Members who request download access years later....charge them?

21 replies
hi -

I run a network of sites w/downloadable courses. To prevent piracy etc I require people who buy a downloadable course login (w/their unique login I setup), download their videos within a month of purchase; then they're done. I tell them to back up their videos, keep a spare copy etc, then I disable their login.

I'm seeing a hassle from occasional customers though who bought years ago, "lost" their videos, and want me to re-enable access. I've been doing that free as a courtesy, for years. To discourage laziness, I'm thinking of making an "administrative fee" or "link renewal fee" (or maybe like software companies offer on the front end an $x/year 'archive' option).

any thoughts on that? overall i don't mind re-enabling someone's access, but if for example I've added to the course and raised price over the years, it's not fair to me to give them access to new expanded version than what they'd paid for originally... not to mention wasted time. since people are expecting cloud-forever access model, trying to figure out how to communicate/prevent these re-download requests years after purchase

thx,
ken
#access #download #latercharge #members #request #years
  • Profile picture of the author Ghoster
    I run a network of sites w/downloadable courses. To prevent piracy etc I require people who buy a downloadable course login (w/their unique login I setup), download their videos within a month of purchase; then they're done. I tell them to back up their videos, keep a spare copy etc, then I disable their login.
    This won't prevent piracy...at all. Once the videos are out there, they're gone. Not trying to be a smart ass, but there really isn't any effective countermeasure. For instance, you could prevent download and just host the videos yourself, but then all they need is Camtasia. I would humbly suggest focusing on customer service and not sweating piracy.

    Your current system will just piss people off and create the situation you're describing.

    This is an interesting read, if not exactly applicable to your business model.
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Shook
    I suspect the good will you can create by helping them, is going to outweigh the trouble it takes to re-enable their access.
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  • Profile picture of the author David Keith
    customer service is just part of doing business. I cant imagine that's any real meaningful strain on your business. I know its annoying, but i just think its part of dealing with the consumers.

    that being said, if you have added to the course and what they bought is no longer being sold basically then you would be justified in asking for an upgrade charge. but again, how much is it worth to you to aggravate a customer?

    i would guess you are buying a lot of good will and word of mouth type of advertising with those few dollars you are letting slip by on the "upgrade" or reinstatement fees.
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    • Profile picture of the author rmcnew
      Money should never come before having a relationship with your customer base.
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    • Profile picture of the author turboshandy
      Originally Posted by David Keith View Post

      if you have added to the course and what they bought is no longer being sold basically then you would be justified in asking for an upgrade charge
      My thoughts exactly.
      You did say you tell everyone to make sure they keep a backup copy, so asking for a fee is justified.
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  • Profile picture of the author Gambino
    Just curious why you wouldn't give product updates to customers for free. It'd be an easy way to keep customers coming back and checking for updates and maybe even see if you have any new products? I know this will vary from product to product and niche to niche, but just curious.

    As someone already said, I don't think the one-month download window you give your customers limits piracy at all. It probably frustrates them that they paid for something and can't access it and have to take time to contact you/support.

    As I think everyone has said, I believe the great customer service outweighs the minimal gain of charging for access long term. Remove the one month window and you really don't have to deal with it anymore.
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  • Profile picture of the author mlpauling
    I'll If a customer purchases something I feel that we, as the product provider, have a responsibility to make sure that our customer has access to their purchase.
    A customer may buy something they are not prepared to use at the time of purchase, maybe they just didn't want to miss that offer "they will never see again once the timer runs out."


    Whatever the case may be they purchased the product and have every right to it at anytime. Your customers are your business!
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  • Profile picture of the author Jack Gordon
    I run a course that had an expiration date at one time, and I came to the realization that shutting off access after an arbitrary amount of time was not worth the hassle.

    I ended up giving lifetime access to the course materials and now all of my students have a lifetime membership to my product, which allows me to address them as current customers. Maybe it is a subtle difference, but I like that better than addressing them as past customers when I have something new to communicate to them.

    I also have an exam and issue a certificate, which you probably don't do. But keeping them as active students forever gave me a nice opportunity to build a "recertification" process which is something I sell them if they want to retake the test and earn a new certificate.

    At the very least, I would change to lifetime access (they did pay for the course, after all) and reframe the relationship as an ongoing one rather than one based on a single transaction. There is a lot of positivity in that one little tweak that will both save you time and buy you goodwill.
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    • Profile picture of the author kenmichaels
      Originally Posted by Jack Gordon View Post


      I also have an exam and issue a certificate, which you probably don't do. But keeping them as active students forever gave me a nice opportunity to build a "recertification" process which is something I sell them if they want to retake the test and earn a new certificate..
      That just helped me solidify a solution to a problem I have been struggling with.

