Welcome to all the new subscribers 👋🏼
For the OG subscribers, you’ve probably noticed a bit of a change around here…allow me to explain, and apologies in advance for a longer than usual preamble 🙏🏼
There are a couple of reasons I rebranded On Packaging to Good Better Best.
First, I’ve noticed myself using “packaging" pretty liberally to explore ideas that I’m curious about. While I don’t necessarily think that’s a bad thing, I do want to make sure I fulfill the promise of this newsletter: delivering field notes on digital packaging strategy.
Good Better Best explicitly refers to the most popular packaging model in SaaS (if you’re unfamiliar with the term, think about any time you’ve seen a lineup of Basic, Professional, and Enterprise for a digital subscription product). Some examples:
The name Good Better Best will remind me of this brand promise, and keep me in check when I start wandering.
I also wanted to give this newsletter a stronger identity. Whether you like or dislike Good Better Best as a name, I think it’s objectively more distinctive, especially with the new visual. If you have feedback (positive or negative), I’d love to hear it!
Anyway, this is something that’s been in the works for a while - you don’t have to worry about another name change any time soon 🙂
On to this week’s digest…
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This week, I’m trying something new - highlighting two “mini” case studies rather than the traditional list of recommended links.
First, we’ll dig into the new paid plan from Zero, an app to implement and manage a fasting habit. Next, we’ll look at the pricing page for Coda, a company reinventing the “doc” as we currently know it.
Zero Plus: Monetizing a Habit Tracker
Zero is one of my favorite apps - at its core, it’s a tracker to help you implement and manage an intermittent fasting habit. I started fasting a couple of years ago, first attempting 16 hours (e.g., if I ate dinner at 8 pm, I wouldn't eat the next day until noon).
Thankfully, my doctor told me my blood sugar is too low to go all-in on 16, and recommended cutting it to 14. This slight adjustment made it way more manageable, and Zero was instrumental in helping me track fasts in the early days.
Last week, Zero released a premium plan called Zero Plus:
As you can see, the new plan is clearly differentiated from the free plan. With Plus, you get a customized fasting protocol, premium content, and access to experts.
I’ve been waiting to see how Zero would monetize and was excited to see this update. While I support the concept and believe their differentiation makes sense, I do have some concerns and ideas for improvement.
First and foremost, I believe the biggest value-add on Plus is the ability to customize a fasting plan.
In most cases, creating a custom plan will be a one-off occurrence. I think about my own experience, and since consulting my doctor, I haven’t changed my fasting regimen at all. Perhaps I’m doing it wrong, but I have a feeling most people would approach it similarly.
Creating a custom plan, or matching a fasting protocol to your goals is essentially a desired outcome. My work-partner and brother-in-spirit, Wilson Sadowski wrote a great piece last year capturing the churn risk of outcome-driven services titled When and How to Celebrate Churn. In his piece, Wilson talks about the importance of having an adjacent product or service ready once your customer’s outcome is met.
In this case, that’s where Ask Zero comes in. Once subscribers create their custom fasting plan, they can consult Zero’s experts with ongoing questions along their fasting journey. In theory, this sounds great, but based on my experience, I’m skeptical many subscribers will take advantage of it.
Access to experts is also inherently reactive. Zero’s experts, like Peter Attia, aren’t going to reach out to you to ask about how your practice is going. Additionally, questions are limited to 250 characters, so there’s limited room for nuanced asks.
So what could Zero do to increase ongoing value?
I believe building a user-community would be more impactful than expert advice, and the two would be even more powerful if combined.
Community has become essential to health and wellness companies, and it seems like a prime opportunity for Zero to take the lead in fasting. There’s an active Intermittent Fasting sub-reddit with 665k members, validating the opportunity.
Zero has over 750,000 people using the app to track fasts, and if they’re helping people customize their fasting protocol, it will allow members to easily find other users with similar regimens. This visibility will create moments of serendipity where members can learn from each other and evolve their practices together.
Layer expert opinion on top of that community and you create endless opportunities for public learning rather than one-off private messages. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn this is on Zero’s radar, but either way - I would love to see it in action.
Coda, Notion, and Pricing Page Empathy
This week, I listened to a great episode of the Invest Like the Best podcast titled The Art and Science of the Bundle. The episode features Shishir Mehrotra, who used to lead product at Youtube, sits on the board at Spotify, and is now CEO of a company called Coda. Coincidentally, my cousin CJ also sent me the accompanying essay titled Four Myths of Bundling. I highly recommend both if you’re interested in bundling strategy.
The episode led me to check out Coda, which loosely competes with Notion. From what I can tell, users love Coda and I have no doubt it’s a great platform. That said, their pricing page is a stark contrast to the concept of “pricing page empathy” that I wrote about in regard to Notion last week.
As a refresher, the idea of pricing page empathy is that a potential user should be able to visit your pricing page and quickly understand which plan is right for them. This is especially important for self-service products. After digging on LinkedIn, I could only find one Coda salesperson, an Enterprise Account Executive, which confirms most of their customers sign up through the website.
The first sign that the pricing page is not very intuitive is the key at the top defining different types of users:
While I understand the concept of Doc Makers, Editors and Viewers - it’s not immediately clear who a Doc Maker might be at a given company, so I’m already confused.
Next, there’s a calculator to help figure out monthly costs with dropdowns for team size, number of Doc Makers, and chosen plan:
This calculator is helpful, especially since Coda is self-service, but I haven’t even seen the plans yet, so it feels misplaced.
Next, let’s look at the plan descriptions.
This is the place to make it explicitly clear who each plan is meant for. With that in mind, I’m already confused for a few reasons…
The tagline for the Free plan is “Build docs as powerful as apps.” This description is pretty nebulous to me. Maybe others will get it, but I don’t.
Second, the tagline for the Pro plan is “For the power maker” which suggests it’s for one person, but the icon has two people. Can teams get by with the Pro plan? If so, this messaging is contradictory.
Lastly, there are several examples of ambiguous language on this page. Take, for instance, Automations. In the context of their packaging model, Automations is an important differentiator, as it’s the only consumption-based limit between the Pro and Team plans.
Upon inspection, I was immediately confused by the language around “quota” and decided to click in to see what a “Medium quota” entails:
The pop-up box says:
“Up to 100 time-based and 500 row changed automations per month, per doc”
Without a firm grasp of the product, this is very difficult to understand. There are a few more examples like this on the pricing page, and I don’t want to belabor the point, but the bigger takeaway is that there seems to be a lot of education needed here for a self-service model.
Maybe I’m just not the target buyer, and Product Managers would understand this pricing page better.
That said, from what I understand, Coda is trying to change how we think about a traditional doc. When I think of the best brand I’ve ever seen at affecting change, it’s Apple, and I think Coda could take cues from their messaging simplicity.
As a first step, I’d encourage Coda to summarize the differences between each plan more clearly at the top of the page, then allow people to dig into the nitty-gritty below.
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