Bits from Bill

Technology thoughts leaking from the brain of "Bill Pytlovany"

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Final Results of the Great 99 cent Experiment

So were you wondering if my crazy 99 cent WinPatrol PLUS Experiment was a success? I promised to provide the numbers so I’ll let you decide for yourself.  I do recommend you read beyond the initial numbers

The goals of the experiment were some what vague so the results cover a wide range of marketing principles. Ultimately, I wanted to find out if traditional software vendors would need to make changes to compete with the concept of 99 cent downloads available to pocket computers like the iPhone and Droid.

From a financial standpoint the results of this experiment were great. Even at 99 cents the volume of sales over a 50 hour period made the extra work worthwhile.

Sales generated just under $15,000 in raw income while adding about 15,000 new WinPatrol PLUS members. The majority of new members had never tried WinPatrol prior to the experiment but a large number were long time users of the Free version who just couldn’t afford the current $29.95 cost to upgrade.

The most painful part of this newly generated income was the large portion taken away by online payment processing. When you sell a product for 99 cents the credit card companies take a huge chunk. On a normal $29.95 WinPatrol PLUS transaction PayPal gets about 5% of the sale. When its on  $0.99, PayPal gets a full 25%. I don’t have all the final numbers from Visa and MasterCard but it appears their cut was even more.

Apple actually gets 30% of all sales so this part of the experiment makes for a good comparison. Developers have some advantages in the App Store like the built in ownership protection. I already have people posting their 99 cent PLUS codes on keygen sites for pirated software.

A number of companies have tried to create online stores for the traditional software marketplace but they’ve had limited success. We really need a simple easy method for users to download and purchase software. There are companies out there very close to making this happen but just need critical mass of users to make it acceptable.

Public Relations
If my goal was great Public Relations then the experiment was certainly a success.  One of my biggest fears was backlash from current WinPatrol PLUS members who may have recently paid $29.95. The objections to this experiment I can count on one hand.  Most current members helped spread the news to family and friends and some even purchased a 99 cent license just to participate and show their support.

As I said, many of our new PLUS members had never heard of WinPatrol so I easily have over 10,000 new WinPatrol users who are now in a position to tell their friends and family about WinPatrol. Once someone installs and understands what WinPatrol can do we usually have a long time loyal friend. Last year I had a total of four customers actually requested a refund.  Not many products can claim a satisfaction record like that.

Extra Work
While sales exceeded my expectations so did my work load. For over a week life for both my wife Cindi and I has revolved around this experiment.  A lot of the extra work could have been avoided if I created an additional (mirror) download website for the WinPatrol setup program. While I knew I had the bandwidth to handle the influx in purchases I neglected to realize most of our new fans would also need to download the WinPatrol setup program as part of the process. Once someone starts a download that holds up a connection to our server and physical connections do have a limit.

During the peak of our sale the 3rd party store, which doesn’t run on our servers, held up great. When users returned to receive their PLUS code we failed due to lack of connections.  The result was way more Emails than I could handle in a timely fashion. This process has taken up my days and nights but I must say people have been extremely polite and understanding.

Family Support

The work load on my wife Cindi was also overwhelming.   In many cases, when people didn’t receive their PLUS code, they’d go in to try again. Realizing what we had going on Cindi decided to process and review each order manually. While processing orders Cindi could see if the same person ordered more than once.  She would process the first order normally but make sure any subsequent orders were not charged to the customers credit card. It’s possible some of these orders were intentional but our priority was to make sure nobody was over charged so she reviewed each order personally. This may be more than you needed to know but I can’t help but praise my valentine.

E-Mail Overload
While having over 10,000 new WinPatrol PLUS members is great I’m not exactly setup like most businesses.  I have always read each Email and I respond personally.  My normal day does not end until all Email has been answered. Luckily, WinPatrol is easy to use and most of my daily Email consists of requests for lost PLUS codes. Most of the Email from the new users were questions I’ve answered before but they did add to already “I didn’t get my PLUS code” messages.  At times it was refreshing when I got a spam message which I knew I could just delete.

Meeting Expectations
One thing we did have in common with the 99 cent software sales in the App Store or Droid Market were expectations. When people only pay 99 cents they don’t expect much.  I would have had more Email but many people may not think asking for help is included in the price.  I’ve been tracking activations and found another surprise. Less than half of the new customers have followed the instructions to activate their PLUS features. I’m sure some are still exploring the Free benefits but some have admitted “I don’t know when I’ll get around to it. I just figured for 99 cents what can I lose?” I’m sure there are some out there who really don’t have a clue what they purchased and haven’t even downloaded the Free WinPatrol.

I’ve crunched the numbers and have evaluated hundreds of comments. There’s no doubt that how we purchase software is changing. Most users have accepted downloading as a software delivery method. We all live in an immediate world which has helped people accept online software delivery.

Based on the experiment I would be best off by selling WinPatrol PLUS for $9.99 but without free updates. It has been recommended I make WinPatrol PLUS a yearly subscription. I don’t expect to make any chances in the near future.  What do you think?

