* The Business of Software

A former community discussing the business of software, from the smallest shareware operation to Microsoft. A part of Joel on Software.

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Moderators:

Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Why should I capture email addresses before they download?

I see some uISVs and other software companies want your email address before they allow the potential customer to download the software. I've read numerous books on marketing and they suggest this is a great way to improve conversion as you can send them an email and they have more details etc. However I have also read and learned from this site that we shouldn't put anything in the way of that shiney green download button. Currently I don't ask for an email address, largely because I'm unsure how best to gain value from it and not put customers off. What do you do? Has anyone tried both and measured the difference?

Thanks and Merry Christmas
Steve
Sunday, December 23, 2007
 
 
Why don't you try it both ways and see which works for you?

From my own observation, it seems like email capture is more common for B2B apps, as opposed to consumer products.
Starr Horne (ChatSpring) Send private email
Sunday, December 23, 2007
 
 
I think requiring an email before they do you the favor of trying your software is a great way to lose 25 percent of your sales because:

- everyone know you want their email to at the very least bother them - there's no perceived value, only annoyance.
- what happens to their email? Even if you are not selling it, how do they know? There's no basis for trust yet.

Take a look at how TechSmith (snagit) does it: you can provide them with your email address if you choose - so you can receive helpful tips on using their app. That makes sense.


My 2.5 don't ask for emails cents.
Bob Walsh Send private email
Sunday, December 23, 2007
 
 
Thanks Bob, that is what I expected. I'll stick with the way I am at the moment. I will be starting a newsletter for those that want to opt in.

Thanks
Steve
Sunday, December 23, 2007
 
 
>>
I think requiring an email before they do you the favor of trying your software is a great way to lose 25 percent of your sales because:
>>

I largely agree with this sentiment for B2C apps, except I think 25% is really, really low.  You can hurt your trial downloads by 25% by making the button ugly.
Patrick McKenzie (Bingo Card Creator) Send private email
Sunday, December 23, 2007
 
 
Are people really so petty as to not download software WHICH MIGHT BE THE PERFECT SOLUTION FOR THEM just because the site asks for an email address?

I already know the answer, I just wanted to say the question out loud.
Mailinator fan
Sunday, December 23, 2007
 
 
With respect to Bob, I don't think there is a hard and fast rule to this.  I think it depends upon the product target market, the type of app, what the competition are doing and to some extent the pricetag.

I agree that I certainly don't want to give my email address out to try out a $10-20 utility.. But take our market for instance.  We sell software in the range of $600-1000 to Medical Professionals. We ask for an email before giving them the trial download. 

The fact is, we are very 'liberal' compared to our competitors who either a) don't have trial downloads at all (you have to give them full address and contact details and they then send you a cd) or b) have a trial but only allow you to download after talking to a Sales Rep.

We are angels compared to them.. :-)
Anon this time
Sunday, December 23, 2007
 
 
Mail -
"Are people really so petty as to not download software WHICH MIGHT BE THE PERFECT SOLUTION FOR THEM just because the site asks for an email address?"

Not petty - disinterested. You may have an app that is exactly what they want - but they don't know it yet since they've yet to run your app on their pc and try to solve the problem they have you proport to solve.

Think of it this way: You are attempting to build trust, and each step leads to the next if done right.
Bob Walsh Send private email
Sunday, December 23, 2007
 
 
The majority of sales are not made on the first contact.

People are lazy, forgetful and busy. Sometimes they need a nudge.



w
wabbit
Sunday, December 23, 2007
 
 
1. Email pretty much uniquely identifies the person behind the download (you can get better statistics on the experience with the product).

2. Although putting additional steps in front of the main download is not a good idea (people do not like additional steps), it could be worth it for the extra documentation, modules, plugins, etc
Rinat Abdullin Send private email
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
"Are people really so petty as to not download software WHICH MIGHT BE THE PERFECT SOLUTION FOR THEM just because the site asks for an email address?"

Certainly no more petty than someone who uses ALL CAPS when posting anonymously to an internet forum.
Allen David
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
How about asking for an email address after/while they are downloading the software? Totally optional of course.
Ethan
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
Personally, I don't really care and enter something like gulugulu@this-is-a-fake-address.com. Spam is a real problem today. Requiring the address as mandatory, without the option to leave it blank, is plain idiocy from the vendor. Careless entering the real mail address on any website asking for it is plain idiocy from the customer. IMO.

But most people have to learn it the hard way that ANY kind of personal information is a valuable currency in the virtual world, especially for those who want to misuse it. And once it is out to the world, you can't revoke it.
Secure
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
Whilst I can understand the "don't put anything in the way of a download" you could take this one step further and make your product free and anonymously downloadable.

Hard to make a business out of it though.

Ultimately, it is the number of conversions you are after. If someone is unwilling to trade an email address for a download, then they are even more unlikely to trade cash for your product. So, you may increase your downloads by 25% but your conversions will probably stay the same.

Anyone who expects to gain value from your product without even as much as revealing a way of contacting them are, in my opinion, people you do not want as customers.
Cyclops Send private email
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
Allen David -
Get some Christmas spirit, I was SHOUTING. :)

Bob Walsh -
I see your point, but aside from the "principled geeks" who throw a hissy fit, in terms of real customers who have a need and are likely to pay real money to service that need, why would they cut their noses off to spite their faces? Would they choose a $100 product over a $50 product just because the $50 product asked for an email address?

