Back in the middle of 2010, I was a few days away from launching the first version of Evernote Essentials. Sitting in my backyard, trying to figure out exactly how the sales process would work, making sure all of the pieces were functioning as expected, etc.
Then something occurred to me: what about product updates?
Would I charge for them? If so, how often? And how much would they cost? And how, exactly, was I going to implement paid updates?
This realization caused me no small amount of alarm; I hadn’t even considered this and I had a scant few days to figure it out before my product went on sale.
So, I decided updates would be free for everybody who bought Evernote Essentials, forever.
That turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made for my business.
Why I did it
Frankly, I’d be lying if I said I made this decision purely out of generosity and the desire to provide excellent value to my customers. That was part of it, truly, but the other reasons are far less respectable:
First, I had no idea how to do it using the tools and systems I had set up to sell the product and I didn’t have time to figure it out.
Second, truth be told, this decision also stemmed from a desire to keep things as simple as possible. Having to keep track of who had bought from me and when they bought smelled immediately like a great big headache.
Was I “leaving money on the table” by not charging for updates? Probably, yes. But the benefit I ended up receiving by not charging for updates turned out to be far more valuable than money.
Optimizing for loyalty
Launching version 3 of Evernote Essentials meant emailing all of my previous customers””upwards of 18,000 people””to let them know they had a free update waiting for them and how they could get it. I expected some technical hiccups with this part of the launch since I had completely overhauled how the sales and fulfillment system worked. Such emails did arrive (in droves, I might add), but I found myself flooded with another type of email, as well”¦
Previous customers were positively gobsmacked that I’d give them what was, in many ways, an entirely new product “” free of charge. Hundreds of effusive emails rolled in from people who hadn’t heard from me since they had purchased Evernote Essentials for the first time “” over two years prior, in some cases.
Without really meaning to, I had converted a sizable contingent of my customers into people who not only liked my product, but are now walking around thinking of me as a generous fellow who does nice things for the people who buy from him.
Buying that sort of loyalty is frickin’ impossible, kids. I went from merely having customers to having advocates and fans.
Even if you do it mostly by accident, delighting your customers is a fantastic way to invest in your business. [Tweet this].
I’m hardly the first bloke to ever express such a sentiment, but before the 3.0 launch, I never quite understood what a powerful concept it truly is.