This morning, while taking a run in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria (Yay! Location independence ftw!) I decided to no longer offer a free version of WP Pusher. This was quite a big decision for me and something that has been on my mind for a long time. 4 hours later, during my lunch break, I decided to keep the free version after all. Here is why.
Throughout the (short) history of WP Pusher, I have had 3 business models. First, WP Pusher was meant as a Software as a Service business, where users paid a monthly fee to use it. This model was great because it allowed me to do stuff on my own server, instead of having to mess around too much on customers WordPress installs. However, when building the plugin, I kept making it simpler and simpler. In the end I felt like the SaaS model was overkill and decided to rewrite everything to be just a plugin. Business model #2 was a free version, available on WordPress.org and a paid version with some extra features.
There went business model #2.
Business model #3 still involved the free version, but now that it wasn’t allowed on WordPress.org, I had to offer it through my own site. Actually, this wasn’t too bad, since this allowed me to collect e-mails from the people who wanted the free version so I could stay in touch.
Fast-forward to this morning.
For a while, I have been kind of upset with the free version. A lot of people are using it, so maintaining it, answering e-mails and the likes all takes up quite a bit of time. And then one more thing. People love the free version! Actually, most of the users I have been in touch with love the free version so much that they do not upgrade to the paid version. Actually, most people who paid to use the plugin did so from the beginning and never used the free version. There went business model #3. At least that was my conclusion this morning.
Why Keeping It Is A Great Idea
So, even though the conversion rate from “Free” to “Pro” is not as high as I would like it to be, I still decided to keep the free version. These are the “why’s”:
- I have about 20 times as many people using the free version compared to the pro version. These users provide me with invaluable feedback that also relates to the pro version.
- Most of the bug reports I have received are from people using the free version. I think that people using the free version are actually thankful that they get to use it for free, which encourages them to submit very detailed and useful bug reports.
- I get to collect e-mail addresses from users of the free version, which means I can stay in touch with them, get their feedback and tell them about the pro version.
- People using the free version will potentially talk about it and attract new potential customers. (I don’t know if this is valid as I haven’t tested it.)
- Even though the numbers are not large enough, I still have people convert from free to pro. I think some people use the free version as a free trial before they decide to go pro.
The Unresolved Case
I am still left with a dilemma. I have concluded that either my free version is too good or the pro version needs to be even better.
Should I make the free version worse or should I come up with a better pro version? In my world, the Push-to-Deploy feature from the pro version is without doubt the best part of WP Pusher, but apparently that (and support for branches) is not enough to convert people from free to pro – in most cases.
The main issue is that the pain-relieve when going from not using WP Pusher to using the free version is pretty large. Somehow, I need to make the pain-relieve when going from free to pro equally large.
Anyways, I am keeping the free version for now because in the end, I think it gives me a lot of valuable feedback and user interaction that I otherwise would not have. It is a dilemma, since worsen the free version just does not feel right. At the same time, the free version was originally meant to be a teaser for the pro version – not a replacement. Personally, I think the pro version is killer. Maybe I need to communicate it better. Or maybe add an extra killer feature that users of the free version simply cannot resist.
I am trying to figure out if I need a business model #4.