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Doug Nebeker ("Doug")
I have the following question to the community in case if someone has the experience in going from free version of software to paid.
Here is the brief story: I have a couple of products targeting Mac and Windows desktop and couple month ago I have released the free product for Mac (just added to the site with the minimal description, it was the part of the bigger project). And I was surprised with downloads statistics and feedback from the users. So, now I to make it "paid" software.
The question is how to do this in a better way:
1. Make Lite and Pro version. Lite version could be used for free. In the Pro version there would be new features.
Cons - Lite version solves 80% of the problem and it make some time to make the Pro version, etc.
2. Release new, paid version and the owner of the free version can upgrade for % price to new version.
Could you please add more ways to move from one version to another without any "not very happy" emails from users?
Thanks in advance.
Did you at least get the email addresses of those that got it for free?
Only a week or so?
Then just make it paid. There is no transition to worry about.
Not wishing to rain on your parade or anything, but you might want to sanity check those numbers in your web logs. Look out for bot downloads, or lots downloads from single locations. Some shareware download sites generate fake downloads to pimp their marketing. Equally if all the downloads come from a specific geographical location, all may not be what it seems.
On the other hand, If it turns out you were featured on a popular tech blog, then this will probably be something you could build on. Either way good luck!
Monday, May 12, 2014
Thanks for answering.
> On the other hand, If it turns out you were featured on a popular tech blog
Yes, that's it. After that the reviews on popular tech blogs the number of downloads increased and I have analyzed download logs, etc.
The question how to turn free to paid. In the original post I have added two ideas how to do this but maybe there is more...
It's an issue if you have built up a loyal fanbase, a fanbase which has helped you get through bugs and feature designs and so on.
If you just have some traffic from a couple of blogs saying the product is neat then you have no fanbase to upset. Just slap a price on it and start experimenting...
You can either just start charging for it since it's only been available for a short amount of time or keep the existing version as a free/lite/introductory version. Then Add more features to it and put a price on that as the new/pro version. Version it accordingly as well.
I'd be more inclined to do the new paid version with more feature because I'd want to get as many of those that downloaded before to now buy a version, than worry about people worrying why does it suddenly cost money when it used to be free.
Monday, May 12, 2014
Guys thanks for commenting.
> It's an issue if you have built up a loyal fanbase, a fanbase which has helped you get through bugs and feature designs and so on.
No. There is no fanbase. Product has been released no so long ago.
>If you just have some traffic from a couple of blogs saying the product is neat then you have no fanbase to upset. Just slap a price on it and start experimenting...
Yes, this is the case. And on all blogs there is the word - "FREE".
> I'd be more inclined to do the new paid version with more feature because I'd want to get as many of those that downloaded before to now buy a version, than worry about people worrying why does it suddenly cost money when it used to be free.
I think this is the way to go. To add more feature and kill the free version.
Nobody on this forum knows the answer. There are no experts here. There is only us. Your users don't even know the answer.
The best answer will only be found in hard analysis of user statistics. 4,000 downloads in a few weeks is great. This rate of trials is more than enough to let you A/B test until you see what works best as far as what features to include/exclude in the free trial, and what price to charge.
Test, test, and retest. Don't assume, and don't listen to anyone.
Ignore any other advice. Ignore any assumptions you have about the market. You don't know if they will pay $399 for it or not even pay $3.99. Get the objective data, and act on that.
I am doing this for 15 years and I still have no idea how users will behave to small changes in prices, features, and software. They never cease to surprise me.
Let your users tell you with their credit cards.
Sure, nobody knows the answers, test, test and test...I think after couple months will post here statistics about how it's going.
> The best answer will only be found in hard analysis of user statistics. 4,000 downloads in a few weeks is great.
Yep, the number of downloads is great, of course now it's lower because the "hot" period when the reviews were on the first page of tech blogs is over but will experiment with new features and prices.
Thanks again for answers.
I fully subscribe every single word C. Stark has posted.
Every time I make a change in my pricing the results are away of my predictions, sometimes in the good direction, others in the bad direction.
Experiment and find the best combination of pricing and features.
And if you do not have a fan base yet, do not get worried as long as you are "fair" with existing customers.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
I was in the same situation two years ago. Download numbers had been rock steady for years-it was a freeware product that made a bit of CD and beer money via adsense ads.
I kept the free version [non-commercial use only though] but made a value-added pro version. The free version acts as a gateway. The free version isn't restricted or limited in any way, it just doesn't have the high-end features.
