For Small SaaS Vendors, The Benefit Of A Free Tier Is To Attract Partners

Recently, I published a report about a small software-as-a-service (SaaS) vendor, Dimdim, which is having success in the crowded Web conferencing market. Like many small vendors, Dimdim provides a free service tier, generously allowing up to 20 participants into the free meeting, to help drum up business. The report, though, did not simply highlight the number of users that Dimdim has captured in four short years of existence -- over 5 million -- but also its success in attracting partners like Intuit, Novell and Nortel CVAS. Why? For new vendors entering crowded markets, attracting partners is vital for two reasons:

  1. Partners open doors to new markets. In crowded markets, incumbent vendors and new entrants jostle to serve customer needs. For the new entrants, the customers that can be wrangled through media hype and analyst buzz is minimal. Mass appeal comes from firms with strong working relationships with a range of buyers in a number of markets -- e.g., oil & gas, healthcare, government -- embracing a small vendor's offering and introducing it to their clients.
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Google Ends Wave: What Lessons Collaboration Tech Product Managers And Marketers Can Learn

Yesterday (August 5), Google announced that it was ceasing attempts to make Google Wave a viable standalone product. Considering the fanfare that the product received in the run-up to its general release (announced at Google I/O in May), it was no surprise the story burned across the blogosphere and the press. In following some of the Twitter traffic, what I found interesting was some of the low-level chuckling I saw from some competing vendors in the collaboration software space. Why? Well, before I get into that, let me make a couple of stipulations:

  1. Google has a history of less-than-stellar product launches. In tossing Google Wave on the scrap heap (and parceling out some of its components as open-source software), the brainchild of Lars and Jens Rasmussen joins a growing number of failed products. Some of this can be attributed to mistakes that Google has made time and again in marketing and product design (my colleague Tom Grant pointed out some of this with Google Buzz). But you also have to factor in that because Google has such a high profile, every time a product under performs it draws a lot of attention, making each failure seem large. But this does not seem to slow the search engine giant's innovation engine, which brings me to my second point.
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