Episode 271 | Lessons Learned Analyzing 250 SaaS Pricing Pages

Show Notes

In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike talk about lessons learned analyzing 250 SaaS pricing pages. They give their opinions and takeaways on the article and how it may apply to smaller size SaaS businesses/products.

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Rob: [00:00]: In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Mike and I discuss lessons learned from an analysis of 250 SaaS pricing pages. This is Startups for the Rest of Us, Episode 271.

Welcome to Startups for The Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs to be awesome at launching software products, whether you’ve built your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Rob.

Mike [00:28]: And I’m Mike.

Rob [00:28]: We’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. What’s the word this week, Mike?

Mike [00:33]: Well, after a couple of months of effort on this, we’re finally pulling trigger on migrating Founder Café into Discourse. I ran through a dry run of the migration earlier today. Everything seemed to go pretty well. I think we ran into one minor issue but it was because a table was not able to accept the amount of data that we’re throwing into it. We fixed that and everything else seems to be going well.

Rob [00:53]: Very nice. For those who aren’t familiar, Founder Café is our membership community for self-funded startup founders and folks who get a lot of value out of the podcast and want to engage more with the community. We’ve been running it for several years. We’re moving it from an old platform that wasn’t working as well and moving it into Discourse which, so far, has been pretty cool. It has a lot of neat features. I like what Jeff Atwood and his team over at Discourse are doing with it.

Mike [01:19]: The user experience in general is going to be a lot better for us. The primary reason for moving is just partly for that community aspects but also the price considerations because the current platform we’re on is fairly expensive. There’s a huge number of features that we just simply haven’t used. We thought when we moved over to it that we were going to start using a lot of those features and it turned out that we just didn’t and they didn’t turn out to be as important as things that were much more focused on the forms and community interactions. Because of that, it fell short on a couple of different areas. If you go to a product that does a lot of different things, what you find is inevitably it will fall short on some of the things that you might find to be important. For us, that community aspect of it was really important. The other thing is that it wasn’t really designed to be like a paid membership site. It really wasn’t designed to be a membership site, it was really aimed at internal internets for large companies. Because of that, there were a bunch of workarounds that we had to do. At the end of the day it just didn’t work out for us. How about you? What’s going on with you?

Rob [02:20]: We ran an interesting experiment at Drip over the holidays. In essence, your trial to pay conversation rates often plummets over the week of Christmas and the week after Christmas, before New Year’s. What we did is we pushed everyone’s trial out, in terms of their expiration day. We pushed it out by a couple of weeks, anyone who’s going to expire during that time. We e-mailed them and let them know that we were doing that, kind of said, “Hey, happy holidays. Here’s our gift to you at the end of the year,” like restarting the trial in essence, checking in with people who aren’t set up. It gives everybody a little longer trial but it’s a really good reason to do it and to avoid the dip in conversion rate during that time.

With that said, it is very much an experiment, I’ve never done it before, and we have no idea what the results are going to be. We’re just now starting to see the trial to paid conversions from that earliest set of that and so far, so good. We’re a day into it. It’s not anything that has real results yet, but it has been a trip. Basically, there were no trials converting for two weeks and that is absolutely nervewracking as a SaaS founder and as someone who tracks my metrics as closely as I do. I, everyday and frankly every night after billing runs, I’m in there looking at the revenue and what the trial count is and all that stuff. Those are just haywire right now because we kind of decimated the last two weeks of our metrics. The idea is that it will pay off in spades here in January but it will be interesting to see.

Mike [03:47]: On the bright side, you can run most of your yearend analysis stuff two weeks in advance.

Rob [03:51]: Yeah, I know. We didn’t have final revenue and all that but it certainly didn’t change very much in the last week and a half of December after we moved these folks out.

Mike [04:00]: The only other thing I’m working on is migrating a lot of my e-mail campaigns over from Infusionsoft into Trip.

Rob [04:09]: Coming back, huh?

