Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Reimagine Your Content and Sell More Software

Reimagination of content is the central concept of Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman's 2011 book "Content Rules - How to create killer blogs, podcasts, videos, ebooks, webinars (and more) that engage customers and ignite your business"

When you're creating content for your website, blog or newsletter, think through all the ways that you can use that same content to sell more software. Your website sales message can be reimagined into a whitepaper, into a comprehensive set of FAQs, into a podcast or a screencast, and in so many additional formats. Use it to create blog postings, webinars, and sales letters.

Reimagining is different from recycling your content. Recycling is something that you decide to do after the fact. With reimagining, you plan ahead, and create your content with an eye towards tweaking it and using it in other creative ways.

I see this happening every week. Many software developers who hire me to write press releases for them reimagine their news release into web page content, FAQ information, and blog postings. There are lots of recipes that you can make from these ingredients. And it takes a lot less effort to rewrite an existing sales presentation than it takes to craft a new one from scratch.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Differentiate Your Software with your Heritage

If you have a long history of developing and marketing software in your market niche, then you should mention that fact, early and often. Longevity in the business world is a powerful attention-getter and attraction for both your company and your software. People assume that you must know what you're doing to stay in business so long. Heritage differentiation is good software marketing.

So says Jack Trout in his 2000 book "Differentiate or Die - Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition". Actually, Trout didn't talk about the software development industry in particular. But his general comments about heritage being a good way to differentiate your products and services apply to our industry, too.

Heritage and longevity are forms of leadership, Trout tells us. You may not be the sales leader in your software niche, but you have credibility if you've been active in the industry for years and years. It's even better if you can combine a rich heritage with the notion that you've remained at the leading edge of computer and telephony technology.

If you have a direct competitor, you might attempt to use their heritage against them. Many companies find ways to define a competitor's history, and portray it as a negative. We see this quite often in the distilled spirits industry where it's common for Russian vodka firms to create TV and print ads that talk about the lack of authenticity of vodka from countries other than Russia. Another example is a TV ad that has been airing for years. It depicts a group of Texas cowboys sitting around a campfire and eating salsa that was made in Texas, while commenting that the major competitor's salsa is made in New York City.

In many marketing niches, being a family-owned and family-operated business is a positive thing, and can help increase your credibility and sales. In my opinion, this applies to some of the software development industry. For example, if you're marketing your software products and services to individuals and families, you might emphasize the fact that you're operating a small, family-owned company. On the other hand, if you're selling mission-critical applications to large companies, nonprofits, and government agencies, you should stay as far away as possible from the mom-n-pop image.

In any case, heritage is a winning attribute for your company and your product line. If you've been in business for a long time, use that fact to increase your software sales.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sell More Software with Quotations

Book review of The Forbes Book of Business Quotations - 14,173 Thoughts on the Business of Life by Ted Goodman (published 1999 by Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers)

Ever since John Bartlett first published his "Familiar Quotations" in 1855, we've seen volume after volume of books designed to help writers keep track of clever sayings. Bartlett kept notes during his years of running Harvard University's bookstore in Cambridge, Massachusetts. When he later went to work for the publisher Little, Brown, he turned his lifetime hobby into many published editions of his Quotations.

The Forbes Book of Business Quotations grew out of the "Thoughts on the Business of Life" column, which has been a fixture in Forbes Magazine since B.C. Forbes founded the magazine in 1917. This 992-page book contains nearly 15,000 business-related quotations including, to nobody's surprise, a fair number of gems attributed to Malcolm S. Forbes and to his father, B. C. Forbes.

The book is organized by topic, and the topics covered include ability, absurdity, accomplishments, achievements, acting, action, adversity, advertising, advice, aging, and 350 more. There's an author index at the back of the book. By contrast, most of the classical quotations books are organized by author, and each has a huge keyword index.

There's a lot of material here that you can use on your website, in your blog, in your newsletters, and in your help files. With 15,000 practical quotations on a wide variety of subjects, you can find on-topic wit and wisdom to supplement your documentation, and add a new dimension to your writing.

Too many writers overuse quotations, and this can become very annoying very quickly. But used in moderation, this material can spice up your writing. J. F. Carter said, "I believe in moderation in all things, including moderation."

