Max Foundry tries demos to promote plugins, plan backfires


You might recognize Max Foundry as the group that previously released Landing Page, a paid plugin, and free WordPress starter kits. Dave Donaldson, one of the folks behind Max Foundry let us in on the story behind their latest experiment. In order to allow for more potential users to test out their paid plugins, in this case Landing Page and Sales Page, they released free versions on the directory. Don’t bother searching them out, though. They pulled them because while the free versions were online, no one was purchasing their commercial versions.

Donaldson said the decision to release a version of the plugin for free came when potential customers inquired about a demo:

We’ve been asked by a few people interested in the premium versions if there was a way to demo the plugins before spending money on them, so this is our answer. We figured we might well give people a taste and let them try-before-they-buy.

The free versions released to the directory had the same functionality as their paid counterparts, but fewer template options than the full version. Interested customers could test drive the plugin from the directory, the idea being that they would pick up the full versions afterward. But after only a week with the plugins on the directory though, Donaldson noticed that sales weren’t happening:

Well, it turned out that while our free plugins were on, we didn’t have any sales for our commercial versions. We put out the free versions in hopes to simply give people a taste of the full versions, but the approach seemed to backfire. Sure enough, not long after we pulled the free plugins from, we started seeing sales come through again.

The free versions are no longer in the directory. Instead, the Max Foundry team plans to demonstrate the plugins using short screencasts on their site.

How would you go about promoting a paid plugin? Are screencasts and demo videos the only way to go?

12 thoughts on “Max Foundry tries demos to promote plugins, plan backfires

  1. There’s a definite balance to finding what constitutes a “taste”. Seems like they gave the users everything they wanted from the free plugin and they felt the extra templates weren’t worth paying for?

    • Andrea_R: It’s hard to say exactly. For example, the commercial version of our landing page plugin has 12 templates, and the free version only had 1. And the one template in the free version isn’t the one that people ask about, mostly because it doesn’t contain a lead gen form. But who knows, maybe that was simply good enough and people didn’t feel the need for the other 11 templates.

  2. Whenever I look for premium plugins, I always look at support. If the forums are very active with quick response times, that usually means people are finding answers to their issues. Then, I always make sure the plugin is in active development, meaning that there’s some sort of roadmap for features X, Y and Z — this just assures me that they’re not just in it for the mula but rather to solve a specific problem, in the grand scheme of things. Sometimes, I’ll even check out *customers’* sites who are using the plugin to see how malleable it is, in terms of customizations. Lots of things to promote =)

  3. I released my first premium plugin on CodeCanyon back in July, then about a month later, released a slimmed down, free version on The primary difference was that the free version did not include support for embedding fonts in Internet Explorer (it’s a font plugin) while the premium version did. I can’t say for sure how many conversions I’ve had from free to paid, or if the free version has hurt or helped my premium sales, but I do that know that I’ve had multiple people who have contacted me after trying the free version with questions. My answers to their questions lead immediately yo them purchasing the premium.

    I think one of the most important things is to make sure that there is distinct and important feature difference between paid and free. And it needs to be an important enough feature to convince people to switch.

  4. i think a week isnt enough time, to see anything.
    people download, test, sit on it, and then they buy.
    so its impossible to conclude anything from this story.

  5. Well, we’ve had our WP Auctions plugin on the repository for around 2 years now. Our sales have actually increased year over year due to us having the free version there. Not too mention the obvious free exposure offers.

    We’ve contemplated taking the plugin off the repository but so far it seems to be working out well enough.

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