April 12, 2016

Smoke and Mirrors

Lack of Pricing Transparency in the DNS and overall SaaS Industry

We recently came across a complaint from a competing service in regards to our pricing comparison chart.  We had originally structured the chart based on the most popular services and add-on’s our customers have enjoyed. We based this on our experience providing enterprises services for 14+ years.  So one could assume we know the services and values that our clients desire, since we are one of the industry leaders in size, performance, and uptime.  We also made the assumption that it would be relatively easy to find the prices for said services on our competitors’ publicly facing websites –we were sorely mistaken.


About a month after creating the page, one of the higher ups (the actual VP of Sales) from a competitor claimed that we calculated the annual cost for their services (which is listed publicly on their site) incorrectly. In fact we were accused by the VP of Sales of making “serious inaccuracies”.  

I immediately forwarded this complaint to my support team to fix any sort of problems that we might have had in creating an accurate comparison of services. After numerous emails back and forth with the company’s VP of Sales, we finally reached an outcome that was both enlightening and disheartening about how the sales process has evolved over the past 14+ years since I launched DNS Made Easy. Even after DNS Made Easy took off and became a service leader I never invested in a sales team because it goes against our core value of putting the customer first.

Throughout the conversation we found many discrepancies between their claims and what was on their public web site.  For example, the “actual” pricing stated by the VP of Sales grossly differed from what we had found in their pricing chart. Here are a few of the points from our conversation:

They claimed that the reason their online pricing differed from the “actual” pricing was because  “This is an internal company policy.”

Yes, you read that right, an internal company policy was enforced to keep the actual prices of their products secret from their potential clients. So I posited, how is someone supposed to calculate pricing if it is an “internal company policy” to not list it anywhere online?  Furthermore, how can anyone claim that our pricing comparison has “serious inaccuracies” when the claimant isn’t accurately depicting their own pricing?


For issues where we faced continued resistance (since multiplication and math is simple for most engineers on our team to calculate) we were eventually told

“Excellent! It’s about time our pricing got update. Looks like it was updated this am. It has been in the works for a while.” 


Is this really the best excuse a “VP of Sales” can come up with? Especially as a retort to us showing them recent screen captures that further prove the math just does not add up? And the icing on the cake was when the website changed miraculously the following morning to reflect the pricing that was protected by internal company policy.

To clarify the overall confusion of the pricing discrepancies, the VP simply stated “One size doesn’t fit all.”

one size fits all

This line might work on someone who doesn’t know much about DNS services… but not us. This reminded me of exactly why I never let DNS Made Easy buy into the sales culture that has run rampant among high tech startups. It’s so easy for sales representatives to take advantage of clients, because DNS is a very complicated and highly technical service. Rather than take advantage of this, we decided to devote our time and efforts into educating our potential clients (for free, with no obligation to exchange personal information for content) so that we can help clients make their own informed decisions about service purchases.

One of the biggest issues in the industry has been the bundling or inclusion of add-ons and supplementary services that clients are told is something “personalized” for their needs. Sales-based providers will push these onto clients (often using scare tactics) in order to increase their own commission, but with no actual benefit to the client. The problem is, these features are often never used, or sometimes they are features that don’t make any kind of difference, rather it’s a standard feature with a rebranded name.


While we were on the subject of numbers, we attempted to get clarification for some add-on prices we had been unable to find on their site. This is actually very common among our competitors (i.e.: cost for failover per domain, surcharges for paying monthly rather than annually, trials that require a credit card, support fees, GeoDNS, traffic direction, failover monitoring, etc.) and in most cases we were only able to learn the prices from converts or by digging through online forums.

We were met with paragraphs and paragraphs that sought clarify the add-on costs and specific surcharges. He also provided clarifications about some of the services they offered with “branded” names we had never heard of and of which they have yet to clarify these names on their website.


So why were we forced to go through all of this hassle to just find out what the cost would be for our QPM and domain requirements? Why did we have to dig around just to find out if they offered failover, whatever they called it, and then at what cost? This is exactly why we created and maintain a publicly facing pricing page with all of these questions already answered. Not to mention, this is why we created the aforementioned pricing comparison chart, which does the majority of the dirty work for you.

In the end, there were still a lot of holes, which begs the questions, “what happened to pricing transparency in the DNS industry?”

See, the problem is the industry has become overwhelming sales oriented rather than  focusing on the technical side.. By that I mean these companies have resorted to using sales teams to push their products who spend more time trying to convince more naive customers that they are designing “custom solutions” for all of their clients rather than developing better features. Rest assured, no one is redesigning their systems on a per client basis. 


The new sales culture among high tech companies (predominantly startups) is turning the SaaS industry on its head. I’ve attributed this shift to the fact that rather than a company (as a whole) enjoying success from increased revenue, it’s been guzzled up by the sales teams who are grossly promoted and rewarded. This is unfortunately forcing customers to have to fight their way to a decent price. And whenever their contract ultimately ends, they have to begin the fight all over again for term renegotiations.

Here at DNS Made Easy, we see DNS services differently, and believe the right to quality services should not be hindered by the tooth-pulling nature of sales culture. While we can’t control our competitors’ pricing, we will continue to update our pricing comparison page to ensure you are always getting the most accurate and transparent information in the industry.