Selling Software

Over the past month there have been interesting discussions on the SnapperMail and NetNewsWire mailing lists about product pricing, upgrades and general release decisions/policies. As a new software vendor, I’ve been a very interested observer/participant in these discussions.

I’m about to release my first individual comsumer product (Tasks 2.0) and I’m planning the features for my first paid product upgrade (Tasks Pro™ 1.5), so l’m getting a free glimpse into discussions that I could be having in the future.

There seems to be a few good common guidelines I’ve picked up that I plan to follow:

  • Communicate your planned pricing and upgrade policies as soon as you are comfortable with them and don’t change them.
  • Don’t wait too long between paid upgrades and try to make up for it with an expensive upgrade. If you plan to charge for upgrades, do it consistently as you go. It’s important to keep the pricing reasonable. If you have a $100 product, people are willing to pay a $25-30 upgrade twice for good new features, but are not happy with one $50-60 upgrade. I can certainly undertand this, it lets the customer choose when the new features justify the upgrade price for them.
  • Make sure all bug fixes are available in free upgrades. This may mean you have to release updates to old versions at the same time you release new versions. This is more work as a developer, but I think it’s important.
  • Keep the discussion about your pricing and upgrade policies public. Your customers understand that you need to make a living and if they like your software and the support you’ve given them, they will be quite reasonable and many will want to help support you. Be responsive, but don’t take over the conversation and sure you listen to the points raised by your customers.
  • Don’t let any one customer (no matter how vocal) dictate your decision making. Make sure your decisions are ones you are comfortable with and that you are making the decisions with an eye on your long-term goals.

I know these are all basically common-sense, but it was really valuable reinforcement to see the discussions in action.

What are some good/bad experiences you’ve had with software companies (or your customers if you are a developer) and what are some other guidelines you think are important?