In hindsight I think $39 is too much for white-label if we’re talking about flat pricing (i.e. not based on sites). It would be more reasonable at $29.
I also think some modifications to freemium would be better received. Maybe something like this:
Free: - 5 sites - no GA dashboard - no prioritized publishing (i.e. brief delay when publishing) - Surreal CMS branding - NO advertisements of any kind Pro: $19/mo - unlimited sites - all features - prioritized publishing - Surreal CMS branding White-label: $29/mo - unlimited sites - all features - prioritized publishing - your own branding, white-label domain/subdomain, etc.
Not sure how much that changes the discussion, but I’m just throwing out another variation.
Compared to our biggest competitor, CushyCMS, we are still $9/mo cheaper for pro at this price point and only $1 more expensive for white-label (they only have one plan at $28/mo). Given the additional features, especially with what’s coming in version 7, I think you’ll find much more value in Surreal.
A Note on Flat Pricing
A big reason I’m leaning towards flat pricing instead of tiered pricing (based on sites) is because it lowers the barrier of entry for pro users. In many ways, it makes sense that one would pay more if one uses something more.
However, I’ve found that with tiered pricing, users tend to limit their use to avoid moving up to the next tier.
This isn’t the experience I want people to have. I want you to add sites without worrying about costs. I want you to enjoy using Surreal, not penalize you for being successful and bringing new clients on board.
Instead of thinking:
For every new client I get, I need to recoup at least $X per month to offset the cost of this tool.
What if you think of it like this:
I pay $19 [or $29] per month for a great tool that my clients and I can use without limitation.
Wouldn’t that encourage you to use the service more freely?
Yes, this is a great way of pricing Surreal CMS for users that have a lot of websites. However, it’s still pretty expensive for people like me, those who are just starting their web development business.
The plan that I would be most interested in, is the plan with the white label feature. I can’t settle for anything less, especially since my clients will know that I am selling them a free service because the next best plan is the free plan and I wouldn’t pay for Surreal CMS without the white label feature (unless there was no free plan).
So with one website, the cost of Surreal CMS would be over my budget of $5 AUD per service (Web Hosting, CMS, Matomo Analytics).
But I can see where you are going Cory with this is proposed pricing. The pricing that you suggested would be good when I have about five or more clients using Surreal CMS.
Some web developers might only use Surreal CMS for websites that only need a basic CMS. These web developers still want to sell Surreal CMS to their client but can’t without building many Surreal CMS powered sites for clients so that they can justify the cost of $29/month.
However, if Surreal CMS was a viable alternative to WordPress (in terms of features) and was more powerful, the paragraph above might not be an issue as it would be primary CMS that those web developers use.
I should probably create a new post but some features that would make Surreal CMS much more powerful would be the following.
Blogging (I know this is coming in 7.1)
A content API (so it can become a headless CMS and power native/hybrid apps)
E-commerce (no more WooCommerce)
Search (Version 7.2)
Events (with API so that it can be displayed in list form, calendar or anything!)
CDN purging - when a page is published, the old version is removed from the CDN
The above are all features I would use and would make Surreal CMS my first choice when developing a website.
Perhaps something in between free and the first paid plan would be good.
$4 per month or slightly higher
But I guess this would encourage people to create multiple accounts. Maybe you could offer per site pricing but much more expensive per site but still cheaper than committing to the $29/month plan.
An example might be $8 USD per site with all features and white label ability.
I have an idea that might hopefully work for all. By all means include a free version with a few restrictions. I would almost view this more for testing or very casual users and could be limited to say three sites per account or whatever Cory thinks is right.
In addition, have one white labelled site for $5, then two for $10 etc, up to five sites at $25 in total. From then on make it $29 for unlimited sites. By the time a designer reaches 5 sites, they’ll know if they want to use Surreal for more.
Wouldn’t that work for both established designers and those just starting with Surreal? It would allow them to progress as jobs arrive without high start up costs. Clients would never know it was surreal, so they couldn’t compare it to the free package.
I like Flashman’s idea of pricing. This is probably the best one in my opinion. Pricing would increase by $3 per site compared to the current pricing per site ($10 / 5 = $2). This should be enough for Cory to recover the costs with the new static includes feature and make money. It keeps the pricing easy and I find billing per site to be easier for me.
I think I see a theme emerging here with people’s suggestions. @Cory, it does seem that people like the idea of paying per site (in some way, shape or form).
