Why do companies hide their pricing?

I’ve come across a number of software companies that hide their pricing. They might have a free tier to onboard the broke or the curious but after that you need to contact them for pricing. Why?

I’ve heard various excuses. Here are a few.

“A landing page doesn’t do our product justice; we need to explain it to you in person”. Write a better landing page. Better still, throw in some actual videos of how to use the product and what some of your power-users actually use it for. Speaking of which, why do I find other people’s videos on YouTube about your product better than your own marketing materials? Go hire those YouTubers.

“We need the opportunity to talk to you to understand your needs so that we can figure out the best pricing”. No you don’t. Just offer me great pricing to begin and we’ll figure out the rest, together. There’s a variant of this that suggest, “We offer solutions, not just products; we need to know your requirements first”. Are you a SaaS company or a management consulting firm? Smells like bullshit.

“Our competition copies whatever we do and we don’t want to reveal our pricing.” Does this mean that price is your only differential? If so, you’ve got bigger problems.

At the end of the day, not showing your pricing means you’ve got something to hide. That doesn’t inspire confidence.

Oftentimes, the pricing model is a monthly figure charged annually (why even offer a monthly price if people can’t pay it monthly??) An annual commitment paid upfront is a major commitment. The free tier is offered as a way to kick the tires but it’s often so hobbled as to not be a very good proxy of what it will be like to use the full product.

I’m getting really tired of companies that offer an open-source, ‘community’ edition for free that doesn’t have all the features, alongside an ‘enterprise’ (paid) version that does. I don’t see the point in it. By doing it this way, you’re already setting up an adverse relationship because I’m paying you because I have to not because I want to.

Let’s break down the psychology of this for a moment. If you offer a half-assed free version and a full-featured paid version then why offer the free version at all? The free version just feels like a con-job. In the end, I’m forced to pay just to see what it’s like to be a regular customer and that starts us off on the wrong footing. I should be happy to pay the full fee because I’m so pleased wit the product/service that I’m getting not because I don’t have a choice.

I suggest you remove the distinction of ‘community’ and ‘enterprise’ altogether and simply have a ‘free’, roll-you-own version and a paid cruise-control SaaS version. The distinction is clear: one requires a lot of technical savvy and outlay on your own infrastructure, whereas the other is a hassle-free, we-take-care-of-everything-for-you version. That’s an easy choice for most people to make.

While we’re at it, I’m also getting tired of this other ruse wherein you can ‘taste’ the full product with a 14 to 30 day trial and then you have to pay full room-and-board. First of all, it’s cynical. It’s treating users like drug addicts. “We’re going to give the user some smack, get them hooked, then charge ‘em full whack”. Also, how can you really evaluate if something is going to work well for your business in 14 to 30 days? If it’s an online storage product, fine, but if it’s a team collaboration product or something with more sophistication then that’s just unreasonable.

Trust. That’s what’s both parties want. Neither side wants to be taken advantage of. It’s more than just the money. It’s a psychological contract.

In a world that is so often way too transactional, there are times when we want a business relationship that means more than how much can a company afford to give and how much can a customer afford to pay.

And not everybody is a customer. Some people are hobbyists and hackers who want to play with the software and who won’t ever pay for it but they have an important role to play. There’s no harm in building up good will with them.

Some people are not yet customers but with a little time, a little care and consideration, they could be.

Please stop the nonsense.

Don’t use features to make a distinction between paid and free. Use the relationship to make that distinction.