When our children were growing up, one of the common excuses for misbehaving was, “I’m just playing.” We would tell them, oh. We want to play too. You can play like you are being bad if we can play like we are parents of bad children. We want you to know we will just be playing also. You can guess that didn’t continue with those rules. (No, that is not one of our kids that used that line on us in the photo.)
When we started on our Open Source project, open learning server, we want to be free like WordPress. When Automattic says WordPress is free and open, they don’t pull punches. There are lines, but with over a third of the sites on the internet running on WordPress currently, we know they play nice without faking it or excuses.
Charity As Marketing
We like charity as marketing and have no issues with WordPress. They also have WordPress hosting for sale on WordPress.com and do well with it. They also have many other things they sell, along with many other things they do for free.
When we say charity, we are saying WordPress and OpenSource at large are acts of charity. People are giving without obligating others to pay with some bait and hook technique.
“We don’t make software for free, we make it for freedom.”
What an amazing mission mindset. Simon Sinek speaks about this in his book, The Infinite Game. A business that endures tends to have a mission that is stronger than the quest for money. This does not mean shifting our stack will make our business model work. We still have to have a functional business model. We are saying that profit first tends to make a business fragile. Profit second is functional.
Digital Vacation Packages
So many people over the years took a free vacation to a resort. These vacations were given out of the generosity of, well, generosity is not actually the motivation. If you took the vacation, you had to agree to sit in on a presentation or whatever legal term was given. It was a long sales pitch, and if you were able to watch a video of the presentation on YouTube or beyond, you would never have thought the free vacation was worth it.
Some businesses offer the equivalent of vacation packages online. Thus, I call them digital vacation packages. The sales pitches are far less painful, but the mindset is the same.
How many times have people signed up for a free trial online, and you land on one of these squares? Why do I call them squares? Because to the businesses that do this, it is a game of numbers and techniques.
- No Obvious Unsubscribe
- No Notice Of Trial Expiring
- Automatic Monthly Billing (forgotten by payee)
Getting it Right
Many other companies are getting this right. They understand free is free. Don’t promise something will be free if the way you promise is not the way you deliver.
Here is a list of some getting this right beyond WordPress. These are stars in getting it right. We even support affiliate
- Google GMail : Free Email
- Ortus Solutions : Free Developer Solutions
With referral links. These we get some credit for, but at no cost to you and typically at a benefit to you for being referred. YNAB offers a free month to those who make referrals if the user subscribes. Worst-case scenario, you are being influenced to try something the person who gave you the link still uses and likes without it costing you anything.
Beware of Almost Right
If you don’t like YNAB, delete it. But there are other services that offer you a free month of something that partial success comes at a cost. Let us say you have people sign up for coaching on a site that offers coaches a place to do business. Or you sign up for video conferencing, calendar services, or anything. You MUST validate what free looks like.
Let’s say you find a service that wants to help you set up a free WP Hosting business. Wow, over 40% of the internet uses this. This is a great market, right? So you set up, even on a “starter plan,” and you start signing people up as your customers. Suddenly between three to six months in, you figure out it isn’t a business for you. OK, it was free or one year, right? Nope!
Now the end of the year approaches, and you have promised people and businesses that they had a year. How does that math work? Are you the first person to ever offer customers a year of hosting? It seems the startup should be fifteen to eighteen months. Then if you choose to pivot, you don’t have to buy an additional year that wasn’t in the startup of free budget. OUCH!!!
Life is Full of Investing
Without investing, we live off the excess returns of others. My goal here is to get us to be better investors. To move beyond schemes to thinking things through. We should understand what our vendors get out of our awesome deals, or we might not be getting the deal we think we are.
As businesses, we should be transparent and put ourselves in the shoes of the person we offer deals to. It should be something we explain without the need to justify.
How will you influence yours and the future of others today?