There are a few moments in the history of SendView that we could look back on and say,
You know, that's what got us to the next level. That was a turning point.
One of the most important, however, was ditching our free plan and going with a free trial (credit card required) instead.
Now, free plans work awesome for other companies. Companies with funding, larger teams, money to burn. Because you need all of those things to be able to support the 100 free users in order to get the 1 paid. You need people to answer emails, you need servers to handle more usage, you need developers to manage those servers, and you need money to pay for all of the above.
We don't have any of those. When I think back on those early days with our free tier, it's hard not to see the irony:
- We had more active users than we have now.
- But we had 1% of the revenue we have now.
When it comes to running a two-man business, it's simply more sustainable for us to work with a smaller, paying group of users even if the total revenue we generate is slightly less than it could be.
Just Wrong for Us
If we want to become THE competitor email tool? Well, a free tier might be required because that's how you get EVERYONE using your platform, talking about your platform, loving your platform. Trello, MailChimp, Google Drive, etc. all became nearly ubiqutitous tools by letting anyone (and, by extension, everyone) use their tools.
That wasn't really our goal.
And, yes, there is absolutely a layer of word-of-mouth that is lost when you don't have a free trial, that is the reality. Litmus Live is starting next week. We applied to speak but weren't chosen. If we have tens of thousands of users would that have put us on the radar enough to get on stage?
But what we lost in word-of-mouth or the perceived size or weight of our platform, we made up for in lots of ways.
- In bandwidth to work on the product
- In time to better support a smaller set of users
- In profit margin because we were spending less on servers
- In feature requests from the right users
With a small group of users, we're able make the same revenue as companies who are supporting thousands, if not tens of thousands, of users.
No Right Answer
The question of free trial vs free tier is one every app asks themselves. And there is no blanket answer you can apply to every situation. For us, though, a free trial is what gave us back the right about of time and resources to grow.
Will that ever change? Not likely.
Partly because it doesn't mean that we aren't sharing totally-free stuff with marketers, we just don't do it in the same way. Which I think I'll save for another post (maybe tomorrow).