How a free product increases sales and brings a team together
Remember the time when Skype was free - and without ads? WhatsApp at first also did not collect from users for a dollar per year. For companies, free versions of successful products (and their subsequent monetization) are always a struggle. Developers rejoice, sales managers write a letter of resignation.
The joy of developers
Three months ago, we decided to release a free version of one of our products - a callback system for RedConnect sites . A little over a week ago, we launched it - and already in the first three days we received several hundred new registrations. The development department is happy. When new products reach thousands of users, this is very inspiring. The development of free versions is always carried out with a double interest. Everyone understands that the audience will definitely be very large.
A few years ago, when we were just starting out, there was something free in all of our products. We were very encouraged that the products were actively used. The issue of making money was in tenth place, and the main motivating factor was the monitor with user charts online.
I don’t know a better way to unite a start-up startup team than to offer her to work on something free, which may interest a lot of people. In addition, the popularity of the product (albeit free) motivates investors well. When the schedule of operators using our free chat for sites broke the mark of 5,000 users, investors themselves began to schedule appointments for us. At all conferences, I began my presentation with the words that at this very moment thousands of operators are communicating with clients on our servers. The attention of the audience after that was guaranteed to me.
For a team that has been working in the company for a long time, launching a free version is a great opportunity to increase the independence of each developer and save it until the moment when it will be necessary to solve routine tasks (such as fixing bugs or finalizing minor functions, and so on). Working on something free is a great time to identify senior developers and executives. While you are in the free version, it’s easier for you to form a team. Until now, at interviews in the development department, we show applicants the popularity and high workload of the system - these figures become one of the main reasons why strong specialists decide to work with us.
With the sales department, everything is much more complicated. The commercial service looks at the free product hostilely and even aggressively. When we announced that we were starting to develop a free version of RedConnect , one of our most successful sellers wrote a letter of resignation a couple of days later (fortunately, he took it away a week later).
The sales manager sees the enemy in a person who offers the idea of a free version. Yes, it can be explained that this will ultimately help increase the number of applications (and, as a result, most likely will raise sales), but now the manager will have to hear the most terrible words from clients every day: “We have a free version.”
The free version is a strong competitor that we create for ourselves. The best thing you can do to prevent conflict is honestly say so. Yes, this is a competitor with whom we have to compete, but we will be able to influence its development, and this gives good chances for success. The idea of educating a controlled enemy, whom we can regularly defeat, testing our strength in this way, is well received by the sales department. It should be several months before the sales department is completely reorganized.
The main change that should occur in the minds of sales managers is the emergence of the habit of not only taking, but also giving. This is difficult, but in the long run your employees will become stronger. “If you don’t like our full version, we will be able to offer you a free product - it has the main functions” - the need to pronounce this phrase only for the first time will knock the manager’s ground under his feet. Previously, he just had to put pressure on the client, frightening him with the quick end of the license, now he will have to learn how to build a dialogue with the help of less obvious arguments.
Anton Chernyatin, CEO of RedHelper