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The Saddest SaaS Pricing Pages of the Year

 

Discuss on Hacker News here. 

Your pricing page is the center of your universe. Everything you do, from your marketing and sales to your product development and support, works to drive people to that page, convert them, and keep them coming back. 

Yea. It’s that important. 

We’ve documented some amazing SaaS pricing pages in the past, chiefly in our annual SaaS pricing page pageant, but we decided to point out some pages that need a good New Year’s resolution. Many of the following pages have a lot going for them and come from phenomenally great companies (they’re clearly doing something right). Yet, they’ve fallen short in two key areas: design clarity and simplification. Let’s look at these two big points, apply them to some examples, and get you on your way to creating a better page. 

Overcoming the “Too Many Check Marks” Problem

If you’re a product person, I reckon you’re pretty proud of every single feature that you put out to the world (at least in theory). If you weren’t, then why the heck would you build them, right? You’re a maestro of the command line and the right customer will appreciate every subtle detail you’ve pushed live. As a result, you need your page to look something like Qualaroo's pricing. Look at all those beautiful checkmarks. Over 50% of the features displayed are included in every plan.

Qualaroo's Pricing 

Qualaroo Pricing
You’re making the purchasing decision 10x more difficult

Here’s the thing though: most customers don’t care about every detail; they only care about what’s important to them. Including every single checkmark on the page limits your prospect’s ability to make a quick decision between your tiers. You want them to place themselves in a bucket without having to wade through rows and rows of features trying to figure out what’s core to the product and what’s included in each plan. You’re also allowing doubt to slip into their mind with questions of, “wait, is that feature I was marketed included in this plan or not?”

This is why pricing pages like UserVoice's pricing are so effective. Customers come in, see exactly what’s differentiated between the plans, and can make a quick decision. UserVoice even gives them an option to see the floodgate of features, but only if they want to click through.

UserVoice's Pricing

Uservoice pricing
You’re not allowing yourself to market these core features effectively

Calling something “Deeper Analytics” and putting a small description below the tag or in a hover over question mark isn’t effective product marketing. It’s deeper analytics; it’s value goes well beyond a tiny blurb. Buffer falls prey to this crevasse with their Buffer for business product by having a beautifully built site and page, but taking up 70% of their pricing matrix with features that are included in each plan. How slick would it be if they eliminated this block of checkmarks and created a section that said, “All business plans include:” and then had a product marketing rich overview of each of the features. 

A phenomenal example of this style of marketing is Wistia’s pricing page. They keep it so simple by including all features with all plans (and marketing accordingly), displaying their differentiation only along their value metrics of videos and bandwidth.  

Buffer for Business Pricing 

bufferapp pricing

Wistia's Pricing

wistia pricing
You’re making it harder to upsell me

On the eighth day when the powers that be created pricing pages they realized the beauty that the tiered structure had on anchoring and upselling customers. Suddenly, customers who were typically basic customers saw four plans and thought, “well, I’m not basic, but I’m not enterprise, so I guess I land in the second plan.” Boom. MRR boosted. 

Here’s the problem though: confusing pricing pages not only hurt the decision making process, they destroy this upgrade potential. Look at DocuSign’s page. Great company, but there are more checkmarks here than I know what to do with, leading me to just pick the cheapest option out of frustration, rather than choice. 

Docusign's Pricing

docusign pricing

The “We only have one customer” or “We have so many types of really specific customers” problem

Products start out as problems that real individuals have in their lives. The beauty of developing a SaaS product remains in your ability to quickly and nimbly respond to those individuals’ needs. This malleability in feature prioritization is a blessing and a curse though, as you could theoretically build something for every group of people on the planet (or build something for no one on the planet). Your product and your business need to therefore start with identifying and quantifying your customer personas

Your business then becomes a game of cloning your customers, focusing all of your efforts like a laser set out on world domination. Yet, far too often we see companies both successful and struggling who haven’t honed in on this key step in the process. 

