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When “free” is not actually free

“Nothing is truly free. Every gift has a price, paid for by someone in coin, favours, expectations or goods. Things get a little sticky when Life shows up wanting to collect on something you thought was free. Always ask the price.”

― Jaime Buckley, Prelude to a Hero

In the world of technology, the “freemium model” has radically changed the landscape for developers and the customers alike. My 5-year-old son even uses the “but it’s free” argument when attempting to convince my wife and I to download the new game he just saw on YouTube. Naturally, as the adult in this conversation, we know that nothing is essentially for free. Some limitations must exist to convert a no fee-paying customer to a fee-paying or “premium” customer.

In the games-world, this boils down to extra levels, better characters or more coins to purchase some advanced feature or content. I know this, and even my 5-year-old son now understands this strategy to convert us from getting a “free game” to paying a sometimes-crazy premium for something rather trivial. Now before you think it is all negative and that I hate paying for premium content, it does provide us with the ability to test out a game or application to see if it has value. And that is where these providers need to have their ducks in a row.

Currently, in the corporate world, there is a proliferation of free tools and services that are flooding our inboxes and search results. The caveat with adopting a similar approach as the one followed in our house is the actual time spent testing the application or services. Thus, it is not merely the cost of the subscription, but the actual cost of applying our time, and getting them integrated into our processes and systems. Quickly one will realise that the application is either not that bad, and it does as stated, or it simply fails to deliver. The simple fact is that in very few cases one would not be satisfied with what is offered, you would merely realise that the paid-for features are what you are after and the free version just won’t cut it. Those premium features are hidden behind the “paywall” for a reason. That is to convert you to a fee-paying consumer.

I believe that the freemium model is a great mechanism for individuals and businesses alike. It allows technical users to get a view of the application in question, and to answer some architectural requirements that might be important before embarking on a more detailed comparison exercise. Some would decide that simply because it’s already installed, we could simply unlock the extra for a low monthly fee”, but that too is a fallacy. No software that delivers exceptional value in an organisation exists in pure isolation. Every software investment requires care and due diligence to ensure that it not only operates within the larger context of the enterprise, but to also ensure we are not duplicating effort, increasing cost, or simply straying into the wrong direction.

As a company that delivers software solutions for customers, we find that customers are most likely to convert not when they have played with the software in question, but when they can see their business case or requirement being addressed with the said application. Now, I am sorry to break the bad news to those hoping for a quick fix, that does not happen within a free trial. Sure there are some applications which you can prove your hypotheses within the free version, but when you are looking at transforming something as critical as your service delivery, contracting capability or managing your corporate risk and exposure, it’s likely not going to cut it.

As the quote shared above, nothing is truly for free. One requires some exchange of value between respective parties for lasting value to be created. That being considered, it is significantly better to invest your time and effort with a solution or technology provider that encourages you to explore your requirement, with the view of ultimately ensuring a good fit between the need and the suggested products and services.

As a matter of transparency, we as do offer free trial versions as well as advice when engaging with prospects and customers alike. It is done with the distinct purpose of helping you our customer, build the use case and ensure you are comfortable that what we propose, will satisfy your need.
What we end up finding, is that a significant amount of value is transferred between us and you, long before money ever has to change hands. Advice on technology platforms, process improvements and or specific use case examples might just help you save more than that what a “free” application or service ever could. Our passion lies with enabling digital workflows inside your business and ensuring you are geared to serve your customers better.

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