Any plans to offer better features, more competitive/introductory pricing?
  • Just saw a blog post today from Adobe regarding their new pricing, and I can’t help but feel a little bit torn about the future of my business on LightCMS. 

    I’m not here to argue which is a better product – I’ve used both extensively and fully believe that LightCMS is superior product when it comes to quality, support, and ease-of-use. What I’m concerned about is the value proposition I bring to the table vs what a BC partner can offer, especially at the prices I’m seeing over there. It’s something I’ve struggled with a lot recently, and BC’s blog post just served as a painful reminder of how disparate the two systems are becoming in features and pricing. 

    Take this as an example. For $29 (on which I make $10 minus payment processing fees) I can offer a client: 

    LightCMS
    • 10 pages
    • Blog
    • Photo galleries
    • Web forms
    • Events
    • Members area
    • Stats
    • Online store
    • Page/hierarchy-based navigation
    BusinessCatalyst 
    • Unlimited pages
    • Blog
    • Photo galleries
    • Web forms
    • Events
    • Members area (with automated signup)
    • Stats
    • User-defined navigation
    • Forums
    • Ad rotators
    • E-mail marketing
    • E-mail with 10 users
    • User-defined navigation
    • CRM
    • API to access customer and order data
    Another serious advantage is that BC offers the web apps functionality (which is basically a customized searchable database) on the next plan up ($20/mo more). That plan also introduces e-commerce functionality for those that need it. 

    On top of all this, I get 20% ($3.80 on a $19/mo plan) of BC’s fee back into an account that can be redeemed after a certain amount has accumulated. 

    Thus far, the biggest reason I’ve stuck with LightCMS is because of the UI/ease-of-use and speed with which I can build out a site. Every system can look easy to use in a promo video, though, and it’s difficult to sell on this point alone unless someone has used other systems in the past and knows what a difference it makes. It’s just such a feature disparity that, besides being hard to compete with a BC partner, I often wonder if I’m doing a disservice to my clients. 

    Additionally, I feel like we need some sort of a lead-in plan between free and Basic because I’m losing the lower-end customers and non-profits that are just starting their businesses and can’t afford (or more likely don’t see the value within) the Basic, marked-up LightCMS plan. While it’s nice to be able to let them play with the free plan, there’s really not enough there for them to consider actually building a site on. With a homepage and a contact page you’re down to just 1 page for content. It’s nice for a demo, but not much else. 

    When it comes down to it, I’m in the business of building websites. While it’s interesting to have e-mail marketing and CRM built-in, I would rather use a system that leaves them out to focus on speed and usability. However, LightCMS is still missing some necessary (IMHO) functionality such as customized data structures, user-definable navigation, and random content rotators. And other areas could use some serious improvement (more advanced statistics would be nice and can we get some pagination on the blog for goodness sake?) Is anyone else struggling with these (or similar) issues? Any good news coming down the pipeline from EF? 

    When it comes to UI/UX: what LightCMS does, it does better – no doubt. But is it doing enough? I’m not as sure as I used to be… 

    TL;DR BusinessCatalyst is killing LightCMS in the feature department, and the pricing is making it hard to compete.
  • 4 Comments sorted by
  • Ryan,

    While I'm quite surprised to learn that BC isn't one of the primary competitors you hear of or are concerned about, I completely understand your decision to not go head-to-head against them. That said, it seems to me that BC would still pose a serious threat to the future LightCMS, if for no other reason than they can destroy you on price, integration (with CS), and marketing budget. Judging from recent blog/video posts, Adobe seems to have realized that their partner relationships and the system UI are two things they have been ignoring thus far and have made commitments to improve both. I trust you'll keep them on your radar though and respond to market conditions accordingly when necessary.

    I would wholeheartedly agree with you about paying a premium for a better experience. It's the same reason I use Apple products or buy brand-name paper towels... the product and overall experience are superior to an extent that it makes my life easier in the long-run. The hidden cost of other systems is definitely something I know well, but unless the client is a redesign and they despise their previous CMS then it's difficult to express this hidden cost to them in a way that resonates. 

    Looking back, I think perhaps I tried to fit too many concerns into one post and didn't express them well. While it's frustrating to see another system beat out LightCMS in features, there is a huge difference between technically having a feature and elegantly implementing that same feature. Nothing about BC is fun to use, especially after you've worked with LightCMS. Although at times I'm upset that you haven't yet implemented "X" & "Y", what I'm actually struggling with is repeatedly explaining the concept of a quick half-assed implementation vs a more methodical, logical approach to product development and why "less-is-more". After I have that discussion several weeks in a row with new clients, I sometimes begin to question myself about which way is better. I did not mean nor do I expect that you should keep up feature-for-feature with another CMS system, I was just hoping we'd have more in the near future to stack up on paper next to BC than just a pretty/user-friendly interface and some very basic content modules. I'm glad to hear that more improvements on are on the way and am very excited to learn more about data structures.

