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Profit by Giving Something for Nothing

Make freemium work for you: how to attract customers with free content and then sell them premium services and subscriptions.

Monique Verduyn

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Trying to get your head around the idea of freemium? Just think cloud storage service Dropbox and note-taking and archiving application Evernote, both of which have been phenomenally successful. The word ‘freemium’ combines the two aspects of the business model: ‘free’ and ’premium‘. It’s a business model that works by offering a basic product or service free of charge (typically software, content, games, web services), and a fancier version that costs money. Fancy can mean more features, more functionality, more space, more usage, more seats, more time, or no advertisements.

The business model was first defined by prominent New York-based venture capitalist and blogger Fred Wilson in 2006: “Give your service away for free, possibly ad supported but maybe not, acquire a lot of customers very efficiently through word of mouth, referral networks, organic search marketing, etc, then offer premium priced value added services or an enhanced version of your service to your customer base.”

Wilson offers these examples:

  • Skype – basic in network voice is free. Voice mail and calling plans that allow users to dial landline phones require a monthly fee.
  • Flickr – a handful of pictures a month is free, heavy users convert to Pro
  • LinkedIn – reeled in users with free content, but has boosted sales by adding features that customers have to pay for, such as recruitment services.

Wilson points out that this business model has been around for a long time. Shareware always used a similar model, and many successful software companies have been built on it. The customer is only a click away and if you can convert them without forcing them into a price/value decision you can build a customer base fairly rapidly and efficiently.

Wilson points out that it’s important to ask as little as possible in the initial customer acquisition process. Asking for a credit card even though you won’t charge anything to it is not a good idea. Nor is forced registration. You may want to do some of this once you’ve acquired the customer, but not in the initial interaction.

He offers this advice: “Don’t require any downloads to start. Don’t require plugins. Support every browser with any material market share. Make sure your service works on various flavours of Windows, OSX, and Linux. In short, eliminate all barriers to the initial customer acquisition. And make sure that whatever the customer gets day one for free, they are always going to get for free. Nothing is more irritating to a potential customer than a ‘bait and switch’ or a retrade of the value proposition.”

The big idea is to make sure your free service is loved by customers. Only then do you communicate the value that comes with the paid service and that will have you converting to paying users. The best examples of this business model are when the customer understands why the paid service has to cost money. More storage costs for photos, virtual storage, or termination costs on other carrier networks in the Skype model, are good examples.

What you gain on the swings

Much has been written about the psychology of free. Among the most instructive texts are Free: The Future of a Radical Price by Chris Anderson and Predictably Irrational  by Dan Ariely. Both authors note that free immediately reduces the mental barriers for the customer. Free makes people think that they have “nothing to lose.” That makes free a huge accelerator of adoption. The flip side of this is that after using the product for free, it is very hard to get the customer to start paying for it. This is why it is so critical to choose your premium features wisely.

But is it for you?

Freemium expert Uzi Shmilovici, CEO and founder of Future Simple, which creates online software for small businesses, cautions that before you think free (or rather freemium) is the best model for your business, you need to answer a few difficult questions:

  1. How big do I want my company to be? If you are looking to build a lifestyle business that’ll make you R80 000 a month and you have a good product, you can probably do without freemium. If you want to build a dominant company that has a substantial market share, Freemium can help you accelerate adoption.
  2. What is the value of the free users? Across all successful freemium companies, there is a way of making money or saving money from the free users. Either by saving on marketing costs (Dropbox) or by making money from ads or data (Pandora, Evernote, Mint) or both. Figure out how to turn your free users into savings in marketing costs or revenues from third parties.
  3. What is the cost to serve free users? This is a critical aspect of the model. If you spend a lot of money or time servicing free users, you are going to lose money. The cost of servicing free users must be lower than the rand value they provide.
  4. How big is my market? “The easiest way to get one million people paying is to get one billion people using,” says Phil Libin, the CEO of Evernote. Free adds another conversion step on your way to revenues. You need a big market to have enough people who will pay you at the end of the day.
  5. Is there value to one customer from other customers using the product? This will determine how many new users the free users will refer. There are three levels of value:
  • Inherent value – You can use Skype only if the person you talk to uses it. The same is true of Dropbox. In this case, freemium can be a powerful strategy.
  • Added value – You derive the value of Linkedin from other people using it. In this case, freemium can help you gain traction if you use an effective invitation mechanism.
  • No value – You don’t care if someone is using Evernote or not. The only reason to tell another about the product or service is if they think it’s awesome.

