Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Making Snap Decisions

"Nearly all the missteps I've made over the years editing Newsweek, New York magazine, and now Esquire came because I convinced myself that I had to act precipitously or decisively when, in fact, there was plenty of time - if only an extra half hour on deadline - to tease the right action out of the confusion and anxiety of the moment."

So says Edward Kosner, Editor in Chief, Esquire Magazine, as quoted in Richard Edler's book "If I Knew Then What I Know Now - CEOs and other smart executives share wisdom they wish they'd been told 25 years ago."

Procrastination is bad. But so is jumping into a decision before you've had time to analyze the pros and cons.

Take your time, and make the right decision.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Incorporating Your Software Company

Book review of Inc. Yourself - How to Profit by Setting Up Your Own Corporation by Judith H. McQuown (published by Broadway Books).

It was an earlier edition of this book that got me thinking about incorporating DP Directory more than two decades ago. It's a great book, and would help any US-based software developer incorporate their company. The publisher releases updated versions of the book regularly, and has sold more than 500,000 copies.

I used an attorney to incorporate my business. I believe that I could have done the work myself, but I wanted to have an experienced professional do the paperwork for me.

Inc. Yourself begins with information that will help you decide if incorporating is the right decision for your business. It discusses how a corporate structure might limit your personal liability, how it affords tax advantages, and how incorporating your business offers other financial incentives when compared to running a sole proprietorship or a partnership.

There's a discussion of how to name your corporation, fill out the paperwork, choose a fiscal year, transfer assets into your corporation, issue stock, and keep corporate records. The book has insights on medical insurance, life insurance, hiring employees, and providing them with benefits. You'll learn about retirement planning, and disposing of your corporation.

You'll learn the differences between a C corporation, an S corporation, and a Limited Liability Company (LLC). I was surprised by the enormous number of legal differences between the three structures. It's important to choose the form of business that best suits your needs, and this book provides a lot of good guidance.

If you're serious about building your software development business, you should consider incorporating your business. In addition to limiting your liability, the corporate structure offers financial opportunities when it comes to providing medical coverage, buying life insurance, and providing a pension.

This is an incredibly useful book; it discusses all of the key issues, and gives you the perspective that you need to make an informed decision.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Forecasting Software Sales

"Forecasts may tell you a great deal about the forecaster," we're told by Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway Inc., and quoted by David Olive in his book "A Devil's Dictionary of Business Jargon."

"They tell you nothing about the future," Buffett explains.

I subscribe to quite a few software development industry trade magazines and business publications. And I agree with Buffett that we have to be careful with the many forecasts that are published every week.

Some of the forecasters have an agenda. If you're interested in expanding the reach of a particular product or service, from Android tablets to software as a service (SaaS), you can create a questionnaire and target an audience that will give you the results that you're interested in publishing.

Many forecasting firms are professional and objective. Some aren't.

Don't bet the direction of your software development company on the accuracy of the forecasts that you read in industry trade journals.

Friday, August 24, 2012

ESWC Announces 2012 Software Conference and Epsilon Award

The 12th annual European Software Conference will be held at the Holiday Inn Munich City Centre on November 24 and 25, 2012 in Munich, Germany. 

This year's ESWC will feature the seventh Epsilon Award, an annual recognition of outstanding software for Windows, Mac, Linux, web, iOS, or Android. It will also be the seventh year that my press release company, DP Directory, Inc., has been one of the conference's sponsors - and the seventh year that the Epsilon Award winner will receive a press release writing and distribution service from my company worth $294(US).

Nominations for the 2012 Epsilon Award will close September 4, and voting for the nominated software will close October 27.

The two day European Software Conference includes wall-to-wall English-language panel discussions and presentations from software industry professionals. The registration fee for the two day conference, including lunches, is 225 Euros, or 90 Euros without lunches. Additional information about the Epsilon Award, and about the European Software Conference, can be found on ESWC's website.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Newspapers, Magazines, and Blogs
Use News Releases

Nearly all of the computer publications print software news from the press releases that they receive. These publications' editors are eager to tell their readers about the newest software applications. Like yours.

Business and consumer magazines print press releases about software, too. So do daily newspapers. Even if magazines and newspapers don't have dedicated "What's New?" columns, their writers use New Product Announcements to stay informed about the latest software.

