The Red Pill – How We Are Doing Pricing at Amazemeet

We chose the Red Pill

Pricing can be complicated in any startup. Amazemeet is no exception, though we think a few things we have learned in trying to devise plans and prices recently have helped us get a better attitude to one of the most important aspects of launching a SaaS business.

Pricing can also be exceptionally simple – you can make numbers up out of thin air with little or no thought for whether anyone will pay that price for your product (what I call ‘the blue pill’).

We chose to do a bit more (what I call  ‘the red pill’). More research and more educated guesses to get data we could make decisions on. More importantly, we wanted a process to emerge out of setting and reviewing our pricing so that we could use it over and over again.

We’d like to share where we are and what we learnt trying to price our service.

Where we are now

We recently finalised our last round of pricing experiments and created a new pricing model combining the best bits of the various experiments and what best supports our current phase of our strategy (i.e conversion).

pricing-table-may-16

So how did we get here?


I’ve tried to distil the chaos of the last few weeks into 5 key learnings. If you are interested in the stuff that isn’t written – the emotional rollercoaster, the techie bits of experimentation etc, then please ping me here via comment or on twitter (@amazemeet) and I’ll be happy to share that.

1. De-stress pricing through iteration and experimentation

Pricing can be stressful. We found the biggest source of stress was to believe that whatever model we came up with had to work for everyone, forever!

If there is one enduring strength in our team it is that we are almost entirely pragmatic and agile in our thinking and in our execution. This has helped us develop a healthy attitude to risk. We use iteration and experimentation all the time for everything.

To take the stress out of pricing, we’ve accepted that:

  1. We can change it anytime if it isn’t working
  2. We will review it regularly to see if it needs to change
  3. It doesn’t have to be good forever, just until the next change.

Remember this:
The core of iterative experimentation is accepting that you don’t know something, you are doing reasonable things to learn more and that you can change at the next turn. Tweet this

2. Understand who you are pricing for and design for them

This sounds like a no-brainer – especially if you have been more or less tracking certain segments or user and customer types. Just as different users want different features, different customers have price levels they will pay – often regardless of how valuable your product or service is. Tweet this

Amazemeet is a B2B service, we enable businesses of all sizes to have better meetings. This range presents complexity when we try and price to suit all businesses and keep us sustainable. The complexity comes primarily from the different price levels that specific types will support (large corporations might support higher levels, whilst small, modest companies support more modest pricing).

Complexity also comes from how those segments purchase stuff – large corporations often have restrictive purchasing policies that prevent the person with the problem from easily purchasing their chosen solution. Smaller, more independent business often don’t have that constraint.

Our pricing model had to support the price levels that would have credibility with the segments and navigate the purchasing restrictions purchasers in each segment to help them buy.

So for smaller sized companies and independents (like freelancers) we introduced a monthly plan and for the larger corporations where the effort of approving a $5 purchase is about the same as seeking approval for a $500 purchase – we introduced yearly plans to help them get the most out of that approval step.

3. Understand Your Goals for Pricing and Design to Achieve Them

We started out thinking pricing was simply about setting a price for your product and generating revenue – we were pretty mistaken. Sure it is about revenue – and so much more. 

So we thought a bit more deeply about our goals  – or what we wanted our pricing model to help us achieve and came up with:

  • help us to grow our user base (so pricing is not a barrier to usage)
  • help users become customers (so there is clear value to being a subscriber).

To achieve the first goal, we experimented with a freemium model – offering a free tier to let people try out the service (we believe we are the only ones with a meeting design model like Amazemeet on the market – it takes some getting used to!). This worked well – a little too well perhaps.

amazemeet_user_growth
Since launch in February- when we exited beta -we’ve grown users from 750 to 2400+ (about 300%), this is without any paid advertising.

It would be silly to think it was just because we had a free plan that people joined. We are also lucky to have a naturally viral product.

We are seeing a stable growth in users and in organisers, but we were not seeing any growth in customers. When we spoke to users about the value they were getting from using the platform, they told us of improvements in clarity and follow ups. We’ve known that users found the platform useful (this has been fairly consistent feedback since the beta in June 2015) – what we struggled to determine was if it was also valuable!

Despite the success of the freemium model in helping us grow the user base, it created a secondary problem for us – which we encouraged by not differentiating plan features early enough. So we replaced it with a 7-day fully featured trial experiment and put all our existing non-subscribed users on the trial.

Whilst this has had little or no effect on the rate of sign ups, it does help to funnel serious users of our platform to a subscription plan. But it is early days yet – the first set are expiring this week and we are eagerly awaiting the result of that experiment.