This is easy to spot in pricing pages that are either too simple with minimal tiers or too complicated with convoluted or too many tiers. Both ends of the spectrum result in cash being left on the table and even more confusion for customers coming through the door. 

Too few tiers leaves cash on the table

Take Hootsuite's pricing for example, a killer company with over 8 million users. The problem is they only have one main tier along with a simpler freemium plan and a “contact us” enterprise plan. You mean to tell me that in eight million users there’s only one main person? We’d buy this if the product were much simpler, but this page alone has sixteen points of differentiation and I’m sure there are more features not even mentioned that could be helpful. What’s worse is that this page suffers from some of the simplification elements discussed above, as well. It’s sad to see so much potential cash being left on the table. 

You need to make sure you quantify your customer personas and ensure your pricing tiers align to those personas. One tier for each persona and each tier should be mutually exclusive. 

Hootsuite's Pricing

hootsuite pricing
Too much differentiation is just as bad

A lot of companies miss out on sales opportunities by utilizing too much differentiation or too many plans, as well. The result is mainly the dissonance in the mind of the customer we discussed above, but look at Onelogin and their pricing page for example. There’s so much going on with this page that, as a customer, I’m not really sure where I fit in initially. The plan labels do help, but as I dig into the features I get more confused. They’ve over optimized the differentiation between their plans. 

OneLogin's Pricing

onelogin pricing

Dyn has a similar problem with their transactional email pricing where the email send thresholds and the feature differentiation leads to a lot of confusion (although some of this could be cleared up by stylistically getting rid of those “X”s).

Dyn's Transactional Email Pricing

dyn pricing

Keep Your Pricing Page Simple and Focused on the Customer

We say it all the time, but it bears repeating: your pricing, just like your product, marketing, sales, and the like, all starts with your customer. Check out some of our other posts on SaaS pricing pages (including our SaaS pricing page pageant), as well as the big study we did on the top 270 SaaS pricing pages to learn more about constructing your page and your pricing strategy as a whole. 

We'll be following up with more content to walk through how to solve each and every one of these problems, so subscribe to the blog by downloading our SaaS Pricing Page Bluepring ebook below. You'll also get a heads start on how to fix these problem now, by seeing what the top folks in SaaS are doing with their pages. 

Discuss on Hacker News here. 

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Comments

Oh yes, please I hope more companies read this! 
 
And even beyond SaaS, I really wish eCommerce retailers and companies with complex product lines that have a "Compare Products" or "Compare Models" would filter out all the matching items and just display the unique ones. I can't even remember how much wasted time I've spend trying to decipher differences between products.
Posted @ Thursday, January 02, 2014 9:46 AM by Mike Schinkel
What do you think about http:///LiquidServe.com/ Pricing page? 
Does it have too many options or has lots of features listed.
Posted @ Thursday, January 02, 2014 11:31 AM by Aayush Ranaut
Hey Aayush, 
 
I think you're on the right track with the way you're differentiating tiers (simple and pretty straightforward), but I'd question how you came up with and sign posted these price points (they seem a bit random).  
 
I'd check out our original ebook on developing your pricing strategy. It'll give you a good base on how to think about your pricing page and the physical price point: http://www.priceintelligently.com 
 
Patrick
Posted @ Thursday, January 02, 2014 12:23 PM by Patrick Campbell
As a marketing guy I'm just as customer focused as the next....but your comment "Pricing starts with the customer"...begs the question, "Doesn't it start with the competition?"
Posted @ Thursday, January 02, 2014 5:13 PM by Dwight
Hi, I'm Mr Big Shot from Big Ventures Inc. We really liked that you took pot shots at some highly visible companies and would like to take you on as Chief Handwaving Officer (CHO). Please get in touch at cheap-and-transparent-marketing-ploys@bigventures.com.
Posted @ Thursday, January 02, 2014 9:56 PM by Mr Big Shot
Thanks for this very informative article. In the process of redesigning our pricing page and these tips will surely help.
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 12:51 AM by Nishadha
While discovering and reading this post about pricing pages adds one more item to my to-do list, I do believe it's an important one. So I'm glad I found it. I think I got here via Twitter. UserVoice example is especially helpful because it allows for the customer to have the option to find more if they want it, and it answers the question I was developing: "what about applications with a lot of features to explain the price?" I'll have to use that trick. Just one more way to remove friction.
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 2:10 AM by Chris
Hello Patrick, 
 
