In this episode of Startups For The Rest Of Us, Rob and Mike talk about how to influence decision makers on your pricing page. Inspired by a listener question they give you some tips on how to optimize for better conversion.
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Mike [00:00]: In this episode of Startups for the Rest of Us, Rob and I are going to be talking about how to influence decision-makers on your pricing page. This is Startups for the Rest of Us, Episode 275. Welcome to Startups for The Rest of Us, the podcast that helps developers, designers and entrepreneurs be awesome at launching software products. Whether you’ve build your first product or you’re just thinking about it. I’m Mike.
Rob [00:25]: And I’m Rob.
Mike [00:26]: And we’re here to share our experiences to help you avoid the same mistakes we’ve made. How you doing this week, Rob?
Rob [00:30]: I’m doing pretty good. I’m feeling excited and, I guess, relaxed to be on the other side of my launch. Last week’s podcast episode, Derrick and I talked about launching the big feature in Drip called “Workflows”, and I feel so much more relaxed now. Trials are coming in. We’re going to look to have the biggest month of growth we’ve ever had, and it’s like you have two fears. I feel like I have two fears when I launch something like this. One, that the feature itself somehow isn’t going to work, right? You’re going to have bugs, you’re going to give yourself some performance errors, or something like that, none of which happened. Then the other one is that you’re going to do it and no one is going to care. You’re going to spend all this time and just have crickets. So far, neither of those has happened. So it just feels good, and I feel a lot more calm than I was last week.
Mike [01:16]: Yeah. That was a huge change, I’ll say.
Rob [01:18]: Yeah, it really changed the focus of the app, and brings us on or above parity with a lot of really big competitors. So it’s definitely starting to have a ripple. And what we’re seeing is that launch day we got more trials than usual, but then it just kept going, and just every day after that there’s conversations in Facebook groups I’m being pulled into, and forums, and people are now asking questions like, “What really is the difference anymore between DRIP and all these big competitors?” Just that those discussions are being had with a lot of strong opinions has just up’ed the game. I mean we’re just being mentioned in places where there’re previously probably an open and shut case of, “I’m an infusion suffusion user, and that’s’ all I’m going to use.” or Entrepot or ActiveCampaign, or something like that. That just doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. And it’s noticeable as the trial count has – at least for now – and we only launched last week, in essence, but we already have reached a new normal for trial counts. We don’t know how long that will last, but so far it’s looking really good. How about you? What’s going on? You were at the Big Snow Tiny Conf last week.
Mike [02:16]: Yeah, it was a lot of fun. The unfortunate thing is that the New England area is not exactly cold right now, for whatever reason. We’re just having a warm winter. It did rain one of the first nights we were there, so the next day there was a lot of ice on the mountain, as opposed to snow. But it was still a lot of fun, and there were a lot of great conversations that were had, and people were grilling me early on. There was actually a betting campaign going on about what my upcoming product is, because people who were there were listening to the podcast, and they were like, “Oh, I think I know what it is!” So they went around the table. They wanted to start a pool. I don’t think any money ever actually exchanged hands, but some of the things that they came up with were rather interesting.
Rob [02:57]: That’s cool. That’s fun. To dive into that with folks, especially when people are already invested in the thought of it. So you pulled the trigger? You pick a name? You get something up?
Mike [03:07]: Yeah. so I guess I’ll finally pull the rabbit out of the hat, so to speak. I’ve got a minimal website up and running right now. The product is called Bluetick, and you can find it at bluetick.io. It’s animated follow-up software aimed at freelancers and small agencies who have high-touch sales pipelines. So if you think of current tools that you’re probably using – something like Boomerang or FollowUp.cc – it’s similar, but it goes a step further. In those types of tools, those will detect whether or not somebody replied to you, and if not it will throw something in your inbox and say, “Hey, you’ve got to go talk to this person.” Or, “You’ve got to follow up with them.” The Bluetick software that I’m working on will take that a step further, and will actually send the e-mail to them automatically so that you don’t have to.