You've heard a lot about the decline of the magazine and newspaper industry. These publications no longer devote revenue to hiring lots of software reviewers. As a result, magazine and newspaper writers depend even more upon the press releases that they receive. Press releases are the vehicle that these journals use to get the information that they need about the latest software.

Bloggers spread the word about new and updated software. Some bloggers welcome press releases, while others prefer to be courted individually.

Wire services and syndicated columnists welcome software-related press releases. They turn press releases into news columns that appear in magazines, newspapers, and online. All of these key communicators should be on the distribution list that you use to get free publicity for your software.

Get tons of software publicity without spending oodles of money.

To increase your computer and smartphone software sales, your press release has to be written in proper English. If you use my news release submission service, I'll review your press release for free and give you my feedback. If you'd prefer, I can write your press release for you, affordably and quickly.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Annual microISV Pain Point Survey

Take a survey and get a chance to win a prize. Russell Thackston and the MicroISV Research Alliance are conducting their 3rd annual survey of one-person independent software vendors (microISVs).

They want to know which parts of your software development business cause you the most discomfort. And my company, DP Directory, Inc., is a sponsor of the 2012 survey.

Everybody who completes the survey may choose to be included in a prize drawing, and there are some really nice prizes.

I've donated a press release writing and distribution package valued at $294(US). And there are a bunch of other prizes that you'd really enjoy winning.

Visit https://survey.microisvresearch.org/ to take the survey during August, 2012.

Friday, August 17, 2012

microISVs and USPs

Rosser Reeves introduced the concept of "Unique Selling Proposition" in his 1961 book "Reality in Advertising."

And for the last 50+ years, many marketers have responded by differentiating their products and services by emphasizing a unique benefit that they could associate with their offerings.

Software developers have to do this, too. Whether you're talking about your software application on your website, your blog, in your newsletter, or in your PAD file, you need to say to prospects, "We're different. We're better."

Your first task is to define your application. Put it in context. And then explain why it's better than what your competitors are offering.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Windbaggery Won't Sell Software

When we're not confident about our writing, Patricia O'Conner tells us, we tend to use "authoritative-sounding twaddle: inflated words, jargon, the phrase of the moment." O'Conner is the author of the excellent book "Words Fail Me - What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing."

Pretentious writing won't sell. The proper way to sound authoritative is to know your subject matter, and write about it clearly. O'Conner urges us to use common, ordinary words.

If O'Conner were writing about the software development industry, I think her advice would be:

You're trying to sell software. Don't let bad writing get in the way.

That's good software marketing advice!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Advertising and Software Sales

Book review of Advertising in America - The First 200 Years by Charles Goodrum and Helen Dalrymple (published 1990 by Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers).

"Advertising in America" chronicles two centuries of American print advertising. The book contains histories of major American industries, their companies, and their products. There are 566 full-color ads reproduced in the book, along with some insightful commentary about how advertising worked - and didn't work - over the decades.

Changing attitudes over time

It's amazing how advertising has changed over the years. The book shows a 1926 ad from The Prudential Insurance Company. A handful of kids are milling about a sturdy stone and iron wall. A plaque on the wall reads "Orphan Asylum". One of the little kids says to his mother, "They said father didn't keep his Life Insurance paid up!" Can you imagine the backlash from a tasteless insurance company ad like this today?

The beginning of branding and positioning

Branding started in the late 1800s. Before that time, consumers bought generic goods from general stores. It was in the late 1800s when Henry J. Heinz put 57 different foods into jars, Dr. Kellogg put a brand name on his cereals, and Borden's put an eagle on their condensed milk. Campbell's Soup arrived in 1869. Levi Strauss' overalls made their debut in 1873. Ivory soap, Eagle Pencils, Goodyear Rubber Galoshes, and Chase & Sanborn Coffee became instant brand successes because they were the only brands available.

Positioning in advertising came into play around 1900. Before that, there were general interest magazines and newspapers. The launch of women's, farm, religious, and sports magazines came at the turn of the century. And for the first time, ads were targeted at specific audiences.

Selling hard-to-understand products

There's a chapter in the book called "the Hard Ones - How Do You Sell A...?". It explains how advertisers went about popularizing three newly introduced products and services that weren't understood, weren't welcomed, and weren't appreciated: The Kodak camera, the Gillette Safety Razor, and airline travel. It's true - few people could understand why somebody might actually want to pay a company to fly them through the air, from city to city.

