Free is a Compelling Price Point

by Brook Lenox on August 24, 2009

db_free_contentWe had a great iPhone app, Doodle Buddy, @ $2.99 that wasn’t selling to our expectations. We’d promoted it in our other apps with minimal luck. Its best rank was 57th in productivity. We joked about how it ranked #1 in Nicaragua when it had no downloads.

Well 3 weeks ago we decided to not just drop the price, but to make it FREE.


Free is a Compelling Price Point

I got an email shortly after the price drop from Joe Sipher (Pinger’s VP of Marketing) and the subject line read: “Free is a compelling price point”.  What happened was amazing. We all expected it to make a short lived surge into the top 100 free apps, but it did more than just that. It exploded. 

The next day it was 54th and 3 days later it was 6th overall for free apps.

Here’s how they ranking chart looked.


Bottomline: 1 Million downloads in 23 days!

What I Learned

Here are a few things I learned from this.

Takes time to get it right

It’s not always easy to get it right in the app store. Maybe the 2nd or 3rd or 4th time you’ll get it right.

Ever app has its price point

You do your best to price your app, but the consumers will ultimately tell you what the price should be.

Great offer + marketing vehicle = BIG Bang

We had announced Doodle Buddy to our users before and they had responded. It just hadn’t been fireworks. Now with a compelling offer and thousands of consumers to put it in front of, we had the right combination for a hit.

How has pricing changes and/or marketing helped your app sales?

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike Berg September 1, 2009 at 10:42 am

I don’t understand… how does making your app free help sales? Are you cross-promoting or using ads or anything? A million free downloads just sounds like a huge user base to support with no income to support it.
.-= Mike Berg´s last blog ..8 Marketing Resources for Indie iPhone Developers =-.

John September 1, 2009 at 11:41 am

But if you’re not making any money off it, what’s the point? Please explain how being free is compelling.
.-= John´s last blog ..Assigning Delegates =-.

Brook Lenox September 4, 2009 at 11:42 am


If we do nothing else than get 1M folks using a free app, you’re right, we’ve failed. Now we are focused on how to monetize those 1M users.

We’ve already started marketing our other apps to them with great results.


Brook Lenox September 4, 2009 at 11:45 am


You & Mike are both correct. 1M users is NOTHING if you don’t make any money. We’ve already started making money by introducing our other paid apps to those 1M Doodle Buddy users.


EeKay September 9, 2009 at 10:36 am

Nice to read this story. This might break one more barrier in my head to be “too carefull” with price changes. Business is doing risks, and listening to your customer pays. i can see both aspects in this story.


.-= EeKay´s last blog ..iGroupEmail 1.3.1 minor update =-.

Brook Lenox September 9, 2009 at 2:02 pm

EaKay…Thanks for stopping by!


joel clifft July 30, 2010 at 6:16 pm

I’ve got my first iPhone app coming out next month. I was thinking $0.99. Would it be advantageous to start higher so I have some room to come down later? The app is quality but does not have universal appeal…more specialized…music education

Brook Lenox August 13, 2010 at 8:17 am

@Joel – very sorry for the late reply. Been moving. It’s not a simple answer. Here are some things to consider: 1) Check other “like” apps. Where are they priced? 2) Do you have a lite version? If so, I believe you can typically charge a bit more for your paid version because people will see your free app before they have to pay. 3) Run the numbers…how many downloads at $.99 do you need versus $2.99 to hit your revenue goal. Finally…starting high is not a bad idea. Much better than starting lower. Hope that helps.

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