Nice post by Dennis about SmartInspect and how they tried out giving away free editions. I thought about this alot with HelpSpot and really wanted to do it, especially for the MicroISV’s out there. However, I just didn’t see a way to get around support. That’s the same problem Dennis had when he actually tried this.
At the end of the day when emails for help come in you’re going to answer them if you’re a customer service focused business. What’s the point of a free addition if it only creates bad PR for you because when people have trouble you won’t help them. And from there, once you give support that’s essentially the ball game. Support is expensive in both time and money. So while it’s nice to think that the free users would just use the forums for help it’s not realistic and that throws off the entire cost/benefit structure of providing the free editions.
HelpSpot is indirectly mentioned in 37Signals Getting Real book. I was reading it on the plane home from eTech when much to my surprise on page 148 I see a half page quote by David Greiner of Campaign Monitor. The quote is in the customer service chapter of the book and he’s talking about how he and the other founder do all the support and how it keeps them close to the customers needs an so on. Of course I know that it’s HelpSpot they’re using to do it! Pretty cool. Now if I can just get HelpSpot in the book 🙂
Mark pretty much sums up my eTech thoughts. Wish I had meet him out there and caught his session, seems like good stuff.
I just found him I think via another blog, I can’t remember right now. He apparently runs a conference of his own which seems interesting and it’s in NYC which is always a big plus for me. Also he’s got some other cool writings. Of particular note is the Uncle Mark gift guide which was pretty cool, especially towards the end. The walking in NYC tip is classic and must read for those of you from outside NYC and coming to town.
Lots to say about eTech later, but one feeling I feel very often here which I didn’t expect is sorrow. I feel sorry for many of the people here. Alot of them seem to be so caught up in the Silicon Valley dream that they’re wasting their time on apps that have no chance to ever sell. No chance at all.
Half of them are social bookmarking tools. Heck everyone is building one. Maybe they don’t know that there’s already too many and nobody makes any money with them.
The other big thing seems to be “aggregation” technologies which try to do soo much that they are totally worthless. “See if you just do this, then that, then this other thing and finally push this button, then go over here you can aggregate your presentation slides with related book information along with some emails and a picture of Sting”……. um OK.
The people behind these ideas are really smart, I wish they’d focus their energies on solving problems instead of inventing/copying cool technologies.
Off to eTech on Sunday. I already have a few folks lined up for beers, etc. If you’re going to be going let me know and we’ll hook up.
There I said it. I really hate being the one to have to tell you this. I don’t like being the bearer of bad news, but it’s best you come to this realization now while you still have time to fix it.
See if there’s one thing I’ve learned while starting this business it’s that first impressions are practically the only thing that matter. A great first impression sucks your clients into your software making it much harder for them to escape. A bad first impression gets them running back to Google.
What comment do I get more than any other? “Wow, HelpSpot is a beautiful product. All the other help desk software we looked at looks like it was designed by a programmer.” heh!
It’s only later, usually after they’ve purchased that I hear about specific features they like or how it’s helped them become more efficient, etc.
The take away here is that your software sucks in the eyes of the customer if it looks bad. I really believe that. Now don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to have a perfect looking product. HelpSpot isn’t perfect, it’s not as nice as Basecamp or other web 2.0 products which are more visually attractive. However, it is much nicer than most of the competition in my market. So after potential customers have looked at 4 flat grey background help desk products and they come to HelpSpot and see some colors and some borders they think it’s the best thing they’ve ever seen.
So before you launch your product think about how the screenshots on your website are going to look, think about how your app will feel if someone installs it after one of your competitors apps, focus on making the design a strategic advantage of your product.
Ben has released his Authorize.net PHP component. Looks like a great piece of code, I wish I had this when I was doing the UserScape store. Heck, I spend nearly half a day just trying the find documentation for the old junky one Authorize gives you(if you can find it on their site). Ben has also done a nifty job customizing his HelpSpot installation and the knowledge books for his documentation.