Should you give your product away, for a Good Cause?

31/07/2014 - Matt Chatterley

Detox TeaEver since the inception of Cloudeware, we've had a stated policy that we offer a 50% discount to registered charities who provide reasonable proof of their status. This is partly because we like to give something back when we can and partly because we believe that lowering the barriers which might prevent non-profits using software is always a good thing (and cost is the most obvious barrier to try and minimise).

But why not make it free?

And so, to the crux of this post - a firmly seated belief of mine that you should rarely give away your product free of charge. There are some factors involved which may chance circumstances - for instance if you are an author who has been giving a talk on a topic which relates to your work, giving away some copies of your book as a promotional exercise is likely to be beneficial - but that's not quite what I'm talking about.

There is a cost for us involved in every Cloudeware subscriber - and although we keep this to a minimum and realistically could absorb the cost of providing it to a number of charities, it's something that can all too easily lead to bad feeling. If a client turns out to need more support than the 'average' user, it can be frustrating for software providers. But when that client is one you've on-loaded free of charge? Within a very short space of time, you can end up resenting them for it - and that won't benefit anyone.

And from the client's point of view, it can feel embarrassing or awkward to ask for help when you're aware that you're not paying for the product at all. And that really doesn't help anyone - without the right support at the right time, they could end up with a bad impression of both you and your product - even though it's noones fault at all!

I find that keeping some level of "cost" involved smoothes both of these situations over - and helps to re-enforce (to both supplier and client) that the relationship is still a professional one.

What do you think?

As more and more software moves to a 'cloud model' and subscriptions become the norm, I do feel that it's important that we recognise that some organisations don't have the opportunity to offset those software costs against their profits - that every penny is hard fought and much needed, but at the same time, preserving the traditional 'paying client' relationship is worth more than angling for a free lunch.

Do you agree? Or not? I'd love to hear your opinion!

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