Tuesday, February 23, 2016

microISV Software Sales
and Demographics

Kenneth Gronbach writes that Detroit's economic woes are caused by the automobile manufacturers not paying attention to the demographics of buying cars.

Gronbach is the author of the book "The Age Curve – How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm." Gronbach's book looks at the marketplace from the perspective of demographics, and delivers insights that can help all businesses, including microISVs.

In the US, men aged 43 purchase automobiles. Okay, men aged 33 to 53 are the heaviest buyers of vehicles. Generation X (the 69.5 million Americans born between 1965 and 1984) can't buy cars at the same level as Baby Boomers (the 78.2 million Americans born between 1945 and 1964) bought cars because there are nine million fewer people in Generation X. Simple demographics dictates that fewer cars will be sold as the Generation X buyers replace the Boomers as car buyers.

Toyota, Gronbach explains, has figured it out. Instead of mainly targeting traditional buyers, Toyota crafts cars that attract the much larger group of young Generation Y buyers (the 100+ million Americans born in 1985 and later.) Toyota took the time to study the types of used cars that young adults are buying today. And Toyota built new vehicles that are attractive to these younger buyers.

Gronbach talks about an advertising campaign from Porsche 20-or-so years ago. Porsche of America encouraged prospects to buy used Porsches. Even though this didn't create an income stream for Porsche at the time, the company depended on the sale of used Porsches to sell new ones. By making the market for used Porsches strong, the company increased the trade-in value of these older automobiles. Many people traded in their old Porsches for new ones.

There is no doubt a lesson here for microISV business owners: Perhaps it's time to give your software to college students without charge. And to high school students. And to educators. Plant the seeds today with users who don't have the disposable income to buy your application software. When they graduate and find jobs, they'll remember how great your software was, and buy it. And they might encourage all of their business colleagues to buy it, too.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Moving the
Software Sales Needle

To succeed in business, all you need is a steady series of small, incremental changes to your products and services.

So says Phil Dusenberry, the former chairman of BBDO North America, one of the largest advertising firms in the US. There's no need to make the sales needle jump, Dusenberry believes. You just need a steady flow of small changes to succeed.

Dusenberry explains his business ideas in his book "Then We Set His Hair on Fire." The book title is a reference to BBDO's creation of the Pepsi TV ad in which Michael Jackson had an unfortunate accident.

There's a fascinating story in the book about one of these small course-correction changes. I believe that the story is instructive to those of us in the software industry.

Dusenberry's company landed the Campbell's Soup account in the 1980s. Soup sales were stagnant. So BBDO did some serious research, and learned something unusual - lots of consumers had cupboards full of Campbell's soup.

Campbell's Soup had been advertised for decades as a safety-related product. It's virtually non perishable, and you need to keep it in the house for health and medical emergencies. Campbell's Soup ads urged people to buy cans of soup for their cupboards.

Oddly, there was a major disconnect between the purchase rate and the consumption rate for soup. There's a similar problem with try-before-you-buy software. Most software companies tell their prospects, over and over, that they should download their software.

Lots of people listened to both the soup and the software messages, and acted on them. They filled their cupboards with cans of soup (but didn't eat very much of it.) And downloaders grabbed lots of software trial versions. But about one hundred times as many people download software as buy it, so the "download" message (but not a "buy" message) is being read, understood, and acted upon.

Sell More Soup

How did Campbell's solve their problem of flat soup sales? They changed their ad campaign to stress the benefits of consuming soup, and not just buying it and storing it for emergencies. The new tag line was "Reach for the Campbell's. It's right on your shelf." People started consuming the soup that they had bought.

Sell More Software

What might software developers do to get more people to buy the software that they've downloaded?

The simple answer is to urge prospects to buy your software rather than nudging them to download it. The success of this approach depends upon the type of software that you offer, and the audience that you target. For example, if you're selling programmers' tools, then your target audience is very comfortable downloading, installing, and experimenting with software. In fact, most programmers would be reluctant to buy any software without trying it first.