Remember this:
Users *hate* anything being taken away from them. Especially if it was once free. Tweet this

Amazemeet_-_design_amazing_meetingsIncidentally we still have a free tier – it is just not publicly advertised. It offers unlimited meeting attendance but no meeting organising. It is the plan people revert to when they take no paid subscription.

 

4. Be willing to lose users – but understand why

There are few things more flattering than people signing up to use something you built.

But there are the right type of users and the wrong type of users. The right type of users use your service regularly – or as regularly as you intended. The wrong type use it much less than you intended and generally don’t come back and rarely tell you why.

As we experiment with Amazemeet – we recognise that the more specialised we become in how we design for the segments we are focusing on – including our pricing – we will inevitably lose some users. This is why it is super-important to not do too many things at once – because you want to know why you might lose those users.

For example, when we experimented with hard limits on the now-deprecated free plan, we saw some usage drop off. We recognised that there would be some users who wouldn’t upgrade to a paid plan once their 5 meeting limit was reached. We could even tell who might react like this by their usage patterns – they were not regular users of the platform and this restriction just persuaded them to stop.

This may be counter-intuitive, but I would rather have 1000 committed users than 10 million ghosts – and if I do anything to make the numbers that I base my decisions on that much clearer aligned with reality – I might just make better decisions.

Remember this:
Users are not all equally valuable. Knowing what makes a user valuable to your business helps you value and invest in that relationship better. Be prepared to cut back investment on those user relationships that are not helping you to your goal. Tweet this

5. Regularly review the drivers of your plans and pricing and adapt them

We aren’t done yet and we aren’t there yet. ‘There’ being stable and growing revenue, but we have had the most positive feedback so far on usefulness and on value.

The goals of our pricing can change, the behaviours we want to encourage can also change. We will be moving to other segments – either geographically or otherwise. We might pivot our features or the vision. Each one of these changes will bring new drivers to our pricing model and cause us to review.

In anticipation of this – we ask ourselves every month – “Is this pricing model still the most effective one for our goals and constraints’. If the answer is ‘Yes’, we move on. If not, we go deeper and explore what the next iteration and experiments ought to be.

There you have it – this is how we are doing pricing in Amazemeet. At least for now. What would be a great help right now would be your honest opinion and probing questions about this.

Is there something that just doesn’t make sense about this? – I’d love to hear it.


Image by Philip Taylor PT {cc_name}

I’m the founder of Amazemeet and like most people who’ve worked in professional organisations for the last 20 years, I’ve spent a lot of that time in meetings. And they mostly sucked.

I’m on a mission to help people and organisations do meetings better.

Our startup journey: The week of BETA and metaphor strategizing.

So we’ve officially decided to outline the entire journey of Amazemeet, hoping it will be helpful to others or just informative to our users. We believe that there is value in knowing what a team’s all about, not just the app, so we want to share our highs and lows with you, open our kimonos, and get to know one another better through this crazy startup process.

This week is a MAJOR MILESTONE for Amazemeet because it marks our very first round of private beta. It’s private for now and we’ve limited the number of testers, so we can extract the most value from our most eager users (and by users we mean friends, but we have to use this term because everybody else does).

Because the interest in testing the app has been amazing, we’ve decided to throw another couple of beta rounds for those who didn’t get the chance to play with the first iteration. So if you’re a hard-core early adopter who’s been praying for a new solution to boring meetings, download the canvas from the main site, and we’ll contact you when we have some spots left for early access.

Now, let’s see what the goals for this week are and what we’ve learned from last week. The closer we get to launch, the crazier this startup journey gets!

Violeta got a little color-crazy.

(Ignore the fact that Violeta is referring to herself in the third person.)

In my defense, Trello does not exactly provide label presets, so what do you do when you see six colors, which you can group with any kind of words to provide meaningful labels? Here’s what I did:

labelsontrello

I’m not entirely sure if Mike (my technical co-founder) was happy with this turn of events, but he did give me a 7th color for milestones. Sometimes it pays to go along with “the crazy ones” because we see things as they could be. And if you ask me, that’s a pretty powerful tool in anyone’s startup toolbox.

Question: Are you using all of trello’s useful features?

Mike worked on the app all weekend.

He found himself in Krakow, Poland for the weekend and instead of going to see Wawel Hill, Auschwitz, the Wieliczka salt mine or even rack up a healthy bill at his client’s expense, he worked on the app. If that isn’t dedication to help people have amazing meetings, I don’t know what is!

But it wasn’t all work – he spent 2 hours in the spa, swimming and braising himself in the sauna!