There are a lot of insights in this chapter that can help software developers who are wrestling with introducing an innovative new application, or marketing a product that doesn't fit neatly into an existing, accepted software category.

Today, it's difficult to introduce an application that doesn't fit into existing categories. That's because download sites and magazine editors have created cubbyholes for software, and they have educated the public about how to locate the right software. In earlier decades, entrepreneurs had little structure to work with. It's interesting to see how last century's businesses coped with the introduction of new products, and to apply their lessons to today's software launches.

Does your website look dated?

One of the most fascinating chapters is called "The Face of Advertising." The authors make two observations that relate to today's software marketing:

  • "...if you take this book, break it open at any page at random, you can guess the date of the ad you're looking at usually within a single decade".
  • "...if you look at a thousand ads in your favorite magazine, 999 will look like all the rest, but the one-thousandth is presented in a way that no one else has ever tried before (to be immediately copied...)".

If these two sentences are addressed to the public at large, then I believe that they're both incorrect. I believe that advertising professionals and marketing professionals might see the "sameness" of the majority of print ads. And they might see the decade-by-decade trends in advertising typefaces, layout, and illustration. But the average consumer doesn't take the time to evaluate this.

Similarly, I don't believe that the average prospect who visits your website has a clue whether your web layout is yesterday's style or tomorrow's. Your prospects can tell if your website is primitive. But they truly don't care if your breakout boxes have square or rounded corners. Software developers know that tables with square corners are the default style, and that it takes extra effort to create rounded borders. But the average consumer simply notes that your web style is different, and not necessarily better.

Based upon the forum conversations that I read, developers spend far too much time thinking about the layout and artwork on their websites, and far, far too little time working on the wording. To make things worse, today's emphasis on search engine results has led many developers to minimize the importance of creating an appealing sales message, and to maximize the placement of keywords and key phrases so that the search engines will rank their sites highly.

Advertising and microISVs

There are many lessons in this book that developers can apply in their task of creating effective sales presentations on web sites and in PAD files. "Advertising in America" is a good reminder that it's not enough to write web copy that gives good search engine results. People buy software. The sales presentation on your website has to motivate prospects to become customers. It's been that way for two hundred years.

When I bought this book, I thought I was purchasing a coffee table book. Flipping through the oversized pages, you'll find a seven-page spread that shows Coca-Cola's ads from 1892 to the present. There's a Campbells Soup ad from 1916, a Chiclets ad from 1906, a Black & Decker ad from 1925, and a Bon Ami ad from 1909. There's something strangely familiar about the Kellogg's Corn Flakes ad from 1914, and the Michelin Tires ad from 1917.

With software companies coming and going at lightning speed, there's something refreshing about seeing brands that have moved with the times, and strengthened over the decades. Software developers will find a lot of content in this nearly-300 page book. You won't find handy checklists or sage advice. You'll have to work hard to dig out the information that will help you with your website sales copy and your PAD file descriptions.

I think studying this book will prove to be a good use of your time. You'll be able to see successful companies' ads, think about why they were effective, and develop similar product pages and PAD file descriptions for your software.
 

Friday, August 10, 2012

Timing and Negotiation

Herb Cohen has a lot of ideas about convincing your negotiation opponent to make a concession. He discusses his insights in his excellent 2003 book "Negotiate This! by Caring, But Not T-H-A-T Much."
 
Throughout the life of your software development business, you'll find yourself negotiating with eCommerce companies, download sites, programmers for hire, copywriters, and competitors.
 
Timing is important. Never wait until the deadline is close before you attempt to find a settlement. Here are four ideas from Herb Cohen that will help you gain an edge over your opponent:
  
  1. Make the other guys believe that their delaying tactics are not helping them achieve their goals.
  2. Don't let them think that they can get you to give in because they're being stubborn.
  3. Send a message that you'll take back concessions that you've given earlier if they continue to stonewall you.
  4. Let them know that your last offer is better (for them) than having no agreement.
 
Your opponent has a deadline, too. The side with the tighter deadline is at a disadvantage, especially if the other side knows about their timeframe.
 