Freemium and your business

Still wondering whether you can use freemium to your business’s advantage? Writing on Freemium Blog, freemium business model expert Peter Froberg has isolated a few characteristics of freemium success:

Quality free products

The most important condition for creating a successful freemium model is that you have a great product that people want. It will be the engine that drives your freemium-based business. Without inherent value your freemium will not get off the ground.

So instead of giving away a sample track of the music, let people download the whole album. Instead of letting people take a look at your worksheets, let them have all your tools for free.

Duplicating Digitally

Only a small percentage of free users will usually buy something. In order for this to make financial sense, the expense of distributing the free product should be very minimal. Digital duplication ensures virtually no cost for copying and distribution. If you want to distribute one million pieces of something, R1 as a unit price is quite a substantial amount.

Large reach

Freemium depends on generating attention with the free product; then to sell premium products or services to some of the free users. In most cases only a small percentage of the free users will buy something. This is fine if it is a small percentage of a large number.

Creating a successful business

Froberg says his research has shown that there are two methods that should be incorporated to ensure freemium success:

Adapting the business model

If your free product is a quality product that people want, it will generate attention. You need complementary products to generate revenue from this attention.

Ensuring a wide distribution

The economic logic behind freemium is that,  “When the supply of a product increases, the demand for its complementary products also increases.” The free product drives off the revenue-creating products and more free users means more paying users. Since additional distribution of a free product costs close to nothing, the success of a freemium business will increase with the number of people using it.

Helping This Along

  • Actively promote the product

Making sure that more people get to know about it will lead to more users.

The generous nature of freemium fits very well with the emerging field of social media, and social media marketing has proved to be a good way of promoting a freemium product.

  • Remove barriers for people to access the product

If it is hard to access your free product, some people will stop before they get to it. Not only will these people not be exposed to your thoughts, they will also have wasted time.

The cost of customer acquisition

Some people argue that freemium significantly increases the customer acquisition cost. The argument is that it costs money to acquire every new user, while only a few end up paying. Shmilovici says it’s important to consider what happens to the total amount of premium users in the case of freemium.

The total amount of premium users depends on three factors:

  • Traffic – the amount of people visiting your site. People like to recommend them to their friends. With a freemium model, you will most certainly see an increase in traffic for the same marketing spend, since people will spread the word. You can further enhance the social media benefit by giving people easy ways to share their excitement and implementing a smart referral programme.
  • Sign-up conversion – how many of them sign up. It’s likely that you’ll increase your conversion to users with a free offering, since users don’t need to enter their credit card details up-front. Unlike limited trial periods, your users don’t have to worry that their trial will end before they have a chance to try the product. Also, “Zero is a hot emotional button,” as Dan Ariely mentions in his book Predictably Irrational.
  • Premium conversion – how many of those who signed up become paying members. Conversion to premium may drop since you might get a higher proportion of low-quality sign-ups. However, this is not the only factor at work. With freemium, people have a chance to use the product long enough to see the value in upgrading. At the same time, while they are using the free product, they build up switching costs. Eventually, they might be more likely to pay. Here’s Evernote CEO Phil Libin’s approach to this subject: “We’ve got the rest of your life to make money off you.”

To succeed in freemium, you need the increases in traffic and sign-up conversion to compensate for the drop in premium conversion rate, if any. In successful freemium companies, the boost to traffic and adoption significantly reduced the customer acquisition cost, which in turn led to great results.

