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6 May 2011

The wrong business model?

I have been using an application to tether my laptop to my Android phone.  I am not using a native android function because it potentially doesn't exist, or if it does it's hidden and not easy to find.  Or I am stupid.  (I rate the last option as most likely.)

For a while the application worked great, then one day after an upgrade it no longer supported access to certain web pages.  Now I have to pay for what, for me at least, is a minimum value product feature - the ability to access webmail.  And there are many many more products on offer out there that don't charge for the same service

This is an implementation of the Freemium Business Model - where I get the basic product for free, and pay for more advanced features.

But this application is no longer a viable product for me.  I'll be replacing it with something else.  Free is no good if it doesn't hit a critical feature for me.
Andrew Chen and Eric Reis both have interesting thin gs to say abut this that preempt what I am about to say.  If you want a more in depth discussion from the point of view of the entrepreneurs and marketers who wrestle with this problem day to day.
What I have to say is simple;

As a customer in this instance I am probably not an outlier. Web-mail is a pretty fundamental feature for mobile workers.

So, on the one hand, this mandatory-ness makes it something people will pay for.  On the other hand it makes it a core part of the service, which - in the Freemium model - is supposed to be free.

When making the decision to charge or not charge for this aspect of the service what questions were asked? Were tests run on pilot groups (am I part of it?) and to what degree did the customer participate in the discussion.

Not enough probably.

How much are you including your customers in the discussions about how product should be formulated?  Is the answer the same?