Patience pays off. Turn time constraints into an advantage, and negotiate the best arrangement possible.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Listen to Stakeholders and Sell More Software


Bill Russell, the only NBA player to ever win 11 championships in 13 years, has spent the past few decades as an author and motivational speaker. In his 2001 book "Russell Rules - 11 Lessons on Leadership from the Twentieth Century's Greatest Winner," he shares his ideas about the importance of listening.

Bill Russell believes that listening is a necessary part of winning - a necessary part of succeeding in business.

Listening is not the same as hearing, Russell tells us. Listening includes respecting the ideas and feelings of the person who is talking. Listening involves hearing the other person's words, and understanding the other person's intentions.

When listening, Russell advises, we have to push our own views into the background. It's important to concentrate and try to understand what the other person is saying. We'll have lots of time to analyze what they're saying after we've heard it. But we have to abandon our own agendas for a few minutes and listen to the other person if we ever expect to understand the other person's feelings and ideas.

In the software development industry, we have opportunities to hear valuable information about the direction that the industry is taking. eCommerce providers, download sites, and other industry vendors are giving us signals about the new products and services that they're introducing, as well as insights into the activities that they're walking away from.

Most importantly, our customers and prospects are telling us how they feel about our company and our products. We just need to make the effort to listen carefully to what they're saying.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Last Month's Glossary Updates

The Software Marketing Glossary on my website is huge, and growing. If you're enjoying my Software Marketing Blog, you're going to love the Glossary.

In recent weeks, I've added two feature-length articles that will help you sell more software -

Competing with Software Giants

Well-financed software development companies have some advantages over small independent software vendors (microISVs). That doesn't mean that you can't compete effectively with software giants. But you do have to position and market your applications with these giant software publishers in mind. Here are some software marketing ideas that can help you go head-to-head with huge software publishers.

Credibility

If your prospects trust and respect you, they'll be much more likely to reach for their credit cards. Here are some software marketing ideas that will get your prospects to take you seriously. This article has wall-to-wall practical ideas that can increase your software sales.

I've also added two articles that sound mundane. But these short pieces talk about the marketing implications - the software-selling, money-making implications - of these two routine business functions -

Error 404's

Error 404's affect your image, your credibility, and your software sales. If you can't write simple HTML without creating "page not found" errors, then a lot of your prospects are going to think that they don't want you changing their computers' Windows Registries. Eliminate error 404's, and sell more software.

Password Marketing

Passwords have a marketing element that can increase your software sales. Here's how you can build a relationship with prospects by helping them choose strong passwords to protect the files that your software creates. By making prospects comfortable with your software's password security regimen, you build customer trust - and you build customer sales.


In addition, I've added a handful of new marketing terms to the Glossary. These are software marketing concepts that software developers need to understand in order to maximize sales and profits - concepts like heritage differentiation, brand journalism, marcom, and sales funnel.

The Software Marketing Glossary is huge. It's fun. It's nicely illustrated. It has lots of "attitude". And the Glossary can boost your software sales.

Please check it out!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Press Releases for Software Developers

use news releases to sell more software
A press release is an email about your software application that you send to bloggers, reviewers, editors, columnists, and technical writers.

If these trend-makers and highly influential people think their readers will be interested in your software, they'll post the press release online, or write about your program in their publications. Those 200-word software descriptions that you read in computer magazines and in newspaper columns are your competitors' press releases. These New Product Announcements were printed for free.

Millions of software buyers make their selections based on the recommendations of these editors and bloggers. Writing and sending press releases should be at the heart of your software marketing efforts. Press releases can increase your software sales, especially with people who don't spend a lot of time looking for software on the Internet.

Press releases, also known as news releases and New Product Announcements, are an inexpensive way to generate interest and excitement about your software. Since 1984, I've been writing press releases for software developers, and sending them to the press. As one of the features of this new blog, I'll give you the information you'll need to write and submit news releases, so you can get your share of free publicity.

There will be detailed information on choosing a topic for your press release, appealing to your target audience, structuring and formatting the news release, and all of the insider tips to make your press release campaign successful.

Our press release services can help you sell more software and SaaS.

You need to send your New Product Announcement to the proper press people. You're wasting time and money if you're submitting news releases to generic names (such as "Software Editor" versus real names such as "Sam Jones") or to generic addresses (such as news@ instead of sjones@). Use a professional press release submission service that will deliver your news releases to the editors' personal mailboxes.