Thursday, January 31, 2013

Press Releases and Lost Opportunity Costs

Don't cut corners on your software press release work.

You deserve better. It's a shame to spend a year creating a superb computer, Android, or iOS software application, and never know if it might have been a marketplace winner if you hadn't tried to save a few dollars on the press release that you distribute to editors, columnists, reviewers, and bloggers.

A lost opportunity cost would be the cost of not contacting important editors and columnists who could print a news release about your software. How much money would you lose if your next New Product Announcement weren't sent to the tech editors at The Associated Press, Bloomberg News, Copley News Service, and the other syndicates and news services?

Truth is, you'll sell more of your software if you include both direct costs and lost opportunity costs when crafting your software marketing plan.

A professionally written news release can spike a microISV's software sales.

The news release that you send to the English-language computer and smartphone magazines and bloggers has to say, "English is my first language." The editors and bloggers won't do the work required to fix your grammar, spelling, sense, agreement, or vocabulary. Hire a professional who will write a news release for your software - a news release that the editors can use.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Write Better and Sell More Software

Whether you're writing your website's sales presentation, a posting for your blog, a press release about your new software, or a whitepaper for your content library, you need to sell your ideas if you want to sell your software. In his book "How to Write like an Expert about Anything," Hank Nuwer delivers a lot of insights that can help business people in general, and software developers in particular, write better sales messages.

Every sentence in your write-up has to pull its weight, Nuwer tells us. You can't defend any sentence by saying that the grammar and syntax are correct. Every word has to advance your argument, and tell your story well. You have to look at every word, and ask if it's advancing the message. Your job is to keep readers reading.

"The job of a writer is to layer detail upon detail," Nuwer explains. Nuwer describes his writing style when composing short articles (1200 to 1500 words) as "terse and direct and information-packed". You have to get the reader engaged immediately, and there's no sense in writing something wordy or obtuse. The headline and the lead paragraph have to get readers excited about reading more.

Another technique that Nuwer suggests for starting your write-up is to set a scene. And then follow it with another scene that is in such contrast with the first one, that the reader will want to know more about what you're describing.

Think of your article as a series of building blocks. Don't be afraid to intersperse "promise" building blocks which keep readers interested by promising to tell them something fascinating in the coming paragraphs.

Software developers should always write a powerful ending. Nuwer suggests a quotation from an industry giant. I recommend a call to action. microISVs should treat their readers like prospects, and tell them the best reason for them to buy your software, download the trial version, sign up for your newsletter, subscribe to your blog's RSS feed, or do whatever it is that you want them to do.

Another approach, Nuwer suggests, is to end with humor. Still another way to end your article is to move out of character as the article's writer, and end on a personal note. Or close the article with a prediction.

Always include a couple of sidebars, Nuwer tells us. I think sidebars work great on software developers' web pages, too. And read-out boxes (which are sidebars in the middle of a page instead of off to the side).

The more you know about writing techniques, the more powerful your software sales presentations will be. Add a volume or two on writing to your bookshelf every year, and you'll sell more software applications.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sell Your Software as a Solution to a Problem

Book review of Guerrilla Marketing Excellence - The 50 Golden Rules for Small-Business Success by Jay Conrad Levinson (published 1993 by Houghton Mifflin Company).

Levinson has written a long series of Guerrilla Marketing books. This is one of my favorites.

Levinson believes that most companies are really bad at marketing. He has a few dozen rules that can boost companies' income. The book is divided into four sets of rules - Rules to guide your thinking, effectiveness, marketing materials, and actions.

Without sounding like a college professor, Levinson delivers some great task lists and checklists of tasks that are essential to the success of companies in the software development industry.

It's fashionable for mISVs to debate "features versus benefits." Too many software developers put too much emphasis on describing their applications' features. They should tilt the equation a bit, and spend more time touting their software's benefits. But there's a better solution.

According to Levinson, "It is far easier to sell a solution to a problem than to sell a positive benefit."

Become a problem solver. Sell your software by making prospects aware of a problem that they have, and describing how your application can solve the problem. It's best to focus on a single problem, two tops.

You lose credibility if you try to present your software as the solution to every problem known to humankind.