It seems to me that the people who complain the most aren't the ones who were serious about paying money for the software, they just wanted to try it out for free.

Therefore, is it a real issue when considering the mass market?
Mailinator fan
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
Mailinator fan,

Here's the thing: how much perceived value have you attained when they arrive at the download/don't download decision?

If you've been blogging about your product (and they've been reading!), if you demo'ed the product via screencasts, if you've established relevance and credibility with your copy maybe they won't mind that much that you are demanding their email.

Maybe.

If you've not established that perceived value, you are going to lose sales. Bad, thing, Bad!

I think the smarter way of handling this would be:

-If you just can't live without their email, make clear why you want it, make that thing have value to them, and best of all, add functionality within your app to gently remind them they need to purchase before the trial expiration date.
Bob Walsh Send private email
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
If you want my e-mail address before you let me download a trial version, I'll look at the other 3 sites I've got opened in other tabs.  If one of them lets me download their trial version without me giving my e-mail address, I'll do that.  And if it turns out their software solves my problem, why would I want to download your trial version anyway?
anonymous
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
I personally find those links to be a pain in the ass and a deterrant to evaluating software.

Why? Because I do not trust you one bit not to spam me. And I know for a fact you will. Why? Because everyone does. Why else would you be asking for my email?

A compromise is to have a field that says email, then put (optional) after it, then have the download button directly below it.

Every single page you make the user go through reduces your conversion rates.

I have seen some sites that have 10-20 pages to click on before a download button.

A recent nightmare was downloading the POS software called 'open office'. I think I counted 15 screens you had to click through to get to the download link. What a piece of junk, and it certainly reflected the quality of the software, which was obese unstable slow garbage as well.
Scott
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
"Are people really so petty as to not download software WHICH MIGHT BE THE PERFECT SOLUTION FOR THEM just because the site asks for an email address?"

Way to frame the debate, Pundit. Your question assumes that anyone not wanting to give email addresses is 'petty', which never the case, so your question is not worth bothering with, nor are you.
Scott
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
Here's the deal. Recently I was looking for a new X application. I found over 100 applications that claimed to solve my problem. Very very few of the web sites had any sort of system where I could figure out if it supported the formats I needed, so most I had to download just to get the manual or see the application. Sites where I could click a button and get the download I did. Some sites wanted me to 'complete a process' to get the download. Those sites I figured I would come back to later. Eventually I found a program that did what I needed and paid for that one. So 'later' in this case was 'never'. You lost the sale because you wanted an email address. Email address gives me several extra steps:

1. Think of fake email address.
2. Enter fake email address.
3. Read directions in response page.
4. Go to anonymous email service, log in, no mail.
5. Wait.
6. Go to anonymous email service, log in, no mail.
7. Wait.
8. Go to anonymous email service, log in, mail has arrived.
9. Go back to your page if I can find it.
10. Type in the info from the email.
11. Now you want my address and phone number as well? What the hell?
12. Make up fake data on 10 different data screens including your idiotic survey about what sort of business I have, how many employees, annual revenue, categories of this and that, estimated appraisal value of my primary residence, make of my car, and whether I plan to buy a washing machine or a popcorn maker in the next 1,6, or 12 months (please specify).
13. Click on download link.
14. Install software. Why does it want an administrator's password? Does it have a trojan root kit? Now I have to do a freaking security audit on this software!
15. Give up.
16. Phone rings. It's someone you sold my phone number trying to sell me a popcorn maker.
17. Never again!
Scott
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
Here's a solution....everybody just make web apps. Then people *expect* to have to enter their email before using the trial. :)
Starr Horne (ChatSpring) Send private email
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
Mailinator fan,

"It seems to me that the people who complain the most aren't the ones who were serious about paying money for the software, they just wanted to try it out for free."

You seem to have missed the fact that we're actually talking about free trial downloads. Is there anything else about it, beside "try it out for free"?
Secure
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
"You seem to have missed the fact that we're actually talking about free trial downloads. Is there anything else about it, beside "try it out for free"?"

:)

And you seem to have missed the REASON why we want them to try for free, this being a mISV forum called Business Of Software.

We want people to trial our software so they will buy it. Do we care about the opinions of people who have no intention of buying it?

There's been some good points about people going with the first solution that scratches their itch, but that really assumes that all solutions are similar in features and price. It's not always that easy.

I personally think that requiring an email address for activation is an obstruction, but just asking for an email address isn't a big deal, what with asd@asdf.com and Mailinator just a few keystrokes away.

Now, if enough prospective customers give useless email addresses, then it becomes an issue for the mISV as to whether it's worth the effort. THAT would be an interesting statistic.
Mailinator fan
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
One possible scenario:

30 day period expires, people forget about you.

Versus:

Nag continues, people use your software, then some eventually pay.
.
Monday, December 24, 2007
 
 
The trial is intended for EVALUATING the software. If the period you are offering is not large enough, then extend it, but don't make it endless.
Anon
Tuesday, December 25, 2007
 
 
Two things you can do so you don't put off your potential customers:

1) Ask for it, but don't demand it. Make it clear the email is completely optional and they can just click the Big Red Button to initiate the download. It's also a great way to reduce the number of fakes.

2) State concisely and clearly what you will and what you won't do with the email, ("We'll send you tips to use your product better. We will never give away your email." or "For our satisfaction survey. We hate spam, too." ) and add a link to your Terms & Conditions page.
rubinelli
Thursday, December 27, 2007
 
 

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