What software companies can learn from drug dealers

Sauce Labs bannerLast week, I opened an email from Sauce Labs, which described some upcoming new features of their service, including introducing a free account with a cap on usage. Sauce Labs is an online service for running browser tests on different operating system and browser combinations (using Selenium, if you’re interested).

I really like what Sauce are doing – amongst other things, they automatically video the tests, and they’re making it really easy to use their hosted service from behind your company firewall. What I didn’t like up until now was their pricing model. Sauce offered a 30-day free trial, which one would think would be ample to figure out whether you could get value out of their service.

However, this “free trial” model misses the mark for me. I find that my interest in (and therefore my signup to) a new service is piqued several weeks or months before I am actually in a position to use it. And once I do start to test something new out, my usage is faltering and tentative to begin with, only ramping up once I have accrued experience, reflected on it and figured out how the service fits in with everything else I use.

Big congratulations to Sauce, then, for twigging that there is another way to bag new customers – offering a small, but effective amount of their product, which you can use at your leisure. You could call this the “drug dealer” model.

The drug dealer model makes a lot of sense for online services, where the incremental cost of adding a new account is minimal, and the cost of usage is easily measured. In Sauce’s case, their free account comes with a cap of 200 minutes of testing per month – easily enough for me to run a few tests, see if they help my development cycle and build up the use of the tool – at which point, I expect I’ll be hooked.

I am not saying I had anything to do with the decision to offer a capped free account, but… http://twitter.com/#!/hugs/status/31074705414819841 😉

One Comment

  1. Martin Budden
    Posted February 28, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

    Software companies have been learning from drug dealers for years. Why do you suppose they call their customers “users”?