Sunday, September 30, 2012

Press Releases and Software Reviewers

Press releases are the best way to get your software reviewed in newspapers, consumer and trade technical magazines, vertical-market publications, and even on some blogs. And the good news is that these folks don't charge you to review microISVs' software.

There are four good things that can happen as a result of software developers sending press releases to the editors:

  • Most computer magazines and most tech newspaper columnists use software news releases as short pieces in their editorial mix. Often these writers will take three or four sentences from the top of a microISV's press release for these "filler" articles.
  • If you send the editors a professionally-written press release, you increase your chances of getting an in-depth write-up. Such a write-up can be posted online or printed in their newspaper or magazine.
  • Many editors keep software press releases for up to 24 months, both for reference and for use in their round-up articles. The news release that you submit to the editors this week could show up in roundup articles with titles like "Best to-do apps for iOS" or "Best photography software for Windows".
  • If your press release gets editors excited about your program, they might do a full review of your software. The best coverage that you can get is a write-up that says, "Nice application! I tried it, and I like it."
Some publications have dedicated software reviewers. Be sure you send them your New Product Announcements. Most publications have multiple editors who review applications as part of their day-to-day editorial work. Making sure that they know about your software should be part of your software marketing plan, too.
A poorly-written news release won't increase your software income.
Your news release has to convince bloggers and editors that you have a unique application that can make their readers' lives more productive. Your press release also has to sell your program's benefits to the publications' subscribers. You have to accomplish these goals without sounding like you're delivering a sales pitch. You need professional help from an experienced press release person. Learn more about my press release services.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Writing Software for Children

Book review of Children's Writer's Word Book - Everything you need to ensure your writing speaks to your young audience by Alijandra Mogilner (published 1992 and 2006 by Writers Digest Books).

"Children's Writer's Word Book" was written for authors of books and stories for children aged five through twelve (in US terms, for kids in grades K-6). All of the principles in the book, however, apply to software developers who are marketing applications for youngsters.

Software applications to teach children to spell

There is a robust market for spelling software, vocabulary drill programs, and vocabulary applications for younger kids. It's a mistake, however, to assume that you can determine which words are appropriate for these kids. In reality, there are education professionals who spend their entire careers determining which words children should learn in each school grade, and how best to weave this vocabulary into the education curriculum.

"Children's Writer's Word Book" will strengthen educational software marketing because it gives developers the information that they need to use words that are age-appropriate for the children they're targeting. Software developers need this information, whether creating applications for the classroom, for parents who want to work on vocabulary and spelling with their kids, for youngsters who will use the software to work independently, or for homeschoolers.

"Children's Writer's Word Book" can help microISVs

Most of this book is made up of

  • An alphabetical list of words for children in grades K-6, with grade levels specified for each word;
  • Seven graded word lists for K-6 kids; and
  • An extensive thesaurus that lets you find words with the same meaning that are appropriate for kids in each grade level.
Thesaurus and word lists

The thesaurus is fascinating. It tells us that the word "claim" would be understood by most second-graders. Synonyms such as the verb "state" or the noun "deed" are okay for youngsters in the first grade. Third graders should be able to understand "title". Sixth graders would know the nouns "allegation" and "assertion" as well as the verb "assert".

For each of the seven Graded Word List chapters, the book also discusses the social changes, classroom issues, specific vocabulary development concerns, and issues of interest to book publishers - and software developers - who target that age group. In addition to the actual word lists, each chapter also includes writing samples.

Without a reference work like "Children's Writer's Word Book," a software developer could create an application that might convince parents that it's appropriate for their kids. But if you want professional educators to buy your software for classroom use, you'll need a book like this to keep you on track.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Trial and Error Marketing

"Marketing is a learning game," Philip Kotler tells us. "You make a decision. You watch the results. You learn from the results. Then you make better decisions."

