I experienced a Web 2.0 marketing phenomenon today, powered by AdWords. For those that don't know AdWords, simply think of it as the advertising machine where Google makes there money from search. If you want to know more, there's a ton to be found on the web that explains AdWords far better than I.
So, I'm online searching for some Balsamiq plugins, I ran across an AdWords link that told me, very directly, that Balsamiq couldn't do the job for me, and I should switch to a product called iRise.
I'm always interested in new tools, so I checked out the link offered by AdWords. Clearly, iRise is a very robust tool. Does about 700 things I probably don't need, but looks great and is certainly something that will, as they say "scale with me".
As I browse, I really cannot tell how they see themselves as competitive with Balsamiq, but I keep looking. The more I look, the more features I find - an extremely robust, detailed application, clearly targeted at the enterprise and seemingly well done for that purpose.
Even though it feels a bit like Microsoft Office and it's well documented feature bloat problem, I decide I will download it and check it out. First, though, I wanted to know what comes after the 30 day free trial. No need to start this relationship if I know I can't maintain it after a few dates. As Dr. Phil might say, we should know if this is going somewhere....
Then I find it. I nearly fall off my chair. $7,000 for a single seat license. $7,000. I found 10 cars around Palo Alto (CA) for less than $7,000 in two minutes. $7,000! Now, you might be thinking "$7000 for enterprise software is not so bad, I've paid three times that before for large enterprise installations."
To be clear, it's not really the price (after the sticker shock!) that gets me, it's that they seem to have no real idea of their target market. Balsamiq is $79. That's right, they have an AdWords campaign against a competitor that is so far outside there price matrix, it's not worth even doing the math. Think about that again. They are paying to market against some who cost significantly less than the sales tax resulting from their product (With apologies to you, New Hampshire).
This shotgun marketing isn't appealing to me - it's concerning. I know they wanted to match on possible competitors, but they could have picked any number of solutions that were at least in their price range or target. They established a full campaign about Balsamiq, and in the end, what I really ended up thinking was "Wow, these iRise guys are scared of Balsamiq? Or do they just not know their target audience?"
There is no way I am their target market. This tells me there is little chance that future versions will really target what I (as only a $7000 professional user...) want to get from the tool, compared to the enterprise customers who must be spending hundreds of thousands of dollars. When Oracle XE markets against mySQL (prior to being one big somewhat-happy family), it makes sense. It's a product targeted to similar markets, has similar features and a similar pricing model. It represents choice for my end of the purchasing spectrum. Not just a wide ranging blanket thrown over all word-matches for "database".
Bottom line - I can purchase nearly 87 copies of Balsamiq or one copy of iRise. I am sure iRise is great - the screen shots look nice, the features are detailed and complete - but did this AdWords campaign really get them what they were looking for?
Do people who are searching for and/or considering using Balsamiq really justify an 87 to 1 cost increase? I am sure for the set of enterprise users that need those features, this is a well justified expense - but not those users who would choose Balsamiq in the end. They simply serve different parts (pricing) with different goals (enterprise vs. collaboration) of the same target market.
I wonder if they got any value from this campaign at all, or someone just feels good about having a "robust Adwords strategy". Just because you can use AdWords, doesn't always mean you should.
Even more AdWords fun? When I decided to write this entry, and went back to find the original AdWords posting, and I got this link presented to me, for the same search (!) - honestly, I couldn't make this up:
To be fair to iRise, I rounded up. The price is actually $6995, not $7000. Since that $5 is about 16% of the cost of Balsamiq, it's probably important to mention (sorry, couldn't resist).
Also they do state they offer some mid-level pricing for "smaller companies". So maybe you can get it for only $4,000. Stil does explain how these guys serve the same market.
You can see the comparison to Balsamiq for yourself if you like, too. Just in case it's taken down, I've placed a picture of the key part of the page below. Maybe that is worth $6900 to you. Not to me.