Mike [04:11]: Well, there were a bunch of things that I was looking at inside of Infusionsoft that were fairly attractive. At the end of the day, I got into it and was using it. They introduced a bug back in June or July or something like that, for something that I was using within the Twitter Lead Cards. They just refused to fix it. I ended up having to build this report inside their UI, which showed me all the things that were going wrong and then I would have to go in and manually fix them. It was like every day or every a couple of days I would have to go in and fix a bunch of data errors because the Twitter Lead Cards simply did not work. I kept asking them and saying, “Hey, are you going to fix this?” And they’ll, “Oh, we’ll get to it,” or “It’s not really important,” or “People aren’t really requesting it.”

I was like, “Look, if you don’t fix this, then I’m just not going to be a customer anymore.” They’re like, “Oh, we’ll have somebody get back to you soon,” and I guess they were going to have somebody in their engineering department get back to me. It’s been, I don’t know, several weeks and I’m still waiting, so I’m done with it at this point.

Rob [05:05]: That’s tough. They are a major competitor of ours and so I don’t want to speak poorly of them but I have heard similar stories from folks running into bugs that haven’t been fixed and stuff along those lines. It’s a bummer.

Mike [05:16]: I heard similar stories from other people and for a while, it worked great, did everything I needed it to and it was kind of chugging along. If you’re not running into those bugs, then you’re fine, but as soon as you do and it’s not high on their priority list, then it become a problem. It’s a problem for you but not necessarily a problem for them. It’s higher on my priority list than it is theirs.

Rob [05:38]: Sure, sure. There’s a reason we get a lot Infusion software FUGS and you’re adding to that total. Today we are talking about lessons learned from an analysis of 250 SaaS pricing pages and we get the information from an article on The Next Web and we’ll certainly link that up in the show notes. The article is titled ‘I analyzed 250 SaaS Pricing Pages – Here’s What I Found.’ It’s written by Benjamin Brandall and he says, “We recently had a major overhaul of our pricing and landing page and wanted to get a good idea of what a high-converting pricing page looked like.” He went to the SaaS 250. It’s a list compiled by Montclare and the list is supposed to indicate the most successful SaaS products in the world.

You and I had a debate before on whether or not – or not even a debate, just a discussion of each of these metrics you should probably hold them loosely because these companies, some of them are public, some of them are not. They’re looking at just private data and whatever they can scrape together. As we know, that tends to be less than accurate. Anyways, he looked at 250 of let’s just say they were all successful SaaS companies. A lot of them are big enterprise companies like Salesforce or LinkedIn. They do have Basecamp on the list and companies like New Relic. They have Google on the list and I’m assuming that’s for one of their paid offerings because it’s certainly not google.com. They named Dropbox and stuff like that; a lot of folks that we’ve heard about.

He analyzed their pages and then he tries to pull takeaways and he pulls several takeaways like X% of these companies highlight a package, it’s the best option and that kind of stuff. What we wanted to do today is first talk a little bit about this kind of article and the methodology of it, and our opinions on that and then dive into the takeaways and talk about when we think those actually apply and when we think they don’t apply to folks who are probably listening to this podcast. Because if you’re listening to this, you’re probably not starting the next Salesforce. You’re not starting at $10 billion or $1 billion or maybe even $100 billion company. You’re probably aiming to start a SaaS company with a price point between 10 and 99 bucks a month. That’s the lens that we want to lend to this is when our opinions and our experience, and the testing and the data that we have, based on our experience, when we would use these approaches and why we think maybe that data lines up or doesn’t line up with this article.

Mike [07:54]: Yeah, and I think that’s probably the most important takeaway because I think that throughout the course of this podcast, we’re probably going to pick at this list of commonalities or suggestions from this article. It may very well come across like we’re either not necessarily argumentative, it’s probably not the right word, but very anti against some of the conclusions that are drawn in this. You have to remember that this is from the SaaS 250 and those 250 companies are a list of some of the most successful SaaS companies according to Montclare. Because of that, those companies are in an entirely different category than the types of people who are probably listening to this podcast. Bear that in mind as you’re listening to this podcast. Where do you want to start?