And if there’s additional e-mails that need to be sent, it will do those as well. If there is a workflow in place that you need to put such that you’re walking them through a sales process, then it will be able to handle that stuff as well. So I’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from it so far, especially over at Big Snow Tiny Conf and then, as I said, I’ve got 12 people who have placed preorders for it. And right now I’ve got a team of developers who are tasked with building it based on the designs and stuff that I’ve put together, and they’ve been working on it. Things are going pretty well so far, and right now I’m focused more on all the marketing stuff, and I’m trying to stay completely out of all the tech stuff. People have been asking me for decisions and stuff on different things. Generally speaking, I’ve stayed out of the code.
Rob [04:32]: Got it. If someone’s a freelancer or an agency and they have a high-touch sales pipeline, they might want to check out bluetick.io, get on your list at least to see what you’re up to and hear the updates on the product. We set a deadline for this, didn’t we?
Mike [04:44]: The target deadline for having it in front of the people who’ve placed preorders from me is April 1. It’s a coincidence. Maybe I should have said May 30th or 31st or whatever it is, March. Whatever those months happen to be. Maybe I failed grade school, I’m not sure.
Rob [05:01]: It’s approximately 60 days from now.
Mike [05:04]: Yep.
Rob [05:05]: And are you on track?
Mike [05:06]: So far, I seem to be.
Rob [05:07]: The only other thing, I was just looking at my e-mail, and Sherry, my wife, is writing an e-book about founder retreats, and it is shaping up pretty cool. I just saw the final, or almost final, PDF version, and it’s going to be e-book PDF Kindle and ePUB. She got the layouts from a designer who cranked it out. It’s looking really nice. It’s looks to be about 28 or 30 pages, and it has a worksheet, and that kind of stuff. We’re going to be launching it more through zenfounder.com, if you’re not on that mailing list. If you’re interested in hearing more about founder retreats; whether you’ve taken one and you feel like you might need more guidance, or if thought about taking one and want, kind of, what at this point I’m thinking it’s the definitive guide to founder retreats. Mike, you wrote about it in your book. Sherry and I have talked about on the podcast. She wrote a little one or two page helper thing a while back, but this is where she just said I’m going to put down everything, all the knowledge that we have on this into a single resource. So if that sounds interesting, head over to zenfounder.com and get on that list, because we’ll be launching that in the next couple of weeks. What are we talking about today?
Mike [06:13]: Well, we got an e-mail from Dave and he asked us, “Hey guys. I’d love to hear an episode in regards to tactics for getting people to sign up for your highest plans. We have four plans but only 4% of people sign up for the highest two. Why is that? I’d love to know what the benchmark should be in terms of the percent of sign-ups and revenue your highest plans, on average, should be and tactics for increasing that percentage.”
Rob [06:33]: Dave is from ninjaoutreach.com. So we’re going to take the rest of the episode to explore Dave’s question. Really quick, I wanted to chime in on – he has a precursor question where he says, “We have four plans, but only 4% of people sign up for the highest two. Why is that?” Frankly, because a lot of your traffic these days is probably bloggers and small agencies. Which is, you have four plans. There’s blogger for $29, small agency for $49, large agency for $129 and enterprise for $249, and either you’re getting more bloggers and small agencies than large and enterprise, or it’s the fact that the price points are so different, right? You have a $49 plan. It’s your first from the bottom. Then your large agency plan is a big jump to 129. If people aren’t getting value out of your software yet, they’re probably not willing to dive in with both feet to pay 129 bucks. Most people want to try a lower priced plan to dip their feet in. As long as it has the same amount of functionality, why not sign up for the one user $29 a month plan, just to give it a shot so that, maybe, if accidentally I forget to cancel, or forget to stop after my trial, then I’ll only get billed 29 bucks – always knowing that if the person does start to get a lot of value out of it, they can quickly upgrade to the $49 or $129 plan. That would be my take on why only a small percentage sign up for the higher ones, because there’s no feature gating here. There’s no features that are not in the lower plans, and so there’s not much reason for them to sign up for the higher plans until they’ve seen value from your software.
