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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

Registering for a Free version

I am planning to offer two cut-down versions of my software.
A bif of background:
My software requires a particular type of hardware on a boat - a GPS/Sounder combo unit, which makes it less useful for people who don't have one. The software does, however, have a lot of features that are useful to people who just have a GPS.
I plan to offer a version which just gives the features useful to the GPS-only owners, at a significantly reduced price. This should open up a market that is currently closed to me - or at least, a market that wouldn't pay the whole price for the limited feature set they would use.
As a marketing strategy, I would like to offer an even more reduced feature set (but still useful) for free, which would basically cut out the proprietary import/export options and a few management features. The hope, of course, is that people will enjoy using the free version and see the value in the upgrade.

I know there are differences of opinion on the free version strategy on this site, so I'd be interested in a re-cap of the pros and cons.
One thing I would like to do with the free version is to require registration - I don't think its too much to ask if they get to use the software for nothing, and having a) an idea of who is using the software and b) a way of contacting them would benefit me. I was thinking of approaching this in one of two ways - either make them go through the purchase process so that they get their own generated and sent to them, or b) making them send an email to an address which will return a group key by return. As in - I will set up a key that allows multiple activations and all free users will use it.

Any thoughts on this strategy?
Matthew Fender Send private email
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Sending a key to a valid email address is generally the best method, as it removes all the micky@mouse.com addresses.

Registration for a free version is fine, as is sending them the occasional reminder about how great your paid version is.

Reluctantlyregistered Send private email
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Providing an email is an additional hassle and, as an impediment to downloading, will reduce the number of trial downloads, and they most certainly will NOT all be not-serious potential customers. In fact the more serious you are the less likely you are to want to get on some spam list.

This has been discussed before here and one solution mentioned is to request but not require the email address before clicking on the download link.

Some sites have this workflow:

Page 1: [Downloads Here]
Page 2: [Select your operating system]
Page 3: [Select your program version]
Page 4: Enter your email address to proceed to download page: ____
Page 5: You're almost there. Enter your mailing address and phone number to proceed to download page
Page 6: Please enter credit card number to verify age. (Note: you have our word that your card will not be charged by us, FlyByNight Productions of  Tampa Florida)
Page 7: Please take a moment to answer these surveys.
Page 8: Looking to buy a new car?
Page 9: Looking for a college loan?

etc, and there's never a download link because it doesn't exist.

There are lots of scam sites that do this.
Every page more than a second one you add to the workflow increases the chances that users are going to decide that you're one of those BS scam sites that just asks for tons of info and never gets to the download.
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
I think though one way you could do it, in line with some of your comments, is not say it's free, but say. "For a limited time, Program 3, Lite Edition, is available for free. Use the coupon code of FREE-OFFER during checkout to receive a $35 discount on the normal $35 price."

That way you get their name and email address, by presenting it as a purchase with a 100% off coupon, and the acquisition of private info just seems like the normal purchase workflow rather than a scam.

You might end up eating minimal order processing fees though, depending.
Scott Send private email
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
SCott there is no email requirement pre download - the deal is, you get the 14 day trial - no registration, nothing. At the end of the trial, you either buy lite, pro OR you register for the free edition.
So you get the 14 days of full features, then you have to decide whether to buy a paid version, register for the free version (get a key), or uninstall.
My hope is that that gives a decent compromise between preventing people downloading - they shouldn't be, as there is no email requirement at that stage - and me getting their email details. If they use it for 14 days and honestly would rather unistall than register for a free key, then realistically they were never going to be a paying customer.
Matthew Fender Send private email
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
Scott on your second point - that was roughly the idea I had in mind, although hopefully automate the COUPON code or do away with it altogether. You're right tho there might be some minimum payment and that might not be workable. The other idea is to make them send an email to a certain address, which automatically returns a key which has multiple activations permitted. I don't get each user with a specific key then, but I do get the email address and this would definitely be free. OF course users might share this key without my knowledge but that's not a huge risk I don't think - all I lose is an email address.
I did like the idea of everyone having their own key, so that I could enable new features for trials as I released them - if that's even possible, haven't looked into it thoroughly yet.
Matthew Fender Send private email
Tuesday, February 12, 2013
> At the end of the trial, you either buy lite, pro OR you register for the free edition.

Ah, OK, that's very clever, yeah that's a great approach.
Scott Send private email
Wednesday, February 13, 2013
Thanks Scott - I thought it was a cute idea, and I imagine there must be people using it already.
I really like the idea of being able to activate trial new premium features on a trial basis to existing free users. The way I see it, free users are a great potential customer base, but if they have already exhausted their original trial, then there is no way for them to see try new features if they are just using a generic 'free' version. Also of course being able to pester them - very occasionally - with an email about these new features would be great.
Having said all that, I am still umming and erring about whether to offer a completely free version, or a cheap version at $19. $10 is too low - most of that will go to my payment processor. Of course, I will get an order of magnitude less users with a paid minimum of any amount, but there are some overheads of having users to do with with map tiles that are served. The other thought I had is that if I end up with too many free users, I can pull the pin on the free version at that time - or make it a low paid version. I think I'll go with that.
Matthew Fender Send private email
Thursday, February 14, 2013
As a further thought, I think I may make the register for free version an in app button on the trial expired window, along with the buy buttons. Technically that may be easier for me as I am a total web novice.
Matthew Fender Send private email
Thursday, February 14, 2013
+1 on clever approach

I'll be graciously stealing this concept from you if you don't mind.

Also, as far as "free versions": I've learned from experience that you "never give something away for free that's someone's willing to pay for [e.g. that *has value*]".

Of course there's "marketing value" and "upsell" value; sure, you need to understand and quantify all this stuff.  I've quietly decommissioned my free version in the last several weeks as I simply had far too many "really cool"  capabilties in the free one that provided  *enough* value to prevent people from going pay-version.  The marketing momentum on the free version was (barely) enough to make this palatable and worth it for as long as I did it.

At least the "I wonder if I'm giving away too much in the free version" question will no longer haunt me at night which just leaves the other nasty ones to haunt me, like "how the F do I find a good sales guy/gal?" or "how can I understand why it breaks in some corporate infrastructures when I'm not allowed to ever contact the IT/admins who install it?"
BI Baracus Send private email
Thursday, February 14, 2013

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