Friday, May 31, 2013

Write Stronger Sales Messages
and Sell More Software

Book review of Words Fail Me - What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing - a book by Patricia T. O'Conner (Published 1999 by Harcourt Brace & Company)

This is the second of Patricia O'Conner's books about writing that I've read and enjoyed. The first book which I read was "Woe is I," a great way - a painless way - to learn the essentials of English grammar. The author was an editor at the New York Times Book Review. She writes particularly well. And she explains simply and clearly how everybody - including those of us in the software development industry - can write better.

"Words Fail Me" is a fun way to learn to write stronger sales messages. O'Conner believes that writing well is a craft that can be learned. It's not a "gift" that some people have and others lack. O'Conner calls "Words Fail Me" a "user's manual for words".

Good writing is writing that works - writing that makes sense to your readers. "Words Fail Me" presents the rules of writing. You don't have to follow all of the rules every time you write something. But it certainly helps if you know the rules, and only break them knowingly.

O'Conner believes that every topic can be explained clearly in simple English. If you can't explain something, O'Conner suggests that perhaps you don't understand it completely. I'm reasonably sure that microISVs understand their software applications completely. But perhaps software developers don't always understand their target audiences' needs.

Still, O'Conner states that if your writing is unclear, perhaps your thinking is unclear. And certainly all of us would benefit from thinking more about our subject matter - and about our writing goals - before we begin writing.

The world is full of painful ways to learn to write more effectively. "Words Fail Me" isn't one of them. This book is fun, and you'll learn a lot about how to enhance your software marketing.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

B-to-B Marketing Expenses

The largest marketing expense that business-to-business (b-to-b) companies incur is the cost of participating in trade shows. So says the MarketingSherpa 2012 B2B Marketing Benchmark Report, as reported in Direct Marketing News.

In a chart entitled "Where the marketing money goes," the top six b-to-b marketing expenses were:
  • 21% Tradeshows
  • 16% Websites
  • 13% Email marketing
  • 13% Paid search
  • 12% Print advertising
  • 10% Direct mail
I'm sure the numbers would be very different for the b-to-b microISV segment of the software development industry. But it's nice to look at marketing expense numbers across all industries, and see how our businesses fit into the mix.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Press Release Writing Style

Write your press release message the way you would say it to a friend if you could choose your words carefully.

Never use high-priced words when plain-vanilla words will do the job. Don't use computer jargon that a significant number of your prospects might not understand. Do use technical terms if you're selling software that will be used exclusively by application developers, network administrators, or other tech-savvy people.

Editors are not favorably impressed by clever phrases. Editors are impressed when you write clearly, and when you use sentences that they can use in their publications and on their blogs, without having to rewrite them.

The software-buying public isn't impressed by obscure words, either. These prospects are impressed by clarity.

Editors simply won't tell their readers about things that they (the editors) don't understand. And prospects don't buy things they don't understand. Good software marketing requires you to write in a simple, conversational style that people will understand immediately.

Press releases put your software on the same level as the multi-million dollar developers' applications.
Millions of software and SaaS buyers make their software-buying decisions based upon what they see in the consumer and trade publications. Editors are eager to tell their readers about the newest desktop and smartphone software. We can help you get the press coverage that you deserve.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Become Friends
with your Stakeholders

Learn to deal with your stakeholders socially, Mark McCormack tells us, and learn more about them as people. That's McCormack's advice in the "Etiquette for the New Millennium" chapter of McCormack's book "Never Wrestle with a Pig - and ninety other ideas to build your business and career." Some of you might remember McCormack as the author of "What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School".

If McCormack were talking to software developers, he no doubt would be encouraging them to get to know their local stakeholders - bankers, printers, and computer retailers - as well as their international stakeholders - eCommerce companies, download site owners, and marketing consultants.

You'll get more information alerts from these colleagues, the author tells us, if you give them that type of information, too. He believes that it's important to network with other people. But don't be obvious that you're networking. Help other people, and they'll help you.

One easy way to enjoy face-to-face contact with other software developers as well as other industry stakeholders is to attend local tech get-togethers. Many national and international computer associations have local chapters which meet regularly to share ideas. And don't forget the two English-language conferences for microISVs - European Software Conference and ISV Con.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Advertising Ideas for microISVs

Book review of Then We Set His Hair on Fire - Insights and Accidents from a Hall-of-Fame Career in Advertising by Phil Dusenberry (published 2005 by the Penguin Group).

