We’ve been in business for a year now, and what a year it’s been. We’ve grown and learned so much in such a short amount of time that we felt it wouldn’t be fair if we kept all of those lessons to ourselves. So we wanted to pass on to anyone who is trying to start their own freemium-based products some of the things we’ve learned along the way.
When we first started, we launched Blitz as a load tester in the cloud. Blitz takes advantage of two major trends that are becoming more and more prevalent within software and application development. The first has to do with “where” – development is moving into the cloud. This means that the “where” development done is no longer tied to specific organizations or dedicated environments, opening access to software development in an unprecedented way.
The second trend in development deals with the “who.” The actual process of development testing is now done by a new group of folks: the developers. What used to be two disciplines – performance engineering and development – the ever-so-popular DevOps movement means that things are blending together, and developers are now the ones doing the testing. Which also means they are on the hunt for tools that help them do this.
Another key aspect of Blitz, outside of the unique needs that it addresses for developers, is the “freemium” model on which it is based, which allows developers to apply load tests, otherwise known as “rushes,” of up to 250 concurrent users for up to 1 minute, for an unlimited number of times, at this level.
Keep in mind that freemium isn’t for everyone. You really have to run the math and see if it makes sense for your application. But, if you’ve done your homework and you think that the freemium-model path makes sense for you, we at Blitz have done some of the dirty work for you, and here are some of the things we’ve discovered throughout the process:
Invest in the Correct Outreach Efforts
You may have noticed, we don’t do traditional media and marketing. Our users know our product, and they don’t need a cheerleader bombarding them about how great it is. What we do care about is our community, and what they are telling us – not vice versa. That’s why we’ve put our resources into social media, which allows us to actually communicate with our customers rather than communicate at them.
Think Big Picture
In a world of instant results – when a delay of two seconds puts you behind 90 percent of the population – it’s naturally difficult to think longer-term, especially at the expense of short-term. And of course, it’s great to give all customers everything they want, but that’s pretty close to impossible. For example, we’ve had users who have requested that we add some functions like specific encryption or testing that would pull us away from making things simple and easy for them to use, and we’ve unfortunately had to say no. Again, it’s not like it gives us pleasure to not be able to offer our customers the moon and beyond, it’s just not realistic, and in the end, these requests didn’t serve our Blitz community as a whole. You have to always look at the bigger picture and trends – it’s not about short-term gains, but about long-term success.
Referral Programs are Your Best Friends
We implemented some successful referral programs in our pricing model, which ties back to our first lesson about investing in appropriate outreach methods. The best thing about social media is that it gets the word out about your product, and encourages customers to talk about you, which leads us to creating referral plans that have kept our existing users happy, while simultaneously helping us grow that user base. For instance, if you refer a friend to Blitz, we give you an extra 25 users for life for your rushing. In this way, our customers are spreading our name through word-of-mouth, and we get to help those loyal customers keep testing at an even higher level.
It seems like this point would be obvious, but seriously, having a product or solution that is based on do-it-yourself doesn’t mean that your customers should do it by themselves….and only by themselves. The DIY method means that you as a provider need to have good documentation, good content, and at the end of the day, have a live person available to help your customers when they need it. Be responsive and let them know that you’re there when they have questions, concerns, or need your assistance.
No, we’re not suggesting you do anything inappropriate to garner customers for your freemium model. We’re suggesting the principle: Keep It Simple, Stupid. We want to urge you to have a clear problem for which your product or service is answering a clear solution – and stick to it. It’s this simplicity on which we’ve based our product – and our freemium model – that has given us our success.
So given all of those hard-learned lessons we’ve discovered over the past year, we have to say we’re pretty happy with where we are now. Blitz has emulated 1 billion virtual users from the cloud, generated from seven different locations around the world. We’ve run 250,000 load tests for almost 30,000 users, testing 17,000 domains. Our convergence from freemium users to paid users is around 2 percent. Not bad for one year!
But despite those lessons, and despite our successes, the most important lesson we learned through our journey so far is to be agile and responsive. And it’s this lesson that we’ve applied to the top feedback we’ve gathered from our users.
So looking forward, we’ve got some great new changes down the pipeline that are going to help our users become more efficient and more productive. We’re really excited to announce these changes – stay tuned for more!