This problem-solving idea is just one of the fifty insights that Levinson delivers. It's a good book, and it will help software publishers increase their sales.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Why Guess When You Can Know

Although David Ogilvy concentrated on television, direct mail, and magazine ads during his amazing career in the advertising industry, much of what he discusses in his book "Ogilvy on Advertising" also applies to writing website sales presentations, PAD files, and emailed update announcements.

Ogilvy discouraged clients from placing ads on good TV programs. Instead, he recommended that they buy advertising time on reruns of old movies. You want viewers who watch boring television, Ogilvy tells us, so they'll be captivated by your enticing ad. And like all of Ogilvy's advice, this tidbit is not based on his personal opinion. He measured results carefully. Advertising on boring TV shows generates more income.

What does this tell us about buying banner ads on download sites, or guest blogging on other developers sites? I'd recommend that you do what Ogilvy did - measure everything, and compare the effects of your advertising on sales and profits.

Ogilvy insists that there is no correlation between the size of your audience and the number of orders that you will receive. Targeting is far more important than the size of your audience. Many microISVs assume that the best places to buy banner ads or downloads are the mega-download sites. Perhaps it makes sense to look at smaller sites that do a better job targeting the audience that you're trying to reach.

Many advertisers have been told that each TV or magazine ad should make one promise. Ogilvy thinks you should promise several benefits. Again, measure your results, change the text and images, and measure again.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Sell to Your Existing Software Buyers

To maximize your software sales, you should find a way to sell more to the people with whom you already have a relationship.

Cross-sell software to existing customers. If you offer only one application at this time, then find a way to get your customers to buy other developers' software. Select another microISV who markets excellent applications, and offer their programs to your customers on an affiliate basis. The other developer has to target the same group that you're targeting, and they can't be offering a competing application.

It's important that the software that you sell on an affiliate basis have the same appeal that attracts customers to your existing programs. For example, if your software is known for its ease of use, then you shouldn't select a developer whose applications are known for being full-featured. Instead, choose another developer who takes the same minimalist approach to software design that you do.

Encourage your existing customers to upgrade from the Light version to the Standard version, and to the Professional version. If they're a home user who has bought a single-user license, offer them a family license.

If they're a business user, talk to them about multi-user and site licensing. Of course, make all of your customers aware of the whole range of products and services that your microISV company offers.

It's always easier to sell software to somebody with whom you already have a relationship. Concentrate on selling to your customer base, and you'll get an immediate bump in sales.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Packaging Your Software Online

Appearances are important. So says Harry Beckwith, the author of the book "The Invisible Touch - The Four Keys to Modern Marketing."

Packaging is one of the four marketing keys that Beckwith describes in his book. And for microISVs who sell software online, "packaging" means the look and feel of their online sales presentations.

If you believe in your business and in your product line, Beckwith tells us, you have to show it. You can't skimp.

Write your sales presentation well. Choose images that are different. Appearances shape prospects' impressions about the software that you market. It's not enough just to be great. You have to look great, too.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

The Cost of Press Releases

A press release campaign is an affordable way to get a lot of publicity for your software.

You can write and submit a press release to the editors for less money than advertising. Even if you choose the least expensive ads - the 1-inch "tombstone" ads without a picture or logo - you'll find that a press release campaign costs less.

For most software developers, a press release has to create only a dozen or so new sales to break even. And it's hard to imagine that a well-written press release, submitted to a well-targeted list of editors, wouldn't generate that number of incremental sales.

Your competitors are using news releases to sell more of their programs. Press releases are cost-effective. Press releases generate sales.

Start your news release campaign today.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Write Like a Human

MicroISVs can sell more software if they write like humans.

Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, the authors of the book "Content Rules," urge us to write in a human, conversational tone. They talk about eight strategies that business people can follow to write more effectively.

Translating the authors' ideas into the software development industry, their ideas are:

Relax

Don't think about writing in a pseudo-legalistic, pseudo-corporate way. Instead, write in a conversational style.

Converse

Write as if you were writing a note to a personal friend. Don't assume that your audience understands tech talk. Write in simple, conversational English.

Eliminate jargon

Marketing-speak is a bad language for selling software - or anything else. Unless you're selling programmers' tools, don't use very much tech talk, either.