SA’s first freemium HR and payroll software for business

Control your HR and payroll costs with free software that lets you choose additional premium functionality,
on a pay-as-you-use basis.

In September last year, employee management software developer PeoplePlus released the first HR and payroll software built on the freemium model in South Africa. Since then, almost 2 000 users have registered, with an additional 300 signing up every month.

“The cost of developing the software was high, but the cost of distributing it to users is relatively low,” says Rodney de Villiers, CEO of PeoplePlus. “We offer modules, such as disciplinary procedures and the ability to print payslips free. Users pay only for premium modules, and for what they use. There are no contracts, no big upfront payments, and no expensive consultants.”

De Villiers says the freemium model has been used widely for consumers, but less so in business applications. “The offering enables the business customer to select any high-value or efficiency functionality, in a modular manner. That means they can directly control their costs.”

The PeoplePlus offering is targeted at businesses with between one and 200 employees, but companies of all sizes can use the application.

Benefits for users include the sizeable reduction of the total cost of funding and operating your HR and Payroll IT, such as power, security, updates, back-ups, anti-virus, lost data, stolen equipment, staffing and consultants, not to mention your time and stress. When it comes to support for free users, De Villiers says telephone support is offered as a premium service. “The application is easy to use, and comes with a number of practical ‘how to’ guides. If users need support, they’ll only pay for it when they want it.”

PeoplePlus was developed by Talenger Holdings, a company that De Villiers launched in 1998, and which specialises in human resource technology for large businesses. “PeoplePlus is basically a scaled-down version of the proven solutions that Talenger has been developing for years. We analysed the local market and saw that more than 90% of businesses employ up to 200 people. That was how we identified a gap in the market for PeoplePlus. The freemium model has been proven and we are confident that the application will become increasingly popular because of its pricing and functionality.”

For more information, visit www.peopleplus.co.za

[Free Online]

How freemium is changing industries.

Music

In recent years, several industries have applied the freemium model with great success. This is particularly true in music and publishing. A great example is the rock band Nine Inch Nails. Fans could download their latest album Ghost l-lV for free and buy a range of other products from the extended $5 download, to a $300 limited deluxe boxed CD.

Publishing

Flat World Knowledge is a company that publishes university textbooks. Where it differs from competitors is in its business model. Instead of only selling expensive paper versions that change every two years, Flat World Knowledge releases the books online for free download. Students and professors have access to quality textbooks at no cost. The publisher makes money from selling a range of other products, such as a printed textbook, audio books, e-book for a device, individual chapters to print, or study aids.

Gaming

Free-to-play online games, often overlooked in the hype around social and casual games, are growing just as fast as their counterparts. Much of this has to do with the industry’s transition from paid to freemium models – not only in online gaming, but for web and mobile apps on the whole.

Further reading

Free: The Future of a Radical
Price, by Chris Anderson

Freemium Blog:

www.freemium.org

Freemium: www.mashable.com/follow/topics/freemium/

Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape our Decisions, by Dan Ariely

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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How TomTom Telematics Can Keep Your Business Moving Forward

Successful businesses need to find ways to improve their margins while still delivering excellent and efficient customer service. VDM’s CEO, Deon van der Merwe, explains why this wouldn’t be possible in his business without TomTom Telematics’ solutions.

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When TomTom Telematics entered the South African market in 2010, the local team took a deep dive into the different industry verticals they were servicing.

The more they got to know their customers, the more they realised a different solution was needed to address local conditions, and a subscription model was introduced whereby customers didn’t need to invest a large capital outlay into TomTom Telematics’ technology, but would receive the tech and software, including installation, at no extra cost, in exchange for a monthly subscription fee.

This model gives SMEs affordable access to TomTom Telematics’ solutions, but it’s had another benefit as well: As TomTom Telematics introduces new innovations, existing customers can benefit — without the costs associated with replacing all of their existing technology themselves.

An indispensable tool

For a transport and logistics business like VDM Group, which has more than 160 vehicles on the road, this means they have access to incredible new offerings, without needing to replace their TomTom units themselves.