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Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Closing Sale of WinPatrol Merchandise

This week will be the final opportunity to purchase one of our 1 GB WinPatrol Wristbands or sharp looking WinPatrol shorts shirts. If you’ve ever wanted one, this will be your last chance. Both items are $24.95 USD plus shipping.

1 GB Wristband with WinPatrolToGo
Very Limited Quantities
Click to Order


Available in Small, Large, Extra Large only
Click to Order

This week will be the final week either of these items will be available to the public in our online store. We have limited quantities and I do not expect to order more. Next week I’ll be attending an event in Redmond where I’ll be seeing many long time friends and supporters.  If I have any shirts or wristbands left I will be giving them away at the Microsoft “Most Valuable Professional” Summit. If you’re an MVP don’t count on any being left.  Order now.  ;)

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Saturday, February 06, 2010

Brand New Computer? Read Me First!

Did you think I was going to start out by telling you all to install WinPatrol as soon as you opened up your new computer? Guess again.  I always try to write my articles from a different point of view and today may not be what you expect.

For the 2nd time I’ve had to return the Dell All-in-One Multi-Touch computer system that I’ve been dreaming about for months. The first unit had to go back because Dell shipped the wrong configuration. The 2nd system had to go back due to internal hardware failure. I should have known something was wrong when I could hear loose parts when I took the computer out of the box.

My point today is take a little time to insure your brand new computer is everything it should be or you may be sorry. Before you install your favorite software on your brand new system I have a few  recommendations.

1) Create a physical folder for documentation.
This folder should include your invoice, Service Tag number, your customer number, Order or Purchase number and any information required to identify your purchase. Keep your original DVD’s in the folder. At some time in the future you will need them and want them handy.

Write these numbers down before your computer goes under the desk or so you don’t have to keep tipping it upside down to find it again.

If you ordered your computer online you probably created an account. Copy down your log in name and account password.

2) Know and understand your Return Policy.
Go online and print out the return policy for your computer.  If you think you have 30 days think again. 

I recently experienced the Dell return policy so I have some specific tips to pass along.

  • “You must contact Customer Service within 21 days of the invoice date.”

    That’s not the date your computer arrived. If the computer is a gift or not planned to be used immediately you should keep reading this article. 

  • “Unless the product is defective or the return is a direct result of a Dell error, a restocking fee may apply of up to 15% of the purchase price paid, plus any applicable sales tax.”

    My inappropriate tip is on your first call tell them there was an error in the system configuration. Imply that you ordered a more expensive configuration and you want to return quickly so you re-order a new system online. If you tell them the computer is broken you’ll be forced through a time consuming series of phone calls with technical support to document your system is really broken.

    Lenovo says “Lenovo will accept the return or exchange of a product in its original, sealed package (except gift cards) for a full refund in cases of Lenovo error. Returns allowed for any other reason will be subject to a restocking fee equal to 15% of the purchase amount. All returns must be initiated within 21 days of the invoice date.“

    Apple requests your attention immediately. “For eligible Mac, iPod, and third-party products, you have up to 14 calendar days from the time you receive your item(s) to initiate a return. A 10% restocking fee will be assessed for opened items. Shipping fees are not refundable.”

    3) Keep all your packing materials.
    Keep all the baggies and even the little twist ties available and pack them in the original box. Keep the original box somewhere safe “just in case”.

    4) Run Available System Tests

    Before installing any new software, including the final installation of the operating system, verify your hardware is working. It should meet the same test requirements it passed before it left factory no matter how many pot holes it hit along the way. 

    I know you’re excited but trust me, you never know what could have happen during shipment. If you know from the start that all your hardware works as expected you’re in a good position. You can probably be confident it will continue to work correctly for many years to come.

    One of the improvements computer OEM’s have made over years has been to include diagnostic tests directly in the firmware. These tests are typically available by pressing one of the function keys while the system boots. Memory and hard drive tests may be time consuming but knowing you don’t have a hardware problem will make you feel better if your system dies after installing your favorite software.

  • memerror

    5) Run all Windows System Updates
    After you complete the installation of the operating system and before you start surfing the net, before you install your favorite programs like WinPatrol, you’ll want to run all available system updates. There are two reasons why this is important.

  • First, until you’ve run all the security updates your system is wide open for possible security breaches. Running updates will be a multi-step process. Once you run your first set of updates, there will be another set that depend on the previous updates before they can run. You should expect multiple re-boots during this process.

  • Secondly, running system updates may result in your system becoming unstable. I’ve written about my hatred of system updates before but on brand new machines updates bring an added dilemma.

    Prior to shipping, your computer company will usually do a good job at testing the configuration you’ve requested. They want to make sure all the default hardware and software work together. That doesn’t mean they’ve tested your system with all the current updates including any new hardware drivers.  This is specially a danger with new Windows 7 systems. I had one company update their drivers and software three times within an eight day period. You’ll want to know if your brand new computer is still like new and compatible after it’s been updated.


    6) Have Fun
    Isn’t it great to know you have a brand new system and everything works perfectly? Now you can follow everyone else’s advice and install all your favorite software like WinPatrol.

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