This quotation from his 1999 book "Kotler On Marketing - How to Create, Win, and Dominate Markets" reflects Kotler's approach to marketing, a subject that he knows quite a bit about. At the time he wrote "Kotler on Marketing," he had sold more than 3,000,000 copies of his marketing textbooks. And he was able to list AT&T, General Electric, Ford, IBM, and other Fortune 100 companies as his marketing clients.

Software developers should heed Kotler's advice about marketing being an exercise in learning. There are so many factors that each microISV has to master - naming your product, creating a brand that the marketplace respects and buys, positioning your software in the minds of your prospects and customers, developing an online presence and a superlative sales presentation, developing the structure needed to process inquiries, fill orders, and upsell, cross-sell, and just plain sell more software to existing customers.

Don't expect to get everything right the first time. Study the marketplace. Launch your best products and services. Measure your profit results. Tweak one thing at a time, and measure the impact on sales and profits.

The process never ends.

Kotler tells us that our success depends upon our ability to work well with all of our stakeholders. Kotler lists employees, suppliers, distributors, dealers, customers, and stockholders. A better list for microISVs might be customers, affiliates, eCommerce providers, download site owners, copywriters, press release companies, marketers, and other vendors that service the software development industry.

Build relationships with your stakeholders. Help them succeed, and they'll support you, too.

Software marketing is a learning game.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Selling Software to Women

Women make 80 percent of all purchasing decisions. Yet we've been told that it's politically incorrect to consider women and men differently when it comes to understanding how they make buying decisions.

Truth is, it's important to learn how to market to women. That's the theme of the book "EVEolution - Understanding Women - Eight Essential Truths that Work in Your Business and Your Life" by Faith Popcorn and Lys Marigold.

Popcorn and Marigold devote a chapter to the notion that, when selling products or services to women, everything matters. You can't simply write a persuasive sales pitch and expect a lot of women to buy your stuff.

Popcorn and Marigold say that women can't be deceived. At least, not a second time. Don't even try, the authors warn us. Women do business with people they trust. Your reputation is very important when selling to women.

Everything matters, the authors insist. In addition to being interested in value, women are also interested in values.

Policies matter. If they were in the software development industry, the authors might argue that microISVs need to have "About the Company" pages that describe their companies - and their values.

BrandWeek magazine ran a survey that showed that women are more likely to buy holiday presents from stores that do good deeds.

Popcorn and Marigold say that we need to create a brand with a soul, and make sure our websites show who we are. People in the software industry need to create websites based on who they really are, and not on how they want to be perceived.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

microISVs' Customers are Busy

"The CliffsNotes of The Scarlet Letter outsells the real book by more than three to one."

So says Seth Godin in his 2006 book "Small is the New Big."

People don't have time to read classic literature that they believe to be irrelevant and slow-going. And they certainly don't have time to read a verbose description of your software.

Your prospects know that you had two choices -
  • You could write a long-winded, meandering description of your application.
  • You could take the time to write a well-structured, tightly-crafted description of your program's key benefits.
Take the time to write something short and clear, and prospects will reach for their credit cards.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Understanding Marketing and Understanding Customers

Many managers and business owners don't know what marketing is. So say John Stanton and Richard George, the authors of the book "Success Leaves Clues."

The authors say that many business people think that they know what is going on in the marketplace. Stanton and George believe that the people who have worked hard to learn what their customers and prospects are thinking probably have a very good idea of what the marketplace looks like. The other business managers and entrepreneurs have ideas that are based either on their mothers' behavior from decades past, or on the things that they blindly wish were true.

It's important to know your customers. Equally important is knowing what's going on in the minds of people you haven't been able to convince to be your customers.

Marketing is all about satisfying customers. And "satisfying," Stanton and George tell us, means "making what can be sold, not selling what can be made."

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Differentiate Your Software

Book review of Differentiate or Die - Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition by Jack Trout (published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

It's important for software developers to ensure that their products and services are different from their competitors' offerings. The software development industry has seen many failed attempts to create excitement about me-too, copy-cat software. To be successful in your software marketing, you have to talk about your application's unique features and benefits.

