Thursday, October 31, 2013

Treat Every Software Customer Right

Book review of "The Customer-Driven Company - Moving from Talk to Action" by Richard C. Whiteley (published 1991 by Addison-Wesley Publishing Company).

To succeed in business, entrepreneurs have to treat every customer well. The lifetime value of a software customer is much larger than the cost of a single-user license. Satisfied customers buy software upgrades, and they tell their friends about your application.

"The Customer-Driven Company" is a practical guide to delivering top-quality customer service to your clients and prospects. Whiteley believes that there are two types of companies: companies that consistently deliver excellence, and the companies that fail and go out of business.

It's important to define "excellence" from your customers' perspective. A lot of "The Customer-Driven Company" is about instilling a customer-driven mindset throughout your enterprise. With a one- or two-person microISV, you don't need to spend time learning how to saturate your employees with your vision. But there is much good material about how to organize and implement a customer-driven strategy in companies of all sizes.

"The Customer-Driven Company" has a lot of good insights, case studies, and checklists. It nudges entrepreneurs to think about our attitudes toward our customers and prospects, and our willingness and ability to react to the marketplace.

"The Customer-Driven Company" reminds us that we have to ask customers for their feedback. If you don't have many management books on your shelf, this is a good one to add. Even though Whiteley doesn't specifically address the software development industry, the book can help you with your software marketing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Press Release Cover Letters

In general, don't include a cover letter at the beginning of your press release.

Never include a cover letter that says something like

Here is my news release. We're excited about this product, and we're sure that your readers will be excited, too. We'd be happy to answer any questions that you may have about our new software. 

This example covers about 100 percent of all press release cover letters that I've seen in my 29 years in the software development industry.

If there's information about your application that you want to include in the cover letter - information that explains the press release, then delete the cover letter, and include the information in the body of the press release.

Press releases are the path to the lucrative US and European software markets - if they're done properly. Don't personalize the news release that you send to the bloggers, magazines, and newspapers. It's unprofessional. The editors know that even the simplest email client can perform email-merges, and they're not impressed by a "Dear Sam:" salutation.

Talk to a press release pro, and send your press release in the format that editors will respect.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Brand Extensions Deliver
New Software Sales Opportunities

Most new products and services, Philip Kotler believes, come from line extensions or brand extensions. Kotler is the author of "Ten Deadly Marketing Sins - Signs and Solutions," a highly respected university professor, and a successful marketing consultant to Fortune 100 companies.

Line extensions and brand extensions are simple concepts. In cola terms, these phrases mean that a soda company introduces high-sugar, low-sugar, artificial-sugar, and no-sugar cola. We get 12 ounce cans and 24 ounce bottles. We get lemon cola, vanilla cola, and cherry cola.

Kotler tells us that brand extensions simply add to the costs of production, and don't generate significant additional sales. I wonder if Kotler would feel the same way about the common practice in the software development industry of introducing light, standard, and professional versions of applications. My experience is that creating a family of software products is an excellent way to increase microISVs' sales.

Instead of the "vertical thinking" that I've described above in the cola example, Kotler encourages us to engage in lateral thinking. Examples would include fuel stations selling snack food, and food suppliers including toys in their products.

These lateral moves allow us to create new product categories, Kotler says, and to develop new markets. It's certainly an approach that software developers should consider when deciding which application to develop next - especially in our world of desktop/laptop software, software as a service (SaaS), smartphones, tablets, and cloud computing.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Public Clouds are Gaining Popularity

According to a recent study by Gartner, end-user attitudes against moving to the cloud are softening. The research company estimates that public cloud services will be up 18 percent in 2013, bringing in $131 billion US dollars. In 2015, that number will grow to $180 billion.

It's time for all software developers to think about adding cloud computing and software as a service (SaaS) solutions to their product/service mix.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

PC Usage for Internet Access Strong
Smartphone and Tablet Usage Growing

Those of us in the software development industry know that PC sales have been soft in recent months. According to a study by the Media Behavior Institute however, as reported in a recent issue of Processor Magazine, PCs remain the device of choice for Internet access by adults aged 18 to 64.

The three reporting periods are the last half of 2011, the first half of 2012, and the last half of 2012. In those three timeframes, PC access of the Internet was reported by 82 percent, 84 percent, and 79 percent of the people surveyed.

Smartphone access of the Internet during these three periods grew from 33 percent, to 35 percent, to 43.5 percent. Tablet usage grew from 11 percent, to 13 percent, to 17 percent.

