A Lifetime Membership Is Too Good To Be True
You’ve heard the phrase “if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is”? It’s a pretty common cliche, but it does have merit. When it comes to services offering “lifetime memberships” this saying hits the mark. Be careful what you sign up for. Everyone’s interpretation of a lifetime is different.
There are two main reasons to be wary of services offering lifetime memberships for one payment. I’ll get into those reasons shortly. To be sure, there was a time when such plans or pricing structures made sense. In the days of shrink-wrapped software, when you’d get a disk, cd, or multiples of each with your newly purchased software, you could count on owning it for life. It was yours and no one could remove it from your computer.
If the company that sold you the software went belly up, chances are the software would still work for the immediate future. As long as future operating system updates were backward compatible with the libraries used to create that software, you still got your money’s worth. Eventually, much like anything written for Windows 3.1 and Windows 95, it would no longer work and you’d be lucky to keep it running on some dinosaur of a computer that you could only touch with kid gloves.
That’s not the case anymore, especially with what are called Software As A Service products. Also known as SAAS products. These services include everything from your accounting software, email service, and spreadsheet programs for which you pay monthly or yearly.
PigeonDB.com is also a SAAS. As long as the impetus and business make sense, the software company stays around and you enjoy the use of it. If you like what they are doing, you keep renewing your membership, or you could cancel your subscription if you didn’t.
How does it make sense for a SAAS to stay around and keep providing you the premium? That’s simply put in one phrase: year over year revenue.
SAAS as a renewable service makes complete sense. You keep paying for a service you like and use. Much like paying someone to mow your lawn. On the contrary, you wouldn’t pay your lawn service one time and have them mow your lawn for life.
And we arrive at the two main reasons SAAS “lifetime memberships” make no sense and are a harm to you, the buyer.
Huge Upfront Pricing
A lifetime membership comes at a steep price. It has to. In order to keep the business afloat, the seller needs to price in some planned number of years of service. Since they’ll only have one time to get revenue for a user, they need to make this price high. In this price they also need to include what they perceive to be inflation over those years in pricing of hosting and related services to keep the business running their product.
The price can be completely out of proportion to what you’ll actually use, in the case you abandon them after only a short while.
Now let’s say you do go in and buy a lifetime membership, then inflation and hosting prices surge. Well, that company is going to find it hard to stay afloat. They will have had to save revenue from the initial sale to make it through these times. That’s hard to do with the best prognostication.
What if prices surge so much that the service provider just can’t afford to keep serving their product? Well, they can shut down. And you’d be out of a significant portion of the money you put down for a lifetime of service that never materialized.
No Incentive To Innovate
More than just pricing, the incentive to innovate on a product is gone since the company that built it already has all of the revenue they can possibly make from you, if their lifetime premium membership is truly that. It’s easy logic.
If the SAAS company can’t make another cent from you, that drives all of the incentive to make a better product, fix bugs, add features, and even to answer their correspondence completely pointless. They have your lump sum. They are done. And you can just find ways around it if you still want to keep using it.
Know that when you incentivize a company to keep doing better, year after year, by possibly dropping them if they don’t, you have leverage. The company can’t make new customers if their olds ones are unhappy. And you won’t renew if you are unhappy. The company is motivated to keep you by innovating. They are also making it easier for new customers to join without scaring them away due to sticker shock.