In the last few years I've bought more than a dozen books of quotations. This is my favorite. It's huge. Because it's organized by topic, it's easy to browse. It doesn't contain the thousands of obscure, classical references that you find in many books of quotations. Its focus is business. And it's fun to read. I recommend it highly.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Is "Good" better than "Best"?

In his classic book "Ogilvy on Advertising", David Ogilvy quotes his business partner Joel Raphaelson:

In the past, just about every advertiser has assumed that in order to sell his goods he has to convince consumers that his product is superior to his competitor's. This may not be necessary.

It may be sufficient to convince consumers that your product is positively good. If the consumer feels certain that your product is good and feels uncertain about your competitor's he will buy yours.

If you and your competitors all make excellent products, don't try to imply that your product is better. Just say what's good about your product - and do a clearer, more honest, more informative job of saying it.

Ogilvy was the driving force behind the advertising firm Ogilvy & Mather. In 1983, when "Ogilvy on Advertising" was published, Ogilvy & Mather was one of the four largest advertising agencies in the world, with 140 offices in 40 countries. At that time, their total billings were in excess of three billion US dollars, and their clients included General Foods, Lever Brothers, Bristol Myers, Campbell Soup Company, Shell, American Express, Sears Roebuck, IBM, Morgan Guaranty, and Merrill Lynch.

Without knowing Ogilvy & Mather's history and reputation, it might be easy to dismiss Raphaelson's opinion as strange and irrelevant. But I have to wonder what would happen if software developers took this approach to advertising their desktop and laptop programs, cloud applications, software as a service (SaaS) programs, and iOS and Android apps.

One of the things that distinguished Ogilvy & Mather's ads from their competitors' ads has always been Ogilvy & Mather's success with long copy. In his book, Ogilvy cites example after example in which he successfully used incredibly wordy sales presentations to sell everything from luxury cars to symphony orchestra tickets.

Long letters have always been the staple of successful direct mail campaigns. Ogilvy brought the technique to print advertising, to the delight and enrichment of his clients. Today, if he were working with websites, I sense that he'd be shouting down the notion that web pages should be short, or that advertisers should try to keep their sales messages "above the fold."

Will prospects read a long sales presentation on a website? I'm sure it depends upon a number of factors: 
  • Are you offering business software or consumer applications?
  • Are you marketing to a general software-buying audience, or do you offer a highly vertical niche application?
  • Are you operating in a mature market, or are you offering emerging technologies?
  • Are you the market leader, an also-ran, or an unknown brand?
  • How badly do prospects need software like yours?
  • How well do your write, and how strong is your sales message?

With download-to-purchase conversions hovering around one percent in much of the software development industry, microISVs can't rely upon the try-before-you-buy model to build their software businesses. Many developers try to have their software listed on the major download sites. Your website has to be rich with the important keywords that prospects will use when they search for your programs. And your story needs to appear in computer consumer and trade magazines.

Perhaps it's time to incorporate Raphaelson's sales philosophy with Ogilvy's affection for long copy. It's a myth that the highest quality products generate the most revenues. A popular fast-food franchise in a small city will generate significantly more revenues and profits than a five-star restaurant in a wealthy suburb. People buy a lot more bottles of low-cost table wine than Chateau Petrus. Chevrolet's gross revenues are much larger than Rolls Royce. Perhaps it's time to replace the short, simple statement about your software being the best available with a long, clear, honest, informative description of why your software is very good.

As with every marketing idea, measure your sales, change your sales presentation, and measure again. It's good software marketing.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Eliminating Toxic Product Names

Last summer, I read a full-page ad in my local newspaper for a service to make my lawn look greener and more attractive. The company with this service used to be called ChemLawn, but they'd changed their name to TruGreen ChemLawn, with "TruGreen" in very large letters and "ChemLawn" in much smaller letters.

There's a lesson here for software developers: Your product name should reflect the benefit that you promise (TruGreen), and not the process used to deliver this benefit (ChemLawn). And product names shouldn't contain frightening expressions like "Chem". You can say HealthyLawn, NaturalLawn, GolfCourseLawn. But not ChemLawn.

That's why Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC. Fried food frightens folks. "KFC" by contrast sounds harmless. Actually, it sounds a little bit like a chemical that you'd put on your lawn to make it greener.

When you're choosing your next software product name, try to get people to associate your product's main benefit with your product name. Choose a positive, happy name that makes people immediately comfortable with your new name, and your new software application. It's good software marketing.