Rob [08:35]: The interesting thing, the first note that he talks about is he says, “Why did 80% of companies not have pricing pages?” He says of the 250 companies, only 48 of them had pricing pages and the rest had pricing available on request by contacting sales people. He talks about how Jason Lemkin – Jason Lemkin was the CEO and co-founder of EchoSign. He sold that company plus a previous company and he is a SaaS genius. He blogs over at saastr.com. If you listen to no one else about SaaS, listen to Jason Lemkin. He tends to talk about the $100 million and billion dollar SaaS companies. There’s stuff that he says that doesn’t necessarily line up with our audience or our approach to it, but as a rule, the stuff he says is not inaccurate if you do want to build a large company.

He has a bunch of reasons; we won’t go through them all, why these companies don’t have pricing pages and he talks about how deals, as you get into the larger deals, they’re going to get more complex as you grow. Discounting becomes difficult if you have a pricing page. If you’re selling into the enterprise, then actually having a low price can really devalue your products. Being a $99 price point is not something that a company like a Fortune 500 company wants to use. They really want to talk to someone, to have the demo, to do the assessment of needs. They really want to go through the long sales process, as much as that sounds insane to us, who want to do it self-serve. But if you really are selling to the enterprise and you really are trying to grow that $100 million company, you need to sell into the enterprise, then having a pricing page is actually a bad approach. That’s one of those things you have to keep in mind. It’s like just because 80% of these don’t have pricing pages, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t. It’s only if you’re going to be selling into the enterprise that you should consider only having a call only for pricing.

Mike [10:20]: I think that ties back to what type of business that you want to run and what type of customers you want to have. Because if you want to go the self-serve route, then you clearly want to have a pricing page and it’s going to very clearly list out everything that you’re offering and what the prices for it are. But if you want to push up into those $100,000 or a million dollar deals, then you really shouldn’t. I don’t disagree with the conclusions here but it boils down to what type of business that you want to run and how much effort you want to spend on each individual customer to bring them on board. Obviously, with an enterprise-level customer, you spend a heck of a long time, wooing them as a customer but it’s also financially very lucrative if you can plan them. That said, sometimes the other direction is much more appealing to you, depending on what type of person you are and how you want to run your business. It really just depends on what you want.

Rob [11:13]: Right. The final caveat I’ll say to this is he looked at 250 SaaS pricing pages and then pulled out some data from them. I think it’s interesting, it’s novel. It’s kind of like a Myers Briggs Test where it’s like, “Oh, that’s something. That’s an indication of something.” This is certainly not rigorous, scientific study of all SaaS companies. It definitely steers towards or leans towards these big, large enterprise companies that tend – since they are big, they tend to also be selling to other large enterprise companies. It’s something to keep in mind as you’re reading through this. The first point, there’s 11 points that he covers. I don’t know if we’ll have time to get through all of them. Let’s kick off the first one. The first one is that the average number of packages offered on pricing pages is three and a half. What do you think about that?

Mike [11:55]: I’ve never seen a half a package before, but I guess it’s like the 2.3 kids in the United States.

Rob [12:00]: It’s an average, he says the average number. I could imagine if it had three and then half? That’s not an optimal use case, people. Don’t put three and a half. What do you think about the idea? Obviously he’s saying a lot of them have three, a lot of them have four, some have two, some five. The idea that having about three or four pricing tiers is what they did, is what these folks see as optimal.

Mike [12:21]: That’s seems like your classic case of price anchoring. You’ve got your low tier price and then you’ve got a high tier price. The middle one obviously helps you in many ways to anchor it, especially if you’re using that as your most profitable plan, assuming that is your most profitable plan, because sometimes it’s not. Having those three options and then a ‘call us’ option; it seems to me very, very common. I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is a surprise or a shock in any way, shape, or form. That said, I do think you need to be careful about which of the tiers that you decide to use as your price anchor, whether you want to try and anchor people to the top one and get them to subscribe to a lower tier or maybe go for the middle one and there’s going to be people who go above that. It depends on how in demand your products is and where it fits in the market.

