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As an ISV, you have to decide how people will evaluate your product before they make a purchasing decision. 

  • Can they directly download it from your website?
  • Do they have to sign up and get sent a url and/or a license key?
  • Do they have to contact sales and someone will give you a call on the 'phone before you can get your hands on the trial (if at all)?

Ever since FinalBuilder was released, it was a direct download.  Anyone can download it, and can do so completely anonymously.  This has a few advantages, but the main one is that it doesn't p*ss anyone off - it's a single click to download. Easy and simple!  

But, what happens if we want to ask these people how they went on the trial? Answer - you can't.  As is the case with all shareware, trialware, demoware, etc, you get a huge amount of downloads, and you get a fairly small conversion rate.  We don't track this very accurately, but it's in the order of 5% probably.  That means for every 100 downloads, we get about 5 sales.  I'd say it's a pretty good conversion rate, but why didn't the other 95% of people buy?  Maybe they bought a competing product, maybe they found a bug, maybe they downloaded FinalBuilder just to take a look?  The point is, we just don't know.

So, obviously the answer is to ask people for their contact details before they download.  That way you can email them or call them and ask them how they go with the trial.  Put your hand up if you would rather not give your email address just so you can download a trial of a piece of software.  Yep, I'm sure there's a significant percentage of people who would not download in this case - so maybe the answer isn't so simple.  It's a big risk to change from one model (ie. direct downloads) to another (ie. contact details before download), and that's certainly not a risk we're prepared to take.  But we would still like to be able to contact people to ask them how they went.

So - our answer has been to make it optional.  That is, if you don't want to give us your details, don't, but if you don't mind us contacting you then you can provide your email address.  I implemented this change on our website yesterday, so no real results yet, but so far it's been about 50/50.  50% are happy to give their email address, and the other 50% take the direct download link.  Now - granted, the direct download link is not exactly obvious, but it's not hidden and hard to find.  We're not in the business of spamming people, but we will send people an email at the end of their trial asking for their thoughts; hopefully we might get some useful information.

We're going to monitor this over the next couple of weeks to see how it goes. 

What are your thoughts on this issue?

Showing 6 Comments

Tate 17 years ago

Too early to tell at the moment, but we get very few bogus details for the download, and over 50% of people provide their details. We need another couple of months of data to see any real trends, especially sales wise.

Gary - PRD Software 17 years ago

I am interested as to whether you have any further statistics regarding your change in contact details. As we have a system that requires mandatory contact details, it would be interesting to compare results. PRD have recently implemented a dedicated sales team to deal with all downloads and direct enquiries and has seen a considerable rise in sales. Additionally, we have been able to speak directly to decision makers and those using our software, gaining valuable feedback which has been of great benefit to our business.

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Mark 18 years ago

It indeed looks a bit scary (it asks way too much). Maybe you just should say that you will use that email adress just once, too send an evaluation email at the end of the trial period, and that after that, it will be removed from your system.

Mitchell 18 years ago

I rather like the approach Apple takes. A single field for email address that says (optional) next to it, and a great big "Download Now" button that links directly to the EXE. With some Javascript magic your EXE link there can trigger a form post that sends the email address (if entered)).

Your registration form you have now looks a bit scary. As a potential buyer of your product I would hesitate to give you all that information verses just my Gmail account when demo'ing.

Duncan 18 years ago

I hate giving details out to try a product. Don't mind providing feedback though. If I can I will avoid a trial that requires handing over personal details. Reckon your approach is good.

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