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Supporting free products  

WooThemes make the point that providing support for the users of their free themes would drive them out of business. Some would disagree, and suggest offering a fantastic user experience even to free users.

Without knowing more about the details of WooThemes' business, it is difficult to know whether they should support their free themes, but it is certainly something they should consider, particularly if they're aware that they're losing users because of the lack of free support.

This is one of those classic contextual questions which cannot be easily reduced to a scientific/objective test. So how to resolve it? One can break it down into smaller, easier-to-answer questions.

Here are some questions that WooThemes need to consider to make their decision:

  • Do users who set up one free-theme blog set up more blogs later? (unknown)
  • Do free theme users ever turn into paying users? (probably)
  • Do happy free users lead to other people hearing about WooThemes in a positive light? (unknown)
  • Are people who hear about WooThemes from a free user likely to look for both free and paid themes? (probably)

If the answer is yes to all four questions, it may well make sense for WooThemes to bite the cost, or alternatively to figure out a way to recruit some of their more active community members to do the support for a low rate (this model works for some businesses).

Whether the answers are yes or no, there may also be things the WooThemes team can do to encourage them towards 'yes', such as providing more ways for happy WooThemes users to express their satisfaction, or providing some benefits to Free WooThemes users who recruit more friends.

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Bootstrapping and knowing how to make things
Analysis of 32 startup post-mortems
How to keep your sanity during launches