Rob [13:09]: Yeah, I think my rule of thumb is when in doubt, have three pricing tiers, like you said, so that you do have the price anchoring. Having three plus an enterprise with either a ‘call here’ button or some type of calculator as you see on the Drip pricing page. It has a calculator there because people can have 50, 000 subscribers or 100,000. We could do a call for that, call us or click here for demo, but we’ve chosen to do a calculator. That’s what I do by default until you have time to test otherwise. I think that having about three pricing tiers and maybe four is about the right way to go. I think that if you can simplify it down to a single tier where is built on or priced based on the number of users or a single metric where you can just say, “All right, it’s 10 bucks per user, per month.”

That’s how Helpdesk Software, CRM software does it. Or, if you can go like a lot of e-mail marketing softwares, it’s purely based on the number of subscribers. It gets difficult if you’re going to have tiers because then you at least need some type of tiering on your homepage. If can boil it down to where it’s a simple pricing, I actually think that that can work as well. It’s looking around and seeing what your competition is doing and if you try to do it too different than the rest of the market, you will cause some confusion and we ran into that, earlier on, with the way that the Drip pricing was done. I think that if you don’t have a competition, that figuring out what to pivot this on, is always going to be a challenge. If you do have competition, there’s probably a standard in the space and not veering away from that is probably a decent rule of thumb as well.

Mike [14:36]: One thought that comes to mind about the three and a half or whether it’s three or four pricing tiers is that I wonder how much of this decision is actually driven by the design of the pages and how much space you have available. If you look at most pricing pages, if they have three or four, they’re typically using almost all the space across the page. If you try to add another one, it would be difficult that things would start to get smooshed or you’ll have to drop the text size and if you try to drop below that to, let’s say two, it makes the space look a little but barren. The UI just looks a little but lost because there’s too much white space. I wonder how much of this decision is actually based on white space design on the pricing page as opposed to what would really make the most sense for people.

Rob [15:21]: I think responsive designs have also changed this because to go responsive means that as you squeeze it inward and go to a cell phone size screen, the, really tier should either go on top of each other, it will have to move around. It starts looking weird and the old model of having all the features listed on the left and then check boxes throughout your tiers, it breaks down when the tiers flop on top of each other instead of next to each other. I bet responsive design has also had an impact on how many of these tiers or at least how they’re structured and how they’re displayed. The next takeaway is that only 50% of the companies highlighted a package as the best option. What are your thoughts on that?

Mike [15:59]: I like that Benjamin calls out some of the different reasons why you might highlight some of the different pricing tiers on your websites. For example, if you have a specific plan that is the most profitable for you, then calling that out to help draw people’s attention to it can be helpful and that it will essentially generate more revenue for you. What I question is how much A/B Testing has been done on this to identify whether or not that’s pushing people towards a specific plan or away from it. Because I think there’s a natural tendency for us to say, “Oh, let me draw people’s attention to this,” and think that it is going to anchor people’s minds to that plan and they’re going to be more likely to select it. In fact, they might do the opposite, where if you highlight the most expensive plan for example, somebody might look at that and say, “Oh, well, I’m not that big. I don’t need that level of service so I’m going to go for the one below it.” I wonder how much testing has been done around whether or not it drives people to a plan or away from it. I think that that’s something to definitely consider when you’re implementing that. You should go in and measure that because you could very well be shooting yourself in the foot as opposed to helping yourself.