If you're only talking about your product's or service's high quality or good value, Trout tells us, you're not going to sell a lot in today's marketplace. You also have to say why your application is different - and better. While Trout wasn't talking specifically about software, his principles apply to the software development industry.

It's a mistake, the author tells us, to think that your software is a commodity, and that there's no realistic way to differentiate your application from your competitors' offerings.

This is a hard-hitting book about standing out from the crowd. Trout was the first author to create excitement about the concept of positioning. And now he's delivering practical advice about how to sell more stuff by differentiating your product or service.

Today's consumers have more marketplace choices than ever. Trout gives an example - Most families satisfy 80 to 85 percent of their supermarket needs with 150 products that they buy regularly. A typical supermarket in the United States sells 40,000 distinct products. This means that most consumers don't even try 99+ percent of supermarket products.

Sellers - including software sellers - have two options: Either convince buyers that your product or service is unique. Or fail. Or as Trout says, differentiate or die.

This book is a quick read, and it can boost your software marketing results.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Online Editors and Press Releases

Most newspapers and magazines have online editions of their publications. In fact, online newspapers and magazines have been a welcome source of income for these revenue-lean publications.

In some publications, the same journalists decide which write-ups will be used in their print versions, and which will appear on their websites. Some publications have print editors and web editors who make these publications' decisions independently.

It's important to send your press releases to both the print editors and the online editors. As recently as the 1980s, you could have assumed that almost all of the editors for a particular publication worked in the same building. Today, of course, many columnists and writers work from their homes. So, don't assume that you can email your press release to a central location, and that the editors will pass it around until it arrives on the desk of the "right person."

There are often several writers at each publication who can help your software marketing work by printing your press release. Be sure that you submit your news release to all of these key people, to get buzz about your iPhone, Android, software as a service (SaaS), or desktop/laptop software. It's good software marketing.

Please visit my DP Directory website and learn more about the press release services that I offer to software developers.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

More Software Marketing Glossary Updates

If you're enjoying the Software Marketing Blog that you're reading, then you're really going to appreciate my Software Marketing Glossary. There are feature-length articles about selling more software. And it's a handy guide to just about every software marketing topic under the sun.

In the past few weeks, I've added quite a few new articles -

Authenticode code-signing certificates

Learn everything you need to know about Authenticode code-signing certificates from K Software, an authorized Comodo reseller and a Comodo Strategic Partner.

With an Authenticode code-signing certificate, you can sell more software. These certificates make your trial version less frightening because they eliminate the horrible web browser messages that ask your prospects "The publisher could not be verified. Are you sure you want to run this software?"

bottom of the jar guarantee

Learn about making guarantees that will generate additional sales for your software applications. This proven technique has helped businesses in hundreds of industries, and it can help software developers sell more software, too.

tombstone ad

Understand how these tiny display ads might work - and might not work - to increase your software sales.

SKU (stockkeeping unit)

SKUs are product number codes that retail stores assign to every product and service that they sell. If you want to sell your software in stores, you need to understand SKUs and universal product codes (UPCs).

Friday, September 7, 2012

Modernizing Your Website

Have a few laughs, and learn how to modernize the look of your software website. Pay attention to the portraits that you see on The Colbert Report and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.

Instead of showing ordinary photographs of the people being discussed on these TV shows, these Comedy Central programs consistently show portraits with the people's heads breaking out of the graphics' frames. This technique makes these still images look vibrant and dynamic - and modern. And with a little work, you can do something similar to help you sell more software on your microISV website.

Below are two versions of the image which ultimately became the picture in my Software Marketing Glossary that illustrates the concept "above the fold." On the left you can see the original photo that I bought from Fotolia, my favorite source for affordable stock images. And on the right you'll see the version that I created.

I removed the busy background behind the man's head. And I framed the image so that his head bursts out of the new frame. With a little bit of effort, a blah image can be transformed into one that grabs viewers' attention.