By contrast, many home users will buy software if it has been recommended by an expert. It's possible that testimonials and recommendations can get many prospects to bypass the "try it" stage, and move directly to the "buy it" action.

For most software developers, there's no way to reliably predict if their prospects might be amenable to buying the software before trying it. The only way to know for sure is to experiment. Document your current sales levels. Change your sales presentation to emphasize sales rather than downloads. And measure sales again.

Be sure to think through your support workload. If you have an application that's targeted at tech-savvy users, and you convince a significant percentage of non-tech prospects to buy your software without trying it first, you may find yourself on the phone providing support to people who don't have the technical knowledge to use your software.

Create a Software Installation Instruction Sheet

Another simple solution to getting more software sales is to create a one-page instruction sheet that downloaders can print and use as a reference. Such a sheet can help prospects overcome a lot of the problems that discourage them from buying your software.

Start your Instruction Sheet with a date/time stamp, followed by a description of your Widget software. Say something like, "Thank you for downloading Widget, the Windows powerhouse that saves you time and money every week by doing this and that." This will remind users why they downloaded your software in the first place.

People are interested in security. Say something like, "Widget is safe and easy to install. In just a few minutes, you'll be saving time and saving money with Widget." Next, rekindle their interest in your program by reminding them of the most powerful benefit that it delivers..

Include a quick-start guide for experienced users, and detailed instructions for newbies. Tell them the name of the download archive. Offer a coupon code that they can use in the next 72 hours to buy the full version of your application.

Make your Instruction Sheet easy to print. Don't expect people to open a .DOC file.

Selling Software
at Each Decision Point

To sell more software, microISVs need to address each of the decision points where consumers are dropping the ball. And by encouraging downloaders to print your instruction sheet, you could substantially increase sales.

Some prospects download and forget about your application. Absent some type of trigger, they're unlikely to locate the download archive and install your application. By encouraging prospects to print an instruction sheet, they'll have a hard copy reminder to install it.

One mistake that some developers make is naming their download archive something blah like "setup.exe". Even if a prospect remembers to look for your installation file, they may find it in a folder full of .ZIP or .EXE files with names that won't help them remember why they downloaded your trial version. Use a meaningful name so prospects will be able to find the program after they've downloaded it.

Some people install the trial version, intending to try it later. And they forget about it. Or when they try it a month later, the trial version has expired. Having a printed instruction sheet can remind them that they've installed a new application, and that they need to give it a workout.

Many developers do not provide a quick-start guide, a library of tips of the day, or easy-to-find sample files that can get their prospects using the software quickly and easily. Prospects who have downloaded and installed your trial version run the program, find no obvious place to click to start using it, and abandon the software in frustration.

Finally, some developers don't use persuasive registration incentives to convince people to buy the application. This results in people using the trial version, but not purchasing the full version. It's not easy to create an effective registration incentive regimen. But the payoff can be great.

By identifying every decision point where users can either buy the application or not, it's possible to find simple ways to entice them into making a buying decision. Some of these changes might be as simple as Campbell's Soup urging their customers to eat the soup that they had previously been stockpiling. Maybe it's as simple as urging downloaders to print your instruction sheet.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Is Your Software Too New?

It's good to offer software applications that are new. It's dangerous, however, for companies to sell products or services that are too new.

So say Robert M. McMath and Thom Forbes in their book "What Were They Thinking? Marketing Lessons You Can Learn from Products That Flopped." Unless a new product strikes a "chord of familiarity," the authors explain, it will have difficulty in the marketplace.

It's unlikely that the authors were thinking about the software development industry when they wrote their book. But this principle applies to software developers, too, for a number of reasons:

Search engine friendliness

If you need to describe your unusual software by using unusual words, then people are unlikely to find your website using Google, Bing, or the other search engines.

Software buyers are comfortable typing words into search engines that describe the problem that they're trying to solve, or the result that they're trying to achieve. If the keywords and key phrases that describe your new software application don't fit into this search engine paradigm, then people will be unlikely to type the words into Google or Bing that will send them to your website.