Avoid Franken-quotes

Franken-quotes are the horrible sentences that come from the corporate marketing departments of larger enterprises. If you wouldn't say it to a friend, don't write it on your website.

Be informal and casual

If you're selling software to kids, don't pretend to be a youngster. You'll speak "teenager" with a really bad accent, and nobody will understand what you're trying to say. Be yourself.

Break writing rules

Break some of the writing rules that you learned in school. Don't write like you didn't go to school. But replace some of the tired rules with some modern "attitude."

Tell stories

Paint your software prospects into a picture in which they see themselves benefiting from using your application.

Concentrate on content

Don't worry about being corporate or professional or precise. Just tell your prospects what they need to know about your applications.

Handley and Chapman want us to write with enthusiasm. And have fun. Remember that you're taking a bigger risk in boring your prospects and customers than in shocking them. Don't be inappropriate. You can't sell most software by being silly. But don't be too stiff and formal, either.

I've found that illustrations really help the story. On a good day, images can add substance to your sales messages. Sometimes, however, photos and drawings simply provide eye candy. And sometimes they're just there to break up the words and make the article look more inviting.
Sidebars and read-out boxes are very effective eye candy because they're almost always read. And if they're well-written, they can advance your argument - or your sales presentation.

Keep in mind that you're writing for two audiences - the search engines that you depend upon to send your website traffic, and human visitors who you want to buy your applications. Focus on your human web page visitors. At the same time, be aware of how you use the keywords and key phrases that are most important to you.

For example, if you're selling software to fellow software developers, you have two choices. You could say "Widget makes it easy for software developers to..." or you could say "Widget makes it easy for you to...". Traditional books about writing sales messages urge you to use the you/you're/your words as often as possible. Modern books, by contrast, urge you to use your most important keywords as often as possible.

Write for both audiences. But don't turn your sales presentation into awkward, unappealing text, just to create fodder for the search engines.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Write Like an Expert

Book review of How to Write like an Expert about Anything - Bring Factual Accuracy and the Voice of Authority to Your Writing by Hank Nuwer (published 1995 by Writer's Digest Books).

Many developers have found that they can increase their website traffic by including a large library of well-written, well-targeted articles, whitepapers, and case studies on their software sites. "How to Write like an Expert About Anything" provides insights into crafting well-structured, authoritative articles that will attract website visitors, and increase software sales.

I believe that all professionals in the software development industry would benefit by creating a library of articles, whitepapers, and case studies for our websites. When the search engines find well-written, keyword-rich content on our sites, they index it and send more traffic to our web pages. And when human visitors find information that they find useful, they're more likely to buy our products and services.

"How to Write like an Expert about Anything" presents lots of ideas for making our articles and whitepapers more effective.

To start writing like an expert, Nuwer tells us, we have to identify the experts in our field. Read their printed work. Interview them.

You need to develop a voice of authority. This voice of authority has to permeate all of your writing. Absent this voice, your writing will seem confusing and confused to your readers.

You can't simply give your readers a bunch of unorganized facts. You have to understand the subject matter, and present it logically.

In my opinion, this need for organization applies to both human visitors to your website, and to the search engines' crawlers. If you just dump hundreds of keyword-rich pages onto your website, Google and the other search engines won't be able to sort everything out effectively. On your website, "organization" means "siloing."

"How to Write like an Expert about Anything" is full of practical advice that software developers can use to make their sales presentations more effective. For example, Nuwer urges us to tell our readers about our experiences and credentials. Readers in general, and prospects in particular, will be inclined to believe us if they realize that we have good reasons for knowing our subject.

I've found that people like to buy from other people whose backgrounds are similar to their own. If you're marketing home educational software that you developed for your own children, say so in your sales presentation. Your prospects will relate to your life experience, and they'll feel comfortable buying from you.

"Nothing is over the heads of my readers," Nuwer explains, "unless I put it out of reach by my own ineptness."

Like many of the books published by Writer's Digest Books, this volume doesn't pretend to have all of the answers to every writer's problems. Rather, it presents the ideas of one experienced writer on how to solve some problems that every writer faces.

"How to Write like an Expert about Anything" is an easy read. And it will help you craft more convincing sales presentations.