Well, the money wasn't rolling in, back in 1996, but it was most-certainly coming, and I quickly realized that I had some decisions to make: how to deliver ChimneySweep®, how to price it, how to segment it, and (in two aspects of the term) how to protect it . . .
The first aspect of "how to protect it" was easy enough: register it for an official US Copyright. Even at that time, this could be done on-line for a nominal fee. (The US registered trademark would come later.) These "legal P's and Q's" are nonetheless important: some distributors (quite sensibly) will not distribute your product unless you can produce your copyright registration number to be verified. And, if someone actually tried to rip you off, this is the only (but "mighty-mighty") leg you'd have to stand on.
Delivery, in those days of 1200-baud dial-up, was also a problem. I paid out-of-pocket for an early installer program (WISE ...) and boxes of 3-1/4" floppy disks ... and very quickly grew to hate floppy disks. Other things that very soon proved to be needed included a Windows-help generator and a respectable manual ... which was printed and bound at a local stationer's store, thank you very much. (When you sell "a commercial product," you have to meet all expectations of what a commercial software product actually consists of.) In later years, delivery switched to CD-ROM, the printed manual was dropped, and finally, physical distribution altogether stopped when high-speed Internet became dependably available and third-party providers such as E*Junkie finally stepped forward to finally remove these procedural concerns from me most(!) completely.
The other essential element of a commercial software product is license-code protection. It does not have to be "strenuous," but it does have to exist. Many governments, for example, are prohibited by law from spending their taxpayer's money on anything that can be obtained for free: there must be "a mandatory purchase transaction." Thus, if your product offers "a free trial," even if it is horse-hobbled, those potential customers might not be allowed to buy your product.
Like many others, Sundial initially provided "hobbled free trials." "Ten tables for ten days" seemed to have a certain ring to it ... and, within a matter of a few days, 8,000 people had done it. Immediately, "the little light went on." First of all, demand for the product was obviously much higher than I had dreamed. Second, a fair number of those people were asking for support (including suggestions on how best to run the product multiple times). Third, we were leaving money on the table, while at the same time denying potential customers the benefit of an actual trial.
"Ten" tables?! Are you kiddin' me?!"
Ahem ... "Indeed." (Insert very-awkward back-pedaling here ...) Trust me: we didn't make that mistake twice! Above all, "real customers" are serious, and they require you to be serious, too!!
Life Lesson Two: Don't Leave Money On The Table. Instead, Sell the Actual Experience.
I realized that the 8,000 people who had downloaded the product could be loosely divided into one of two groups: (1) people who will download anything-at-all that is free, and (2) people who actually needed what the ChimneySweep product could do. Only the second group consisted of potential customers. Therefore, I promptly decided that they should not be "potential" customers: they should be customers. Thus was born the concept of the "paid 30-day trial."
This concept very-neatly encompassed both of the use-cases of "an initial user of ChimneySweep," while giving both of them unconstrained use of the product ... "unconstrained use" (of course) being the only(!) scenario that they could actually, realistically, use.
For about one-fifth the cost of "marrying" ChimneySweep, you can go on a date. If you fall in love with it within 30 days, you can apply the full purchase price as a discount toward an unlimited license within that time. Meanwhile, "the horse is not hobbled." Customers can receive the full benefit of the product. (And, if it so happens that "their problem is fixed and it never happens again in the next 30 days, hey," they came out ahead.) Either way, the business interests of both parties have now been served: the customer receives the full benefit of the product (in exchange for a reduced, but nevertheless not throw-away, investment ...). And Sundial in either case receives money.
One of the two "use cases" being served is that of the customer for which his current difficulty really is "a fluke." This customer paid about one-fifth of what he otherwise would have paid, and he walked away happy, and therefore, so did we. Meanwhile, the customer who dipped his toes into the water, found the water favorable, and decided to jump in ... did so at no incremental cost. Once again, both parties are satisfied.
"Two 'win-win' situations ..." Woo-hoo!!
To Be Continued ...