Rob [17:05]: I’ve always been a fan of highlighting a plan and I tested this with HitTail and it worked out. It had a positive ROI by keeping a plan highlighted and my average revenue per user, per month went up when I highlighted the second from the bottom instead of not having highlighted or in highlighting the bottom. It drove more people to use that. It was the recommended plan and people who were in a hurry or who wanted to take the take the recommendation, wound up doing it. That doesn’t mean that it’s always a good thing to do or that you should always use the second from the bottom or anything like that. I just know the one time that I have actually tested it, that it really did work out and raised revenue. I think that trying to highlight the top plan is one of the suggestions here and I think that always seems odd when that’s done. You have to use your head here. Highlighting in the middle is my rule of thumb to allow people to get an idea of where you think they should start.

The third takeaway was that just 69%of companies sell the benefits. I have strong feelings about this one. He says it’s only 69% of companies, like he expected more people to do that. The thing, though, is by the time you get to a pricing page, you should already be sold on the benefits. Your homepage has a ton of benefits, and I think you should get into some features towards the bottom of your homepage. Your features page should have benefits and features.

By the time I’m coming to look at a pricing page, I’m at least entertaining the idea that I might use this software and price is now coming into play. I think that listing a bunch of benefits of like, “Hey, it will save time and make you money and save you money,” is just lame. I actually get irritated when stuff is that high level on a pricing page because I want it to be digging in more at that point to actual differences just between the pricing plans. That’s all I want to know at this point. If I want to go hear about your benefits, I’ll go to your homepage or your benefits or wherever else. On the pricing page, I’m trying to figure out how much do you cost and what are the differences between the plans? The more benefits that are listed, the more confusing it is because they are too high level. I want to know the exact features that are included in each tier.

Mike [19:08]: I think it’s just the way that this is phrased and some of the underlying assumptions that you pointed out, because the whole article is based on the analysis of pricing pages. You’re not going to use those benefits on the pricing page. You might want to put it at the top and a headline or something like but you’re certainly not going to sell each individual plan with all of the different benefits. You need to know the details about what it is exactly that you’re paying for. That’s why all these features are going to be listed so that you can, as a buyer, can do a feature comparison between those different things. I almost disagree with the way that this is phrased just because it seems to me like on that particular page, you would want to sell based on the features, not necessarily on the benefits.

That’s because it’s specifically talking about the pricing page. If you’re talking about the homepage or various other pages, then you probably want to sell based on the benefits. I think that you really need to very clearly spell out all of the different features on that page so the person who’s buying it knows exactly what it is that they’re buying in relation to some of the other things. The other side of this is that when he says just 69% of the companies sell the benefits, how much of the benefits are you including in that 69%? Is one sentence enough to get you over the hurdle of saying that you’re selling on benefits or what? It’s not clear to me what that actually means.

Rob [20:25]: It is an interesting takeaway nonetheless. I like that he took a look at it. Number four is that 81% of companies organized their prices low to high. When I read this, I thought, “Of course.” Whenever I come to a pricing page, I like to see it low to high. It just makes sense. It actually throws me off when I come and the high price is all the way on the left. However, he has a quote from Lincoln Murphy at SixteenVentures and Lincoln Murphy said, “The left to right, high to low approach seems to provide a statistically significant lift every time.” I like the way that Lincoln Murphy phrased that, in terms of “seems to provide a statistically significant lift every time,” like in his experiments, he’s [couching?] it, in a good way, to not say, “This always works so this is what you should do.” He’s just stating his experience. That’s interesting, counter-intuitive to me. It’s not something I’ve ever done because it irritates me so much. It’s like when you go to a site that has a bunch of annoying pop-ups or it has an exit antenna. It’s not stuff that I like to experience. Even if it can get you 1% lift or 2% lift, I haven’t done it myself but I am curious if folks out there are doing it and having success.

Mike [21:27]: I’m in your boat on this one. It throws me off when the highest price is on the left. It is a little irritating and I don’t know why. Maybe it’s the OCD in me. It seems odd when the highest price is on the left rather than on the right.

Rob [21:40]: The next take away is that 38% of companies list their most expensive package as ‘contact us’. What do you think?