If you've written an unusual, difficult-to-describe program, then compare it to more common applications and explain the differences. This will make it easier for people to find you in the search engines.

For example, if you have a program that is similar to a word processor but which has many additional features, then use phrases such as "Unlike a simple word processing program,..." and "Much more powerful than a word processor,..."

Software download site traffic

Comparing your new program with existing types of applications will make it easier for people to find you on the software download sites. Although fewer and fewer people are visiting download sites to find software, these sites can still generate some interest in your applications.

When you upload your software to the download sites, you have to choose a category for your listing. For your unusual new application, select the category that is closest to the correct one. And use the description field to explain why your program is much more powerful than other applications in that category.

It's unlikely that you'll be able to convince the download site managers that they should create a new category for your exciting new application. It will be a lot easier to shoehorn your program into an existing category, and tout its superior features and benefits.

Pleasing the software editors

Describing your new application as part of an existing category of programs will make it easier for magazine and newspaper editors, columnists, reviewers, and bloggers to tell their readers about your software. McMath and Forbes remind us that we need to communicate clearly. Don't assume that your prospects or customers will understand what you're offering, or how they can use it. Explain everything. Take this same approach when dealing with editors and other members of the press.

Use phrases like "Without having to purchase four separate applications, you can..." to explain why you've characterized your program as a member of one particular category, even though it offers much more functionality than other programs in that category.

The bottom line

There are computer, tablet, and smartphone users who enjoy living at the leading edge of technology. Describing your software as unique will appeal to them.

To sell your application to the largest number of buyers, however, consider a way to find the chord of familiarity that will make prospects comfortable with your latest creation.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Writing, Blogging, and Creativity
for Software Developers

Phil Dusenberry, the author of the book "Then We Set His Hair on Fire," tells us that he maintains his creativity by writing. He likens writing to weightlifting. You get better and better at it, the more you practice.

Software developers who haven't launched a blog for their microISV company may think that writing is hard work. I'd recommend that you launch a blog and start posting.

Nearly four years and more than 400 postings after launching this Software Marketing Blog, I can tell you that it's a lot easier - and a lot more fun - each week.

Subscribe to this blog to get a steady flow of software marketing ideas. And start your own blog as a way to sell more software.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Software upgrades,
Improvements, and Chaos

"The road to chaos is paved with improvements."

... quotation by Jack Trout from his book "The New Positioning"

To learn more about chaos, or to learn more about Trout's book, visit my Software Marketing Glossary.

Monday, January 4, 2016

5 Classic Ways to Close
the Software Sale Online

It's hard to find good information about how to close the online software sale. By contrast, it's simple to find high-quality ideas about how to close the car sale, the house sale, and many other face-to-face sales. Fortunately, it's simple to translate many of these sales ideas from other industries into the world of the software development industry.

Here are five ideas on how to close sales online, resulting in greater profits for your microISV.

(1) Assuming the sale

The assumptive close is the sales technique that every rookie salesperson learns during their first month on the job. With the assumptive close, you don't ask for the sale. Instead, you just start writing up the order. You assume that the prospect is there to buy your product or service. And by the time you've taken all of their information, all you need is their "okay." Every experienced salesperson will tell you that a prospect's "okay" is much easier to get than their "signature."

You can use the assumptive close online to boost your software sales. Create a process that asks your website visitors for information that will help you select the edition of your application that is best for solving their problems. Collect the information, and present a proposal. At that point, all you need is their "okay" to complete the sale.

Attitude matters. Many rookie face-to-face sellers do a miserable job of trying to close the sale. They nervously recite a long list of product features. And when they run out of things to say, they ask meekly, "Well, what do you think?"

Online, too many sellers do something similar. They create a huge list of bullet points. These lists typically start with exaggerated claims about being the most powerful, easy-to-use software on the planet. The lists often end with the obligatory mention of offering context-sensitive help screens. Following the lists are the "buy now" buttons.

