Thursday, February 28, 2013

Customer Service and Gender

Companies need to treat women customers and prospects differently than they treat men. So say Faith Popcorn and Lys Marigold, the authors of the 2001 book "EVEolution - Understanding Women - Eight Essential Truths that Work in Your Business and Your Life."

The premise of EVEolution is simple - Women decide eighty percent of all purchases made in the US every year. For decades, we've been advised that it is politically incorrect to treat women differently from the way we treat men. Popcorn and Marigold have the courage to say that we should all learn how to market to women.

Marketing is different from life, the authors remind us. In life, a woman is assertive, and does whatever it takes to get the job done for herself and her family. But as customers, women refuse to waste their time in inefficient procedures.

Women are much less likely to call you with service problems than men are -
"If women have to go out of their way to track you down - if you make them jump through hoops to get service...they'll take their billions of dollars elsewhere."

So, treat women customers badly, and you'll lose them. And, of course, it costs a lot more to get customers back than to keep them.

The authors quote a study -
"Ninety-six percent of female customers never complain. They just never go back."

Popcorn and Marigold mention Jiffy Lube as a company that markets well to women. Jiffy Lube gives the customer control over the automobile service process. In addition, the company provides comfort, it creates trust that the work is done properly, and the company treats its customers respectfully.

Marketers need to anticipate what women want, and deliver it before women ask for it. It's all about relationships.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Craftsmanship and Software Marketing

"Amateurs hope," Bill Russell tells us. "Professionals work."

In his book "Russell Rules - 11 Lessons on Leadership from the Twentieth Century's Greatest Winner," Bill Russell uses the lessons that he'd learned in the National Basketball Association (NBA) and applies them to the world of business. And Russell's ideas apply to our challenges in the software development industry.

Russell equates craftsmanship with quality. Craftsmanship is the ability to turn your skills into great results.

Success is all about consistently doing the actions that you have practiced and perfected. There is very little luck involved.

We build our skills by practicing and learning every day. Craftsmanship requires skilled execution. There is very little luck needed. Just hard work.

Hard workers can inspire coworkers to work harder, and to build their skills, too. Even in a team, though, craftsmanship is an individual achievement.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Writing Press Releases that Editors will Print and Post

Every day, editors receive a lot of press releases. They receive more than they can print in their publications or post on their online sites.

You can increase your chances of being published by writing a news release that editors can use. Submit your press releases in well-written English. Follow the recommendations that you read in this blog and on my website, and you'll greatly increase the amount of ink that the editors will give you.

If the editors think that their readers will be interested in your press release, then they'll try to print or post it.

Start with a clear statement of what the "news" is in your news release. Say that you've released a new application, or a new version of an existing application. Then, tell the editors why your program is different from - and better than - your competitors' programs. Make the editors want to publish your press release.

Press releases are a cost-effective method to tell the world about your computer and iPhone/Android software. Send press releases regularly, and ensure that you get your share of the free publicity that bloggers, software reviewers, magazine editors, and newspaper columnists provide to micro independent software vendors (mISVs). Start your press release campaign now.

Press releases get your smartPhone or desktop software noticed.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Avoiding Me-Too Application Development

Business people need to know what the marketplace looks like, and what consumers want and need. So says former Nike marketing executive Liz Dolan in the book "That's Outside My Boat - Letting Go of What You Can't Control" by Charlie Jones and Kim Doren.

Dolan explains that in the creative process (as opposed to the business planning process), we need to keep marketplace conditions outside of our boats. If we don't forget about our competitors during the creative process, we risk creating a me-too look-alike product or service.

In my opinion, the software development industry suffers from this look-alike problem. Lots!

I believe that each of us in the software development industry needs to get into the habit of writing down ideas, large and small. Keep a pad and pen handy. And review the notes often.

Keeping notes, reviewing them regularly, and turning them into innovative products and services - that's how to turn creativity into success. That's what software marketing is all about.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Find and Keep Software Customers

Book review of How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life by Michael LeBoeuf (published 1987 by G.P. Putnam's Sons).

LeBoeuf tells us that we hear from about four percent of our customers. If any of the other 96 percent are unhappy with your company, they simply walk away, without saying anything to you. Most of the people who walk away - 91 percent of them, according to LeBoeuf - don't come back.

Most (68 percent) of the customers who walk away do so because they feel that the company treated them with indifference. Only nine percent leave because they're unhappy with the product that they purchased.

Each person who is unhappy with the company will tell eight to ten other people about their feelings. Happy customers, by contrast, will tell five people about a company they've dealt with.

Seventy percent of these unhappy people can be won back. That number grows to 95 percent if you resolve their unhappiness immediately.

Companies typically spend six times more money and energy to get new customers than to retain existing ones, despite the fact that existing customers are potentially worth much more to the company.

In general, LeBoeuf tells us, businesses do a bad job at customer service. The reasons for this are
  1. Employees don't know how to service the customer;
  2. Customer points of contact aren't identified and managed properly; and
  3. Businesses don't reward excellent customer service.
The focus of this book is how to win and keep customers. Be nice to your customers, and they'll be your strongest spokespeople. In fact, you should create a whole bunch of satisfied customers.