This is a great peice to read for every founder, I would like to know what you think about our pricing http://www.feedsapi.org/plans.htm ? Any feedback? Are we on tge eight path here or do you have spme suggeations to improve this?
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 5:59 AM by kerstin from FeedsAPI.org
@StackMob there is no price and call to action button on your "pricing" sub page https://www.stackmob.com/pricing/ . I am confused. 
 
https://twitter.com/daniel_sedlacek/statuses/415108372422094848
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 6:12 AM by Daniel
Great to see a blog post in your own hand again, Patrick! Very timely for me, too, as I'm in the process of reviewing our tiers anyway.  
 
Based on the Wistia example, I have decided to knock three rows out of our pricing page at http://yacapaca.com/teacher/subscription/buy/ and replace them with one new value metric. I must admit, I thought our page was simple until I saw Wistia's.  
 
Any other feedback gratefully accepted.
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 7:28 AM by Ian
Great article. I'm in the process of finalizing my website along with our pricing page. Thanks for the valuable insight! 
Tim
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 11:14 AM by Tim Thomas
We don't have all that many features just yet, but let me know what you think.www.foodcloud.ca 
 
Thanks
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 11:15 AM by Tim
Hey "Mr. Big Shot" - Appreciate the candor and feedback. You're right, we did pick some very visible companies to provide feedback. We did this mainly because these pricing pages are so visible that individuals can relate (and most people copy the pages they know best anyway). As we mentioned, the pages have a lot going for them, but could use the minor tweaks we suggested. Let us know on that job opening, there may be some people we know who could help.
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 12:22 PM by Patrick Campbell
You might also mention that Hootsuite's Enterprise users are entirely male---icons are a bunch of guys in suits. Considering marketing has a high percentage of women, this might also turn a few people off.
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 12:26 PM by Frances
Hey Kerstin, 
 
Really like what you've done with FeedAPI.com's page, especially the contextualization you made with the plan names - this really helps people bucket themselves.  
 
As for the matrices, I think you could really improve part of the page by at the very least putting the differentiable aspects of the product up top. Right now they're being buried and mixed with the value propositions, which is making me hard to figure out the core differences amongst the plans. Additionally, I'm a little confused by the "or" pricing. Is the $12 an annual price versus the $9/month?  
 
Overall though, love the design. Keep on trucking! 
 
Patrick
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 12:27 PM by Patrick Campbell
@Dwight 
 
You're partially right. Competition is important to keep in mind, but it's not the starting point when it comes to prices. I'm speaking from a SaaS/Software perspective mainly here, but most spaces in the industry don't have commoditization of their tiers and offerings.  
 
Think about it, even in the CRM space there are wildly different price points from company to company. Insightly serves the small business owner, Nimble serves the individual looking for more of a social stine, Oracle goes after the big boys, and salesforce tries to go after everyone. All four of those companies have the same basic, core product, but from there they couldn't be more different and aren't going after the same customer, who inevitably want different things (API access vs. branding, etc.).  
 
In SaaS, it's SOOOO easy to change, differentiate, and update your product that starting from the competition will shoot you in the foot and take you down a path of a race to the bottom.  
 
That being said, being aware of the competition is important, but you need to suspend your knowledge of them for the most part, because you customer is going to tell you how much your product is worth and what they want in the product.  
 