“TomTom plays a critical role in our business,” says Deon van der Merwe, CEO of VDM Group. “It’s an indispensable tool in ensuring quality customer feedback and the management of KPIs for all supply chain stakeholders.

“Earlier this year, TomTom Telematics launched their New WEBFLEET product. We were very satisfied with what we had, and yet they still approached us and offered to replace all our existing units with new tablets, and they’re covering the installation costs,” explains Deon.

Related: Driving Your Business Growth Towards More Customers

“New WEBFLEET is the result of TomTom innovating their product based on customer feedback from around the world, and the local team wanted to ensure we had access to the additional functionality and innovations that had been introduced.”

Seamless integration with your network

According to Deon, the new TomTom PRO 8275 units seamlessly integrate VDM’s fleet scheduling software with information they extract from TomTom, including individual vehicles’ standing time and arrival notifications.

“The software from TomTom is open API, which means that all our various applications can communicate and interact with each other,” he explains. “From a productivity perspective, we no longer need to manually capture any trip information.

In addition, we have every conceivable piece of data available that will assist us to run a leaner, more cost-effective fleet, enabling us to ensure that we are delivering on all our KPIs — particularly with regards to meeting our customers’ needs.”

Related: Changing The Shape Of What’s Possible

VDM is a large transport business, but Deon believes the benefits for SMEs are as great, if not more so. “Many SMEs don’t have the back-office support that we do. The ability to capture and use this information without a team of admin specialists at your disposal is a huge competitive advantage for smaller businesses,” he says.

Offering you the competitive edge

VDM offers a specialised logistics service that creates custom-made options for clients. In order to ensure the most optimal and cost-effective solutions, while still ensuring top quality delivery, they need to consider special and complex individual customer requirements, from the point of origin to the point of destination, before finalising a customer-specific solution.

“We take into account a host of factors, including inventory carrying costs, volume requirements, product specific factors and route to market,” explains Deon.

“Road transport significantly impacts total supply chain costs, and if not managed properly, can have a severe impact on the sustainability of any particular channel. We try and manage this risk by continuously improving our service through innovative logistical solutions, the use of advanced technology, vertical integration and a team of passionate and talented experts.

TomTom assists in creating differentiators

“This focus has helped us to develop a market offering that includes dedicated and completely flexible inter-modal solutions, which is a big differentiator for us. TomTom Telematics plays a key role in our total productivity, helping us measure the performance of road transport across our supply chain.”

Deon believes that what you don’t measure you won’t know.

“TomTom provides updated fleet statistics that allow us to constantly benchmark our fleet against pre-defined route surveys and, in so doing, enables massive savings in fuel and total turnaround time.

Communicating via the WEBFLEET platform also helps us save time and creates a formal trail of correspondence with our drivers. I don’t believe it’s possible to successfully run a business like ours without a solution like this.”

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Sasfin Continues To Support SME Growth

Sasfin’s equity stake in fintech lender Payabill set to enhance SME growth.

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In another major step forward in supporting growth in SMEs, Sasfin today announced that it has acquired a strategic stake in fast-growing fintech lender Payabill.

Payabill, a 100% digital lending business, provides working capital and/or trade finance to small businesses. The collaboration between Sasfin and Payabill accelerates financing opportunities for customers.

Sasfin, South Africa’s leading business challenger bank, last year successfully launched its digital platform, B\\YOND, for SMEs.

“Sasfin has been investing in fintechs, building digital capabilities (such as B\\YOND) and working with third parties (such as XERO Accounting) for a number of years with the aim of adding value to our business and wealth clients. Payabill has made huge strides in giving businesses access to digital finance and we are thrilled to announce this investment,” says Sasfin CEO Michael Sassoon.

