Elegant themes claims to have 200,000 customers paying at least $39 -$69 per year—that’s a minimum annual revenue of almost $8 million. It’s certainly successful, and possibly the most successful website theme business ever. In fact their affiliate program paid me $7703.50 over 2.5 years. Not bad for one random link here and there.
But what is it about Elegant Themes that makes them so successful? There are a ton of theme companies all offering great themes and affordable pricing. Elegant Themes has an affiliate program—but they’re also not alone in that among theme companies. They also blog, use SEO, post to social media, and do the same things every other web-aware company does.
So what’s their secret? It’s quality over quantity.
Just 87 Themes
A couple weeks ago when I was working on on this article, I decided to visit about a dozen sites selling website themes with an affiliate program. Almost all of them offered more themes than Elegant Themes. But I also noticed something as I browsed their theme galleries—many of their themes looked strikingly familiar.
It’s easy to change a few things in a theme and call it a different theme. A company can use this quick trick to inflate the number of themes they offer, but the people who buy themes—especially multiple site developers who buy into the premium plans—aren’t looking for similar themes. They’re looking for a particular theme they can easily apply to a new site.
Unlike all of the other theme galleries I viewed, Elegant Themes organizes its gallery by application. The 87 available themes are categorized into themes for specific purposes:
- App sites
- Business sites
- Magazine & publications
- Multimedia sites
- Personal sites
- Online portfolios
- And a category of responsive design templates
If you look at the themes even within a particular category, you’ll notice that they look quite different from each other—even if you look beyond the stock photography and focus on the framing and elements on each site. Some of the themes hardly even look like WordPress!
The newest addition to the Elegant Themes collection called Divi 2.0 ticks all the usual boxes but also offers more. The back end builder transforms elements into visual building blocks, allowing anyone to understand and edit the structure of their page without touching a single line of code. You simply drag and drop what you want on your page.
To me this demonstrates a focus on quality not often found among their competitors.
Quality Demonstrated By Everything
Practically everyone knows about SEO, but too many businesses focus on just technical SEO. They post frequent keyword-optimized content. They include an image with every post. They provide the occasional guest post. They do everything they’re supposed to do—everything except provide quality content.
How many times have you clicked a search result with a promising title and a snippet which sounded like it would answer your question perfectly only to discover a poorly written post with only vague information?
Or, how many times have you clicked on a company blog only to see something like this:
- Top Post: WidgetFoo Updated To Version 3!
- Middle Post: WidgetFoo Updated To Version 2!
- Bottom Post: WidgetFoo Version 1 Released!
A business which produces a quality product won’t stoop to producing low-quality content or put their good name at risk by using scam techniques. Philosopher Will Durant paraphrased Aristotle as saying, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”
I recommend that you take a look at Elegant Themes’s blog, Facebook page, or Twitter timeline. Their blog contains very few product announcements and lots of information which will be highly useful to their customers—webmasters and website designers. Their Facebook and Twitter feeds are excellent demonstrations of professional customer relations.
Anyone who comes to Elegant Themes website will see first-hand that they’re a professional company dedicated to quality. With so many poor-quality and scam products on the Internet today, seeing a professional company at work is enough to make many consumers open their wallets eagerly.
The Network Effects Of Happy Customers
Although quality may be the root cause of Elegant Themes’s success, it doesn’t explain why they keep growing faster and faster. For that you have to understand the snowball effect of popularity—which academics call the network effect.
The snowball effect occurs when you try to make a snowman. You bunch some snow together between your hands to make a snowball; then you roll it on the ground to gather more snow. At first, very little snow sticks to the snowball and it grows slowly. But as it gets heavier and its surface area increases, it gathers snow more and more quickly until—in just a few more rolls—it reaches full size.
Companies, particularly companies selling infinitely reproducible digital goods, follow the snowball effect. Getting your first few customers is very hard—it’s like trying to gather snow with a fist-sized snowball. But if you make them happy, getting more customers becomes easier. Those extra customers make getting even more customers easier, and—before you know it—you’re gathering customers like a 200-kilogram snowball gathers snow.
Elegant Themes had 150,000 customers a few months ago. Now they have 200,000. They very clearly illustrate the consequences of the snowball effect—but what you don’t see is the influence their focus on quality had on their success. That’s because it’s exceedingly difficult to get out of the fist-sized snowball stage of development if you don’t make your first few customers very happy.
I am building my own mini snowball of recurring income from the Elegant Themes site because it is so easy to sell and the customers are really happy!
Juggernauts like Microsoft, Apple, and even WordPress.org all started out small—but they made their initial customers very happy, allowing them to attract new customers in droves. Elegant Themes has done the same, and now they’re reaping the rewards of their successful quality-focused business model.