The first one’s free
Originally this post was going to be titled:
“Everything I needed to know about software marketing I learned from my drug dealer”
but I didn’t want to attract the wrong element to my little blog.
During the course of my career I have heard lots of analogies. Maybe it is peculiar to our world, perhaps not. Apparently you can make analogies between anything. Try it; it’s fun. The analogy I am trying on for size today is that selling software is like selling smack. It pays off (big) in the long run if you give a little free taste. While I won’t say that selling software is EXACTLY like selling crack to a 13 year old, hopefully I can get away with advising software companies to consider the oft-used ,“first one’s free” marketing plan.
This is nothing new, even in the software world. (Nor am I the first to make reference to it.) I only bring it up because the lesson really hit home again recently. At first I felt guilty – guilty for taking advantage of an offer and feeling guilty that perhaps I was doing something sneaky. I was going to take advantage of a great deal with no intention of paying any money, and I was planning on milking it for as long as necessary. But, I soon realized that maybe I should feel manipulated rather than guilty. I’m not the one in control of the situation – it’s these guys – they are the dealer who is after my soul.
So how exactly should you apply the wildly successful and hugely profitable practices of cigarette companies and corner drug-dealers to software development? That’s easy. Do what all the other little software companies do – provide free trials.
The freeness of FogBugz is a bit different than the usual try/buy. Many companies provide free services or software for personal use, but Fog Creek will host your two-user solution for free. You get to join with a buddy! This is good reasoning – I can’t recall the details exactly, but I seem to remember that there was a software company that started out as two guys in a garage, or was it in a dorm room, or perhaps at a bar. Hmm. It will come to me.
Back to FogBugz — At first I was unsure about the offer. (If you want another bad analogy then I guess you could say my other issue and defect tracking system was like a gateway drug? It opened up the door to more possibilities.) So after the first foray into issue tracking I started doing some investigating. And what did I find? Can you imagine automatic email responses and magic project estimation for free? It was so tempting. And so easy. It felt so good.
Everyone knows about the free giveaway. In fact, this blog post is mostly useless because that model is the standard for small companies. Examples of good, free software are everywhere. These guys just signed me up with no questions asked, and let me park some useless bits on their servers. (Now if only I had customers who would use it…)
The real news is that I took a HUGE company to the cleaners; I am really milking them. Yep, I took Microsoft for a ride. One has to wonder who’s in charge over there – giving away $3500 worth of software like that! What are they thinking? I’m selling my Microsoft stock.
That’s it. That’s the big tip. Sell your software for $0. (I don’t know what that is in Euros, so if you know, put it in the comment section.) Oh, and get in on the Microsoft deals.
If you come back next week I might have something more worth your time.
By the way, I love FogBugz. And I can quit. Any time. Really.