Product and Support Pricing

Software pricing is an interesting art. To me, one of the more interesting aspects of it is how the :scare: correct :/scare: price of a product is affected not only by supply and demand and what the market will bear, but also by things like how many customers you have and the size of your company’s customer support department.

I’ve been listening in on a number of conversations in this area recently, as the pricing for Tasks Pro™ and Tasks is something I believe I need to adjust in the near future.

When I first released Tasks Pro™ in February 2004 and the commercial version of Tasks in May 2004, I had a baseline of features and was offering my first commercial software so I set the price accordingly. I was more interested in gaining customers (and seeing if I could make a living doing this) than I was in getting the most money from each sale.

In the last 2+ years, the feature list for Tasks Pro™ and Tasks has grown in leaps and bounds. Among the features added since the initial commercial release:

  • Task templates
  • Recurring tasks
  • Tagging
  • Task creation from e-mails
  • Tracking time and billable tasks
  • File attachments
  • Themes
  • Per task iCalendars and RSS feeds
  • Favorites
  • Posting to: Blogger, LiveJournal
  • Task group inheritance
  • Ad-hoc e-mail notifications
  • Enhanced security on login
  • Support for URL based authentication
  • Addition of a password explicitly for CRON access
  • E-mailing login information to new users
  • Remember open task trees
  • Ability to purge deleted tasks
  • Auto-check for updates
  • (Unofficial) support for PostgreSQL and MS SQL Server

And though the products today are much more capable and valuable than the products I first released back in early 2004, so far I’ve kept the pricing for them the same.

There is more included in a product price than just the software itself. The support of that software and communicating with customers on pre-sales and other questions are also part of the equation.

While I do not offer phone support, I am very responsive to e-mails and in the forums. I generally respond within an hour during the work day (and often in the same window on evenings and weekends).

Back to my initial notes above (how a product price is affected by your number of customers and support capacity), my company‘s customer base has grown substantially while the customer support capabilities have not. I’ve reached a point where I need to make an adjustment, and I have 3 realistic options1:

  1. Maintain the same level of support, included in the product price, and increase the product price across the board.
  2. Keep the same price, and offer support beyond the documentation, FAQs, forums and e-mail for an additional cost.
  3. Some combination of the two.

Ultimately, I will likely end up at option #3. I’m going to keep the pricing the same for the .7 releases, but for the next major release (probably 3.0) I will likely raise the price across the board. The software will be nearly 4 times as feature rich and capable as it was in its initial release, and a slight increase in price is appropriate. I may consider keeping an older version available at the current price2 for those who do not want the new features that will be added in that version – have not decided yet.

For the .7 releases, the change I plan to make falls into option 2 above. I’m going to be formalizing the parameters of support I offer, and allowing folks to purchase higher levels of support as needed.

The following are the things I’ve been thinking about for implementing this. These are not yet decided on, and I welcome your feedback.

Free Support (included in base purchase price)

  • In-depth product documentation (200+ pages)
  • Support forums
  • Best-effort e-mail response

The response time, from me, in the forums and to e-mails will likely increase from ~1 hour to ~1-2 days. I will handle these in batches, diverting them to a separate mailbox rather than having them constantly interrupt daily development.

Paid Support: Per Incident

Customers will be able to purchase paid support for a single issue, with a response time within ~6 business hours. They can choose e-mail contact at a lower price or schedule phone contact at a higher price.

The pricing will be flat fee, with estimates based on normal hourly rates.

Paid Support: Subscription

Customers can choose to purchase an annual support subscription. This will likely be available in several tiers, with each tier having a different SLA and number of support tickets allowed per year. Subscriptions may also include any paid upgrades during that time.

I know that this change will likely be unpopular with some of my customers. It isn’t something I am doing lightly.

I believe this change is necessary to allow me to continue building and adding features to Tasks Pro™ and Tasks. Too often now, I find myself at the end of the day with very little development to show for my work. It is fairly easy to occupy myself responding to pre-sales questions, how-to questions, feature requests, etc. – change is needed.

Your feedback on these ideas, including constructive criticism and alternative suggestions, is cordially requested in the comments.

  1. Adding staff to help with support would require a large across the board price increase, and would likely reduce the quality of the support given. For now, I have not included that as an option as I believe the others above are better at this time. [back]
  2. With the same upgrade path that current customers will have. [back]

This post is part of the project: Tasks Pro™. View the project timeline for more context on this post.