Phil Dusenberry was the Chairman of BBDO North America, one of the biggest advertising companies in the United States. Dusenberry says that his book is more about insights and ideas and not so much about the advertising industry. I believe that many microISVs will love reading Dusenberry's stories about how the mega-companies make their decisions about buying advertising.

The book title is a reference to BBDO's creation of the Pepsi ad in which Michael Jackson had an unfortunate accident. Some of the most fascinating stories in the book talk about the negotiations between Michael Jackson and Pepsi. These tales are intriguing, not because Michael Jackson was a music star, but because they can teach us a lot about negotiating.

Pepsi and Michael Jackson had little difficulty agreeing on the $5,000,000(US) fee that compensated Michael for appearing in the Pepsi TV ad. The first major problem that the two parties encountered - which didn't surface until after the contract was signed - was that Michael Jackson did not want his face to appear in the advertisement.

Michael had strong feelings about the topic, and he surprised Pepsi. The Pepsi people never imagined that Jackson would accept a large payment and not expect people to see him in the Pepsi commercial. Pepsi compromised. They included enough flashes of Jackson's face so that the audience would recognize him, but not enough to upset Michael about seeing himself pictured in the video.

There's a lesson here for software developers: When you're negotiating with eCommerce providers, download sites, or any software industry service providers, you have to ask every question that you can imagine. Don't assume anything about the terms that are important to your negotiating partners.

The other big surprise for Pepsi was the selection of the music for the commercial. Nobody expected Michael to like the music that Pepsi created. But a lot of Pepsi people were amazed when Jackson said, "Why don't you use 'Billie Jean'?" The people at Pepsi had assumed that using Jackson's two-time Grammy Award-winning song would be so expensive that it wasn't worth negotiating. Michael, on the other hand, thought that using "Billie Jean" in the video ad was no big deal.

Again, never assume that you know what is important to the people with whom you're negotiating.

This is a fun book, with lots of ideas that can help software publishers and microISVs.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Branding is Dead.
Long Live Branding!

Not so many years ago, the price of launching a new brand was so large that only the biggest businesses could afford this luxury. These enterprises spent huge amounts of money on television and magazine advertising to nudge people to buy their products and services.
This was true in the software industry, too. It was common for large software publishers to spend a lot of money on space advertising in both trade magazines and consumer publications.

Things have improved. While branding is less important today, promoting your brand still makes sense.
  • The Internet has levelled the playing field. Small independent software vendors (microISVs) can build websites that are as impressive as their well-financed competitors. Building new software brands is no longer restricted to large companies with deep pockets.
  • Consumers no longer rely on brands. The "question everything" attitude of the 1960s is still with us. Fewer people today believe that a well-known brand name means that its product or service will be of higher quality than the lesser-known brands'.
  • Press releases have made it simple - and affordable - for small software development companies to get coverage in magazines, newspapers, and online. Before the Internet, it was often necessary to hire a high-priced PR firm to write and postal-mail press releases to the editors. Today, all software developers can use a cost-effective press release service like mine to get the "free publicity" that editors, columnists, and bloggers give out every day.
Though branding has lost its unquestioned grip on consumers' wallets, don't make the mistake of ignoring your own branding efforts. Instead, be happy that branding has become so easy and affordable. Build your software brand. Now!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tablet Ownership is Growing. Lots!

Tablet computer sales are exceeding many analysts' expectations.

According to the February 22, 2013 issue of Processor magazine -
  • Between the third and fourth quarters of 2012, the percentage of U.S. consumers who owned tablets rose from 31 to 38. So says the Consumer Electronics Association.
  • IDC reported that worldwide tablet computer sales are much higher than expected. They estimate that 52.5 million tablets were shipped in the fourth quarter of 2012, compared with 29.2 million in the same quarter of 2011.
These two data points may not tell you everything that you need to know to decide which platform to select for your next application development project. But they are a solid indicator that the world is moving past the desktop/laptop solutions that have dominated the marketplace for the past 30 years.