Payabill CEO Eli Michal launched the pioneering fintech start up in SA in 2017. Payabill settles suppliers directly for its clients and allows clients to select their own extended payment terms. “We are incredibly excited by the opportunity afforded to Payabill by having Sasfin as an equity and debt partner. Sasfin will provide access to new channels and much needed funding that enables us to support the growth of small business finance in South Africa,” says Michal.

Michal started the fintech as he “wanted to enhance access to finance for small businesses in South Africa. We all know that boosting small business creates jobs and enables growth. Traditional lenders have neglected this segment of the market due to the high costs associated with on-boarding and assessing these customers, as well as managing their credit risk. It made no sense to us that a retail consumer could get multiple forms of credit, almost instantly via electronic channels, but small businesses could not. They were being neglected. With this in mind, we set out to build a completely paperless, digital solution to address this market’s unique requirements.”

Currently, Payabill offers loans of up to R150 000 to businesses. The intention is that with the investment made by Sasfin, Payabill will be able to offer larger loans to SMEs in the near future.

The alignment of Payabill’s aims and Sasfin’s long-term focus on small business in SA made for an ideal partnership. “SMEs can now borrow digitally, via Payabill, and bank via B\\YOND from Sasfin – reducing admin and costs which often stifles small business growth. Both B\\YOND and Payabill are gaining meaningful traction in the SME market and there are a host of additional digital initiatives that we are working on to further help small businesses thrive,” says Sassoon.

“While Sasfin has always offered a trade and debtor finance solution, this was largely for more established businesses. The new offering speaks to smaller businesses that are passionate about growth, and our larger Trade and Debtor Finance offering will be there to support businesses that reach the next phase in their development,” says Sassoon.


Sasfin Holdings Limited (“Sasfin” or “the Group” or “the Company”) is a bank-controlling company listed in the “Financials: Investment Services” sector of the JSE Limited (“the JSE”).  Sasfin and its subsidiaries provide a wide range of complementary banking, financial and related services.

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Driving Your Business Growth Towards More Customers

Designed to help its customers get the most from their businesses through the right telematics solution, New WEBFLEET can help you reach your customers quicker, get more done, improve efficiencies, save costs and boost your revenues.

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Europe’s highly regulated operating environment has made telematics ubiquitous in business. On the one hand, this means industries across the spectrum have become safer, more efficient and highly productive across the EU. On the other, it’s much harder to stand out from the crowd when everyone follows the same best practice standards.

“We don’t have those same stringent regulations in place,” says Justin Manson, Sales Director, Africa at TomTom Telematics. “Our clients have realised what a huge competitive advantage this actually offers them though.

“Locally, everyone understands the role that telematics plays in tracking what your drivers are doing right and wrong, and use it as a tool for encouraging good driving practices, but there’s so much more to this solution, and we’re making it our mission to help business owners really use it to their benefit.

“When deployed across the organisation to its full capabilities, a telematics system can radically improve productivity and workflow. Done correctly, a business can save up to 10% on its bottom line, and redeploy that cash into the company’s growth, thanks to drivers reaching customers quicker and getting more done. The right data also increases productivity and ensures better turnaround times.”

Thomas Schmidt, MD of TomTom Telematics, loves visiting South Africa for this very reason. “Because so many business owners aren’t using telematics to their full extent, there’s such a huge opportunity for us to assist businesses in their growth here,” he says. “We deliver a high-value stack of products that can change the way companies operate, and most importantly help them save money and make money. The challenge for us is educating our customers so that they understand what our solutions offer, and the incredible impact they can have on a business. We consistently improve these solutions based on customer feedback as well, making them very much from customers for customers.

Related: Why Your Fleet Management Plays a Pivotal Role In Your Business

“Anyone can buy a map for less than R100. Why invest in such expensive devices? The answer is because we’ve developed solutions that change lives. With the right data — and access to that data — you increase safety, simplify your business, drive efficiencies, increase your output and customer service, and ensure you are always productive and reliable — across the organisation. And that impact can be measured, and given a real ROI value.

“Imagine the impression companies that operate at that level make on their industries. They stand out from their competitors. There is so much room for growth in South Africa as we deploy these solutions.”