It’s all really worth it though –  because we are building something really beautiful that 130 really lucky people are going to see and use very soon!

The first BETA email campaign could have been better.

Feedback is so important, especially at the start when you’re fumbling your way through all the things you should be doing, could be doing, and could have done better, but you didn’t know at the time. In our case, our subscribers saved us from fumbling through all our net email campaigns by telling us what went wrong:

email1

There was a “yes, I’d like to test the app” button on the bottom of the email, which unfortunately, some people didn’t even see. So when I got the excited “yes, I want to beta test”, I had to make sure they’d pressed it. When they said “no, I didn’t see it”, it was clear we messed up.

Also, I am so grateful for my co-founder’s sage advice to segment the subscribers and pace our campaigns in this way instead of bulk-sending to everyone. If it weren’t for him, we would have lost on potential beta testers because we didn’t position the button right (it could have been closer to the top) and because the text on the button was invisible.

That said, we’re happy that we got lost of clicks anyway. Thanks to everyone for being as excited about this app as we are. Seriously, we couldn’t do it without you.

Takeaways: Listen to your co-founder, segment your subscribers, heed all feedback, and always improve your efforts.

How metaphors can help you launch:

This is the part where I tell you how important your pre-launch strategy is.

I am personally taking Amazemeet’s pre-launch strategy very seriously because we’ll likely not get another chance. (I don’t want us to become one of those startups that pivot and re-launch constantly, which we’ll do if we have to.)

So I created an entirely new Trello board for it and together, we (Mike and I) came up with two metaphors (well, similes) for our pre-launch experience:

  1. Launching is like a tsunami. Every wave builds up on the next until the final tidal wave strikes, and the after-waves bring additional sign-ups to make sure the buzz doesn’t die too quickly or at all.
  2. Launching a startup is like launching a rocket into space. You need certain parts to get to certain altitude, after which you need to jettison or re-imagine them to get into your established trajectory.

Based on these visions, we can clearly see what needs to be done to launch successfully. After all, launching needs to be a unique experience for each startup, rather than everyone following the same old frameworks.

Question: What’s the metaphor for your startup launch vision?

What we learned this week:

  1. As long as it helps, you can be a little crazy with your strategy.
  2. Always do better than the last time and take feedback very seriously.
  3. Don’t be afraid to be creative when it comes to strategy. Think metaphors.
  4. Some tools are indispensable at the start, like Typeform for user feedback.

P.S. We hope you enjoyed this post and if you have any questions, ping us on twitter because Violeta lurks there and never leaves a mention unanswered.

I’m the founder of Amazemeet and like most people who’ve worked in professional organisations for the last 20 years, I’ve spent a lot of that time in meetings. And they mostly sucked.

I’m on a mission to help people and organisations do meetings better.

Our Startup Journey: Building a beautiful app, new faces and more growth.

Last week I shared our story so far and the unbelievable growth in subscribers and downloads of the PDF canvas. Here is more on our startup journey for the week of 16th/March/2015.

We’ve be working on making a usable and beautiful app

We’ve had the basic working app for a couple of weeks – by working I mean it does the basic editing functionality you would expect…in the gulag.

The printable Canvas was designed to be simple and deliberately monochromatic. In print, a lot of colour would be counter productive.
But in the desktop and mobile world the  greater interaction and dynamic content could really rock with the right use of colour.

So where are we at with the app? Well we think we can open it to private beta in the next 10 days  – around the 30th of March – with a beautiful experience and some essential basic features like:

  • Creating new canvases
  • Auto-saving a canvas as you edit
  • Downloading a canvas as a PDF
  • Managing your canvases
  • Sharing by email
  • Basic calendaring

Although we have not built a native mobile app, we have taken great care to make the experience pretty sweet on tablet (think iPad) screen sizes.

Invites to the private beta will be going out this week. Ping us if you would like to join it.

We’ve also been working on growth

With just the two of us, we need to work extra smart to pick the right experiments to conduct. Early on we had really focused on LinkedIn – after all it is the world’s largest professional network. Perhaps it was timing or what we did, unfortunately our Return on Hacks (RoH)  was pretty poor on LinkedIn. Even contacts on my network were quite unresponsive to friendly ‘please check out my cool canvas’ emails.

However the data we are getting from the TNW and follow on exposure is telling us we should explore “getting press” a bit more deeply. In addition, we’re applying the Bullseye Framework from the best-selling Traction book, which everyone has been recommending. It’s powerfully simple and straightforward, I’m sure we’ll benefit a lot from it.

