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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

Making a benefit from a failed product


We recently released a product which we had high hopes for which turned to be a complete failure. Most important failure reason is the lack of clear USP. It is just another me-too product in a crowded market.

We have another product which is doing quite well and we had hoped that this second one would be complementary to it (it is actually somewhat complementary feature-wise and is targetted to the same user type). We hoped we would sell the new product to existing customers. This plan didn't work.

Our release went unnoticed, we get little traffic and the traffic does not convert at all (neither organic nor AdWords).

Now, we do not want to try very hard to make just a few sales. It is clear that if it does not sell at all "as is" then we cannot make it orders of magnitude better so that it sells well enough to justify having a commercial product in the wild, provide support for it, etc.

We now have a working product which arguably is somewhat better than existing freeware competition and is much weaker feature-wise than established commercial competition.

Now, considering that the development is a sunk cost and we are unable to sell this new product would it make sense to try to make it freeware and try to make money from ads or maybe referrals to our other product which sells well? What are our options other than killing the product altogether? Make it freeware and charge for support? Anything else?
B2B Send private email
Monday, February 18, 2013
As usual, it is difficult to advise without knowing what your products are...

In general, if I had get many downloads but few sales, and the support load was low, I would try to use the failed-to-take-off product to promote my other product(s) or simply drive some extra traffic to my Web site. Otherwise, I'd just kill it.

We actually did both at my place of work. Also tried to offer paid support by the hour, (almost) nobody bought it, but we landed a couple of consulting contracts in the high five-figure range.

By all means, I would stay away from adware, pay-per install, and stuff like that. Don't want to put my reputation at risk.


Drop me an email if you would be willing to share more information privately.
Dmitry Leskov @Home Send private email
Monday, February 18, 2013
If you make the product freeware, you'll get links which are a good thing. Use the links to raise the link juice to your main product, by putting page of the freeware on the same domain as the main product.

You can also put a little call for action on the freeware for your main product, as a little *static* image or something else nonintrusive.
Mauricio Macedo Send private email
Monday, February 18, 2013
A few years ago I made my product Abassis Finance Manager freeware when I failed to monetize it, and never touched it again. When I search for "abassis finance manager" in Google it returns about 37k links. Now I can control that site to send good PR links to my new products.
Mauricio Macedo Send private email
Monday, February 18, 2013
Dmitry, thanks, but I'd prefer not to tell what the product is. No matter what, it is a bad publicity for our company despite us having the other successful product.

Both the successful and failed products are a kind of development tool (different kinds but to a certain degree complementary).

We do not get many downloads at this point, nor many visits. So it is not a matter of being able to convert the downloads, we just do not see enough interest. As much as I would like not to believe it the Analytics and Adwords stats for the last 30 days passed since the release tell me a clear story: we cannot sell this product. I will continue collecting the stats for another month or so before making a decision but I doubt much will change.

Mauricio, thanks, somehow I did not think about freeware generating link juice. Since both products are on the same company.com domain I guess our other product will automatically benefit from it (although we already rank quite high on organic search for our keywords).
B2B Send private email
Monday, February 18, 2013
If it isn't getting a ton of traffic, then any ad revenue is likely to be pitiful. I would probably use it to try and drive traffic (and SEO juice) to related products that do convert (could even be other people's products on an affiliate basis).
Andy Brice Send private email
Monday, February 18, 2013
Freeware AND open-source it (if other ideas fail).
If there are good pieces of code, share them as tutorials. If nothing else, you may get your site in much better position for the other products.
handzhiev Send private email
Monday, February 18, 2013
Very strange.  When I suggested doing a similar thing (i.e. making my product freeware) I got shot down in flames.....
John Clark Send private email
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
> Freeware AND open-source it

No, don't open source it. This is the business of software forum and open source has proven to be a bad business model (except for a few edge cases).

Open source degrades software to being just a  commoditized complement to other products (be it support contracts, hardware, etc).

Open source has done much damage and we shouldn't encourage it.
Jeremy Morassi Send private email
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
>> "Open source has done much damage and we shouldn't encourage it."

I'm no enemy of proprietary software, but this statement is just plain false. Open source hasn't done damage to closed source. Quite the opposite. One example is Firefox and Google Chrome putting the fire under Microsoft's ass (so to speak) to force them to make IE a decent browser. In this case, without open source, we'd all still be using IE 6.

I can think of a dozen other examples where open source either trounces the proprietary competition or pushes the competition to be on their best game.

>> "Open source degrades software to being just a  commoditized complement to other products"

Only when open source goes well and the proprietary competition lags behind. But this is a failure of proprietary software, not a failure of open source software.
Wyatt O'Day Send private email
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
"without open source, we'd all still be using IE 6"

It wasn't open-source that made Firefox kill IE6, it was Firefox itself.  It was a great browser.  One example: it introduced tab-browsing but this would've also been introduced if it were closed-source.  Great features don't exist just because something is open-source.  They exist due to the coders behind them, be their code open or closed.
Harry Phace Send private email
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Oh, I didn't think this would start open source flame.

My position was spoken from personal experience and only from business point of view. Releasing the source can help you gain quite a few links, far more than releasing an executable closed source freeware.

I have benefited far more from open source than lost from it, but don't want to turn this into discussion about open source in general.
handzhiev Send private email
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
I'm not trying to start a flame war.  I'm just saying that what a product does and how it performs, has nothing to do with whether it's closed or open source.  Open source coders are no more talented than closed source, and vice versa.
Harry Phace Send private email
Tuesday, February 19, 2013
I'm not sure but IIRC Opera had tabs before Firefox, and a "browser" Maxthon that used IE's engine also had tabs. Firefox was a success because they took the browser from the trainwreck Mozilla created of Communicator suite, when they created a slow browser/site editor/mail/newsreader/groupware monster and it was  free.

I bet 99.99% of Firefox users never downloaded/took a look at its code, it never mattered.
Mauricio Macedo Send private email
Wednesday, February 20, 2013
I'd keep it as a paid product and use it to run a lot of free or giveaway promotions.

Use it as a Facebook fangate promotion so that you get a Like for your Facebook business page in return the user gets the free software.

Run it as a 24 hour giveaway of the daily software deals giveaway sites, in return you'll get email addresses for prospective customers and you can upsell them on different products later.
Nico Westerdale Send private email
Thursday, February 21, 2013

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