I hear you… but at the same time I cringe a little when I see it expressed that way. It’s the kind of language some of our more extreme right-wing politicians use here in Australia when they want to give tax cuts to the wealthy. The reality of course, is that the wealthy end up being subsidised by the less wealthy.
Honestly, (and I imagine I speak for all small-business people when I say this) I’m not going to intentionally stifle the growth of by business just to avoid paying more (proportionally less per client though) for Surreal. That makes no business sense whatsoever.
Anyway, if it’s a question of what the white-label feature alone is worth, it is hard to put a value on this, but I think you’re getting closer valuing it at $10. When I had a go at pricing this (and other features) in my pricing scheme with ‘add-ons’, I put it at $6, but that was assuming many businesses would buy multiple add-ons (which in total might add up to $11 or even $15).
I too like @Flashman’s very simple pricing, and I agree with you that $3 per site would bet better. It then becomes unlimited once you hit 10 sites (assuming $29/$30 is the price Cory goes with). It addresses several concerns various people have raised:
- Affordable for people with few clients (@Pat_McC , @michele , @jeremy, Me!)
- No more ‘cliff edge’ pricing (@Mark_E)
- There’s a definite and clear incentive to be successful and get more than 10 clients on the system (@Cory)
- It’s very simple and easy to understand.
The only drawback I can see is that Cory has to deal with billing amounts changing as clients add each additional site. That’s why I assumed a pricing continuum might not sit so well.
This has been a big pain point with tiered pricing since about 50% of users are on annual plans, so they don’t get billed until the period restarts. For example, if a $108/yr user moves up just one tier six months in, they end up paying $324 ($216 for the next year, plus a $216 / 2 proration). Angry emails and confusing pricing explanations ensue.
I supposed we could invoice or credit the account as tiers change, but then you end up with seemingly arbitrary invoice amounts and billing intervals. Not sure which option is actually better.
In a freemium business, premium users do end up subsidizing free users. Many successful SaaS companies have shown how well this works. Freemium is how Surreal got off the ground. In fact, it never would have become more than a side project had it not been for freemium growth in the early years.
My shift to a premium-only service was a failed experiment. The idea was to make pricing more fair (to attract new users) and to provide a higher quality service and support than my competitors.
Despite all that, tiered pricing remains unpopular for many users and it didn’t attract waves of new ones, either. I overestimated users’ willingness to pay for what they actually use, and I underestimated the allure of freemium and the effectiveness of converting free users to paid users.
Maybe it makes more sense from this perspective:
- What if Spotify charged based on how many songs you listen to?
- What if Netflix or Hulu charged based on how many shows you watch?
- What if Comcast charged based on the amount of bandwidth you consume?
Would this change how you use their services? I suspect it would, and the suggestion to meter them would be wildly unpopular.
I get it. People want a lower barrier of entry here, and that makes perfect sense. The freemium model will provide that, but I can’t offer everything for free and still be sustainable. There has to be incentive to upgrade at some point.
The following article has a lot of great points about how freemium can benefit both customers and providers mutually:
My favorite quote from it is:
Help them grow so you can grow together.
The free plan I’m proposing does exactly this. If you’re just starting out, you’ll be able to onboard five clients for free — indefinitely. There will be no arbitrary limitations to users/pages/publishes beyond that.
Once you have five clients onboard, $19 (or even $29) doesn’t seem like such a big number anymore. And by then, you should know for sure if the service provides the kind of value that you’re willing to pay for.
Yes, I can see why that would be a major pain. If you did run with Flashman’s model, you could always discontinue annual billing. That might not be so bad? It would help your cashflow, and those who end up paying less or the same price overall (i.e. everyone with 3 or fewer sites) would have nothing to complain about.
Good point. So my feeling is, that group of customers paying $29 with only a few clients would be, to some extent, subsidising everyone else (both the high- and low-end users).
Thanks for sharing that Cory. That’s really interesting and a hard lesson the rest of us can possibly learn from in our own businesses. (I’m really just starting out in app development, having been a graphic/web designer for 20+ years, so I can learn from this myself.)
True, but it really depends on how you look at it. Acknowledging that there are no perfect analogies, your model of a user with X customer/sites could also be compared to a family with X people. I don’t know about Hulu and Comcast, but Spotify and Netflix do charge more for multiple users.
Anyway, it’s kind of a pointless exercise to debate comparisons to other companies with completely different services. It’s all about your service and what ends up being the best win-win pricing for both you and your customers.
No limitations, other than the number of websites? Does that mean the free plan will get white labeling?