So that’s what we are doing for the next couple of weeks – doing research and experiments into getting more press exposure, and narrowing down our marketing strategy. Wish us luck!

We hired a designer

Using basic Rails scaffolding and jQuery, I got the main app site up and running – but it was pretty nasty looking. Well, not so much nasty as much as just plain and uninspired.

My trouble is I know good and beautiful design, I just can’t do it. So off I went to my most trusted of freelancer sites – oDesk.

I love oDesk because it has such a huge population of really good people. It offers a platform for digital nomads and other talented people to make a decent living wherever they live in the world. You can find pretty much any kind of digital professional on oDesk for almost any price range.

All of the previous people I have worked with from oDesk have gone on to become really good friends too and I’m confident the designer I found will also become a great friend and collaborator.

Ana Flasker is a wonderful designer I found on oDesk. She loves photography, travel and has such a wonderful eye for simple beautiful things. At our first Skype call she was really thoughtful and asked great questions. And OMG – she turns stuff around PDQ!

She is freelancing right now and if you are looking for an amazing designer with mad skills – please check her out at anaflasker.com.

We exploded Trello

Violeta did an amazing job holding the fort last week whilst I was working with clients and keynoting a conference and it must have unlocked a hidden chamber of ideas because our Trello board is bursting with ideas for growth hacks, people we have to follow up with, candidates for a blog series featuring our users and a whole host of other things.

As a result we had to reorganize our Trello board into its own organization and created a few other boards to help us stay organized on the bits that matter.

We tried to hire a developer

So last week I was focused on trying to hire a designer  – not just for the app – but to help us incorporate some design thinking into other things we create. I’m confident that Ana can do that with us.

I also tried to hire a Rails developer. So, onto oDesk again, I found a guy in Poland. This suited me because for the next few weeks I will be visiting Krakow in Poland pretty regularly on other business. I thought it would be a great opportunity to improve collaboration with the developer.

When it comes to hiring developers, I’m pretty easy. I offer a paid mini-contract of no more than 3 hours. For the first hour, I pair program with the candidate on a few stories of a small app of my choosing. This is to experience firsthand their collaboration skills, how they approach a problem and their general craftsmanship. Are they messy? Do they create more tech debt than is healthy , are they naturally efficient – that sort of thing. Then they spent 90 minutes on their own working on as many of the other stories in the sample app as they can. We then meet again for the last 30 minutes, they demo what they have and talk me through the design of what they built.

Based on this paid trial, I decide whether I want to do more work with the candidate.

Unfortunately as I got to the point of explaining this evaluation approach to the candidate, he asked ‘you mean pair program with me?’ and when I responded ‘Yes’, he suddenly went offline on Skype and I haven’t seen him since.

I think I dodged a bullet on that one. However, the search continues.

Skype
Scared to pair?

 5 things we learned this week

  1. The world loves openness – we are getting so much love in the various communities we are in by just being open. Sharing what we are trying to do and being astounded at the willingness of people to help.
  2. You can spread yourself too thin – between client work, keynoting, travel and family, there was very little of Mike left to spend on our startup.
  3. We need to invest in translation into Mandarin – thanks to some lovely coverage in Manager Today, we got a few thousand downloads from Taiwan and Mainland China. We want all our subscribers to be super-comfortable with the language on the Canvas – so we need to invest in translating both the Canvas, the app and the site. Volunteers welcome!
  4. Conducting small experiments is the way to go – we’ve been focusing on two channels too heavily while we should have explored more growth channels in parallel. But it’s never too late to start now.
  5. Keep your friends close – Violeta has been telling me that her heavy participation in communities and social networks has helped her with a few things, like for example, looking for easy solutions or finding the right people to ask for particular things. She’s super grateful for them and I am for her. It all works.

Until next week, keep on keeping on.

 

I’m the founder of Amazemeet and like most people who’ve worked in professional organisations for the last 20 years, I’ve spent a lot of that time in meetings. And they mostly sucked.

I’m on a mission to help people and organisations do meetings better.

Our Startup Journey: Finding a Co-Founder and 2 Rockets

March 17th 2015

Today we hit 5000 signups and downloads of the Meeting Facilitators Canvas.

5000
MailChimp List of 5000

These are 5000 individuals who filled a short form, got an email, clicked the link contained in the email and downloaded the PDF, Word template or sample word document – even all three.  I think this is the perfect time to share this jaw-dropping milestone and our beautiful journey.

The story so far

I created the Meeting Facilitators Canvas in November 2014 as part of a workshop to help my clients experience better conversations. My intention was to offer a simple, open sourced tactile tool that people could use to design better meetings.

