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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

My GOTD (Giveaway Of The Day) experience.

I was contacted by GOTD two weeks ago about featuring one of the Winstep applications on their site.

For those unfamiliar with GOTD, each day on their site they offer commercial versions of 3rd party applications for free, but only during 24 hours, with no upgrades, no technical support and not for commercial use. They also pay you for the 'privilege' (in my case, they offered me $300, although I have heard reports of authors being paid $400 and even $500).

At first I was very reluctant, as I don't believe you should give commercial software away for free and, having read about GOTD before here, I knew their crowd is a tough crowd.  On the other hand, one of my middle-range products (Nexus Ultimate) needed more exposure and having it free for only 24 hours might just be the 'push' users of a competitor product needed to jump out of their inertia and switch to Nexus Ultimate (you know how users dislike change and tend to 'stick' with what they already have instead of switching to something that is better but unfamiliar). I made sure those targeted users knew about the promotion when it happened. :-)

GOTD wraps the setup files of their daily promotions on a special setup that requires activation from their servers and thus can only be installed on the day of the promotion. In theory, this means that besides not having any upgrades, a user who needs to format his PC will be unable to install his free GOTD version later, and will be either forced to upgrade to the paid version or stop using the software (this would be another plus for us authors).

I said theory because, in practice, the GOTD wrapper was cracked within hours of the start of the promotion and the bare Nexus Ultimate setup spread to several Torrent sites, together with 'leaked' free GOTD Nexus Ultimate serials.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. :-)

GOTD offer you several choices on how to distribute the free license keys/serials. Their wrapper can write the key into the Windows Registry after checking with their server that the promotion is still valid, they can provide the serials themselves, or you can set things up on your side.

If you choose the latter (and I did) they warn you to be prepared for a high server load on the day of the promotion. And high it is, as users start hammering the servers by the thousands the second the promotion starts (8am GMT). Just a couple of days ago the author of Element Anti-Virus 2011 run into serious trouble when his server couldn't cope with the load of GOTD users retrieving updated AV definitions and installations stalled by the thousands - the whole thing was a disaster for him!

Usually I send users a RSA-encrypted license key file, personalized (i.e. includes the user name) and date stamped, which I issue manually upon receiving a registration notification - all the user has to do to register his software is double-click the license key (the key is self-installable). My normal volume of sales is not so high that doing it this way is prohibitive, but, of course, manually issuing thousands of keys within 24 hours would not be an option.

Luckily I had recently partnered with Proxma AG, a German company that is going to distribute my software in Germany, online and retail. One of their requirements (especially for the retail version) was that license keys had to be the kind you type-in (serial numbers).

Because of this I already had built into my applications an alternate serial-key-based registration method (which also uses RSA encryption and is date-stamped so I can control yearly upgrades - it just isn't personalized) which was perfect for this promotion.

So, after checking with them first, of course, I created a new 'Nexus Ultimate Promotional Edition' $0.0 product in BMT Micro's (my payment processor, a company I have been working with for the past 10 years and that I love dearly) database just for this promotion and filled it with 30,000 pre-generated serials.

I also did a special GOTD version of Nexus Ultimate, equal to the normal version in everything except that it would accept GOTD serials *and* normal Nexus Ultimate keys/serials. The normal version does not accept GOTD serials, so I was already protecting myself in case the GOTD serials were leaked (of course, what I wasn't expecting was that the GOTD wrapper could be cracked so easily, thus exposing the Nexus Ultimate GOTD version setup, but, in retrospect, I should have seen it coming).

Now, the fundamental factor that made this promotion an immediate financial success for me, was that I offered discounted upgrade paths not only to the next release of Nexus Ultimate, but also to our top-of-the-line Winstep Xtreme product (which includes all Winstep applications). In those 24 hours alone, I made over $2,000 in people upgrading from the free version of Nexus Ultimate to Winstep Xtreme, at $15 a pop.

At 8am GMT sharp, the GOTD Nexus Ultimate registration notifications started flooding in by the hundreds. Within 30 seconds of the start of the promotion, I already had tens of thumbs up and thumbs down (which proves GOTD people will vote without even having tried the program first).

I knew Nexus Ultimate is the type of application that would be a popular download with the GOTD crowd, so I stuck at my computer replying to email queries and comments as fast as they came in. This proved to be another crucial factor in how Nexus Ultimate was received, as I got a lot of comments thanking me for the level of involvement I put in and how other developers should follow my example. I had to laugh out loud when one of the users commenting actually found my response level so good as to be suspicious. :-)

The Aftermath...

