booking X was first developed. From only a couple of booking plugins there were now 50+, some having the backing of major players in the WordPress ecosystem. We knew Booking X had a point of difference and we believed in our end goal, so it was just a matter of being noticed through all the noise the competitors were making. After much research, we had our marketing strategy, a 5 prong approach, one of which was sponsoring WordCamps close to where we live (we wanted more locations but due to bootstrapping this project, the marketing budget was tight).

With Booking X in alpha, it was time to get it known in the community and we begun the marketing campaign including sponsoring Wordcamps. To say the strategy worked is an understatement, we went from a baseline of 1 download a month to between 10-100 a week depending on that weeks budget (side note; Booking X isn’t on the repo yet). The interesting thing was; excluding the initial Wordcamp sponsorship in a region, the following sponsorships didn’t affect the download rate. I do have a hypothesis on why, but instead of using that part of the budget for the other 4 parts I decided keep sponsoring Wordcamps as I felt there was more to sponsoring than just downloads.

Fast forward to heading home after #WCBNE, where I’d been chatting to people as they come to the Booking X table, to find out more about our plugin and  grab some swag (stubby holders, bottle opens, pens and stickers), catching up with friends made at previous Wordcamps, and making new ones at the after party (alcohol does wonders to get an introvert out of their shell), I realised how far I’d come, from the person who only spoke to 1 person at Wordcamp. Yes seeing my company’s logo alongside WordPress behemoths like Automattic and WP Engine is cool. But interacting and seeing a group of people from all walks of life, asking for help, openly discussing client horror stories and coding brain farts, debating what Gutenberg should be, *cough* front end editing *cough*, and what the future of WordPress will be, is awesome.

So next time I’m at a Wordcamp and asked why I’m a sponsor the reason will be “To get some exposure, but mainly to help with the WP mission and get this awesome group of people together.”

Till next time,
D