The New RS Referral Program: Less For More

Here’s the text, verbatim from the email:

Consulting Referrals Program
•    Developers who provide REALbasic and REAL SQL Server consulting services will find new business opportunities from consulting leads available only to Consulting Referrals Program members
•    On average, members receive over 90 consulting leads per year or about 8 leads per month
•    There are developers in this program that make more than $100,000 a year from these leads
•    12 months of leads for only $900 – Save $100

The old program cost $600 per year and provided you with a support incident.  In my four years in the program I’ve not once used a tech support incident so that’s not really an issue, though it was nice knowing it was there if I should ever need it (thankfully the combination of my immediate network of RB friends and the RB forums is good enough for nearly everything).

As many of you know, I have been a long-time advocate of the developer program for its referrals.  I’ve mentioned it in every one of my Real World talks, in RB Developer and on this blog.  I mention this so that you don’t get the impression that I don’t like the program because I think it’s the best way to get leads.  I believe I’ve used the phrase “like shooting fish in a barrel” to describe the process (however after watching the Mythbusters episode on that I’ll have to revise my phrase).

I find the new pricing and feature list less than desirable.  Why?  I’m paying more for less features.  While I never used the tech support incident I always knew it was there.  Secondly, all Real Software is giving me an email.  Yes, a stupid email with a lead that’s not been qualified as being good (there are still the occasional ‘help me learn RB’ leads which are useless).

So from a business standpoint, the cost of the program doesn’t both me.  A good sized project pays for it.  That statement assumes that you (the reader) are charging enough money to recover the cost – but that’s a different argument.  From a sales standpoint the biggest qualification (they want an RB application) has already been answered.  So from that aspect it’s an okay, but not great, sales lead program.

But $1,000 a year for emails seems a bit excessive.  I talked to many developers over the years that thought $600 a year was too excessive for them.  Certainly $1k a year is even more excessive.

There are quite a few things that I wish RS did to help me with this program so I could feel most justified in spending the cash upfront:
•    I would like to know how many developers are in the program.  If there were 50 or 500 it would make a difference in how I approach the leads;  I think posters would like to know that too!
•    None of the leads are qualified other than that they think they want REALbasic.  I know I’ve talked to more than a few leads through the program that really didn’t know what they wanted and I’ve talked them into NOT using RB because it just didn’t fit their needs;
•    There is no follow-up to see if a lead panned out or not.  So it’s not like I can go check an RS webpage and go, gee, that lead still doesn’t have a developer, or that project is closed, I won’t bother to check with them;
•    There’s no feedback from the poster to see how well the program worked or how well the developer worked.  This is a quality control issue.  Think about how much more powerful if RS could say, “Over the past year, we paired developers up with leads 75% of the time and of those, 95% were happy with the results;
•    Sort of related to the first item, there is no listing of developers in the program, how many developers they have, years of experience or anything that a poster would like to know.  A regional setting would be nice as well.  I’m busy with over 100% capacity right now (and don’t even bother to read the leads these days), but if someone from Kansas City called me I’d at least talk to them and evaluate their app.  But alas, unless they’re smart (you have smart customers?) they probably won’t think about Googling for REALbasic developers in Kansas City.

Now, if RS comes back and says that they’re implementing some new features/services, then I’m cool with the new plan and its new cost.  Right now they do no work for their leads other than have a web page so I’m not sure how they can justify the additional $400 per year.  At that point I just call them greedy bastards because I’m being charged more for less.

Another issue that bugs me:  The developers in the program are selling REALbasic for Real Software.  I have no doubt that they get calls from people looking for developers and they simply point them to their web page.  It’s up to the individual developer to sell the poster that REALbasic is a good choice for them.  So RS is charging us (twice!) for selling REALbasic for them.  Gee, wish I had that luxury in one of my products.

Isn’t it in RS’ interest to have as many developers in the program as possible?  Increasing the price raises the barrier to entry and causes fewer people to be in the program.  It’s already a problem that there aren’t enough developers responding to leads.  From my own anecdotal evidence, at best, two developers will respond to a lead and it gives posters the impression that there are NO RB developers.  Perception is reality.

Since my consulting business is operating at 100% (heck we can barely find time for any internal projects) $600 a year wasn’t a big deal because of the support attached to it (though ultimately a waste of money).  However, it’s harder to justify $1k a year for leads-only when I don’t need them.  Will I pony up the money if the work dries up?  Maybe.  Some of it depends on if someone comes up with an alternative to the RS Find a Consultant program.

I have two possible solutions:
•    Put the Referral program back to $600/year with no support;
•    Charge $1k/year but bundle it with the Personal Support plan (which is $450/year).

So am I right?  Am I pissed off for no good reason?  Do you have other gripes?