Fast forward two years to today, the download stats are still the same (I've never used any adwords, etc) but I should break 10,000 sales this week :)
Popular blogs and other third parties already say your product is free. Do not undermine the authority of those referrals and do not disappoint your visitors. Instead, up-sell, cross-sell, or at least start collecting their email addresses now.
I also would not go for the Lite/Pro split. I would just add "Pro" to the paid version and keep the name of the free product intact, again, to minimize visitor confusion.
Treat this product as a free advertising channel for whatever commercial offerings you may come up with in the future.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
> Good luck.
> "I was in the same situation two years ago. Download numbers had been rock steady for years-it was a freeware product that made a bit of CD and beer money via adsense ads."
The only thing is that the free version is solving the 80% or 90% of the problem and I need time to add new features to the paid version.
> "I kept the free version [non-commercial use only though] but made a value-added pro version. The free version acts as a gateway. The free version isn't restricted or limited in any way, it just doesn't have the high-end features."
That is the problem - high-end features. I have couple ideas of new features but it's just for improving user interface...nothing special.
> "Popular blogs and other third parties already say your product is free. Do not undermine the authority of those referrals and do not disappoint your visitors. "
Yes this is the case why I'm not replacing free version with paid.
> "I also would not go for the Lite/Pro split. I would just add "Pro" to the paid version and keep the name of the free product intact, again, to minimize visitor confusion."
I think this is the only case now - release the "Pro" version of product and keep free version, because for example today the download statistics is 8.5K from the well known tech blogs.
I agree with C. Stark.
Sure I could post my analysis and was about to, but it's not really an analysis, it's just wild assed guessing based on assumptions since no one here knows anything about the particular market or pricing, and even if we did the answer would still be to experiment and try what you can.
Free Lite to paid Pro? I have advocated this.
Cheap Lite with to paid Pro, both with free trials? This is a good move as well I think, maybe better than free.
Paid pro only? Definitely a lot are doing this. However the trend is to target $1 to $5 impulse purchases now, or perhaps it's just a concession to the lemon market that untrialable/no-refunds Apple Store style software sales represent.
Charge a bunch and have a money back guarantee? This is what I do and works. However, I'm established. I think the market has changed and charging hundreds of dollars for software is a much more difficult proposition now than it was 5 years ago, due to a flighty public with a short attention span and shallow pockets.
You certainly can attract users with a free version.
The problem is you're attracting freebie-seekers.
If your product already solves the problem, or 80-90% of it and your only changed will be on the GUI then I have to repeat myself - slap a price on it and start experimenting.
Freebie seekers will encourage you down paths you shouldn't really take. They'll tell you, in great detail sometimes, all the things they want you to do and the features they want. But they're not your customers, as they're not paying for anything.
The important thing to understand is that they never will be.
I've had far too many clients going down the freebie route, waving big numbers around but not getting sales. If you can't convert those numbers into MONEY then you're either wasting your time or you're a good Samaritan that enjoys creating free software.
Frequently the best way to boost the sales of the paid version is to kill any free versions. Yes, you can use a free version to create a name and for SEO - but your name will be "freebie" and your SEO will be great at attracting freeloaders looking for "free".
How much money has the free traffic to the free software made you so far? Because that's how much it's worth.
Since we don't have any further details, about the market, your competition or alternatives I can only be generic and general. Generally speaking, a lot of time, energy and often money gets wasted by people trying to figure out how to make money from free software, when the easiest and most effective answer is "Stop giving it away for free."
Only YOU know if you can make a free version that's worth using yet ALSO a paid version that's worth buying?
If in doubt? Kill the freebie.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
I wouldn't be afraid to test out variable pricing to find out where your sweet spot is. Literally use ab testing to do this. Don't just put up a price, then try another price. Google website optimizer is free way to do this. Visual website optimizer is a great inexpensive solution.
Tuesday, May 13, 2014
Guys, thanks for great comments.
So, I have killed the free version, replaced with the paid. Got one sale. The download statistics I have posted above is good but I'm not sure about converting it to sales. I'm judging from the list of countries I'm having sales from other products (by the way - this one sale was from one of those countries), analyzing downloads statistics it's like 10-20% of all downloads are countries from that list.
So, will be working on improving product marketing and adding new features as well.
Thursday, May 15, 2014
I realize you already transitioned to paid but I'd still like to put in my two bits. I'd consider some kind of form of either.
1. A LITE free version that is stripped down and then paid version with continual improvements and new features
2. A free trial of your app for a certain number of days or uses, that way as a consumer I don't hesitate to try it out and if I like it, I buy it.
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
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