Giving products away for free may seem like a strange way to grow a business, but for Louisville, Ky.-based Halfpricesoft.com, it has been the key to success.
Having sold fewer than a hundred copies of their payroll and check printing software titles in the first years of business, software developer Halfpricesoft.com now sells thousands of copies each year now by giving away their full-feature versions through partnerships.
Halfpricesoft.com launched in 2003 with a focus on creating payroll tax software solutions that is easy to learn and affordable for small businesses yet full-featured. The company found it difficult to market software as a start-up, since customers were unfamiliar with the company, and sold only a handful of copies in its first year.
With the knowledge that their software offered features and capability comparable to high-end business software, Halfpricesoft offered a 30-day free trial period for its products believing that when users tried the payroll and check printing software, they would realize the value offered by Halfpricesoft.com and purchase the full-use license. While the free trial period did increase sales, they remained far below expectations.
In 2008, the company produced a "Lite" version of its check writing software, with limited capabilities on some features, such as custom check designing. The company offered the new product for free on software download sites and supported it with an intense press release campaign.
"Everyone likes free stuff," said Halfpricesoft.com founder Dr. Ge. "When we launched ezCheckPrinting Lite for free, we suddenly started getting hundreds of downloads each month."
But while downloads of the free software were plentiful, conversions to the full-featured paid version were minimal. The search for an effective marketing solution continued.
Seeing that free software was popular with small-business customers, Dr. Ge and his team looked for a way to utilize this powerful marketing tool that would result in sales for their premium products. The answer came in late 2008 when they discovered TrialPay.
With TrialPay, Halfpricesoft.com is able to offer the full-featured single-user version of ezCheckPrinting, ezCheckPersonal and its other software titles for free when customers purchase a product from another company. In 2009, the company ceased to offer the "lite" version of ezCheckPrinting and used TrialPay to offer the product for free. TrialPay advertisers pay for the software when customers purchase their products or services.
"We sell thousands of copies each year now," said Dr. Ge. "It's a win-win-win-win situation: the customer gets free product, we make sales, the TrialPay advertiser makes sales, and TrialPay gets commissions."
Halfpricesoft.com took full advantage of its partnership with TrialPay by launching a public relations campaign featuring the TrialPay offer in press releases and newsletters. The company also highlights the TrialPay offer on its website, encouraging customers to get Halfpricesoft.com products for free.
Currently, several products are offered for free through TrialPay at www.halfpricesoft.com, including:
- ezCheckPersonal personal check writing software
- ezTimeSheet, computer-based time clock software for tracking employee hours
- blank check stock for use with ezCheckPrinting, ezPaycheck and ezCheckPersonal software
- Stock for printing W2, W3, 1099 and 1096 forms