My offering was a simple PDF that meeting organizers can download, print and work through to create a one page meeting plan and shared record that all meeting participants could collaborate on.

Throughout December, I tweeted and tried to create some awareness on LinkedIn about the presence of the the Canvas. My friends and professional network were great in spreading the word and downloading the Canvas – which gave a small morale and growth boost.

I had tried to build multiple startups – all by myself and self funded. I knew the pains of such a approach well. This time I was determined to get help earlier.

Enter The Social Media Maven

cyclone , journey photo
Photo by WikiImages

Violeta Nedkova is a force of nature – her enthusiasm and seemingly endless curiosity is infectious. I initially came across her blog from a retweet a couple of years ago and was really impressed with her style.

We had tried to launch something together early in 2014. So when I needed help with hustling on Amazemeet – Violeta was my first thought. I approached her initially with some freelance work and I’m glad that she agreed!

We got to work – creating content, exploring the market segments and tuning our strategy. We collaborated so well and with such ease that it wasn’t long before I was convinced that Violeta was the right person to become my co-founder. I asked, she said yes and the party was about to get funky!

Prepared for slow growth

By the middle of February , downloads of the Canvas had doubled but still only about 200 but growing. Our Twitter following had grown from zero to over 1200 followers – and not the dodgy kind either.

Overall though, interest was still pretty low. We used this time to put in place a delivery mechanism using Sendgrid and MailChimp to automate the registration and downloading of the Canvas. Coupled with Google Analytics, we had a great setup to get info-rich data about where the signups were coming from and when.

Rockets

Week by Week Analytics
Week by Week Analytics

From March 2nd, the automation we had in place was going nuts.

Hundreds of people everyday were signing up.

  • Google was showing how many were signing up and getting the ‘Thank you ‘ page.
  • MailChimp was showing that similar numbers were getting the welcome email and clicking the download links.
  • Finally the download tracking on our WordPress site were confirming that similar numbers were actually downloading the Canvas.

Rocket #1: We got Product Hunted

We got Product Hunted
We got Product Hunted

Violeta: OMG!!! We got listed on Product Hunt

Me: Huh? Product Hunt – it’s not connected with our customer segment [LinkedIn]?

Violeta: Well it isn’t, but it is an awesome community of passionate people I’m in that shares cool products.

This is just one of many times that I’m grateful that Violeta is my co-founder. Her conviction that Product Hunt was a community we needed to be part of was absolutely spot on.

Violeta does what she does best – she engaged openly, sincerely and with curious wonder. The support and comradeship that the Product Hunt community showed us was spectacular.

Rocket #2: The Next Web Facebooked us

The_Next_Web_-_Make_sense_of_meetings_with_this_free___
The traffic we noticed from the time the Product Hunt listing happened was phenomenal – we were experiencing about 20-30 sign ups a minute. People from everywhere were downloading the Canvas.

We believed Product Hunt alone was the reason for such traffic – until I took a look at the analytics we were getting from Google.

Sure, there was significant traffic from Product Hunt referrals but almost double that was from Facebook. Yes – FACEBOOK!!!

I was puzzled – Facebook wasn’t even in our customer segment and frankly we didn’t really want it to be. But the data was the data. We thought someone from Product Hunt had cross posted on to Facebook. But with over 4000 visits so far from Facebook  – that was some cross post!

So we looked and there it was. The Next Web – one of the internet’s most influential technology publications had posted a simple post on their Facebook page. They hadn’t written about us – simply posted and the flood began.

It is still going on – in 2 weeks since all this started we have gone from 248 signups (from December 16th 2014) to 5000 today. And climbing.

A Real Platform for Engagement

So now we have 5000 sign ups. But what does this really mean?

It means we have a great platform to start to talk with the people who signed up and really understand what their experiences of organising, attending and surviving meetings are.

It means we can begin to learn how to be useful and valuable to our users. This is exciting beyond words and it has already started.

Special Thanks

Product Hunt –  We are deeply grateful to this amazing community for their openness and support. Please go check them out, you will discover and support many startups and meet some really amazing people.

The Next Web – we are still in awe at the power of a simple post by the influential press. We are so grateful that we somehow earned their blessing.

What Next?

We think we have something that genuinely helps people, so over the coming days we will be releasing an online app to help the people who signed up to use the Canvas faster and more conveniently. We will also be sharing our journey of building this start up.

Stay tuned!

I’m the founder of Amazemeet and like most people who’ve worked in professional organisations for the last 20 years, I’ve spent a lot of that time in meetings. And they mostly sucked.

I’m on a mission to help people and organisations do meetings better.