Somewhere around a decade ago, just about every cloud-based consumer software companies that wanted to reach the masses included a free customer plan. As a non-paying customer, you are allowed to use the software for free up to a certain point. Dropbox allows you a bit of storage, Canva allows you to use the basic design tools, and Hootsuite allows you to schedule posts, but you can’t see the analytics.
Why did they decide that free customers were a good idea? They knew that if you tried the product, you would become hooked. Once hooked, they would have many opportunities to upsell you.
The problem for many of these companies is we users have gotten comfortable with the benefits of the free plan, so the jump from free to say a $14.99 a month subscription is often too large a gap because we do not see the commiserate step in value. The free plan devalues the paid plans. Now we see these companies slowly try to correct this issue. They are taking away the free benefits in an effort to force users to upgrade. Recently Hootsuite did just this, they moved analytics out of the free plan and into the paid plan, but the base paid plan is $30 per month. A fee of $360 per year is a colossal step-change away from free so that I can see which of my tweets is performing best.
In the association community, there are lots of discount membership strategies — free or reduced membership for students, reduced price membership for new members, and long-in-duration trial memberships. I would love to see the metrics from these programs. My guess is they may win a few longtime members, but most of the members that come in through these special programs lapse quickly. Why? Because membership is devalued and the step change to full-price is just too high a price to pay.
There is an alternative to free and discounted memberships and that alternative is sampling. Association sampling can go like this: do you think you want to become a member but you want to ensure that you will get value for your time and money? Fabulous! We have a gift for you. Here’s an e-copy of the latest publication, or here’s a white paper, or here’s a replay of our most popular webinar, or here’s an article that provides solutions to a common problem for our new members. Remember, this is a $15, $20, or $30 value that you can access this one time only. Did you love it? Great! There are bushels of resources just like this for members. Will you consider joining our community for professionals like you?
Instead of devaluing membership with discounts. Try adding value for prospective members by sampling.