The No Pricing Manifesto

Shifting focus back on product, not bottom-line

Today, we’re taking a pledge regarding our pricing. Something we feel makes sense considering our progress so far. It’s a bold move, but one that’s been carefully thought out:

We’re making Forest free to use, for everyone, with no limitations whatsoever.

The present Manifesto aims to serve as a profound engagement to our developer friends, as we focus now more than ever on building a community from the ground up. In doing so, we want to empower your new companies, side projects, MVPs, apps, and upcoming unicorns with a powerful admin interface.

Taking stock of our progress so far

We had been thinking about experimenting with our pricing for some time. This reflexion started as we realized most of our prospects never really got why they had to pay for our solution. That’s mostly because we were asking them to before they really had a sense of the product’s value (our pricing was free during implementation, but as soon as you’d invite a coworker to your admin you’d have to choose a paid plan.)

All too often, that meant the CTO or developer implementing the solution ended up being its buyer as well. The problem was that, from a technical standpoint, our solution did not deliver much more at first glance than their regular homemade admins. This led to unnecessary friction to adoption, as implementation would stall and no business user would ever see Forest in action. Indeed, as we quickly realized, our power users are mostly ops, sales, or marketers –and definitely not the tech-savvy kind.

Our buyer persona being twofold, we had to appeal to the inner geeks of CTOs while at the same time selling CEOs/COOs on the added-value of our seamless UI/UX. We figured we could solve this issue with a more aggressive free tier. That would delay the buying decision, while allowing end users to try Forest and effectively see its magic.

Going after the bigger fish

What we’re trying to achieve is often referred to as a soft-lock: a situation where customers stay, not because they’re forced to by heavy contracts, but rather because we continuously deliver on our value proposition: to make their internal operations a breeze.

As such, we’ve actually already proven we were able to create and –most importantly– capture value with our early pilots and customers. Once we’ve got them set up, they all agree on how much time it’s freed up their teams, and they’re definitely not looking back to the days it was all done by hand.

That’s undeniably a comfortable position to be in; since we’re confident in our product and long term vision, got actual businesses to pay for it, and are seeing a growing amount of interest from bigger, more established companies.

Yet, for the ambitious startup that we are, that’s not enough. We’re the first company to move your admin interface to the cloud. So, why would we sell ourselves short by trying to turn up a small profit early on, while we could focus on market-wide adoption and make money on the bigger players?

Those are the ones that have an operation complex enough that our product will make a real difference. To those companies, Forest will always be cheaper compared to the cost of developing and maintaining a back-office.

Brainstorming time

With that in mind, we went back to the drawing board. We discussed pricing ideas, from the most basic to the more eccentric. We had passionate, opinionated –even heated– arguments on the advantages of pricing per usage rather than per seat, among others. We never reached one single setting that would objectively be better. Doing so, we always kept our current and future users in mind, trying to find what would make the most sense to them.

API calls or pricing per activity would definitely appeal to our core audience –developers– but lack the predictability of the more common seat pricing –where costs would grow linearly with your company headcount. On the other hand, no two admin users are the same –imagine paying the full price for someone that only logs in every other month to do her reports– so it felt it could be deceptive.

One thing was certain though, among all those discussions: we needed to delay or remove as much as possible this conversation with our users; since it only diverted their attention from installing and using the product. It’s somewhat missing the point to go after profitability from day one when you’re addressing a completely new, untouched market. Further, as we’d already proven, we were already able to get people to pay. That was one thing less to worry about –at least for now.

It’s somewhat missing the point to go after profitability from day one when you’re addressing a completely new, untouched market

Under these circumstances, namely a greenfield market, one should be looking after securing wide adoption rather than losing velocity by pursuing untimely profits. By focusing on the latter, we’d essentially been trying to make money off the long tail –comprised mostly of young startups and SMEs– where operations are light and disposable income tight.

By shifting our focus back to the product, we could narrow our sales efforts down to actual Enterprise deals –the kind that Fortune 500 companies are demanding. Granted, that may still be a little ways off, but in the meantime we would perfect our product and learn a ton from operational patterns by vertical to the core value drivers of our solution.

Going all-in

Starting today, we’re going all-in and we’re making Forest’ self-service product free. For everyone. With no limitations.

For the time being, only Entreprise customers with highly specific requirements (SLA, dedicated implementation team, VIP support, etc.) will be discussing with our sales team, working toward agreements that are mutually beneficial.

With giving out Forest for free, we want to empower your new companies, side projects, MVPs, apps, and upcoming unicorns with a powerful admin interface.

We have loads of ideas on how to make Forest profitable in the long run, some more obvious than others –beware, Salesforce and the likes! 😉Integrations, Smart Views, and Advanced Reports are all features with a clear-cut need that we’re in a prime position to address. With Forest in the hands of many, we’re sure much more others will emerge as well.

As always, we’ll be as transparent as possible with our users (both current and future) regarding this decision. We want to learn with you, not at your expense. This means we’ll be extremely cautious when rolling out paying features, and will make sure there’s always a way to either get your data back or stick with a free option.

We’re thinking of this as a real life experiment, gathering data for ourselves in an effort to uncover hidden truths through usage of this new product breed. We’re tremendously excited to be pushing further our vision, and can’t wait to get Forest into the hands of as many people as possible. If there was ever a time for a tool that makes the life of your business easier, we’re confident now’s the time!