I’ve said this before but I can’t sell Surreal CMS to clients without white labeling. I’m willing to pay $5 USD per site, provided I can white label Surreal CMS. If the free plan has white labeling then that might work until I have enough clients to justify spending $19 or $29.
If the free plan has no limits other than the number of sites. What’s stopping me from signing up under a different email address? I probably wouldn’t do that as by the time I have five paying clients, I should be able to easily justify spending $19 or $29 per month on Surreal CMS. However, you have to remember that not everyone will be stick to the rules and start paying after five websites.
Spotify doesn’t make much profit, if any at all. In fact, Spotify had $1 billion in debt at one stage (not sure if this is still the case). The reality is, Spotify has to pay artist per song played where as Netflix/Hulu only need to create the content or purchase the rights to a production once and then it’s pretty much easy profit.
I think @cory is trying to compare Surreal CMS with Cushy CMS in pricing. The free plan definitely works for Cushy CMS. I wonder how many of those 90,000 websites that Cushy CMS powers are actually paid customers. I dare say a lot of them are free users or paid accounts with lots of sites.
Annual pricing still works with the per site pricing model and is much more easier than tiered pricing for the customer.
You could offer $5 per site per month or $4 per site per month when paid yearly. If someone choose the yearly option and then decides to cancel, you could give them a credit or no money back as it was a prepaid service. I charge my clients yearly for web hosting, domains and other similar services. Since I would be reselling Surreal CMS, I would purchase a site per year and get it at the discount. When I am ready to add more sites, I can simply purchase another site.
Another idea might be to only offer annual discounts on the unlimited $29 plan. You would still have $5 per site per month but it wouldn’t qualify for the discount.
So in summary, I believe that offering three different pricing options would satisfy the requirements of everyone and would enable both Surreal CMS and it’s users to succeed.
$5 per site/month
$29/month or discount if paid yearly.
If the free plan doesn’t have any limitations other than the number of sites and it has white labeling then count me in. The white labeling feature will probably help you stop duplicate accounts because the user will probably have their clients sign in using the same CNAME record as the first account. You would force all free users to use a CNAME record for this to be effective. I can go into details on how this might work if you would like to know.
To clarify, I meant no limits on the number of sites, users, pages, etc. The free plan would need to have some feature limitations to encourage users to upgrade (white-label would be one of them).
Spotify has an unusually high cost of content licensing to account for. Despite this, they still became profitable with a flat price freemium model.
My profit margin per user is higher than Spotify’s because I don’t have such large overhead expenses. In terms of customer acquisition, this point enforces my theory that this model is easier to sell.
I fear that, at $5/site, we’re still not improving the barrier of entry. We’re actually making it worse once you hit three sites. Currently, you’ll pay only $10 for up to five sites. At $5/site, you’ll pay $5, then $10, then $15, then $20, then $25. And then once you hit six sites the price stays at $29? IMO this makes it harder to get off the ground, not easier — but I do see the good intention
Maybe the best course of action is to simply test the waters, but offer discounted pricing for existing users who would be adversely affected.
It’s hard to change things and still keep everyone happy
A discount would help. Otherwise I better fast track the number of client websites I build between now and when 7.0 is released.
Per site pricing might not work for everyone but it would work for me as I calculate how much web hosting, CMS, Analytics and other services will cost per website and then I add my profit margin on.
Agreed. I guess the best way to find out if the pricing will work is to follow Nike’s motto.
Just do it
Oh Cory. This new pricing scale would cause me move to another option. Right now, I have 5 sites and they go through my branded editor (which impresses the heck out of them). Not sure what the answer is, although I do understand the need for a price increase. But $39/mo for 5 sites for the white label is too steep for me. I’ve been with Surreal for a loooong time and absolutely love it and your terrific service!
Jeremy’s solution would work for me. We also have the same concern about white labeling only being offered at the highest tier:
White labeling the CMS is a rather big feature and is considered a deal breaker for me.
If clients know that I’m selling Surreal CMS to them when they could have it for free, then I would lose the ability to sell the software.
A startup web development business cannot justify spending $39 USD per month if they only have one or two client websites.
I propose the following pricing for Surreal CMS.
- One site only
- Some feature restrictions
- No white labeling
- Ethical advertising
- Attribution link in the footer to Surreal CMS
- Slower page publishing
- Limited support with a strong focus on community support
- 5 sites included (additional sites $3)
- All core features
- White labeling
- No ads or attribution
- Support from Surreal CMS
@GetSet, $39 is in my opinion too much but thankfully Cory has changed his mind.
