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How to Alienate Your Vocal Supporters



Update – 4-27-09 – This was apparently a major misunderstanding. Check out my new post: EchoSign Customer Service To The Rescue!

It’s simple: just focus too much on big businesses.

I love EchoSign for e-signing documents. My clients love it too, so that makes me love it even more. I even wrote about EchoSign over at my law firm website. And the EchoSign folks picked up the article on their blog.

But I’m not feeling the love from EchoSign right now. They let me down.

I’ve been a loyal EchoSign user since I discovered their service last summer. I’ve sent dozens of documents through their system to lots of different people all over the world (every document sent through the system has their branding tastefully in the email). I know quite a few people who are using their service because of my recommendation.

But they’re alienating me. I consider myself a member of their tribe, and they’re leaving me out in the cold.

EchoSign made the choice to only allow their big business users to access their API. Yep, to use the API, I would need to upgrade to an account that costs $299 per month!

Why do I care?

An API allows programs to talk to each other. I’m developing a custom law firm management system that will integrate all my key programs.

The main systems that I use all have APIs. And every program (except for EchoSign) allows any user to access the API.

Remember the Milk (to do lists) – check
Google Calendaryep
BatchBook (contact management) – sweet
FreshBooks (invoicing) – done
MailChimp (email newsletters) – perfect

I had a nice exchange with a customer service rep who informed me that EchoSign’s product isn’t built to allow API access for a solo user like me. I asked if there’s any way they could give me access, and it’s just not happening. Apparently the API is inextricably tied to the big business Enterprise account.

What a silly mistake.

I understand why companies try to court big business clients. But that can alienate vocal solo supporters. EchoSign could probably get lots of business from other solo users, especially people like freelance designers, programmers, and other web workers. But alienating supporters isn’t the way to make that happen.

EchoSign is still my choice for e-signing. However, I will be keeping an eye out for a system that will integrate with my other programs.

Or maybe the folks at EchoSign will see this and make a way to let everyone use the API.

Update – 4-27-09 – This was apparently a major misunderstanding. Check out my new post: EchoSign Customer Service To The Rescue!

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Comments

6 Responses to “How to Alienate Your Vocal Supporters”

  1. Jason M. Lemkin
    April 25th, 2009

    Thanks Andrew. We appreciate the feedback here. EchoSign is primarily focused on SMBs as a % of our user base and I agree with all the spirit of your post. One goal of an API is to allow both integration into other apps and access to your data. In terms of data, EchoSign as you know has absolutely no data lock. In terms of integration, as you may know, we provide out-of-the-box integration at no cost to leaders such as Salesforce, Box.net, HR Block Rocketlawyer, Zoho Writer, eFax, and many others.

    For our customers, the reason we generally have to limit API access to our Ent edition accounts isn’t the data side — it’s your data – rather it’s the transactional nature of our product. A Free account (which is a smoking deal) is limited to 5 transactions / month. A Pro account is extremely inexpensive, but by design must thus be limited to a SOHO/individual user. By contrast, almost all our API customers are high volume, high transaction users which align with an Enterprise ($299) account. Allowing them to send 5,000 transactions a month through a Free or Pro account I am sure you will agree would violate the spirit of those accounts as well as their terms.

    Contrast this to most API integrations with paid products, where the goal really is to access data, not as the primarily vehicle to use the product. With EchoSign, you already have your data.

    Limiting it in this fashion minimizes the chance for abuse, which in turn, maximizes the quality of our customer experience.

    Having said there, there is absolutely no charge to use the API if your application simply wants to integrate EchoSign for your app’s users and use EchoSign credentials. This eliminates all the gaming issues above, and is exactly what Box.net, Zoho, DigitalBucket, and Sosius do for example. Please let support know you want to do this and they’ll get you access promptly. We should make this clearer on our website under the partner section and will in our next release, which will be an exciting one.

    Thanks again for the feedback and support.

    Jason M. Lemkin, ceo & co-founder

  2. Andrew Flusche
    April 25th, 2009

    Jason,

    First of all, thank you for the prompt and thorough reply. You guys definitely have outstanding customer service.

    I definitely understand the risk of abuse with the API. I certainly wouldn’t expect you to allow a Pro user to send thousands of documents per month, regardless of the interface being used. You have a great product, and it definitely costs money on your end to process all those transactions. You need to be compensated appropriately for different volumes of use.

    I don’t understand what you mean in your last paragraph about integrating EchoSign “for your app’s users and use EchoSign credentials.” My rusty programming knowledge might be failing me here. Perhaps this option you’re mentioning would fit my needs. I would use my current EchoSign credentials, and the app would only be for my use.

    Thanks again for the quick response. I look forward to discussing this further with you and your team.

    Andrew

  3. Michelle Riggen-Ransom
    April 25th, 2009

    Hi Andrew – thanks for the shout-out and so glad you share our love for the solopreneur/micro-business! We think the future belongs to small businesses and are excited that our product will help them to succeed. And it helps being a very small business ourselves :)

    Thanks again and keep on keepin’ on out there!

    Michelle Riggen-Ransom
    Communications Director & Customer Service Bon Vivant

  4. Andrew Flusche
    April 25th, 2009

    Michelle,

    Thanks for stopping by to say hi. I appreciate it!

    Being a small business can be pretty tough. We really have to work for maximum efficiency. That’s why I’m so pumped about integrating my applications!

    Andrew

  5. [...] Friday at 11:53pm, I wrote this post about EchoSign not giving small users access to their API. I wanted to integrate their e-signing [...]

  6. [...] April, I wrote that I wanted to integrate my main systems. It’s done now, and this post explains [...]

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