Mike [21:47]: I think that if you’re trying to land some of those larger customers, that totally makes sense. You could very well me leaving a heck of a lot of money on the table if you have a higher tier plan there that would work for, let’s say, 90% of your customers. But there is this 10% of the people out there that still need something above and beyond that. You’re almost positioning yourself at that point to say, “Hey, we can’t serve you,” or “We can’t help you.” You’re almost writing off that 10% immediately. A lot of times if those types of companies come and they see that you only support 200 users for example, and they have 700 or 1,000, they’re going to immediately assume that you are not going to be able to handle the load that they’re going to place on your servers and they’re going to go find something else.

You need to be a little bit cautious here, but you also have to be in tune with what the general size of your audience is. You might also want to draw some delineation between your company and some of your competitors to say, “Hey, we serve people under 500 employees really, really well. But if you’re above that, go to these other people. They’ll handle it.” You can position yourself that way because you are really cutting into the lower tier of the market for that competitor. I think that there’s nothing wrong with going in that direction, you just have to be consciously aware that that is exactly what you’re doing when you choose to put a maximum on those plans rather than a ‘contact us’.

Rob [23:08]: Yup, it’s a good rule of thumb to always have that enterprise or that high-end plan, have a ‘contact us’. The next takeaway is that the most common call to action is ‘buy now’.

Mike [23:20]: This is a pricing page. Isn’t that supposed to be the call to action?

Rob [23:23]: He compares like ‘buy now’ is 27% and ‘sign up’ is 23%. ‘Start your free trial’ is 8%, ‘try’ is 6%, ‘contact us’ is 4%. I don’t know what necessarily he’s calling out. I guess the conclusion here is that people are saying that you click this to buy now. It does feel weird with a SaaS app. I don’t think of buying a SaaS app as much as I think of either signing up for a free trial or signing up. Beyond that, if you think about it, you probably want to provide a benefit here instead of buy because buy makes it think, “All right, I’m going to take a bunch of money out of my pocket and give it to you.” [?] want to provide a benefit like grow my list faster or get started building my list, something to where the person is they know they’re signing up for SaaS and they know they’re signing up to get a benefit. If you have a benefit there, it’s probably going to convert better anyways.

Mike [24:09]: Looking through what he’s got listed out here; it seems to me he’s comparing the texts there as opposed to what they’re trying to get you to do because the other category has 32% listed in it. Things like more info or fill out the form and things like that. All these are designed in some way, shape or form to move you to a paying customer. I think his point here is ‘buy now’ is the most common. I don’t know if it really makes a difference. At least to me as a buyer, when I go to those pages, I don’t consciously differentiate between them. I don’t necessarily care. It comes down to what the statistics and the numbers tell you for your page, whether or not it works. I don’t notice myself making decisions based on whether this is ‘buy now’ or ‘free trial.’ I don’t necessarily statistically analyze every decision I’ve ever made on those pricing pages either.

Rob [24:56]: My guess would be a lot of these pages I would guess have never been split test. I know that seems kind of shocking. I guess they just haven’t run the numbers or haven’t thought to split test ‘buy now’ versus an actual benefit someone would get. My guess is that they would get a lift now. Would that lift make a difference to the business? I don’t know. Maybe that’s why they haven’t split tested. My guess is they haven’t had the time because they’re busy working on other stuff. That’s the thing we’re looking at. 250 pricing pages from successful SaaS companies doesn’t imply that these are the most optimized with the best SaaS pricing pages.

Mike [25:24]: The other thing to consider there is that you have to have a significant enough volume to come in through those pages to begin with, in order to do effective split testing on those. If you just look at the numbers alone and let’s say that you’re getting 100 people a day clicking on something and if you can get a 10% lift on that page, then you’re getting an extra 10 people a day clicking on it, extrapolate that a little bit, that’s an extra 300 people a month. Let’s say 10% of them convert, you’re talking an extra 30 paying customers a month. But, if there are easier ways for you to get 30 customers a month, you’re probably going to spend the time and effort doing those things rather than testing over the course of three to six months to try and figure out what the best copy is on some of those buttons. It depends a lot on your volume as well.

