Looking for advice on moving from free to commercial


6

Nearly one year ago I released a free .NET profiler. I started coding it to solve a unique problem; a problem none of the available profilers could help me with. It was a fun experience and a much needed break from the day-to-day business of shuffling data between a UI and a db. Due to this joyous experience I created a generic profiler in my spare time and, as previously stated, released a public free version - mostly just for the fun of it.

I focused almost entirely on coding stuff which was interesting to do, but not all that useful in terms of profiling features or problem solving. Some months ago I started thinking how much fun it would be to get paid for doing this kind of programming and started to focus on making the profiler more useful. The ultimate goal is of course to turn it into a mISV and eventually make a living of it; the short-term is just to sell a few copies, get some useful feedback and evolve the product (or figuring out that it was a bad idea/implementation and toss it out).

So far I am thinking of rebranding the product with a new name and site and then move traffic from the old site to the new, with appropriate information about the change. Whatever version of the product is out there now, will remain free indefinitely, but unsupported.

How do I most effectively make this transition? Are there any public tales or experiences doing this?

The usage has been in the very modest range. The only real marketing I have done is registering some adwords (spending just a measly $40-50 pr. month) and mentioning it in one comment on a MS MVP’s blog. The adwords bring in about 10-15 new users each day, with a conversion around 40% (a conversion being a download). The rest of the traffic is divided between Google organic, Stackoverflow (these are sweet as they convert at around 80%), Direct traffic and links from elsewhere.

Most marketing advice are focused on creating a blog, but really, does the world need yet another startup/techno blog reiterating what is already said a thousand times elsewhere? I can see some interest in a technically focused blog, but only so much can really be said about profiling.

What other means of marketing towards developers are there? Magazine ads seem useless, but what about the developer focused marketing channels (like theloungenet.com) – are they worth the cash they require, compared to growing traffic more organically and focus more on adwords?
What about spamming tech bloggers with free version and hoping that a few of them will do a write-up? Is that advisable?

Marketing

asked Mar 5 '11 at 07:06
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Soren Christensen
113 points

3 Answers


6

First of all I've got personal interest in profilers (used many and we use it occasionally profile our own products). Although I haven't seen your profiler before (and I thought I tried all free & paid ones).

Couple of humble advices:

  • You don't need to leave the free version alive, just kill it and redirect all traffic to the website. Don't worry no one is going to cry
  • I think you need a differentiator, this can be price but price itself never good enough. There are really good tools in the market when it comes to profiler, I can count 3 really well done products. So they'll be your direct competitors. Maybe you already got it but from your website I didn't notice anything as a USP
  • Inject your tool to threads like this:
    http://stackoverflow.com/questions/3927/what-are-some-good-net-profilers
IMHO Find a USP and focus on that, otherwise only being memory profiler with common features won't be enough, other competitors such as Redgate and Jetbrains are just too popular (and their tools are quite nice as well ).

My take on profiling (memory or CPU) it's just too complicated, if you can simplify it that would be a USP. Subject itself is too complicated, so maybe not much possible to simplify, I don't really know that much.

Anyway, lots of random thoughts from me, not a direct answer but hope it helps.

P.S. I'm sure you'll sell it, I just checked the features and screenshots, it's looking nice and quite feature-full.

answered Mar 5 '11 at 07:49
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The Dictator
2,305 points
  • Thanks! You are right about the differentiator and that is why I really want some feedback - which can be hard to get, even for a free product. – Soren Christensen 8 years ago
  • +1 for the USP comment and it's actually spot on - "Profiling made simple" is a XteProfiler USP. Tried it and like it a lot. – Mawtex 8 years ago

1

IMHO as well as figuring out a USP (great advice above) you need to think about "Inbound Marketing" Its going to be far too expensive trying to go out and find your customers as this isn't a targetable niche (not like, say finding all Dentists in a particular area to sell iDentist to) so you need to work out how they will find, recognise and remember you.

Start by reading

  • Jason - A Smart Bear (specifically how he used a dead tree book as a marketing tool)
  • Hubspot - Sign up for their inbound marketing e-Books etc (they will leave you alone if you don't want ot commit to hubspot).

So concrete actions

  • Technically focused blog related to profiling issues. No point in writing about general/current tech topics as you will get traffic but not focused traffic looking for profiling software.
  • Guides/E-Books - I would do as PDF's (with teaser content on blog for SEO) behind email signup form so you start getting leads (Mailchimp.com free for first 500 users) Subjects such as
    • Quickly and easily finding performance bottlenecks in your XXX
    • Eliminating excessive memory usage
    • Infographic - 5 most common causes of performance/memory problems in .net
    • Flowchart - How to improve performance of a .net application.
    • Cast Study - How XXX improved their performance 10x (you could offer to assist someone in return for using them in a case study?)
(You get the idea, all off the top of my head and this would fit in REALLY well with the "Simple/Quick" USP if you make guides that get people going in 5 mins or less) Good luck!
answered Dec 6 '11 at 22:36
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Ryan
1,365 points

0

Many big software outfits offer "white papers/case studies" where a user has to fill in all his personal info, etc. The white paper shows how your application can help them save money, make their clients happy, etc. Then you can have them opt into a newsletter where you send them an occasional email with programming tips, a subtle product advertisement, new features, etc.

answered Dec 7 '11 at 01:08
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Len
376 points

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