Below are a couple of images that became another illustration in my Software Marketing Glossary. I started with a somewhat cluttered image of four people looking at a computer screen. I removed one of the people, and I used the same Colbert/Stewart technique to modernize the image.

I'm not a professional artist. And you don't have to be a gifted graphic artist to create images that look great on your website.

You know that your website visitors spend only a few seconds reading the words on your web pages before they decide to stay, or return to their favorite search engine and look for your competitors' software. Well, your prospects spend even less time evaluating the quality of your photos. If your photos "work" they'll grab your prospects' attention, and keep them on your website longer.

Use a photo manipulation tool that's designed for this type of work. And don't rush the work. Take your time, and work carefully. You'll be pleased with the results.

Charts are people, too. The chart below - the one that is bursting out of its frame - looks more modern than the original stock photo that I bought. I've used this technique to show money bursting out of wallets, books breaking out of shelves, and all sorts of objects that look like they can't be contained in normal frames.

Don't be afraid to tackle complex images. The two pictures below show what you can do with a complicated, stylistic image.

It's more time-consuming to create a frame for an image like this. But it's not more difficult. There's just more repetitive work that you have to slog through.

As an entrepreneur, you need to make your site look both professional and modern. Look for techniques like the ones discussed in this posting to add a modern touch to your web pages. Don't create images that take people's attention away from your sales message. But if you can spruce up the images on your website, you'll find your software sales going up.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Location Based Services and SmartPhone Apps

Fifty-eight percent of US smartphone users have used apps with location-based services (LBS). So says a recent survey by the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), as reported in the July 27, 2012 issue of Processor Magazine.

LBS allows developers to use GPS as well as cell tower information from users' smartphones and tablets, and to weave location-based processing into their apps.

For example, take a look at InstaTodo, a handy To-Do program for the iPhone and iPad that employs reusable templates to make it quicker to create To-Do lists. If you're walking around town and getting caught up on your errands, InstaTodo can show you a list of all of the outstanding tasks that are located near your current location. You can even see your outstanding tasks displayed as balloons on a map.

ISACA's survey shows that lots of users are concerned about having LBS apps on their smartphones -
  • 24 percent worry about strangers knowing where they are.
  • 24 percent are concerned that marketers are going to use their location information.
  • 21 percent worry about their personal safety.
Slightly more than half of the people surveyed (54 percent) think that the risks and benefits of LBS apps are roughly equal. Twenty-two percent think that the risks are too high, compared with 17 percent who believe that the benefits outweigh the risks. Seven percent of the people surveyed didn't express an opinion on the risk and benefit balance of LBS processing.

If you're going to market an app with LBS-based features, then use your website's sales presentation to ease people's fears.
  • Say exactly what you're going to do with the information that you use in your LBS calculations.
  • Make it possible for people to opt out of the LBS-based feature.
  • Say that you'll erase the location information when the user closes the app.
  • Assure users that you don't pass their location information to anybody else.
Eliminate the fear, and you'll sell more software.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Marketing Software to Retirees

Twenty-eight percent of people who are 67 and older use eReaders to read books. So says Harris Interactive, as reported in the June/July 2012 issue of AARP Magazine, the magazine of the American Association of Retired Persons.

Based upon the current state of the book publishing industry, I wouldn't have guessed that 28 percent of many demographic groups read books in any format. But more significantly, the survey points out that retired people are comfortable using technology. And that's a software marketing message that software developers shouldn't ignore.

Seniors, software, email, and texting

The same issue of AARP Magazine talks about the results of the Connecting Generations survey and focus group conducted jointly by AARP and Microsoft. When asked to choose between email and texting as the best way to connect with other people, 60 percent chose email and 19 percent chose texting.

I wasn't surprised that seniors prefer email three-to-one over texting. But I was a bit surprised that nearly 80 percent of people in their sixties and seventies use computers or smartphones to communicate with friends and family. This, too, delivers a marketing message for software developers: Don't ignore the Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation when you're making your marketing plans.

