One of the more important decisions startup types have to make is picking from:
- Pay for it.
- 30 day free trail – then pay for it.
I stand before you and speak with all the gusto I can muster up and with apologies to Chris Anderson: I hate free. I think free devalues people’s hard work. But that’s me and I’m drinking really serious Kool-Aid, if I think the world is going to see it my way. It’s doesn’t, so like some grumpy old guy, I have to deal with this issue just like you.
In wandering around the internet, I hit upon a company called BookFresh, an online scheduling application that caters to small businesses who want people to be able to book appointments, etc. As a side note, the site is well laid out, has a great home page, see the demo, etc, etc. Really well done; sent to my guys.
I hit the pricing page and, sure enough, there are four categories of pricing with the first one being free and the last one being “contact us.”
You should wander over to their pricing page here (pops open a new window) and follow along with me. As you can see, the obvious item is the number of bookings you can do each month. Freebie users get three and everybody else gets unlimited. You can see what features are included in what version. Hover over for the details.
Here’s where the dance starts. I can only imagine the discussions Ryan/Scott/Matt, the co-founders had with laying out the freebie version. It’s pretty much useless for 99.99% of anybody being even remotely interested/needing this service, but there you go, they have a free version. I know there is a use case somewhere and somebody is going to tell me the zillions of people who can use the 3 appointments a month version, okay, stipulated. It’s still useless to 99.98%.
It is, tho, that number (3), which got me thinking about this free thing. For example, back in the VC day when I was doing 10 or more of the no harm/no foul meetings a week, this product would have been ideal for me. They have a Typepad widget and I could have popped it up on my blog letting people take slots. Awesome, easy, cool. I would have paid for it.
Which of course led me to thinking about a educational version for teachers to let students schedule time during the office hours or tutorial leaders being able to use it for free to schedule times. Or, create a version for VCs, like Brad Feld, Jeff Clavier, or Fred Wilson who like to reserve time each month for random/open meetings. Should those versions be free? Would that class of users brag enough to get paying customers?
I have no answers for BookFresh, they’ve been around for 2 years and seem to be rocking right along without my backseat commentary but they make for a good discussion point with my advisors.
The point/issue for you is to find examples like this and think through the variations on free/paid/freemium for your own product/service. It’s an interesting (and very important) exercise.
[2 Bonus BookFresh Observation]
On the about page, you can read about Ryan Donahue’s founding of the company and then his corralling of Scott Edwards and Matt Rowe into the “co-founder” slots completing the founding team. Solid, + 50 points for that strategy and acknowledgement of founding talent. -30 points for Ryan being "Founder & CEO” with the other guys getting “Co-Founder” title. You almost had me, Ryan. (just a little title humor).
Second bonus: If you are planning to open up a satellite office in a war zone, Matt’s your go to guy. Awesome.
Have a great weekend, everybody.