One thing I wanted to ask you more about, Tom: why would it feel to you like cannibalizing our brand if we made basic things premium?
For me at least, the sales pitch for Beeminder is hugely refreshing: it’s very clear up front about what the concept is, and this is really nicely reinforced by things like the force majeure clause and the “exquisitely fair” premium sub slider. The values expressed by this are something like “fair”, “rational”, and “honest” (though not, note, “cheap” or “free”). It feels, in short, like the kind of company who I’m enthusiastic about giving money to.
In particular, I’m thrilled that Beeminder doesn’t feel like another slightly scuzzy SaaS provider attempting to extract my money because I’m too lazy to cancel, or constantly trying to upsell me into an unnecessarily high subscription band. It makes a straightforward offer (QS with commitment contracts) with a fair price (the cost of derailing) and a straight-up commitment to honesty. This made me not only happy to commit to its use, but also (eventually) to a lifetime premium sub.
I’m cool with premium for pledgeless, for starting the road at $910, and for Beekeeper, because those are things that are likely to actually cost you money! It seems exquisitely fair to have those as premium.
On the other hand, charging for (hypothetically) turning on the “view rosy line on the graph” bit would feel cheap. Instead of providing an awesome tool at a fair price, it would be artificially crippling the basic version to chisel some money out of your public. If the tool is free, that’s maybe fair enough, but it isn’t: you’re in the enviable position of having actual revenue from (many of) your basic users. So it would just feel like a slightly tawdry cash grab, which isn’t really in line with my perceptions of what your brand values are.
Incidentally, I’ve actually never been quite as comfortable with the other limb of your expressed premium policy (“too complicated”) as it seems a bit of a cop-out, though the fact that people will accidentally rename their graphs and break things will probably cause enough of a support demand to justify it.
I think my perception of your values is probably fairly widely held. My reaction to it probably isn’t: plenty of people seem to have no problem with business models selling configuration bits or supernumerary foozles. Hell, if Microsoft had a proposition as good as Beeminder, then I’m sure it’d get plenty of business.
On the other hand, I doubt I’m the only one – and you haven’t set your stall out as a nickel-and-diming company. If you start looking more like one (intentionally or not) then I fear you’d be eating a reputation that has a lot of long term commercial value. Customer delight and perceived brand value congruence is pretty hard to obtain.
The extreme of that would be to make everything premium, like a limited free trial but then you have to pay to keep using Beeminder. A normal subscription service, in other words.
That’s a little difficult to square with the “pay up if you derail” sting which is at the core of why Beeminder is great, but you could probably do something with the pledges-towards-subs which would make that work (though you’d have to be careful not to devalue the sting by simply giving you your cash back as a subscription credit, of course…)
In many ways it’d actually feel more honest than a weird hybrid where it looks like the price is x ($derail) but once you’ve used it for a bit you realise you actually need (say) the retroratchet feature to be able to beemind effectively and you’re stuck with the option of either abandoning your time investment in the system or forking out an extra $y/mo.
The biggest argument against that is that we’ve made a big deal out of the “if you never go off track you’ll never pay anything” feature.
That is quite a large part of it, I think. It’s not so much that it couldn’t have been set up as a subscription-only service but that it wasn’t. (Plus the more boring business case argument about whether raising the barriers to entry would increase revenue, of course, but that’s got very little to do with brand values). It’s very much about the honesty and straightforwardness rather than the cash.
tl;dr: Need to be careful to avoid making Beeminder a tawdry bait-and-switch. But it might just be me.