Mike [08:02]: What Rob just said takes us into the first point of our outline for this episode. That is to highlight a default plan for the user. This, kind of, ties back into segmentation a little bit. You have to know who your audience is, and the bulk of the users who are coming in. For example, specifically on this page, the small agency plan is highlighted. So if you wanted to try and push people up into those larger tiers, you could highlight the large agency of the enterprise plan. I wouldn’t do the enterprise plan because it’s not typical to highlight your priciest plan, but highlighting the large agency plan would probably be a good bet there. The other thing that you’re doing here is that the names of the plans are essentially a self-categorization of the user. For example, enterprise users or enterprise companies are not going to sign up for a blogger plan or a small agency plan, because they can’t really justify that. Patrick McKenzie has some great stories about how he went in and tried to sign up his company for a personal plan that was only $9 a month, and his boss crossed it out and said, “Yeah, we’re signing up for the $500 a month plan,” and he said, “We only need the $9 a month plan,” he’s like, “Nope, we’re an enterprise. We pay for the top of the line.”
Rob [09:10]: Yeah, I think something else to think about is, where did you get these names from? We have blogger, small agency, large agency and enterprise. They’re great first cuts to allow people to self-select. But have you spoken to folks who’ve signed up for your small agency plan and asked them, “Are you actually a small agency? Do you identify as a small agency?” Try to forget how many of them are just random people. Maybe they run in a SaaS app or sell info products and they’re not an agency at all, but that’s the plan that they needed based on the number of users and contacts that you allow. So I would circle back and go for some qualitative data from your existing customers, because “large agency”, right off the bat, makes me think of a 50% company, and a 50% company probably needs more than four users, which is what this plan has, and she’d probably be paying more than 129.
That’s just my opinion. I’m not a small or large agencies, so I’m not necessarily an authority on this, but that’s what I’m saying is go to the people who are signing up and really figure out if these are the right names or if there’s another angle that you can take here with the naming. I think one other thing that I would throw out is we have four SaaS tiers on this pricing page. and I’m not sure if we really need tiers, or just doing a per user pricing, much like a CRM, would be a better approach. If you did $29 a month per user and each user gets whatever it is, 1500 or 2500 contacts, it would simplify your pricing. It will be an interesting test. I’m not saying it would absolutely be better, but since you’re not feature gating, and if someone is really a large agency and they do need 10 people in there, it would, kind of, be nice for them to come in and be able to pay that 290 bucks and get started with one user as they’re just getting their feet wet with it, and trialling it out, and then ramp up piece at a time instead of feeling like they have these big jumps between tiers. So here’s definitely arguments. It’s probably whole episode to talk about a per user or per subscriber cost, versus actually having tiers, and feature gating, and that kind of stuff. But that’s something that comes to mind here as maybe if these folks are used to paying per seat or per user, which I bet agencies are – because that’s how CRM is done, that’s how project management – then maybe that model could be closer to the other tools they’re using and therefore it might make a little more sense for them.
Mike [11:23]: The next item for how to influence decision-makers on your pricing page is to limit the number of sign up options. By that, what I really mean is if you’re trying to do too much on your page, it’s going to hurt the level of sign-ups that you get. If you start looking at most people’s pricing pages, you’ll see things like, “Oh, we have a monthly pricing, we have annual pricing, and then we also have three plans or four different plans that you’re offering,” and in some cases you’ll see things like a trial button, to sign up for a free trial versus a ‘buy now’ button. Once you start compounding those options, now you’ll say, “Okay, well, I have to decide, first of all, whether I’m going to do an annual or a monthly plan. Then I have to decide which of the plans I’m going to go for.” In addition to that, you also have to decide, “Do I want a free trial, or do I just want to pay for it now?” And tied it with that last piece is, are you going to ask them for a credit card upfront, or are you going to ask from them for a credit card down the road? That may be tied directly to whether or not it’s a free trial versus buy now. But again, you’re putting a lot of options in front of your prospective customer, and that serves almost as a road block to them even signing up, because they have to make all these decisions both before they get the software and start setting things up.
Rob [12:31]: Yeah. I’m not sure that I’ve seen this before, where there’s a 14 day free trial button for each tier, and then a ‘buy now’ button right below it. That feels to me like unnecessary decision-making, because now someone has to think, “Wow, do I want to do a trial or do I just want to buy it?” And I can’t imagine anyone’s going to want to buy it now without a trial, even if they know they want to use it eventually and they’re 100% sure, they still want to take advantage of the free trial. So that would be something I would definitely consider not having that ‘buy now’ button. It will remove another color from the screen, because that’s a green button, and it will simplify your pricing grid, in terms of there’s one call to action there and it will just be sign up for the free trial..
