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Our learnings when providing a free plan on a SaaS

published by Bobby Bouwmann

Back in July Stefan and I worked on a brand new redesign. We put a lot of hours into it and with the big design change, we also wanted to push on a new pricing model. We wanted to find a way to get more (paying) customers and grow PingPing. We talked a lot about this and in the end decided to add a free plan.

The FREE plan

The free plan was basically the same as the current "5 websites" plan where you have all the features available to you; 30-second interval monitoring checks. status pages and so on. The only limit was a max of 2 websites.

When we started promoting the free plan on the 17th of July we got lots of sign-ups. It was the biggest growth of PingPing with sign-ups since the start. We were very happy with all the new customers. People started creating accounts with mostly just one website to monitor and that's it.

After some time we realized that this plan wouldn't convince people to convert to a paid plan, because they already got all features if they only wanted to monitor 2 websites. We adjusted the free plan to only include the uptime monitoring from 5 minutes and up and we removed the status pages feature from the free accounts.

Some more time later we didn't see the conversation rate we were expecting. We needed to change more, but we were not sure what would people convert to a paid plan. People were happy with their free account and they had a basic monitoring setup. All good for them of course.

Spammy accounts

With free accounts, we also saw a huge growth in a particular domain that was being monitored. The domain seemed to be part of a code collaboration platform. People were monitoring the applications they created. Most of those code platform simply returned an empty page or showed a hello world. There was no real reason to monitor those specific demo application subdomains.

The sign-up and adding the domain seemed to be automated, seeing the growth in our free accounts. We eventually blocked the domain, to prevent monitoring more of these domains. It even got worse, because they started adding bit.ly URLs pointing to those demo applications subdomains. We finally also started blocking the whole IP range of the domain and that seemed to have solved it.

At PingPing we don't care what you monitor, that is your business. However, we keep an eye on trends to make sure our system is not abused. This was one of those cases. This is also a big reason that the free account was not a good fit for our SaaS.

Costs increase, revenue keeps the same

There is not much to say about this: If you offer free plans, the costs will increase but not necessarily the revenue.

No more free stuff

On the 30th of September, we removed the free plan and started offering a 14-days free trial again. This seems to work better than giving the monitoring away since people get to try all features for free for 14 days. After that, they can decide if they want to stay or not. We already see that this approach is working better and that new customers have better experiences trying out PingPing because of the trial.

The free plan didn't work for our service and we shouldn't have offered this. It was a rush for us to get more customers, but in the end, it backfired. We're very happy with our current pricing model and are working hard to make PingPing even better and grow to a new level.

If you don't have an account yet, you should definitely give it a try. The 14-days free trial doesn't require any type of payment and you can start monitoring within 30 seconds. Try PingPing now. Let us know if the 14 days trial is not enough for you, we would be happy to extend your trial.