      Thanks
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  • Profile picture of the author Tim Franklin
    Thinking about it from a different perspective, (IF) the business model, is priced in a way that is inclusive of a short duration, (download and save) then the price would and should reflect the nature of the offer.

    If it is a membership, the price should indicate access (membership time based)

    If the price is lower because it is a limited access period, followed by no further action required by the seller, then that would make sense.

    I have seen this business model before, (in a different way) where you can purchase limited access or five year access, to your downloads for an added fee.

    That business model does not appeal to me and likely it does not appeal to most people, but it also draws a line in the sand, an ending point for access to the product is established.

    Sometimes it can be good so the developer can focus on different ventures, the value should be appropriate, for example, the previous business model, where you purchase a product and then extend the access period for a fee, was around $9.95 with added access of five years for a fee of $5.95 so the total would be, $15.90

    Not really sure its worth it, but I recently had to go back and update a product I had purchased like 8 years ago and the website is still up, the product was still there to download, now that is not the usual thing.
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  • Profile picture of the author kencalhn
    good points all, thanks... back when my business was starting, fifteen years ago w/just a few hundred paid customers, it was easy to manage... challenge now is I've got quite a few thousand customers and it's a customer service challenge... likely i should just outsource handling that to a va, or figure out how to automate... good tips, thx

    /files under the 'managing biz growth' folder
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  • Profile picture of the author Jack Gordon
    Ken,

    Do you actually have a member management system of any kind in place (i.e. aMember, DP, Wishlist, etc)? Or is this more manual?

    If you have a lot of content and you've had thousands of customers and are manually creating logins, etc... you've been doing it wrong.

    PM me if you want an honest assessment of what you are doing now. I may be able to guide you in a better direction.
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  • Sure. That's a good idea.

    However, I don't see why you don't just change the download URL's every so often.

    Wouldn't it be easier?
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  • Profile picture of the author kencalhn
    For bulletproof (other than re-upping to filesharing sites/torrents), I do things the very hard way, installing outstanding security software on each site, manually setting up unique login IDs/passes for courses bought, one customer at a time. It's a logistical challenge, but works very very well.

    I use a great protection program called passwordsentry (have used it for 11+ years) installed on each site. It locks out access if cumulative IPs or geolocations exceed a threshold you set (I use 3-5). Works great to flag and lockout the 4-5% morons who try to password-share; then I add those IPs to my 1SC merchant blacklist to prevent future orders (keeping 'bad customers' out of my business). Dan, the dev, is a really nice guy, I'm one of his longest-time original customers; outstanding support. It's the best protection available, period. I have most of the member plugins, none has security even close to PS. I've been running member sites since 1999; I've tested/tried most everything out there.

    Back to the original question; hmm brainstorming maybe if I sold the courses as a one-time 3-month "subscription" (that doesn't renew), that would communicate the fact that access is limited-time; and if they want to re-download or renew their subscription, there would be another charge.
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    • Profile picture of the author Alexandre Valois
      Going to be the devil's advocate here, but with access to technology and free information nowadays, you may be locking out some of your best customers.

      The reason most people download pirated content is usually:

      1 - Easier to access - Don't make them jump through hoops and wait months to get their hands on something they want by forcing them to use one specific channel they may not have access to (Rule n.1 - Information wants to be free / Do not limit it`s reach)

      2 - Distrust - People don't value your product or message enough... yet. We've all bought stuff we regret buying. From music to movies to products and courses. People pirate as a way to sample the material and decide if it's worth engaging with you. If you notice lots of your stuff getting pirated, might be worth looking into ways to build more trust and clarify your message to your audience. (Rule n.2 - People buy from people they like and trust)

      3 - Passing interest or freebie seekers - Those people are not ready to invest and make a financial commitment one way or another. Maybe they can't afford it now. Maybe it's just not that important to them. Either way, it's unlikely you'll be turning them into customers RIGHT NOW. But your content might be good enough that you'll stay present in their mind long enough that they'll know where to find you when they're ready to commit, if ever.

      Now, all those 3 types of customers have a very specific characteristic - They usually have a very high probability of being early adopters or enthusiasts, which will end up making up your core group of repeat customers and raving fans.

      By locking them out systematically, you are negatively impacting the growth of your tribe. Now I realize your market or business model may not be compatible with long-term planning and you may prefer a churn and burn approach but...

      Figured it was worth a quick reflection. Not to mention the extra costs of servicing, the customer support nightmare, the frustration of locking "legitimate" buyers out through inaccurate security filters (don't get me started on IP blocking...)...