Mike [13:08]: The next item on the list is to deemphasize specific options. These are especially things you don’t necessarily want people to sign up for. For example, let’s say that you had a starter plan, where it was one user and it was very stripped down. You might have just a link there for that particular plan. If it’s a $9 a month plan, you might want to just get somebody started on your application and then up-sell them inside of it to a higher pricing plan. But then there’s also things like the enterprise plan, which if you have something that is going to be much more of a custom plan for that person, depending on the number of plans that you already have, you may not even want to have a column or a tier for that. You may just want to put down in the text some place that says, “Are you thinking that you’re an enterprise customer? You need something more than this? Just call us.” That way it doesn’t take up one of the spots on your page as a full blown pricing tier.
Rob [14:00]: And for that button on the enterprise tier, I’ve seen folks do ‘Call us now’. I think requested demo is an interesting test for that enterprise tier, because if they really are enterprise they probably want a demo before they can even think about anything else. They don’t typically want to start a free trial without seeing a demo of it. So what’s nice about requested demo is then, boom, you instantly ask for their contact information. You’re not making them contact you. You just pop up a form right there and ask for an e-mail, phone, perhaps how big their list its; some metric to where you can figure out how large of a customer they might be. Then the ball is in your court to follow up with them. And you could use fancy software like Bluetick.io or you could just put it in your CRM, or however you’re going to do it. Then, like I said, you are essentially in control at that point. So that’s another angle. Instead of having them taking action in terms of calling you, it’s nice to set it up where you have their contact information and can follow up as needed.
Mike [14:58]: A bit of a follow up to one that you mentioned a few minutes ago, Rob, which was removing either the free trial button or the ‘buy now’ button and just having the one to help limit the number of calls to action, and eliminate an additional color on the screen that’s fighting for attention. You can deemphasize other navigation options. So whether that’s up at the header, or in the footer, or even just removing pop-ups. I’ve seen pricing pages where they will still pop-up something that will try and get you to sign up for their newsletter. The one exception to them might be if you have something there that asks them if they have pricing questions, or have some sort of little widget there that allows you to interact with the person to help them make a decision. But that’s something I would definitely test. I wouldn’t just throw it out there and just hope that it’s going to work, or expect that it is doing its job. That’s something that you definitely want to test to make sure that it is moving people in the right direction.
Rob [15:49]: Yeah. I agree. I tend to strip away all the noise that I possibly can, all the buttons, all the colors and everything that you can, off of your pricing page and make it almost a little bit minimalist, or a little boring. Then the only colors that you need are on those buttons that you want folks to use, like the ‘start a free trial’ button. Those can be a nice, attractive – like an orange or a yellow – and they’ll really stand out. And you don’t have to make them flash, and have a marquee tag or something to stand out against all the other noise on your page.
Mike [16:21]: The next item on the list is using heat mapping software. On your pricing page, especially if you have enough traffic coming to the page where it makes sense to go in that direction, there’s a lot of different options out there. There’s Crazy Egg, ClickTale, Get Clicky. You really want to see where people are looking on your page, and find out if there’re other elements on the page that either people are clicking on because they’re distracting those people, or if there is copy that is drawing their attention and, kind of, influencing them on the page. Those are the types of things you want to know, and find out whether or not they’re additional things that you need to add on the page or remove from the page, because it’s either confusing the user or it is retracting from them moving in the direction that you want them to go.
Rob [17:06]: Yeah. Heat maps are really cool. I’ve learnt a lot from them. The two tools that I would use these days are Crazy Egg and Inspectlet. Those both give you a nice heat maps. You’d be surprised at how much you can learn from one of these. They also have scroll maps that shows you where people are scrolling and where they’re looking around. This is worth running on your homepage and pricing page at a minimum.
Mike [17:30]: The next item on the list is to identify feature differences. General advice and general wisdom basically says that you should be talking about the benefits of your products. But I think on the pricing page it is an exception to the rule, because on the pricing page people are much closer to making a decision. By that time, the expectation from you is that they have most of what they need to make a decision, and what they’re looking for is, what the pricing is, and which of the plans is right for them. They’re not trying to figure out, “Is this going to do something for my business? Is this the right tool for me?” What they’re really looking for is, “Which of these pricing plans do I fit into?” And, “I need help making that decision.” So at that point, comparing and contrasting the feature differences between your plans is much more important than it would be on your homepage, for example, or on a page where you’re talking about the benefits of using the software, or why you would use it. The pricing page, I would tend to err on the side of doing feature comparisons between the pricing tiers.