Rob [26:13]: That’s true if you’re smaller. Of these 250 companies, I bet every one of them has the volume to run a test in a couple of days. We were talking Autodesk and UpWork. I’m even way down in the line. I’m at 134, I’m at EMC and Dell and other companies I haven’t heard of, CollabNet.

Mike [26:31]: I was couching that for our listeners.

Rob [26:33]: Got it. Not for these guys.

Mike [26:34]: Yes.

Rob [26:36]: Another one is that 63% of these companies offer a free trial. This comes back to these being large enterprise companies. I know that in the self-serve market that a free trial is how people get in and get going. Often times, if you’re selling something that is $30,000 a year as a SaaS because a lot of these do annual SaaS contracts. It’s 30 grand a year, 50 grand a year. It’s a huge decision you’re making, but it’s probably a pretty complex piece of software. As a software company, you don’t want someone clicking a button and just getting dumped into an account because without the proper demo, and the proper guidance, and the proper help, they’re going to be confused and they’re going to say, “Oh, this app is confusing. I don’t know what to do here.”

Actually, a free trial could be a detriment. I don’t always think it’s a good approach. However, if you’re a listener to this podcast, then you’re probably starting a SaaS with a smaller price point. In that case, I do think that free trials tend to be a boon if you’re doing self-serve. There’s some different options here. You could either go freemium, which I would not recommend unless you know what you’re doing. You could do a free trial if you have really good on-boarding and you have really good on-boarding follow-up. You could go with no free trial and make people pay as soon as they start using the app. The latter two are the ways to go. I’ve always liked free trial. There’s probably a whole episode on why I like free trials and why I’ve always done that. That’s my default rule of thumb because especially when you’re getting started, it’s hard to get people to pay upfront, but moving to the point where people are paying upfront, I think, is also a good approach.

Mike [28:03]: The other thing to point out here is when you’re offering that free trial, you’re giving somebody an opportunity to say, “Hey, I know you’re signing up here, maybe you take a credit card maybe you don’t.” That’s not specifically called out here as one of the things that’s done. When you’re giving them that free trial, then you’re giving them an opportunity to say, “Hey, you don’t need to do all the work to get the value out of this immediately.” You can push it down the road either a week, two or three weeks, whatever. You can do the work then. You can at least get them in, get some initial things set up and then do the work later versus if you don’t offer that free trial, then they’ve paid the $50 or $100 per month and they’ve paid it right then.

Because they don’t have that free trial period, they’re going to feel compelled to start using it right away, which would essentially decrease your conversion rates because people are going to look at that and say, “Well, there’s no free trial. I’m not ready to do this just yet so I’m not going to do it. I’m going to come back at some other time.” Unless they’re on an e-mail list or they’re really on track to buy your software down the road, then they may very well just never come back. I think that making sure that there is a free trial of some kind on your site is almost a necessity. Even if you look at a lot of the enterprise vendors, there’s typically a free trial of some kind that you can get at. Whether you have to give them your information in order to get it, that’s a different story, but almost all of them still offer a free trial of some kind. I think it’s very rare to buy a piece of software sight unseen and have to purchase it without being able to use it first.

Rob [29:33]: The next one is that 81% of pricing packages are named. I feel like this is a lesser known one. I was surprised it was as high as it is. The idea here is that if you’re going to name your packages, you want it to be linked to a buying persona. You don’t tend to want to offer Lite, Pro and Pro+ Plans because those aren’t that helpful. The better way to do it is they give you an example from Huddle. They offer three plans; they have Workgroup, Enterprise, and Government and Public sector. Those are their three plans. That’s where you really start talking. If you have a Freelancer, Consultant, and Agency as your three plans, people can segment. They can come in and say, “Oh, I am a freelancer. That’s the one I need.” At least it helps guide them. If you are at all able to put some names to it that actually have meaning and aren’t these generic headers at the top of the pricing tier, that’s pretty helpful. I was surprised to hear that 81% of packages are named. I’m wondering how many of these were named things like Lite, Pro, and Pro+