Check out these posts for more information:  
 
A complete Guide to Pricing Strategy (Costs, Competitors, and Value) 
 
A No Bull, Straightforward Guide to Value Based Pricing 
 
Feature Value Analysis: The Supreme Growth Hack 
 
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 12:35 PM by Patrick Campbell
Hey Kerstin, 
 
I'm an entrepreneur/developer and I just checked out your pricing page and was dismayed by one thing; the minimum price per month required to access the JSON API. In my experience the last thing you want to do is create friction for hackers who have time to build things but usually no budget for exploration. And I think Kin Lane of APIEvangelist.com would agree; his blog is a must read about the business of APIs. 
 
I would propose you offer a 4th level for developers, but put it in a horizontal box below your other three because it would be a specialty and not something that should create visual noise for most people. Ideally you make that tier free to minimize friction, and limit the number of feeds to something like 10 and RSS to Email to 250. That'd be all a developer would need to build for your service but not enough for them to use the service in a manner that would allow real "users" to use it instead of paying.  
 
On the flip side I think you could limit your middle tier to JSON and not XML and leave XML for Professional because most web developers choose JSON unless they are working with Enterprise development tools like .NET or Java.
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 12:43 PM by Mike Schinkel
@Tim 
 
I want to eat your site - literally with all those phenomenal pictures of food. I like the simplicty of the pricing page, but the only issue is it's a little hard to comprehend how the prices stack. I'm assuming that I need to pay you a monthly fee and then a fee for each location, unless I commit annually? This could be fixed with some minor design upgrades.  
 
I'd also think about your value metric (how you're charging). By location makes sense, but is there a way you can extract more out of your customer by charging along some point of value (number of orders, menu size, etc.). Don't want to nickel and dime your customer of course, but if you look at Wistia for example, you'll notice that as customers use the product more they make more money. It's a great tradeoff, because theoretically more page views/bandwidth on Wistia hosted videos = more money/leads for their customers.  
 
Let us/me know if you have any other questions! 
 
Patrick
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 12:44 PM by Patrick Campbell
Clear break-down, nicely described. Thanks! Like they say in the telcos: "if you cannot convince them, confuse them".
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 2:12 PM by MvanWunnik
@Patrick 
 
Thanks for the fantastic feedback. I've been considering a tiered payment plan based on some of the metrics you mentioned. Definitely a work in progress. I'll keep you posted. 
 
Tim 
www.foodcloud.ca
Posted @ Friday, January 03, 2014 5:13 PM by Tim
Regarding Dwight's question about whether or not pricing starts with the customer or competition, it starts with the customer, because they're the one that decides whether or not the value that you'll give them is worth more than the amount of money that they'll have to give up. Personally I was never a huge fan of big bullet point lists that companies put out there that list every single feature and this article succinctly lists out some alternatives and better ideas or product differentiation. I think that price is important, but generally speaking people look at different attributes like quality and customer service (see various review sites and how they rank based not just on pricing, but generally on quality and other attributes) and other things that impact their life more. You generally want to to try to appeal to customers that care about more than just price because that gives you the best possibility of reaching out to customers that care about a quality product.
Posted @ Saturday, January 04, 2014 9:41 AM by Kyle Taylor
Excellent analysis. The super confusing pricing pages are such a turn off. If a company can't even explain its pricing clearly, what is their technical documentation like?
Posted @ Saturday, January 04, 2014 10:50 AM by Laura Hamilton
Yes, simplification sales. Too many options distracts customers and puts a barrier on closing the sale.
Posted @ Wednesday, January 08, 2014 7:04 AM by Don Modekali
Great article. I love the notion of simplifying and focusing for conversion. I'm probably going to link a few clients to this actually. I really dislike when I'm tasked with squeezing in a hundred-point list of features on a page! It's just bad for business.
Posted @ Wednesday, January 08, 2014 5:09 PM by Diana
Realistically, a lot of pricing pages change based on feedback from customers.  
 
I think its safe to say that you (and others) have opinions on what a best pricing page should look like, but when you cant engage with a customer, when they're staring at your pricing page, you need to give them as much context as possible. If you close lots of deals based on 'this' or 'that' feature you will probably end up enumerating all of them over time in the pricing tiers.
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