      Originally Posted by kencalhn View Post

      For bulletproof (other than re-upping to filesharing sites/torrents), I do things the very hard way, installing outstanding security software on each site, manually setting up unique login IDs/passes for courses bought, one customer at a time. It's a logistical challenge, but works very very well.

      I use a great protection program called passwordsentry (have used it for 11+ years) installed on each site. It locks out access if cumulative IPs or geolocations exceed a threshold you set (I use 3-5). Works great to flag and lockout the 4-5% morons who try to password-share; then I add those IPs to my 1SC merchant blacklist to prevent future orders (keeping 'bad customers' out of my business). Dan, the dev, is a really nice guy, I'm one of his longest-time original customers; outstanding support. It's the best protection available, period. I have most of the member plugins, none has security even close to PS. I've been running member sites since 1999; I've tested/tried most everything out there.

      Back to the original question; hmm brainstorming maybe if I sold the courses as a one-time 3-month "subscription" (that doesn't renew), that would communicate the fact that access is limited-time; and if they want to re-download or renew their subscription, there would be another charge.
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      • Profile picture of the author discrat
        Yeah if it is incessant in asking I would say YES.

        But the occasionally here and there I wouldn't fool with it.


        - Robert Andrew
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  • Profile picture of the author BrianMcLeod
    Ken, you're a true long-timer in this biz and you surely have a good handle on whether or not what I'm saying below is true for you in your business...

    ...but I've found that the customers who come to me as a "blast from the past" seeking access to an old program or download they bought from me long ago tend to be some of my best customers in terms of trust and loyalty.

    Granted, not all of them fall into the "best customer" category in terms of total dollars spent, but they're definitely long-term fans and followers of my work.

    The back-story is usually a crashed hard drive or computer change. I can relate.

    So... I tend to be as accommodating as I can within practical limits.

    I'm guessing we're probably on pretty much the same page there.

    However, you raise an important distinction about updated courses/materials.

    I don't think it's unreasonable at all to offer folks a "loyalty discount" upgrade fee, perhaps via a coupon, that allows them to re-purchase the newest, current version.

    Best,

    Brian
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    • Profile picture of the author Crowsnest
      I can't believe that I have just logged on and seen this thread, as I have just had an email from a fellow warrior telling me a story of how she was a follower of a guy on WF who had a WSO some time ago for a particular plugin that had caught her eye. By the time she came to place an order for this product, the seller had closed the offer, but by return he sent a download link anyway as a "present".
      The point here is my friend is currently telling everyone what a nice gesture this was and how she will follow this guy now "FOREVER!".
      I know you can't give stuff away just for the sake of it, but this act shows a real human side to I.M. and is certainly a great P.R. exercise.

      Brian B
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      • Profile picture of the author Kay King
        The question I have is WHY are they asking to re-download? Is it because they didn't download when they purchased? Probably not. Are there reasons someone might need to re-download and NOT being trying to steal? Sure are. Computer crash, new computer, lose computer in divorce or flood or fire....can't find file on computer...lots of reasons.

        Is is a lot of requests - or one request here and there? That would be the deciding factor for me.
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  • Profile picture of the author QueenMelanie
    if somebody purchases your courses for life, they should be allowed to access them for life!! Doing what your doing won't prevent privacy anyway, the pirates only need to download it originally..?
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  • Profile picture of the author kencalhn
    Right, re it's rare/very occasional requests, so I always accomodate them. In fact I recently had a guy who'd bought access to one of my courses 8+ years ago ask for re-download access and of course I politely obliged and helped him. Agree anything to build loyalty within reason is helpful and smart business.

    QMelanie - I never sell purchases of any kind 'for life", upfront on the websites I clearly state "you agree to login and download your videos within 2-3 weeks after purchase". Much like a microstock site selling royalty-free downloadable videos; you purchase, download once, and you're done. I also say to be sure to make a Backup on a separate drive/usb flashdrive/burn to dvd/whatever. So far on the occasional (a few times a month) I get redownload requests I always help them, promptly, just trying to head off a lot in the future.

    I could do something like
    (regular price) 30-Day Download Access Pass $97;
    (+archive) 3-year archive service $20 (optional)

    but overall from copywriting I know it's best to do single-offer vs make them think... or OTO archive service likely better in sequence. Not a big issue yet, but I'm trying to prevent a ton of "help I lost my download video" from hundreds of people a year, customer service constraint as biz grows. Trying to get customers to not be lazy and fail to backup downloads, hmm good luck with that lol.
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