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Sep 282012

Four Seasons - Longbridge Road

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Achieving a successful software deployment requires that we get users to accept, even embrace a change. After all, adoption of any new business software, from the smallest app to full enterprise systems requires that users change the way they are doing their jobs. In a recent Harvard Business review article, Rosabeth Moss Kanter lays out Ten Reasons People Resist Change and notes the consequences.

Resistance to change manifests itself in many ways, from foot-dragging and inertia to petty sabotage to outright rebellions.

Yup,   and as software marketers, we have seen them all.  So why, what causes the resistance?  Of the 10 reasons Kanter lays out, 3 seem particularly relevant to software deployments.

  • Excess uncertainty.
At a  recent process improvement workshop I attended, the instructor insisted that people aren’t really afraid of change, they are afraid of the unknown.  Once you can paint a picture of how life will be better, most people will embrace change, but until people have the vision, uncertainty can paralyze them and undermine your efforts.  The key to successful deployments is removing uncertainty, and replacing it with vision.
  • Concerns about competence.
Once users have achieved a level of competence with an existing system or methodology,  they may be reluctant to change if they are unsure about their ability to reestablish the competence with a new system.   They may be worried that their skills will be obsolete,  or they may be afraid about  appearing stupid if they don’t catch right on to the new tools.  Software vendors can mitigate these concerns by providing training,  resources, and help to users.  One more thing I have seen.  A  lot of times, software developers will bake in a certain vocabulary to their systems.  If the vocabulary doesn’t match what the users are used to, resistance will be higher.  Developers need to spend a lot of time early with users to understand their processes, and use their language.
  • More work.  
 As Kanter points out, ” Change is indeed more work.”  For new software deployments, this is particularly true.  Not only do users have to learn a new system, but many companies will require a period of overlap, when both old and new systems are used.  This means that users will be doing double work.   In addition, many software systems are designed to provide information to management, with little or no thought to how this affects the users, or how to make the jobs of the users easier, better, or more satisfying.   Overcoming this issue requires a two prong strategy.  First, the software itself needs to be designed in such a way that it really does help the user do his or her job better and easier.   Information collected should be the result of helping the user, not an additional burden.  Second, we really have to take the time to paint the vision of a better future, and hold the user’s hand till we are there.
Make your software deployments effective.
Successful deployments where users embrace the new software and use it effectively are key to a sustainable product.  Successful deployments lead to referrals, testimonials, and ultimately new users.   In order to have successful deployments, software vendors need to:
  • Develop software that helps users do their jobs easier, faster, and more effectively
  • Provide guidance, training, and needed resources
  • Paint the vision of how life will be better once the software has been deployed.

How about you?  Do you have a story of a particularly good or bad software deployment?  (for bad ones, please change the names to protect the guilty).  Or are you involved in a software deployment right now that you would like to make more effective?   Contact us, or join the discussion on our LinkedIn group on software marketing. 

We look forward to your input.


Jun 262012

once a penny, always a penny

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In a recent post,  we discussed  ‘s article on Freemium Pricing, and the conditions where it does or doesn’t work.   Leonov concludes that  “the reality is, the freemium model doesn’t work for the majority of companies who try it. ”

Still, there are compelling reasons consider the Freemium model,  including the significant number of users that can  be attracted.   If even a small number of the non-paying customers upgrade,  the Freemium model could be your best option.

Recently, On Startups ran two posts on how to make Freemium pricing work.  In this post, we’ll talk about an article  by Andy Singleton called “The Secrets of Freemium Pricing -Make the Cheapskates Pay“. The article  is  based on Andy’s experiences, or as he puts it “mistakes” in applying the Freemium model to his business Assembla,  a cloud based repository and tools for software developers.   In a future post, we’ll talk about another article, by Rishi Shah, Co-Founder of Digioh, is titled Freemium Pricing for SaaS: Optimizing Paid Conversion Upgrades, and takes us through Shah’s thought processes as he develops a freemium plan by looking at examples.

Let’s take a look at the Singleton article first, and grab some of the main points.  (by the way, both articles are packed with information, and worth reading in their entirety)

Singleton advises us to be clear on our goals, and he thinks that there should be two main goals for your pricing strategy

  1. Maximize revenue
  2. Lower your cost of sales.

The reason for wanting to maximize revenue is pretty obvious.   Revenue allows you to stay in business and provide your service.  If you don’t have revenue, you can’t provide the free service either.   His reason for wanting to lower cost of sales was more subtle.  Basically,  Singleton says that sales and marketing offers no value to your customer,  so any money you spend there is a bad investment.    Rather,  he advocates that you make investments in ways that provide customer value, and find ways to keep your sales and marketing costs as low as possible.

And this is where he gets to what I think is the key point of his article.  “Free” is not a business model, but it CAN be a powerful marketing tool if used properly.   The trick is to get as much as you can out of both your paying and non-paying customers.   While some small number of free customers will eventually convert, Singleton essentially discounts this, and says the most important thing that you get from your free customers are referrals.

 Free can be a terrible idea, or a great idea, depending on how social your free users are, whether they have paying bosses, and how many potential paying users they introduce to your service.

After reading the article (and again, lots of good stuff there)  I wanted to see how Singleton applied these principles to Assembla.  The first thing I noticed is that the free plans are not mentioned at all  on the home page.  Instead, it is noted that you can get a free trial.

Assembla front page pricing









When you do go to the Plans and Pricing page, you will see free offerings, but they are clearly for separate offerings, not for the main product line.  The goal is to prevent the free products from cannibalizing the paid offerings.








The other thing that Assembly does really well is to make use of the anchoring bias.  Note that the highest price plan is on the left, where your eye goes first,  and you anchor on that price.  As you work across, the $49 plan seems much more reasonable.

There are lots of different ways that the freemium model can work, and lots of ways that it doesn’t.  We will continue to explore some in future posts.