    Switching gears... my biggest concern around the pricing scheme, as I said before, is that there seems to be a gap in the on-boarding process for new sites. For potential new clients, just showing someone how the system works isn't always enough to justify the price. They really have to use it to power their site to see how easy it is, but 3 pages just isn't enough in most cases. This is the single biggest road block I run into when working with a prospect and more than anything I just wanted to make it known that, as a reseller, getting smaller clients to buy into a $29 plan for a basic website is a difficult proposition at times. You could argue that I'm not doing my job as well as I should be or that I'm targeting the wrong clients, but it's an issue none-the-less.

    Thank you, Ryan, for your thoughtful and detailed response. The fast and refreshingly personal support are a HUGE reason I stick with LightCMS, and I appreciate your honest, straight-forward communication on a potentially sensitive subject. THAT, more than anything else, is the LightCMS difference.

    --------

    Michael,

    As I said above: on paper, LightCMS has nothing on BC. But when you actually get your hands dirty and build out a site, all of the little annoyances of BC rear their ugly heads. I can easily spend twice as much time implementing a design in BC than it would take in LightCMS. And it only gets worse once you start the client education process.

    For my clients that have used both systems, they've shared how LightCMS "just makes sense" and that they are surprised to be able to use it without reading a manual (an often necessary part of BC). As Ryan said in his reply, those hidden costs of client education are absent in LightCMS. And once a client has really used it - made updates, added pages, uploaded files - they wouldn't trade LightCMS for any feature set you could imagine.

    Overall, with LightCMS I'm reselling an experience that I'm proud to put my name on. It's as simple as that.
  • Hi Denny,

    Thank you for your comments.  We always listen to our customers, and we appreciate all feedback like this!

    I don't like to comment on competitors much, but compared to BC I believe we have a superior, easier-to-use, more hassle-free, faster, and more reliable CMS that can be counted on for many more years to come.

    It's important to know that we're not going mano-a-mano with BC, though.  BC and LightCMS certainly do overlap to some small degree in who we market to and on our respective featuresets, but we're two different animals.  This is evidenced by how rarely we hear about them in the circles we run in.  I've heard their name mentioned three times in the last year, tops.  In speaking to hundreds of people at SXSW this last weekend, nobody mentioned them at all.  We did, however, hear the normal round of Wordpress questions and a handful of our other SaaS competitors.

    You nailed it when you said you weren't interested in CRM or email marketing, but rather you were more focused on speed and usability.  And I think that the features that you're longing for will be addressed this year... pagination, data structures, improved statistics.  These are all on the table, and I think you'll see most of your wish list come into being this year.  This is going to be our biggest year yet!

    I think that our balance of features and our no/less-hassle approach validates our pricing.  We've run a custom web development/design services company for many, many years before hatching LightCMS, and we were in it long enough to know that if you can reduce hassles, then that's worth a premium.  Because, if you're not dealing with customer education or updates they don't know how to do, then you can spend your time selling or building out new inventory that you wouldn't otherwise have.  And that's something that I think most come to realize, eventually, after they have enough customers under their belt, that streamlining process and eliminating hassles is priceless, and in fact makes you more money.  Complicated SaaS products with cheaper pricing have a hidden cost.  It's similar to how we (and many others) say that free products (like Wordpress) have a huge hidden cost.

    However, we aren't going to turn a blind eye to market pressure.  We're going to continue to study and analyze the market.  We will look hard at pricing, and we will see how and if we can improve both our pricing and our plan structures this year.

    Thanks again, Denny, I appreciate you.

    Take care,
    Ryan
  • Denny,

    In your opinion, in what ways does Light prove superior to BC?
  • Denny,

    Thanks for your response!  I see what you're saying.

    Ultimately I'm glad that BC exists (or any other SaaS product for that matter), since that continues to validate SaaS vs do-it-yourself open source solutions.  LightCMS and our competitors are in the same game together, we're fighting to make known that there really is a better way to run your website and design business.  There's enough business for the two of us, or five, or 20.

    Rest assured that our commitment to being easy-to-use won't stifle new feature development.  We will continue to add (a lot of) features to LightCMS, but done in a way that's careful and intuitive rather than spraying a firehose all over the place.  The better and more intuitive we can make it for your clients, the more time you can spend doing what you love.  And we are shooting to address those X and Y features that your customers are asking about!

    Thank you for your thoughts on the on-boarding process, and the trouble you're running into getting people onto the system.  You're right, there is a good-sized gap between the free three-page site and the $19 ($29 with your markup) plan.  That is great food for thought, and we'll be talking about that as a team over here.

    Thanks again for helping to make LightCMS better!

    Ryan

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