Rob [18:30]: Yeah. On a pricing page, you still want to be building that social proof with testimonial and these trust markers that we’ll talk about in a minute, but you don’t want to be still talking at a high level in terms of benefits. I think that’s something that people make that mistake of getting overly benefitted, and it feels like it’s vague, if you’re still talking about too many benefits — you can have a nice headline that’s a benefit, or the button can have the benefit on it, but if you have any other text on this page, people are already at decision-making process and they’re trying to figure out– it’s hard enough to make a decision. They’re trying to decide between your tiers. Make it really simple, really clear and very specific as to what they’re signing up for. Because without that, it’s going to sow the seed of doubt in their mind and the odds are they’re going to back out and not click that free trial button.
Mike [19:15]: One of the things that you just mentioned, Rob, was the trust symbols. With trust symbols, sometimes you can be pointing to third party rating systems, or maybe you’ll show like an SSL Certificate. Sometimes they have site seals that you can put on your website just to say, “Hey, this is secure.” I don’t know if I would put that on the pricing page itself. I might put it up on the sign up page, because I think on the pricing page it would probablydetract from the sign-up experience. But you do want to show – once they go through and they click the buy now button or the free trial – that you are securing their information. So that’s probably where I’d put the site seal information. On the pricing page, you might want to put some testimonials to talk about what other people are saying about your products, and what sorts of benefits those people have experienced.
When you’re doing that – I see this when people are using comments from Twitter, for example – and I’ve made this mistake myself. I actually still have a place where I have it on my list to do to change it, but If you have dates on those testimonials because they’re coming directly from Twitter, then somebody might look at that and say, “Oh, well that testimonial is a year old,” or two years old or five years old. You have to be a little bit careful about that, because you don’t want it to look outdated. You want it to look as if somebody just recently said that. I think that If you have those dates on there you do have to be a little careful about making sure that you either updating them with more recent things, or doing a live stream from Twitter is little bit of a risk because then you could have somebody goes on and just complains about it, and that could end up on your website inadvertently, and you don’t want that in your pricing page. You do want to make sure that you pay attention to whether or not those dates are displayed.
Rob [20:45]: I’m a fan of having testimonials, but not a big fan of having the big, bulky tweet boxes that come natively when you do a little plug in, or a Java Script thing that displays it, because there’s then just so many buttons appearing. You have like the person’s headshot, their name, their Twitter username, a follow-up button, a heart button, and a retweet. It just adds to the noise on the page. So when I tend to do testimonials, I like having a headshot if I can. I like having something in quotes, right? That’s the testimonial, and include the quotes around it. Then a name, and perhaps a URL that’s not underlined, that’s not blue, that doesn’t drag away the eye from the rest of the page. So if you are going to have tweets on it, I would opt to not use the big, bulky or fancy tweet boxes with all the options, because you want to remove that noise. It doesn’t necessarily add to the value of it to have all of that on the page. You can certainly use someone’s Twitter handle, and grab their headshot from their Twitter account and use it, but I would think twice before adding a lot of extra noise to the pricing page.
Mike [21:51]: The next thing on our list is to mitigate the risk for the user of signing up. This comes into play when you are looking at using a free trial button versus some sort of a buy now and saying there’s a satisfaction guarantee. If you use a free trial, there’s a limited time window during which they have to get in and they have to start setting things up. There’s this time pressure for them to do it. On the other side of it is if they’re buying it now, then they know that they’ve just paid for it and they have usually like a month or a year before they have to pay for it again. So hopefully, during any point up to that renewal time, they can go in there and start using the software. But you are forcing them to make a choice about whether or not they are going to get started using it right away, or they’re going to, kind of, delay that decision. So it does factor into that, and the trial length also factors into that as well, if you’re going to use free trials. So whether it’s 14 days, 21 days or 30 days, the trial length is something you’ll probably want to play around with a little bit to see whether or not there’s a difference in conversion. You want to be able to provide that value to them as quickly as you possibly can, but you also want to make sure that that’s as short as possible so that you can start getting them as a paying customer. So there’s a balancing act that you need to take into account.