Game-changing solutions

As an organisation, TomTom Telematics is focused on continuous growth and innovation as well, constantly learning from market conditions, its customers and industry needs to improve its product offerings.

The result is the launch of New WEBFLEET in February 2018. “We’ve increased the value we offer our customers,” says Thomas. “We’ve collated data from hundreds of thousands of customers around the world who gave us their feedback through surveys, and New WEBFLEET is a window into easy-to-use, smart fleet management that is a game changer for companies.”

“TomTom Telematics is in the business of helping businesses,” agrees Justin. “Our goal is help our customers master their challenges. The right data at your fingertips will help you change the way you operate. That’s our goal. How much cash is being left on the table in an organisation because of inefficiencies?”

Introducing New Webfleet

The smartest way to manage your vehicles and mobile workforce

tomtom-telematicsTomTom Telematics’ state of the art Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) fleet management solution, with best-in-class user interface, is inspired by two decades of working together with customers to achieve more for better fleet management. New WEBFLEET is everything you need to manage your vehicles in the cloud, in real time. It allows you to monitor reports and dashboards, manage orders/workflow, and improve driving behaviour, safety and service, helping you save fuel and reduce costs.

Best-in-class user interface

  • A future-proof platform with a completely renewed interface, based on the latest HTML5 technology and driven by continuous innovation.
  • Simple and clean interface, with minimised clicks for faster working.
  • Intuitive functionality, means it is more accessible for greater impact across your business.
  • User rights management and state-of-the-art data handing ensures the highest level of data privacy and data security.
  • Fast access to the right information.

Related: Fleet Tools Will Help You Get More Done In Less Time

Map view

Know where your vehicles are and where they have been. Different map options such as Google, Google Street View or satellite map are enriched with traffic information, giving you a more detailed view on what’s happening on the roads. Toggle between different types of information on the map such as traffic, addresses and areas and create specific views, so you only see the information you need.

Dashboard

New WEBFLEET’s dashboard gives an overview of performance at a glance. Up to 27 KPIs can be used to track the performance of vehicles, individuals, benchmark teams or give a simple overview. This helps you to track real-time performance against your pre-defined KPIs.

Reporting

New WEBFLEET gives you instant access to the information that matters, meaning you can spot trends over time and use real-time information to make smarter and more informed decisions. You can instantly download or schedule reports to help you stay on top of everything — from fuel efficiency and legal compliance to quality of service.

Manage on the move

New WEBFLEET is optimised so you can manage your fleet on any device by entering WEBFLEET through a web browser or by downloading the WEBFLEET Mobile app on your smartphone.

Send routes direct to drivers

  • Plan accurate routes in New WEBFLEET by adjusting multiple variables such as location, time of departure/arrival, traffic and vehicle type.
  • Get a choice of alternative routes, as well as suggested fastest route with traffic.
  • Customise your route by simply adding new waypoints, or dragging and dropping existing waypoints on a route. Then choose from guided or forced route* options.
  • Send planned routes directly to a TomTom PRO driver terminal to keep your drivers on the right track.

Related: Time Is Money And It’s Time You Saved Both When Running Your Fleet

Personalised Map views*

  • Create your own saved map view to reach information you need fast.
  • Switch between vehicle groups or areas, without needing to adjust the map filters and zoom levels. n

Personalisation

Many ways to customise WEBFLEET to suit individual requirements from personalised views to adding information to make what you see more informative on one page.

Plan a route the way you want it

Use multiple variables (including waypoints) to give fastest or most efficient routes.

Access WEBFLEET

Across different device types, allowing you to always stay on top of business.

Simple, clean and easy to administer

Toggle between views to get the right information to focus on the task in hand. Get the right information to the right people at the right time, keep data secure and in the right hands.

Send routes to driver terminals

In real time, ensure drivers follow or avoid specific routes.

Visit telematics.tomtom.com/tellmemore and follow us on Twitter @TomTomWEBFLEET

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