Retirees and demography

In his book "The Age Curve - How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm," Kenneth W. Gronbach talks about the buying patterns of the Silent Generation (the 52.5 million Americans who were born between 1925 and 1944) and the Baby Boomers (the 78.2 million Americans born between 1945 and 1964). Gronbach believes that the significant changes that we have seen - and will continue to see in the future - in economics, business, and society are caused in large part by the size of successive US generations, and the corresponding number of consumers in each age group.
Gronbach recognizes that his theory simplifies a particularly complex subject. Still, he makes a convincing argument for the relationship between demographic changes and the rise and fall of specific firms and market trends. Software developers need to focus their efforts on immediate marketing challenges, of course. But trends are also important.

The Silent Generation was smaller than the GI Generation that came before it. As the Silent Generation replaced the GI Generation, there was less consumption, and less competition for jobs. If you consider the low birthrate and the small number of immigrants coming to America between 1925 and 1944, Gronbach explains, you'll understand why it becomes difficult to make money marketing to the Silent Generation using the model used to sell goods and services to the previous generation.

Boomers and software sales

By contrast, the Boomer generation is huge. Gronbach describes Baby Boomers as people who don't save money, and who don't spend their money particularly wisely. Boomers spend a lot of money on their kids and grandchildren. They will continue to inherit money that they will continue to spend badly. And they refuse to grow old.
Boomers will buy any product or service that will keep them young, Gronbach advises. He regards Boomers as the greatest marketing force that could happen to an economy. If he were talking about the software development industry, I believe Gronbach would tell us that Baby Boomers are a good market for educational software for their grandchildren. And they're people who will buy games for themselves, as well as software that will help them manage their music and movie collections.

Buying in retail stores

Paco Underhill wrote "Why We Buy - The Science of Shopping." The book describes how consumers purchase items in retail stores. The lessons that Underhill teaches us apply to buying computer and smartphone software on the Internet, too.

Tiny changes to a store's layout, Underhill tells us, can make enormous differences at the cash register. Altering signs in retail stores can increase or decrease product sales. The same principles apply to software developers' online sales presentations, too.

For example, Underhill was hired by a dog food maker to determine how to increase sales. He discovered that mom buys most of the dog food. But dog treats aren't purchased by moms. They're bought by children and grandparents.

Dog food is often stored on high shelves, where most adults can easily reach it. The two groups of supermarket shoppers who can't reach it - seniors and children - can't deal with high shelves. By convincing supermarket managers to move dog treats where kids and grandmothers could reach them, the dog food company immediately increased sales.

How people buy software

That's what independent software vendors (ISVs) need to do, too. Take the time to learn how people buy your software. Make it easier and more attractive for people to buy more of your applications.

If you're marketing products in a store, Underhill tells us, make the signs big enough to be read by prospects with bad eyesight. Underhill mentions that Eckerd's stores in Florida placed magnifying glasses on chains, attached to the shelves.

Software developers who market their applications online need to avoid using tiny type. And I'm sure Underhill would tell microISVs not to use fonts whose sizes are fixed by the web designers. Let seniors and retirees with poor eyesight use their web browsers to select larger font sizes.

Education and software sales messages

Underhill's studies have discovered that the better educated and more affluent a buyer is, the more likely it is that that consumer will want to read what's written on labels, boxes, and jars. Perhaps the lesson for software developers is to make sure that they have an attractive end-user license agreement (EULA) in their applications, and on their websites.

Another interesting discovery that Underhill discusses is that older customers prefer to receive advice and instructions from somebody in their own age group. Retirees don't like to be told how to do things by youngsters. It's not obvious how software publishers can address this concern online. But the ISV who figures it out is going to sell more software.

The bottom line

Don't assume that retirees are technology-averse people who are sitting by themselves listening to their eight-track tapes and watching Betamax movies. Boomers and the Silent Generation represent a huge market for your software. It's worth the effort to learn to market to them. It's good software marketing.