SebR NAILED IT, perfectly.
The absolute best and perfect fishing pond, for new Paid Users, is the current pool of Free Users.
Free Users already have some Brand Relationship
Free Users are already pre-filtered for Customer / Provider fit.
Free Users are already invested in the eco system.
Free Users are the easiest to access (i.e. effectively ZERO acquisition cost)
Free Users have already learned functionality whereas jumping ship to another provider requires Free Users to move all their content and learn a new program.
Free Users are a Gold Mine for the provider.
Free Users who choose not to upgrade, are users who use very limited amounts of provider resources and cost relatively little to maintain their accounts.
Free Users today who don't need additional functionality TODAY, may need greater functionality tomorrow. The entire category of personal income mechanisms called "a job"is being disrupted. As this occurs, the users of tools like Evernote are likely to increase, over the long term. As new growth flattens... because competing products have gained share, and the people who want a tool like this already have aligned themselves with one brand or another... the FREE USERS become THE single most accessible, the single least expensive, the single most likely to convert, group of prospects, hands down. It makes sense that "taking good care of them" is wise, capitalistic, money making, smarts.
For all these reasons and more, the prime PROFIT/GROWTH/BUSINESS CENTRIC imperative is to LOVE LOVE LOVE the Free User, by listening to them, engaging them, providing paths for them to increase their level of engagement with the app, so that the Free Users migrate to a new relationship, such that the Free User reaches a level of relationship, value, benefit, and immersion, resulting in, "YES! Upgrade me please. I WANT what you are offering because it has value to me."
As SebR pointed out, NAGGING "Wanna Upgrade, Wanna Upgrade, Wanna Upgrade" relentlessly day after day, week after week, is NOT cultivating relationship or engagement.
Relentless nagging, "Give me money." is a DIS-INCENTIVE as well as a relationship and engagement KILLER. The very results which any company doesn't want.
The actual numbers regarding percentage of Overall Users vs Free Users and the relative cost to the business of servicing Free Users, as well as upgrade conversion rates and the ratio of Personal Use vs Business use, are publicly available and have been discussed by Box executives, DropBox executives and Evernote executives in the past. Use the Google. The numbers speak for themselves. Keeping favorable relationship with Free Users, even over long periods of time is absolutely in the money making, profitability, growth oriented self-interest of the company.
I haven't checked the numbers out on this, but my hunch is that the recent relentless nagging upgrade campaign is related to two things.
1) Flat growth of New Users: whenever a companies New Customer growth flattens, management gets very active trying to squeeze revenue out of any and all places it can. When growth is good, its easy to turn a blind eye to Free Users. When New User growth is slow or flat, ALL the fish hooks come out of storage, to grab for new revenue anyplace it may be hiding.
An example of this is revealed in a statement made by Netflix Founder Reed Hastings. He was asked what he thought about all the people using their friends and families log-on credentials to access the site instead of getting their own account. Certainly, not cracking down on agreement violators is costing Netflix millions in lost revenue due to account sharing, right? So what is Reed Hastings going to do about all this lost revenue? Nothing.... YET. He said, that as long as the company is growing overall, he has no plans to crack down on the account sharing abuse. This of course also says that when Netflix overall growth slows or flattens, they WILL be cracking down on sharing accounts. Apply this to Evernote's recent naggy promotional efforts and there you have it.
2) The Founder is gone and new management is in charge. I haven't investigated the new people specifically, but it is easily predictable whenever there is new leadership, there will be...
A) New objectives established by the Board and investors, linked to new expectations for MORE MORE MORE. Boards and investors don't ever task new management with a statement like "Everythings great. We brought you in so that everything can stay just as it is."
The new leadership will need to prove to the board that hiring them was the right choice and a quick growth or revenue spirt is a common way to attempt to do that. They won't think through a Customer Relationship and Engagement Strategy to get those revenue and growth spirts... they will just jack-up the Nag The ***** Out OF People Upgrade Campaign. It's fast, its cheap, its immediate decisive action with fast measurable results, and will likely generate revenue, even from customers who will end up paying just for the relief of getting rid of the nagging.
C) The founder of Evernote seemed to understand "relationship and engagement" at least for the majority of his tenure. The new leadership, tasked with quick user and revenue growth, is likely less motivated by relationship and engagement, and more motivated by "squeezing the sponge", even if squeezing the sponge could result in the defection of some Free Users. They will be willing to take the risk. An insightful, competent leadership aught to be measuring the rate of defection and the "why" of any defectors, so that they have measures of the extent to which Nagging Upgrade Promotions are actually impacting Upgrades vs Defections. Rarely will any management actually perform such research though. It's nearly always viewed as an unnecessary expense and allocation of resources. Plus, it has the potential to reveal to the board that Nagging Upgrade Promotions was an unwise choice, and no CEO wants data that could reveal that.
Remember AOL? They switch from reporting Overall users, to reporting New Users instead. Why? Because during the era of mass exodus of users from AOL, they were still actually adding lots of new users. Even though 3-5X MORE people were cancelling, than signing up, the Q over Q sign-up numbers still looked good... even though the overall number was plummeting. Except for this AOL example, 10 times more people will threaten to leave, than will actually make the effort to cancel their accounts. I suspect this will be consistent with Evernote user behavior. There are still far more reasons to stay than to cancel, whereas with AOL, there were far more reasons to leave than to stay. Nagging Upgrade Promotions will result in more revenue, and minimal attrition... just as it nearly always does.
Remember the financial crisis of 2008? I heard from hundreds of people who complained about the big banks. I know of, or have heard of ZERO people moving their checking accounts to other banks. The humans will scream and complain about annoying sales pitches all day and night to anyone who will listen.... but the humans are VERY reluctant and highly unlikely to ever proactively act in a manner which alleviates or impacts the thing they're complaining about. Companies have the data which bears this out. They know the people who will take actions consistent with getting relief from their complaint are the extreme minority.
Would it be nice if Evernote management showed greater concern for relationship and user experience with their Free Users? After all, this is supposed to be the new era of commerce where Relationship, User Experience, Sharing, and Engagement are paramount and companies who don't recognize that are supposed to be the Old Guard, that just doesn't get how things are going to work from here forward, right? Nope.... When it comes to money, and getting more of it, nagging and grabbing are still popular, effective, and cheap to implement. Geico anyone? So long as people keep responding to Shove It In Your Face marketing, we will keep seeing more and more Shove It In Your Face marketing.
My suggestion? DO NOT VALIDATE Evernote's Relentless Nagging Upgrade Promotions by clicking on them. DO NOT CLICK on what annoys you, unless you want more of it. If you choose to upgrade your Evernote, go into your settings and upgrade that way. By-Pass the nagging promotions and go around them. Don't give Evernote the click data that will validate their Shove It In Their Face Until They Choke Or Leave strategy.