Mike [30:32]: Interesting data point. I heard the CEO of FreshBooks talk at Business of Software several years ago. He talked about some split testing that they did on their pricing page. If you look at their pricing page, they’ve got these weird names for some of their different pricing plans. Their top tier is Mighty Oak and then they’ve got Evergreen, and then Seedling and Sprout, which if you look at that, it doesn’t mean a whole heck of a lot. But when they took those things away and they replaced them with much more generic versions of it, like … I forget what exactly what it was they used, so I won’t try to remember or make something up, but they were very, very generic names or they did that or they didn’t even put a name on it. They noticed this significant conversion rate drop because they didn’t have something there that would help guide people. That’s an interesting data point to take away from that, not just having something like Workgroup, Enterprise, Government and Public Sector or Startup, Growing Business, et cetera. You can have off names, I’ll call them, like Mighty Oak or Evergreen that relate to your business that people are going to relate to or resonate with a little bit more. Those can help your conversion rates.

Rob [31:34]: The last one we’ll cover today is that only 6% of these pricing pages show a money-back guarantee on the page. He talks about there been two sides to this argument. One is that offering this guarantee derisks the sign-up for your customer. If they’re making an impulse purchase or they are signing up for a trial or even paying right away, then of course money-back guarantee is something that is going to lend them confidence in your product and it could encourage them to sign up. The other side of it is that the SaaS 250, they often have these annual contracts. They lock you in for a year or two-year contracts even. Why would they offer it? They don’t need to or want to offer a money-back guarantee. They don’t need to. They’re such a brand name that they can get folks to sign up without it. If you’re doing self-serve, having that money-back guarantee especially to start, especially when you’re not a brand name, is helpful. Even once you are a brand name; I think it’s a good policy to have in general, so why not have that on the pricing page? I do think that it has an impact on certain people, if you’re an unknown to them, of what confidence they have in signing up for your service.

Mike [32:39]: I wonder if part of this might also be related to how much of the onus that you want to push onto the user for using your software versus guaranteeing that your software works and does what it promises to the user, because I think that those are two different scenarios. If the user signs on and they have signed up for your product, they start using it, they use it here and there but they don’t fully commit to it, 60 days later they come back and they say, “Hey, I’d like a refund.” Maybe they even forget completely that they have the account and six months down the road, they come back and say, “Hey, I’d like a refund for the past three months or six months.”

You and I have seen that before, where somebody forgets that they bought something and signed up for a subscription. Then they come back six months later and say, “Hey, can I get a refund on all of this?” Maybe even longer. I’ve seen people go for a year or two and forget that they have a subscription and try and get all of that. It’s almost unfair to you, as a business, to have to offer that. Out of policy, we do that as a matter of course just because we don’t like the idea of taking somebody’s money for not delivering value to them. At the same time, whose fault is it that they didn’t use it? Whose fault is it that they weren’t getting the value out of it? The fact of the matter is you have to put in the work in order to get something out of it. There is some of those things that factor into this as well. Whether you put it on the pricing page or not, I’d say that as a matter for debate. As to whether or not you would adhere to that as a matter of policy, I think that’s a completely separate issue.

Rob [34:06]: Well said.

Mike [34:07]: On that note, if you have a question for us, you can call it in on our voicemail number at 1-8-8-8-8-0-1-9-6-9-0 or you can e-mail it to us at questions@startupsfortherestofus.com. Our theme music is an excerpt from ‘We’re Out of Control’ by MoOt, used under creative comments. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for startups in business and visit startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.

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2 Responses to “Episode 271 | Lessons Learned Analyzing 250 SaaS Pricing Pages”

  1. sandy says:

    Do you guys think that 2 or more prices is better than just 1 price? I have a simple Saas app and currently only have 1 price point.

    • Rob says:

      Listen to episode 275, out next week. We talk about pricing pages and I go on a short tangent about pricing tiers vs a simpler, per user pricing model.