So, there has been a small but substantial swell of frustration at Woo for changing the pricing on their themes and plugins. You can read their post here: A Sustainable WooThemes.
The argument most people are making is similar to the following:
You can’t increase the price of a product after you sell it.
The issue with that argument is related to continued development. A WordPress theme or plugin is not a product. You don’t just buy it, take it home and use it. You aren’t solely responsible for its upkeep and maintenance. WooThemes continues to improve on it, update it, fix things, and support you. Your theme or plugin isn’t a product at all, it is really a service.
You want themes and plugins to be updated, provide new features, and generally be better than when you purchased them? That costs money. You want to get help when you run into a stumbling block? That costs money.
Like a cell phone or Internet connection, there is only so much development and communication bandwidth in a company to send information between you and the service you’ve purchased, and by paying a monthly, yearly or per “product” fee, you are really engaging in a service contact that lets the business hire the staff needed to provide you with that interaction.
Yes, retroactively changing terms and conditions isn’t fun, but what would you really rather? Are you so selfish that you’d rather see the company die or stop supporting the tool you are using? Can you really justify being a drain on a company because you think you were promised something? How entitled are you really?
I understand that everyone wants things free, or cheap. I understand that people purchased under the assumption that they would always be so. But while software can scale, people can’t, and it takes more people to run a small business than an independent startup. It takes more people to run a medium sized business than a small business. And this isn’t an easy growth as a company often can’t just hire one or two people, but instead has to hire a whole chain of people, including management, human resources, accounting, and support.
I think now that most people would agree that no one should sell unlimited/lifetime licenses unless they have another route to receive continuous income. That’s not smart. Read my post about WordPress Plugin Pricing for my thoughts on why that is.
Gravity Forms still supports a small group of people that were lucky enough to purchase during the introductory phase and purchased such a license. Thankfully, overall, I don’t think they’ve been a huge drain on resources, and are part of the initial advocacy group that made Gravity Forms popular. In this situation, it works okay, but the value to the company of those users is very small, four years later.
Note: I have NO internal data regarding how many lifetime licenses rocketgenius sold or how much support they require. My statement is based on perception, not fact.
WooThemes ran their business this way for too long, and now their success under that model has made them a target for people that thought they were buying something forever, only to find out that it isn’t the case. That was a poor business decision, and one that the WooThemes team is trying to rectify in as nice of a way as possible. They are trying to grandfather people in various roles, and give discounts and bonuses to people that have supported them. They gave an extra year of support and updates to lifetime members and over the next two years, I think those people will get an incredible value from WooThemes.
I don’t think that any choice they could have made during this transition would have made everyone happy. Had they left lifetime/unlimited license holders to continue to be supported and managed as they were, then they’d be causing a drain on company resources that could only be compensated for by increasing sales, which would require more staff and resources, making things ever more complex.
I also feel that their blog post was badly laid out, and should have stuck to the facts of the transition, versus laying out scenarios to try to justify the change. I think they frustrated a number of people because of how it was written, and some extra common sense in its creation could have gone a long way, especially knowing that people see themes and plugins as products instead of services.
At the end of the day, every company, especially service companies, need to make sure they are profitable so that they can continue to provide the service expected of them.
For all of you complaining about the changes, and the price increases. No one is making you continue to subscribe. They aren’t holding you hostage. You can leave at any time. You are a subscriber, but you aren’t locked into a contract. If you don’t like what they are doing, leave! If you need what they are selling, then you’ll have to pay for it. That’s how business works.
Others have brought up customer loyalty, and I’d like to think that it exists, but in the five years I’ve worked online, I’ve never seen it. Sure, people like what Gravity Forms does, and over the last year, I’ve seen plenty word of mouth marketing, but I’ve also seen people scoff and try to threaten us saying they’d move to another system if we didn’t do what they want. No service provider can make everyone happy, and we are lucky we live in a world of options.
When it comes to software, I would be interested in seeing what kind of loyalty there really is. If you are truly a loyal customer, you will understand the change, support the change, and help others to do the same because you love the service, and want the business to succeed.
Lastly, I just want to say that this change is going to happen to other companies going forward. The unlimited/lifetime model just isn’t sustainable and doesn’t scale. The theme or plugin that you purchase today might have to change their mind down the road, so please stop trying to promote things based solely on the unlimited/lifetime model that they currently have.
Good luck to WooThemes and their change.
And now a note to Adii – I’m glad you finally did it. You shouldn’t have waited so long. Your current pricing is probably too complex for most people (too many options). I think in two or three years, when the “lifetime” members have been made to decide, you’ll have a better understanding of where you business is and where it is going. Oh, and interesting move on dropping the unlimited sites and going to 25 sites maximum. I’d love to hear about the reasoning behind that choice. And get the renewal prices out quickly. That was a little silly not to do as part of your overall pricing revamp.