The Business of WordPress: How We Grew the Imagely Brand

In the Business of WordPress series successful brands, people and services in WordPress tell us how they got to where they are now.

There’s a lot of ‘noise’ online – lots of companies competing for the same audience’s attention. However, it is possible to stand out from the crowd, and build your own strong brand – but this requires a long-term commitment, and the right kind of strategy.

Here at Imagely, we believe the secret to developing a thriving online brand is to pay close attention to your target market. After all, that’s how we’ve been able to grow and expand our offerings over the years. We listened to what our customers wanted, and made timely adjustments in order to better serve their needs.

In this post, we’ll walk you through how we’ve grown the Imagely brand – and our other brands as well – over time. Our intent isn’t to show off – it’s to provide some insight that you can hopefully take away and apply to your own business. Let’s chat!

Humble Beginnings: The Photocrati Theme

Imagely actually began life as Photocrati – the name of our original flagship theme:

The Photocrati WordPress theme.

Photocrati was (and still is) a WordPress theme designed for photographers. It contains a lot of features aimed at serving the needs of that market, such as diverse gallery and lightbox options. It’s also a fairly complex theme, with plenty of demo content, optional functionality, and customization potential.

This means the theme has something of a learning curve, although this doesn’t impact on its popularity. However, in listening to our audience we found that many photographers have much simpler needs. They’re looking for a theme to help them get off the ground quickly, and they don’t necessarily want to spend a lot of time tweaking their websites.

This is why we made the decision to separate Photocrati and set it free as its own company. It now serves a market of more technically-minded photographers and developers. To speak to our newly-identified audience of photographers who just wanted to get on with their work, we re-branded our core business as Imagely.

Imagely and NextGEN Gallery: Making Life Easier for WordPress Photographers

If you check out our About page, you’ll find the following mission statement:

Imagely is a growing digital media company helping photographers improve their web presence while leveraging our premium themes, hosting, and plugins for WordPress, and capturing our expertise in SEO.

In other words, our goal as a brand is to provide everything WordPress photographers need to build and run an effective website – easily and affordably. As such, we now offer a range of photo-centric themes:

A selection of Imagely themes.

Even though ‘photography websites’ is a fairly narrow niche, it still contains a wide range of needs. We developed each of our themes to serve a particular kind of user. So whether a given WordPress photographer wants something clean and minimal or bold and attention-grabbing, the goal is to offer something in our collection to suit their style.

We also chose to base all our themes on the highly-popular Genesis Framework. This enabled us to serve our target market by providing functional, secure, and optimized themes that are easy to use (without the need to fuss over a lot of settings and options). At the same time, those themes have a foundation in place for in-depth development and customization, if you choose to go down this route.

While a theme can do a lot, most WordPress photographers will also need a plugin or two to build out their site’s feature set. That’s why we also developed NextGEN Gallery:

The NextGEN Gallery WordPress plugin.

The purpose of this plugin is to provide an all-in-one package for photographers who want to create stunning websites. It focuses in on the kinds of features our audience cares most about – gallery management, bulk photo editing, and more.

The ‘Plus’ and ‘Pro’ versions of the plugin bundle in a range of extensions designed to give photographers everything they need in one place. At the same time, we built in a wizard to walk new users through the options, ensuring that they’re still able to set up their sites and galleries quickly.

Growing the Brand: Refinement Over Time

As it turns out, the act of simplifying our brand to speak to a core target market was invaluable to our growth. Over time, we were able to capitalize on that growth and expand further by making refinements to help us better serve our chosen audience. This has also helped keep our sales numbers on a steady and consistent rise:

Imagely sales statistics.

For instance, we’ve made a number of developments to improve NextGEN Gallery, based directly on user feedback. We chose to track installs and uninstalls of the plugin, and ask questions to ascertain why people decided to pick up or stop using it. The result is a tool boasting over 900,000 active installs in the WordPress Plugin Directory at current writing (and that’s just the free version):

NextGEN Gallery install numbers in the plugin directory.

We also gave users the choice to opt-in to our email list, which we were able to grow from about 30,000 to 200,000 subscribers in a short period of time. To this day, this growth continues:

Imagely email marketing statistics.

Through this list, we can not only engage in marketing – we can also continue to solicit feedback, praise, and criticism from our most devoted fans.

In time, we even branched out by acquiring two new companies: ShowThemes and TeslaThemes. These brands are well-aligned with our mission, but also enable us to reach new audiences. Our brand has grown to the point where we feel comfortable diversifying our focus in this way, without the risk of losing touch with our core audience.

Naturally, we’re not stopping there. We have big plans for 2019, including two product launches that will provide new tools for WordPress photographers. We’ll also be attending trade shows in the photography industry, as well as WordCamps and other events. This is key to our strategy and further growth, as it helps us get directly in touch with the people who use our products.

Final Thoughts

Establishing a strong brand in a busy space like the WordPress community is no easy feat. At the same time, we firmly believe that if we could do it, so can you!

The most important step to take is to identify your target market – find out who they are and what they want. From then on, every decision you make should be designed to provide for their needs in a more effective way. This is how we made our mark in the world of WordPress photography tools – by listening to our audience and then taking action.

Do you have a similar success story from your own industry? Share it with us in the comments section below!