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Ideas. Insights. Inspiration.

Why TidyCal Keeps Getting Better and what it teaches us about the value of Customer Delight

I'm very impressed with AppSumo's TidyCal, which I use to easily schedule my meetings.

But I'm ever more impressed with AppSumo's decision to continually delight its customers.

Let me explain.

For the uninitiated, TidyCal is a scheduling software that allows somebody to book a meeting on your calendar using meeting links you set up based on your availability.

A screenshot of calendar scheduling software TidyCal

Here are just a few examples of how I regularly use the software:

  • I have an "Office Hours" TidyCal link I publish in my course syllabus each term that allows my university students to book 15 minutes with me when they need me.

  • When someone from my network suggests we find some time to catch up, I send them one of my "Reconnecting" TidyCal links; I have links for 30, 45, and 60-minute virtual meetings and I simply send them the link that makes the most sense.

  • While I don't connect with people I don't know on LinkedIn, I'll sometimes invite them to a Virtual "Meet & Greet" (by sending them my "Meet & Greet" link) if they have an interesting background or give me a decent reason why we should meet.

  • I also have a dedicated link I send whenever someone messages me on LinkedIn and asks to "pick my brain" about a business or marketing issue; that TidyCal link allows someone to book a 25-minute meeting with me for $100... and the TidyCal system will process their credit card payment for me before the meeting is finalized.

The "rules" for each of these meetings are set up independently, so while my students can only book me on Tuesdays and Thursdays between 9 am and 5 pm, my friends have a lot more access to my calendar. TidyCal is incredibly versatile, and thus, incredibly useful for me.

TidyCal is a direct competitor to Calendly, which enjoys much better brand awareness.

But there's a huge difference between the two calendar-scheduling-software options.

Calendly operates under a Sofware-As-A-Service (SAAS) model; it has a free tier with basic functionality, but more advanced features require a subscription that starts at $8 USD per month. The upside of SAAS is that Calendly customers know they're always using the very latest version of Calendly's software; they pay the company every month, but the company continually updates the software.

TidyCal doesn't operate under a SAAS model; it only costs a one-time payment of $29 USD.

Back in the day, one-time payments were how most consumer software was purchased; you would buy a piece of software once, then use it until the company released a newer version that was significantly better and justified you spending money on an upgraded version.

Side note: how many of you bought Microsoft XP when it was released in 2001 and then skipped buying Office 2003, 2007, and 2010 because XP was still "good enough"? Exactly... that's why software companies prefer SAAS: when you pay monthly, companies don't have to worry about forgoing revenue if you decide not to upgrade to the latest version.

These days, where "buy once" is even an option, a distinct trade-off exists: pay monthly and always be up to date with the latest version of the software, or pay once and get the latest version of the software at that time... but forgo any future updates or upgrades.

This is why what Appsumo does with TidyCal is so interesting: the company continues to improve upon its software regularly without charging customers for these improvements.

And to be clear, these are not minor improvements and bug fixes: the TidyCal software I use today is radically better than what I bought two years ago.*

Yet AppSumo hasn't even tried to charge me more for this vastly better version of the software. They could have introduced "TidyCal2" and forced existing owners of TidyCal to upgrade in order to access the additional functionality they've introduced, but they didn't.

How does this make sense?

There are two reasonable explanations as to why AppSumo does what it does.

1. TidyCal is being used as a loss-leader

AppSumo is a platform that sells software to end users. While a handful of AppSumo's applications (like TidyCal) are developed by AppSumo, the vast majority of the software available for purchase on the site is offered by third-party developers.

As such, AppSumo could be using TidyCal as a loss leader, making an incredible product available at an unbelievable price simply to attract new users.

Then, when people start to use TidyCal and realize how great of a replacement it is for Calendly, perhaps they'll head back to AppSumo to investigate what other subscription software they might be able to replace. (Spoiler alert: there are a lot of options for a lot of different types of software.) It's possible AppSumo doesn't earn much money on TidyCal sales but makes up for it with the sale of subsequent software purchases.

And why continue to update TidyCal in this scenario? Because to succeed with this strategy, AppSumo would need prospects to be excited about the idea of getting a similar (and lesser-known) product at a better price... and thus would need to ensure its hero product is always comparable (if not better) to its better-known competitor.

2. Continual Improvement helps delight customers and build Brand Love

We're well-trained as consumers not to expect more unless we're willing to pay for it.

But how often does a company offer you more with no strings (or payments) attached?

How often does a company make a product you've already purchased better and doesn't try to extract more from your wallet in exchange?

A company that does that is remarkable.

And if you need proof, well, I've just spent the last 939 words remarking on what AppSumo does with TidyCal.

If you make a great product, you'll find customers who will use it and like it.

But if you make a remarkable product, you'll create advocates who love your brand...

... and those brand advocates will help you sell more products.

Not every product is going to be an iPhone.

But every company can decide to continually make its products better and continually reward its customers for their support.


* I bought my copy of TidyCal in September 2021 and, since then, I've received 27 emails from AppSumo to let me know about new features introduced in the software. I'm not talking about minor "we fixed a bug" updates: some of the features that have been introduced include:

  • Reschedule and cancel option on the confirmation page and event emails (Sep'21)

  • Ability to set an availability interval for space between Bookings (Dec'21)

  • Ability to set how far out a person can book each Booking Type (Dec'21)

  • Ability to redirect to any webpage after someone books with you (Feb'22)

  • Options for Physical address or no location, instead of just Virtual meetings (Aug'22)

  • “Mutual Availability” feature for attendees to easily find available times (Apr'23)

  • New phone number "Location" so Bookings can happen over the phone (Apr'23)

  • “Booking Limits” per day, week, or month (Apr'23)

  • Ability to introduce “package bookings” and allow attendees to book more than one date at a time (Jul'23)

  • Ability to send a confirmation email when bookers reschedule a meeting (Jul'23)

  • Ability to add hyperlinks to Booking Page and Booking Type (Jul'23)

  • And much, much more!

These are significant upgrades, and they've happened on a regular basis. Remarkable!


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