$29 is much more affordable and although I’d like it to be a little more affordable, I think it’s a big improvement on the $39 price tag.
$29 / 5 = $5.80 USD per site. If your charging your client $10 USD for Surreal CMS, your making $4.20.
I think $25 / month instead of $29 / month would be a good price as it would be $3 less than Cushy CMS (which I don’t think has seen an update in years) and it might just push Cushy CMS customers to make the switch. I am glad that Cory has reconsidered the initial price of $39 / month.
Also @cory it looks like some stuff on the forum is broken. The Surreal CMS font text in the navbar and some default letter avatars.
Looks like the last Discourse update broke the external avatar service. Seems to be fixed now.
What are you seeing with the Surreal CMS text? It’s an SVG and the text was converted to shapes so it doesn’t require a font to render. I can’t seem to find anything wrong with it.
I appreciate that, and I understand that $39 is too much for white-label. I was contemplating $29, but what I’m hearing in the forum and in private conversations is that white-labeling is paramount to getting clients on board. Holding it at a higher price would create another barrier of entry, which is what I’m trying to prevent.
One More Try
That said, I’m going to propose an even simpler option with just two plans:
Free: - 5 sites 😄 - no white-labeling 🎨 - no analytics dashboard 📊 - no change notifications 📣 - no prioritized publishing 🐢 - no API access 🤖 - NO advertisements of any kind 🚫 - community support 💬 Pro: $19/mo - unlimited sites 🤩 - prioritized publishing 🐇 - all features unlocked 🚀 - white-labeling 🎨 - the same premium support you're used to (less than 24 hours every day) 👨🏻💻
Essentially, we go back to having FREE and PRO plans, which worked well in the early years. Pricing stays fixed as you grow, which avoids the success penalty. Free users go to the forum for support, which means pro users will still get top notch help. The barrier of entry is reduced thanks to the free plan, and a $19 price point should be pretty comfortable for 5+ sites and pro features.
At this price point, Surreal CMS is $9/mo cheaper than CushyCMS and only $6/mo more than Simple CMS. (It’s also $6/mo cheaper than it was when it launched in 2008). I welcome users to try all three services and decide which offers the best value for the price.
This plan will appeal to everyone above the very first tier (1-5 sites), as they will see price reductions. Those in the first tier will be split between free and pro, so most of the pushback will be from this group. If you are a long-term user and you will face a hardship as a result of this change, we can talk about discounts to keep you afloat on an as-needed basis.
I’m not trying to alienate anyone or price users out of the service. I’m trying to strike a balance between making Surreal more attractive for potential customers, keeping existing customers happy, and keeping revenue somewhat consistent.
This wasn’t an issue in the early days, but we can make sure the value added in the pro plan is obvious. It will become even more obvious in subsequent releases as planned features roll out.
Free users will get support from the forum where the community can chime in. I’ll also assist as time permits. Pro users will continue to receive the same support as always.
As a side effect, free users will make the forum more active, as most current users write in directly knowing they’ll get a faster response.
A funny story…when 5.0 launched, we switched from PayPal to Stripe to accept payments. This was in Stripe’s early days, when hardly anybody knew about them. In fact, I remember chatting with Patrick Collison in Campfire as he was answering some integration questions I had. (I wonder if he’d be willing to do that today? )
I love Stripe, and I will continue to use them for payment processing. However, a number of users outside the U.S. have reported that the most efficient way for them to subscribe is through PayPal (many don’t have credit cards or use alternate forms of payment that Stripe doesn’t support).
So with 7.0, I’m happy to report that we will once again be accepting payments via PayPal!
The SVG font looks different to the normal Surreal CMS logo’s font. I originally thought it was text and the browser was defaulting to a fallback font and that there might be some sort of issue with font loading.
Logo for Surreal CMS Community (different font to normal logo)
The old logo for Surreal CMS Community
Thank you Cory for changing the price again. This new price is much better and more justifiable.
It’s not the best price for under 5 sites that need pro features but much easier to bear that cost (compared to $29 / month or $39 / month) until more client websites are built.
I think this pricing will definitely bring CushyCMS customers to Surreal CMS. Just had a look at Simple CMS which was hard to find in search results. It appears they haven’t updated their website in awhile as they are still listing PageLime on their compare page.
Looking forward to this new update. Can’t wait to try it out.
That’s intentional. The forum is ahead of the website and the CMS for the new design