"The rewarded customer buys, multiplies, and comes back," LeBoeuf says.

Does this principle apply only to selling, say, soda? Or can it be instructive to mISVs in the software industry, too?

I believe that you can create a bunch of satisfied customers who will buy updates and upgrades to your existing applications, new programs that you release in the coming years, and software that you offer to your customers on an affiliate basis. Happy customers can help you sell multi-user and site licenses, and that can substantially increase your income.

This is a good book to add to your software marketing library.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Winning the Competitive Fight

"You don't have to win every round to win the fight," Sergio Zyman tells us in his book "The End of Marketing As We Know It."

It's easy for microISVs to worry when they learn that they have a new competitor, or when they hear that a known competitor has launched a new marketing campaign.

You shouldn't let these things bother you. Maybe your competitor will win that round. But it doesn't mean that your competitor is going to win the fight.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Making Your Software Customers Wait

Waiting-time is the key factor in shoppers' opinions about the quality of service. So says Paco Underhill, author of the book "Why We Buy - The Science of Shopping."

Underhill was discussing attitudes of shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores. But online we see the same relationship between waiting-time and the perceived quality of service.

Quick Internet connections are easier to find and less expensive than they used to be. But your website needs to be perceived as loading briskly, even on slower connections, because customers and prospects simply won't wait more than a few seconds for your sales message to show up.

Use all of the techniques that make web pages load quickly. Be sure that you specify the width and height of every image on your site. Avoid complex nested tables, especially near the top of your web pages.

Store shoppers are less bothered about waiting, Underhill tells us, if a real person tells them that they may have to wait for a bit. Online, we should find a way to warn our website visitors if they may experience a delay. Software developers should tell people how large their trial version download is, and how long it might take to download on various connections.

Store customers hate to wait in the wrong queue, only to have to move to a different line and begin the waiting process again. Online, a weak navigation regimen can lead to this same type of frustration.

Every software developer should identify every point of annoyance on their web pages. Find these problems, and remove them. It's good software marketing.

Monday, February 4, 2013

More Tips for Naming Your Software Application

During the try-before-you-buy heyday of the 1990s, many software companies chose product names that would place them alphabetically at the top of lists in shareware catalogs. This technique had been popular for years with companies of all types.

Many company and product names were chosen so that they would sort near the beginning of telephone directories' Yellow Pages listings and near the top of product catalogs. And this technique continues to be popular as small independent software vendors (microISVs) want to sort high in category lists on download sites.

"I created a set of software applications whose names all begin with 'A1,'" says Thomas Schulz, the head of the Danish software development company Micro-Sys ApS. "I wanted all of my applications to sort together so that prospects would know that I offer a comprehensive family of software tools for webmasters. And I wanted my programs to display near the top of alphabetized lists."

In addition, Thomas likes the name "A1" because of its association with phrases such as "highest quality" and "best of breed."

Today, Thomas offers six applications with names like
as well as A1 Website Analyzer, A1 Website Download, A1 Website Scraper, and A1 Website Search Engine.

It may not be simple to remember all of the names. But if you own one of Thomas' A1 webmaster applications, it doesn't take a lot of work to find the other programs.

Branding and search engine optimization (SEO) have largely replaced the need for choosing names that sort high on alphabetized lists. But it still makes sense for software developers to create a family of applications, and name them consistently.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Market Research for microISVs

Phil Dusenberry believes that we can do low-cost market research that will help us make strategic decisions. Dusenberry is the author of the 2005 book "Then We Set His Hair on Fire - Insights and Accidents from a Hall-of-Fame Career in Advertising."

People like to voice their complaints. Dusenberry explains. Anybody can conduct effective research. We're doing research when we listen to other people's conversations, and when we evaluate other companies' products and services. When it comes to market research, Dusenberry believes more in intuition than in number-crunching.

Many business people are "too busy" to conduct research. Or they feel that they already know what their customers think. And many business people collect only the information that confirms the beliefs that they already hold. Truth is, we have all sorts of opportunities in the software industry to deal with customers directly and to do informal market research.

Sometimes our market research forces us to make difficult decisions. Dusenberry's advertising agency had the Pepsi account. Agencies make much of their income from the ad buys that they get their clients to make. And during the "cola wars," Pepsi bought a lot of advertising.

Dusenberry recommended that Pepsi drop its successful commercials in favor of airing inexpensive Pepsi Challenge spots. These Pepsi Challenge ads, you may remember, were video tapings of ordinary people sampling Pepsi and Coke. Everybody shown in these taste comparisons preferred the taste of Pepsi.

The author's recommendation was a huge success for Pepsi. The Pepsi Challenge ads moved Pepsi from 23 percent of the cola market to 36 percent.

Dusenberry feels that his Pepsi Challenge ads, combined with his image-building ads, forced Coke into the blunder of releasing New Coke. He claims that Coke trusted Pepsi's research, i.e., the challenges.

The bottom line - Do whatever market research you can afford. And trust your research, at least at the general level. Dusenberry warns us not to do the research, and then ignore it because you don't like what you're hearing.