You might want to refer to Bingo Card Creator’s web site as you read this.

Suppose, for the moment, I am able to find some effective way to drive qualified traffic to my website.  Before they leave the website, probably never to return, I need to get them to convert in some way.  I’ve got a variety of strategies that I’ll be trying out.

My Free Resources page has (as of this writing, “will have”) pre-rendered ready to go bingo cards with no software download required.  I made literally hundreds of the suckers while testing.  Since I don’t own a printer, I installed a virtual printer which output to PDF files — and then it hit me today that there are people Googling right now for exactly those kind of files.  Well, I figure I’ll give it to them, in a format similar to this:

Free alphabet bingo cards: Card A, Card B, Card C, Four Cards On One Page.  Want even more cards?  You can print random cards using all the letters of the alphabet with our free trial — they’ll look just like the PDFs featured here! Want even more activities?  For just $24.95, upgrading to our full version will give you access to all of our pre-made activities (dozens in early childhood, literacy, arithmatic, foreign languages, ESL, and class activities) PLUS the ability to create and save your own activities!

The Free Resources page naturally drives organic search traffic up the chain for me — from getting them to download one of my print samples (which are not exactly beautiful but certainly clock most free generators out there), to getting them to download the trial version (because no teacher has any use for 7 bingo cards on a particular subject), to…

… getting a minor roadblock thrown in their way by the differences between the full version and the trial version.

Here they are:

  1. You can’t save your own lists with the trial version.  This has a relatively low nuisance value and is mostly a way to defeat attempts to casually bypass the other restrictions.
  2. You don’t get truly random cards from the trial version — the first card you print for a given list after turning on the program is always the same, as is the second, as is the third, etc.  I suspect most users won’t even notice this one.
  3. You can *see* some enticing lists installed on your machine but the program won’t let you open them (I keep them seperate into two directories — free samples and otherwise, further subdivided by subject).  Most of my “Wow, that would be useful” lists are in there, such as sight word reading lists, the 1-12 multiplication table, etc.  The free lists are ones which I think demonstrate the possibilties but aren’t quite so attractive: the alphabet, subtract facts involving the numbers 5,6, and 7, the US states (home of Massachusetts, the data entry that gave me fits, as described below), and etc.
  4. The program will only let you print X pages.  After you print X pages, further attempts gently tell you that X is the limit and direct you to my ordering page if you so choose (lets see, what is the prompt: “The trial version of Bingo Card Creator is limited to creating X cards, of which you have printed Y.  Your Z requested cards puts you over the limit.  If you purchase this software, you can print as many cards as you’d like.  Would you like to go to our website right now to purchase?” with Yes/No buttons).  I’m currently indecisive on to set X to 10 or 15.
  5. I present the user with the option to register for 5 seconds before they can enter the main screen of the program and remind them of it for 5 seconds again after the main program window is closed.  Thats marketing speak for “Nag Screens Ahoy!”

Now, why have I limited the program in this manner instead of, say, a 30 day trial version?  First, because one of my key selling features is saving the user time.  Every time they are in a crisis and turn to my program for a fun, rewarding lesson whipped up in a jiffy, thats another opportunity for me to make a sale.  X cards is plenty to verify that my program does indeed print as advertized and my word lists should spark teachers to think “Hey, if I can do this, I bet I can make a list for my own activitity!”  But so long as X is significantly below the number of students in the average classroom, X unique cards is *absolutely useless* to the teacher.  You can’t go to your room of 25 3rd graders and say “Sorry kids, I know we were supposed to play bingo today but you’re going to have to share 15 cards”.  This is the primary way I make sure I’m not competing with myself.

Another thing: I’ve got an ironclad no-questions-asked guarantee.  Here’s my thinking on that, which was heavily informed by this article: A guarantee costs me *absolutely nothing* if I’m not already making money.  If I am making money, a guarantee costs me approximately $2 per dissatisfied customer (I eat the payment processor charge).  Thats roughly 10% of my profit from a single sale.  It will never be a significant cost of doing business for three reasons:

  1. My software doesn’t have any showstopper bugs in it (with the possible exception of “It won’t load because I don’t have Java” — working on that!).  There are some places it could be improved on, certainly (I’m not exactly happy with how fonts gyrate at the moment to try to fit into cells of the bingo board, particularly when you’re printing many cards per page, and at the moment it automatically chooses your default printer), but the core functionality is rock-solid.
  2. Supposing there were an absolute deal breaker for a particular customer, they would almost certainly find out about it during the free trial.  Customers can be finicky — I know and respect this (“I don’t like gunmetal backgrounds!  I want polka dots!  Polka dots in version 2.0 or I’ll never buy!”), but the maximally finicky ones will self-select away from sending me money.
  3. My mother has a talent for being totally unembarassed to ask businesses, bureacrats, service workers, & etc to do something which is strongly out of the ordinary and deterimental to them.  My mother is also the only person I have ever met in my life like this.  For the vast majority of people, asking for “special treatment” is unsettling.  You want to do a psychology experiment to prove this?  Next time you go out to dinner with friends, tell one you’ll pay him $10 if he asks the waitress about Windows vs. Mac when she comes to order and can keep the conversation going for more than 60 seconds.  Most people recoil at the thought of doing this — its very meiwaku* to the waitress, and people feel a deep sense of shame in causing meiwaku for other people.  (* meiwaku is a Japanese term for which there is no handy English equivalent.  Its a type of imposition or nuisance which is not socially appropriate.  Not shaving before you come to work is meiwaku with regards to everyone you have to deal with.  Coming late to a meeting and holding everyone up is meiwaku.  That sort of thing.  What can I say, I’m still a teacher at heart and love words.)

Anyhow, back to the guarantee. Handing over your money to a no-name stranger on the Internet can be a scary experience.  The guarantee reduces the perceived risk of that action to very close to zero.  If it motivates more than 1 marginal person to convert for every 10 people who excercize their right to return the software, the guarantee has made me money (*and* cut support costs by severing my relationship with 10 customers who are likely to be difficult — although I pray I never do anything to tick off substantial number of people.0