The marketing messages to microISV software developers are:

  • Keep writing applications for the PC. Usage is strong, and PCs will be around for quite some time.
  • Mobile devices are being used more and more. It's certainly time to get on the smartphone and tablet software development learning curve.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Runaway Tablet Sales

Everybody in the software development industry has heard that tablet PCs are outselling notebook and ultra-slim PCs. According to a recent report from the research and consulting firm NPD DisplaySearch, in 2014 tablet PCs will outsell notebooks and ultra-slims by a ratio of 2:1 (364 million units versus 177 million).

The company estimates that the ratio will grow to 3.3:1 by 2017. with an estimated 589 million tablet PCs and 176 million notebook and ultra-slim PCs.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Marketing Buzz Sells Software

Book review of "Unleashing the Ideavirus - Stop marketing at people! Turn your ideas into epidemics by helping your customers do the marketing for you" by Seth Godin (published 2001 by Hyperion).

Traditional advertising is fading. Buzz is the new way to sell products and services. And buzz can help developers sell more software. Buzz is the new basis of good software marketing.

In the past, you could market effectively by interrupting people. If you presented enough prospects with a TV commercial or a magazine advertisement, you could sell a lot of your product or service.

Today, Godin tells us, that's no longer possible. It's getting harder and harder to market anything - including software applications - by interrupting people. Software developers need to teach their customers to market to new prospects. Light a fire under influential users, Godin would argue, and get out of the way.

Godin's ideavirus is a particularly effective form of buzz. You create an idea that grows and "infects" everybody it touches. For example, you give people free email accounts whose signature file must be an advertisement for your free email service. Every time a user sends an email, they spread your ideavirus to their friends, relatives, and colleagues.

While Godin doesn't mention any of them in his book, there are a number of tools available that can help microISVs create and propagate ideaviruses.

  • Press releases can tell influential editors, columnists and bloggers about your application. These journalists can spread your ideavirus to thousands of their readers.
  • A well-designed affiliate program can energize a team of "sneezers" who can spread your ideavirus to the people in their social network.
  • You can add "tell a friend" buttons to your software product pages. This would make it easier for your customers and prospects to talk about your software program.
  • Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the other social networking sites can help you create buzz.
  • You can craft magazine articles and deliver presentations at industry conferences to get your ideavirus launched in your target communities.

The ideavirus is a helpful concept. If your software application is unique, it's worth thinking about how to use an ideavirus to create marketing buzz. Even if your software isn't unique, it's still good software marketing to think through every opportunity available to use word-of-mouth and buzz to promote your software.

This book is not particularly about the software development industry. For "Unleashing the Ideavirus" to be useful in your software marketing efforts, you'll have to do a lot of translating from its general principles to your software niche.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Contact Information
in your Press Release

It's better if your press release includes your website address, postal address, and phone number.

It's very unusual for editors to contact you before they print your press release. In general, they can get all of the information that they need from your trial version and from your website. But some editors like to know that they can contact you if they want to. So, include this information in your press release.

If you include your phone number in the "Contact:" line at the top of the press release, the editors might use it to phone you. But it would be very unusual for them to include it in the print version or in the online version of your press release.

By contrast, if you're marketing a business application, and you include your phone number in the contact section at the bottom of the press release (above the ###s), the editors may include your phone number in their magazine, newspaper, or online edition.

The editors won't be concerned if they try to call you and reach your answering machine.

Try press releases as a way to reach the influential editors and bloggers. For $129(US) DP Directory will submit your news release to 1,000+ computer editors and bloggers. DP Directory also can write your press release.

It takes experience to write a press release that will get editors and bloggers excited about your desktop/laptop or smartphone software. Contact DP Directory today about writing your press release, and submitting it to the bloggers and editors.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Risks of Posting
Business Info Online

The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advises business owners to limit the information about their companies and employees that they post on their Internet sites. DHS' recommendations are reported in a recent issue of Processor Magazine.

After a recent phishing attack against 11 energy companies, DHS is warning business owners in all industries that the bad guys are using the personnel-related information on business websites to develop their attacks. Phishers use the names and contact information of the company that they want to attack to trick other employees of that company that they're being contacted by colleagues and fellow-employees.

DHS wants all businesses to avoid posting employees' names, titles, email addresses, organizational data, and the names of the projects that they're working on. With less information about an enterprise's employees and organizational structure, the DHS reasons, phishers will be less effective in their attacks.

Those of us who run one- and two-person firms in the software development industry are less likely to be tricked by people who learn our names. But each of us should evaluate the need to post a lot of personal information on our websites.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Tablet Sales Up. Lots!

More than 49 million tablets were shipped during the first quarter of 2013. So says IDC in its Worldwide Quarterly Tablet Tracker. This represents a 142.4 percent year-over-year increase in tablet shipments.

The breakdown by operating system is:

  • Android - 27.8 million
  • iOS - 19.5 million
  • Windows - 1.6 million

The Android shipments represent a 247.5 percent year-over-year increase.