Rob [23:04]: In terms of trial length I always try to go as short as possible so that you can run the most split tests. When I first required HitTail years ago, the trial was 60 days long, and that meant that I could only run six tests a year on the on-boarding e-mails, or on making changes. Then if you’re running marketing experiments, and different quality leads were coming in the phone, you didn’t know for two months. So you can make a lot of mistakes. Pretty quickly I had dropped that down to 30, and I wound up getting it down to 21. The reason I couldn’t go shorter than 21 is it was taking people about 21 days to get a lot of value out of HitTail at the time. Later on we rewrote the code and we were able to give value a lot quicker than that. But if you can do a seven day trial and people can get value out of your software in that timeframe then that’s what I would go with – even going as far as to charge upfront if you can. I feel like when you’re first starting out and you don’t have any type of brand or word of mouth, it’s a little hard to do that, not impossible – especially if you’re still learning about the app, and what people want, and what features you need, and the feedback is rally valuable – I’d probably still do free trials to get people in. But the time urgency of a free trial, there’s a benefit there. In terms of mitigating a risk for the users who are signing up, one of the big ones is to have that 100% money-back guarantee and to display it prominently on the pricing page, and to let people know that you will always refund the most recent monthly payment, you have a money-back guarantee within 30 days, just all that stuff.
There’s no reason not to do that. I know that some apps won’t refund payments, and to me it’s such short-term thinking. Yes, you’ll get some people who’ll screw around with it and they’ll get their $19 or their $39 back from you and it will feel unjust and the principle of it doesn’t feel right. It is absolutely not worth screwing all the other people who genuinely didn’t mean to do whatever. They forgot about something. They weren’t using it. There are lots of legitimate businesses that just have a reason to get the refund, and this world of ours is not that big. I know you think that you can, perhaps, not refund people and it won’t get around, but eventually it will. If you hit any type of size, word just gets around that you are not treating people fairly. So that’s always been my policy. It also helps keep chargebacks from happening, because charge-backs are expensive, and they’re a pain in the butt and you either have to fight them, and you spend the time to do that, or you get this extra charge. So if someone was not happy and you don’t give them a refund, the odds are they’re going to charge you back anyways and you might lose that as well, and it’s definitely going to waste time. So those are some thoughts around free trial, trial length and how to offer that money-back guarantee.
Mike [25:30]: The last item on our list is if you’re displaying answers to FAQ questions, make them relevant to the pricing tiers that you have. So rather than displaying a huge list of FAQs that are relevant to you products, make the FAQ questions that you’re going to display specifically relevant to the plans themselves. For example, maybe you have something in there about your cancellation policy, or whether somebody wants to upgrade or downgrade from a particular plan. Those are the types of things that are relevant. But things like “How to use your product” or “How to use a specific feature.” – those are things that should not appear on your pricing page.
Rob [26:07]: Right. Examples of questions that apply directly – either to the tiers, or just signing up for a trial – are something that I’m pulling here from the HitTail and the DRIP pricing pages. Questions like, “How does the trial work? What if I go over my monthly limit? Do I have to sign a long term contract? What happens when I start a free trial? What’s the set up process like? Can I change my plan?” Right? Those are things that people are thinking about as they’re looking at your pricing grid. So they may not answer specific questions about a specific pricing tier, but it is what’s going through the person’s head as they’re deciding whether or not to sign up, and they’re thinking, “What are the risks? What are the negatives of doing this?”
Mike [26:42]: And if you’re looking for additional resources on conversion rate optimization, we’ll include a link over to quicksprout.com, where they have the definitive guide to conversion optimization. There are a few things from this episode that were taking from that, but there’s a lot of things on there that are generally applicable to your website itself, or to learning pages. So there’s a different instances where some of the things that they have in there would be applicable.
Rob [27:04]: We outlined and recorded this entire episode based on a listener question from Dave at Ninja Outreach. If you have question for us, call our voicemail number at 8-8-8-8-0-1-9-6-9-0, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our theme music is an excerpt from ‘We’re Out of Control’ by MoOt, used under creative commons. Subscribe to us on iTunes by searching for startups in business, startupsfortherestofus.com for a full transcript of each episode. Thanks for listening and we’ll see you next time.