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Simple vs. Complex Pricing: Basecamp vs. Asana

Patrick Campbell Jul 31 2018

SaaS project management is a crowded game. Dozens of competitors all vying for essentially the same customer. But the fact that not one stands out and that more are entering the domain every year shows that plenty of people are unhappy with the options.



In this week's Pricing Page Teardown, we're looking at two of the big names in SaaS project management. Basecamp is a SaaS cornerstone, with Jason Fried and DHH showing us how this SaaS thing is done.

Asana is a later addition to the landscape, but one that is already pulling in a good market share, especially at the upper end of the market. Both understand pricing though, and show SaaS companies how to set themselves apart in a crowded market.


Basecamp's volume against Asana's ARPU

In a crowded market, companies can either make a play to capture volume or go for ARPU to monetize well.

At Price Intelligently, we're all about value metrics, pricing tiers, and expansion revenue. Not so at Basecamp:

Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 2.56.59 PM

The price is $99/month, as simple as that.

"I love this. Unlimited users. Unlimited projects. Every tool and feature we offer. 500GB of storage. That's it. Nothing. Don't complicate it."

Basecamp continues this simplicity throughout the design of their pricing page. The FAQs are answered with “Yes,” “No,” and short and sweet answers. They set out what the differences in cost will be as a team grows and begins using an assortment of other tools instead of the ones in Basecamp (Slack, Dropbox, G Suite, and today's match, Asana):

Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 4.54.07 PM

Basecamp is going for the volume play. Not everyone can make this play. Most companies don't have the volume to make it work and keep their LTV and retention in order. Basecamp has a strong culture, a strong product, and a ton of time on the market (they launched in 2004 and had 45 accounts. In 2018 thus far, they have 2,838,046 accounts), all factors that make it a great pricing strategy that works for them.

Asana has a more traditional freemium model, which tries to maximize revenue per user for larger teams:

Screen Shot 2018-07-20 at 3.41.41 PM

The Free tier offers a lot—unlimited features for a large team. This hooks new teams. Once they scale and every project is contained with Asana, the teams have to move to the Premium tier, which is $9.99/member/month. But with Premium billed annually, this starts to feel more like an enterprise option. Asana does have an Enterprise plan that offers high-level enterprise options, but with priority support, SSO, and admin controls already in the Premium plan, that one definitely feels like their main plan.

When we talked to 4,814 current, former, or prospective customers of Asana and Basecamp, we could see data supporting both Asana's and Basecamp's pricing strategies. Asana's $9.99/user/month is almost directly what customers are willing to pay:


There is room to grow pricing for Asana, but for significantly larger companies at $25M+, the sales teams at Asana will sit down with those companies and get them on the Enterprise plan.

When we sliced the data based on team size, we could see evidence for Basecamp's all-inclusive pricing as well:


Though for the smallest teams, that $99 all-in price point is at the top of the range, it is still not over what some of these teams are willing to pay. For Basecamp's core firmographic of 6 to 10 people, and perhaps 11 to 25 people, the price point is exactly right. These teams have no issue paying $100 for project management per month. We also start to see Asana's pricing make sense as well. If that team of 15 takes on one more member, their project management bill goes from $0 to $159.84—directly in line with the willingness to pay.

Asana might chase those larger teams, too. Basecamp are thinking differently though:

"Hey, Basecamp, you can make a hell of a lot more money than you're making on these customers that you have. But they are probably optimizing for these customers down here. They are probably OK missing out on some of that cash for the simplicity of acquisition and the simplicity of conversion. There are trade-offs you want to make, and Basecamp are definitely making a trade-off."

Breaking through on the value proposition

Looking at the data from a value matrix point of view, one thing stands out—differentiation is not easy in project management:


Nothing within the differentiable features stands out as easily setting one premium tier against another. Priority support and reporting are possibilities for an enterprise plan, but if a project management tool wanted to established three or more paid tiers, they have to consider value metrics such as storage, projects, or users as the differentiator.

So in a commoditized market with no differentiable features, how does a project management tool stand out from its peers? Value proposition.

We looked at the willingness to pay for value propositions associated with project management tools and saw some clear winners:


A central source of truth, keeping clients in the loop, and coordinating work all increased a willingness to pay. But what was most interesting about these findings was the impact the language had on the response. Take these two value propositions:

  1. Keep everyone on the same page: -3.88% WTP relative to Median.

  2. Have a central source of truth: 18.95% WTP relative to Median.

They are basically the same thing. But the second option resonates better with the audience. It resonates because this is how the customers themselves speak. If you look at the testimonials on the Basecamp customers page, you can see this idea popping up all over the place:

The value propositions that seem to struggle, such as “Keep projects on time,” are highly technical, even though these seem to be exactly what project management tools are for.

Know your customer and fit the message to them

Both Basecamp and Asana know who they are going after. Basecamp, however, seems more confident. They are willing to let go of part of the market and just make a great product and offer a great value proposition to meet customers' needs. We'd take them as users and investors any day.

Don't forget to tag us with #PPT with your thoughts on this pricing page teardown and the chance to get a month of project management on us!

By Patrick Campbell

Founder & CEO of ProfitWell, the software for helping subscription companies with their monetization and retention strategies, as well as providing free turnkey subscription financial metrics for over 20,000 companies. Prior to ProfitWell Patrick led Strategic Initiatives for Boston-based Gemvara and was an Economist at Google and the US Intelligence community.

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