I was exhausted, but happy. 48 hours of non-stop activity, pre, during, and post promotion. Barely had time to eat during that time, much less to sleep.

GOTD send me a Google Analytics page a couple of days later. 20,769 people clicked the Download button, but from those 'only' 13,787 people actually got their serial number from BMT Micro.

BMT Micro staff and I watched in amusement as one joker ordered 200,000,000 (yes, 200 million!) copies of Nexus Ultimate, so make sure you have your order process set to only send 1 serial key per order (I did). It didn't hurt, but BMT Micro staff immediately changed the shopping cart code to only allow 1 copy per order for that promotion (see why I love them? No other payment processor I know provides this level of service).

After getting some sleep, I noticed that the program kept notifying me of hundreds of successful registrations even though several hours had already passed since the end of the promotion. Upon examining those, I saw a lot of them were using the same serials.

I started blacklisting the repeated serials (Nexus Ultimate features a reverse-activation method of copy protection, among many other protection measures) and noticed that, for one of those serials, the license name used was 'RU-Board Member'. I googled it and that is how I managed to find out that the GOTD wrapper had been cracked (thank God for Google translator!). Our Russian brothers are a pain in the royal behind!

So if you think about getting your program listed on GOTD, you better have some strong anti-copy and anti-crack measures already in place! Do it only in the knowledge that the GOTD wrapper is *useless* and your unprotected setup will find itself being re-distributed on the warez channels.

Also, any program listed on GOTD will invariably catch the attention of Russian crackers. If your program hasn't been cracked yet, think very carefully about whether you want to do this or not.

In addition, as another BOS user noted in a different thread about GOTD, the first link that now comes up when you Google for 'Nexus Ultimate' is the GOTD page.

Nexus Ultimate had 77% thumbs up at the end of the promotion, although that is now down to 70% (I suspect it went down mostly because some users are mad about having their post-promotion 'free' keys blacklisted).

As for the $300 payment from GOTD, I'm still waiting for it. According to GOTD's Kathleen, they should pay me this week (a bit apprehensive about this as I have read reports about some authors not getting paid at all, others getting paid immediately after the promotion, and some even before the promotion).

I'll keep you guys posted about this, and I'll let you know how many users actually upgrade to the paid version of Nexus Ultimate once the next version is released (should be some time around the end of this month).
Jorge Coelho Send private email
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Fantastic report. Thanks.

They will pay you. Don't worry. Even I was in a similar situation. Finally received the payment.

Thanks again.
Gautam Jain Send private email
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Thanks for sharing.
edddy Send private email
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Thanks for the report, Jorge, very informative.

Rui Curado Send private email
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
De nada, Rui. :-)
Jorge Coelho Send private email
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
And guess what? Just received the $300 from GOTD (barely a minute ago)!

And thanks, Gautam, for re-assuring me. :-)
Jorge Coelho Send private email
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Great post, thanks.
Bring back anon Send private email
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Interesting and helpful post - thanks.
Phil Griston Send private email
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Nice post thanks.
Nick Coombs Send private email
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Great report. Could you do a follow up in a few days to let us know whether this has boosted your  regular traffic/registrations?
Sylvain Galibert Send private email
Thursday, August 12, 2010
It has boosted regular traffic no doubt. It will, however, be hard to pin point exactly how much of it was due to GOTD as Winstep has been literally 'exploding' in the last couple of months (new web site, new multi-language versions - which were in the making for nearly a year - with a new UI, new free dock application to raise awareness of Winstep applications and boost the sales of the paid ones, etc..., all at the same time).

Lots of work there which is now begining to pay off big (can't reemember the last time I had a real holiday in the past two years or so - I have been eating, drinking and breathing Winstep).

I think a critical change was the web site makeover, especially for a program like this that sells a lot based on eye-candy. You can compare the old version of the site with the new version in the Older News/Archived News section of the site.

The real proof in the pudding regarding GOTD will come when I release the next version of Nexus Ultimate at the end of the month. Winstep licenses include a year of free upgrades, but the paid Nexus Ultimate product is barelly two or three months old - so, any license renewals for it at the end of the month will necessarily come from GOTD users.

I'll keep you posted, as promised.
Jorge Coelho Send private email
Thursday, August 12, 2010

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