How My Co-Founder Convinced Me to Give our Product Away for Free

I’m sure all tech co-founders would testify that it requires an incredible amount of patience and diligence to build an entirely new sales-ready product.

You go through a long-winded process of writing ideas on tiny yellow and purple post-it notes that are then placed all over your living-room wall, making it hard to gauge whether your previously neat and clean apartment has physically transformed itself into a scruffy post office from the 1950s.

Your partners sleep on the floor in a bed made of twisted red bull cans and half-eaten sausage rolls from 7/11, only to wake up and write more ideas on more post-it notes.

Of course, whilst all of this is going on, you’ve been commanded to stand in the corner, simply overlooking the process of your otherwise well-managed life turn into dust as your “tech skills” are not considered good enough to even participate in this maneuver.

At least that’s what happened to me.

Andrews bedroom when we first scoped out Accordiums core features
The early days of Accordium

I’m a sales guy – What was my role?  

My own focus was and is directed towards the business side of the puzzle, and mainly coming up with answers to general questions like:

  • “Who is going to pay for this?”
  • “How much are they going to pay?”
  • “Which markets should we focus on?”

As well as answers to more complex ones like:

  • “Who’s going to fund this?”
  • “Who’s our competition?”
  • “What is our market entry?”
  • “How do we achieve product/market fit?”

During the initial product development phase of Accordium, I’d be fantasizing about how every sales floor and their dogs would be queueing up to throw half of their sales budget at us; after all that’s the only thing I had at the time. This is where the previously mentioned patience is important; developing software takes time. Lots of time.

As a business-minded guy, my personal satisfaction derives from closing deals, and preferably lots of them – I guess is this one of the reasons why Accordium even exists today. We are deal closers and are driven by reaching revenue targets; and if you’re reading this blog post I’d imagine you probably are too.

So, after a year of constant product development, feature innovation, alpha and beta releases, and of course after acquiring a few paying customers you could imagine the absolute look of horror on my face, as my co-founder and chief commercial officer Daniel Richardson looks at me and says in his best New Zealand accent:

 

“Mate, I think we should give it away for free”

We kill the things you hate in sales 

Accordium is a sales conversion tool designed to improve the efficiency of the sales floor in the last mile of deal closing.

We make it easy for the sales team to close deals in minutes instead of days by filling the gap between your CRM and the final signature on the contract. We help you create, negotiate and sign agreements without any manual work by digitizing workflows and ensure the right stakeholders enter the loop at the right time.

This enables you to improve your closing rates, and spend more time on what you should be doing; building relationships with prospects, and opening new opportunities.

Read: Cold calling is dead

With Accordium you can set up and reuse your daily sales workflows in a visual interface, no matter how many people are involved or how complicated your processes are. By reusing the same flows, you will save countless hours which can be spent on opening new opportunities.

With our live dashboard you can keep track of all your pending deals, identify slipping opportunities and follow up with the right people at the right time.

Essentially, you spend less time on the things you hate, and more on the things that bring you commission. 

We had a need for sales leads

As is the case with many of the discussions between Daniel and I, this one also had its base in figuring out how to get more sales leads; more particularly ‘sign-ups’.

The different methods that can be used to increase sign-ups are quite many, incl. but not limited to creating trustworthy landing pages, simplifying the sign-up pages and of course helping your audience engage with your content.

After noticing that the grimace on my face had seemed to stick, Daniel assured me that he meant we should only give part of it for free. And he approached our talk directly from a product standpoint: “how do we get more people to engage with our product?”.

 

Read: Barrington Russell: How to completely screw up your prototype

 

As a new SaaS company, we must lower our barriers to entry as much as possible to accept as many leads as possible. This is due to the simple fact that our brand is not strong enough to require commitment up-front, and at the same time we need as many users we can get so we can learn about our product.

The Accordium Dashboard
The Accordium Dashboard

Daniel started his argument by pointing out the number of features the Accordium pro account has:

  • Workflow Automation (Flow)

Define, execute and automate your business processes where tasks, information or documents are passed from one participant to another for action, according to a set of pre-determined rules. We allow you to save your workflows in a visual interface and re-use them again and again.

  • Templates

    Create, save and reuse the contractual templates your company uses daily. You can edit the variables inside the system and attach the document to your desired workflow for execution.

  • E-Signature Solution 

With Accordium Sign you can prepare, send and sign contracts and proposals electronically. Give your customers the best experience by removing hassling paper-work, and allow them to easily sign with our turnkey solution.

We both mutually agreed that templates and workflow automation shouldn’t be given away for free. Daniel believes that the e-signature feature of our solution is a commodity – A commodity some of our pseudo-competitors charge way too much for. He explained, and I agree that we are much more than an e-signature solution.

We have a robust and one of the best functioning e-signature solutions in the market, yes, but this is not where our customers get the most value from Accordium. E-signatures are an important feature, but not our defining product – So why charge so much for it!? – Very valid point I thought.

Freemium or free trial?

I’ve previously discussed free trials vs freemium in SaaS, and my stance was clear when it came to Accordium. Why? Because I personally don’t think adding free users adds any significant value to our business. It is expensive to acquire free users and in my opinion, a freemium model works best if there’s continuous benefits for free use:

“If you’re thinking of freemium as a potential, an add-on or a ‘maybe’, it simply won’t work at all and will not drive success to your business.”

However, Daniel argued that buyers use freemium to distinguish between their initial choice and it’s more compelling than a limited trial offer. Competitors tend to offer a trial, and rather us than them, right?

Furthermore, if we could offer new users our premium services for a short time, but continuing to allow the user on a limited service if failing to immediately convert, it would benefit us. After all, we do have some inherent benefits of free usage.

What did we settle on?

Daniel and I agreed to offer our new customers a month worth of Accordium Business – So they will be able to try out Flow, Templates, Negotiation tools, Accordium Sign and much more. If they decide not to convert into paying customers, they are degraded to a limited use of 10 QuickSigns per month.

This offering enabled our users to digitize all aspects of their document workload and ensure that no matter which platform they meet their customers, it’s a great and modern experience.  

Furthermore, the results so far have been positive! The natural virality of our product is such, that we can state that for every four sign-ups we acquire, we can predict one more to sign-up because of the first four.

This lowers the CACs and improves lead to customer ratio as the motivation to sign-up has come as a direct result of a personal positive experience.

All in all, Daniel not only managed to convince me that we should give parts of the product we worked on so long away for free, it paid dividends in the end.

 

What are some of the ways you use to create traction for your business?  

 

Also ReadBarrington Russell: How to completely screw up your prototype

 
Andrew C. Whittaker

Andrew C. Whittaker

I am a sales professional, focused on sales and marketing driven growth. I co-founded Accordium with this in mind, but especially to help sales people become more successful. If you need help applying sales-driven growth principles in your company or would like me to speak at your event, please contact me. Also, connect with me on LinkedIn or follow me on Twitter or Accordium on Facebook.

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