If you project the image that you're offering the most effective and affordable solution to an important problem, then your prospects will respond accordingly. Assume that they're going to make a buying decision, and many more of them will.

(2) Making the right choice

Instead of asking for the sale, many salespeople have learned that they should ask prospects to make a choice. Car salespeople ask, "Do you like the blue sedan or the red one?" Home sellers ask, "Do you like the bungalow on the huge lot, or the condo with the modern kitchen?"

By asking prospects to choose, you're tasking them with the tiny job of stating their preferences. It's much easier to get them to say which product or service they'd prefer than to get them to agree to buy something. Once they've said that they like the blue sedan or the white bungalow, you're no longer trying to sell them something. You're simply the order-taker who helps them with the paperwork for the choice that they've already made.

You can use this closing technique online, too. Craft a sales presentation that introduces the Light, Standard, Professional, and Enterprise versions of your application. For simple programs, create a product-comparison page that leads prospects to the right software for them. For complicated programs, create an interactive form that helps them choose the software that best solves their problems.

Once they've decided which edition is best, send them to a product page that talks about only that version. And refer to that version as the solution that they've selected. Once they've made up their minds, you can help them with the paperwork needed to complete the sale.

Give them one last choice. Would you like to pay by credit card, or would you prefer to use PayPal?

(3) Inaction is dangerous

Most people buy things because of emotion. After they buy, they use logic to justify the purchase.

In face-to-face selling, if you can convince prospects that there's more danger in not making a decision than in making a decision, you'll close more sales. For years, salespeople have been using this technique to sell more life insurance, more encyclopedias, and more cookware that costs a lot of money and preserves much of the food's vitamins.

If you're selling software online, you may be able to use this technique to increase your application sales. If you're selling a home inventory program, for example, stress the danger of doing nothing. If you're offering virus-prevention programs, then emphasize that inaction is more dangerous than making a decision - even a hasty decision.

(4) Painting a picture

When selling face-to-face, successful salespeople mention product features. But they put even more emphasis on discussing their products' benefits.

One of the most effective ways to close more sales is to paint prospects into a picture in which they see themselves enjoying the benefits of the things that you're selling.

Real estate agents paint a word picture by telling home buyers that they'll enjoy owning this home. "This summer, when you're watching your children swim in your pool, and you're cooking your food on your grill, you'll be happy that you decided to buy your new house." The best technique for painting a word picture is using second-person sentences. Use you/your/you're over and over, and get the prospect involved in the painting.

You can use the same technique online. But the more you weave you/your/you're pronouns into your sales presentation, the fewer keyword-rich nouns and noun-phrases you'll use. That will result in the search engines sending you less traffic.

For example, if you're selling a complex database reporting application, you could paint a word picture by saying "You can use the software to manage your SQL databases, control your company's finances, and manage your firm's security access." Perhaps your prospects will find such a statement warm and fuzzy.

Google and Bing, however, will be happier if you phrase your sales message differently. You could say "The software makes it easy for database managers and network administrators to control your SQL databases. The company's accounting director and chief financial officer can use the application to control cash flow and finances. Chief security officers and auditors use the software to ensure stability and security." Such a description is less warm and fuzzy for humans, but wonderful for search engines.

There's always a trade-off between writing personalized messages for prospects, and crafting keyword-rich information that will help you with the search engines. Measure the results of your current sales message. Make changes, and track the sales results.

(5) Everybody's doing it

In face-to-face selling, it's a common practice to have flyers and brochures that list the names of prominent people and enterprises who have bought the product or service being offered. The same technique can be used to close the sale online. Use testimonials and endorsements to add credibility to your company and products.

The bottom line

There are proven techniques that microISVs can use to increase software sales. It's difficult to find books about selling more software. But there are hundreds of valuable general books about increasing sales. Find them. Read them. Translate the ideas into the world of the software development industry, and you'll sell more software.