Thursday, January 30, 2014

Software Marketing Sins

Book review of Ten Deadly Marketing Sins - Signs and Solutions by Philip Kotler (published 2004 by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.).

"Ten Deadly Marketing Sins" provides an excellent checklist of all of the marketing tasks that you have to do to sell software products and services successfully.

Kotler has sold more than 3 million copies of his textbooks. He's done marketing consulting work for AT&T, General Electric, Ford, IBM, and other Fortune 100 companies. He knows a lot about marketing.

Traditional marketing no longer works, Kotler tells us. He points out that new products, and the companies that produce them, are failing at a particularly high rate. Most products and services have been commoditized; they are almost impossible to distinguish from their competitors' offerings.

Kotler identifies the problems (marketing sins) that are hurting companies: Firms are neither focused on their markets nor customer-driven. Company owners and managers don't keep adequate track of their competitors and customers. They're not planning, not seeking out new opportunities, and not properly controlling their sales and marketing processes.

I've noticed that many of Kotler's "marketing sins" are easy to find in the software development community:

  • Developers need to determine why sales are lower than they should be. Is it because the worldwide economy is soft? Has there been a shift in expectations held by people who buy software? Are microISVs' competitors offering better software products and services? Is software pricing out of whack with what buyers expect?
  • Developers need to identify and target market segments with their applications. It's too easy to follow the ancient habit of believing that customers will be attracted to the best products and services at the lowest costs. Software developers need to find out what their prospects really need, and target the desires of each market segment that they sell to.
  • Developers aren't connecting with their stakeholders. Download sites and eCommerce companies are seen by some developers as the enemy of the software development industry. Developers could sell a lot more software if they thought of vendors in the software industry as valued colleagues and partners.
  • Developers need to understand which of their applications are generating profits, which are valuable for other reasons, and which should be abandoned or sold.
  • Developers need to stop giving away important services for free.
  • Developers need to spend more attention on cross-selling and up-selling their software applications.
  • Developers need to concentrate on brand-building, and on targeting profits rather than things such as sales, downloads, or website visits. 

"Ten Deadly Marketing Sins" provides a great checklist of the marketing tasks that you have to do to sell software successfully. The book is not specifically about selling software, so you'll have to translate everything from general terms to the day-to-day realities of the software development industry. Reading "Ten Deadly Marketing Sins" is a good way to ensure that there are no major holes in your software marketing plan.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Press Releases and Trial Versions

The vast majority of software authors mention in their press releases that they offer a trial version of their application. But since nearly all software developers offer trial versions, the editors and bloggers rarely mention the availability of these trial versions.

There's a difference between prospects who visit your website because they've found you in Google search, and prospects who visit your site because they read your press release in a newspaper or magazine.

People who learned about your software in Google are ready to try. They want to see if your software meets their needs.

People who read about your software in a newspaper or magazine write-up are ready to buy. Your software has been recommended by an expert, and they're ready to make a purchase.

Press releases result in software sales, not just downloads of trial versions.

Your software deserves the best. Don't trust your news release emailing to a developer who maintains an editor list as a side business. Trust a professional. Contact Al Harberg at DP Directory today for your press release writing and distribution.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mistakes microISVs Make

"If you let any day go by that you don't try to affect your success," Colleen Moorehead, the President of E*Trade Canada tells us, "you've missed a day. You can never get it back."

Charlie Jones and Kim Doren interview Moorehead in their book "That's Outside My Boat," and ask her about the relationship between success and mistakes.

A successful enterprises requires a culture in which entrepreneurs can make mistakes, Moorehead explains. If you're not making mistakes, you're not taking risks. And not taking risks is a bad thing.

Moorehead believes that a company cannot gain a competitive advantage by simply mimicking competitors' actions and strategies. Risk taking is necessary for the breakthroughs you'll need to leap-frog your competitors.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lessons about Content from Boeing

In their book "Content Rules," Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman present a case study about how Boeing Company uses content to promote its products.

Boeing creates videos, blog postings, photographs, charts, graphs, eBooks, webinars and many more forms of content to spread the word about its products and services.

Boeing believes in brand journalism. The vast majority of its writings are customer-driven (versus company-driven) information that it spreads as widely as possible.

Boeing believes that information about its airplanes is too technical for Facebook. But the company says that it is getting some good exposure on Twitter. Boeing does not like to put its videos on YouTube. It is convinced that its videos don't belong on the same page as some of the controversial material that is available on YouTube.

Based on their study of Boeing's use of content, the authors advise us to write much of our content as a story about people. And they urge us to be patient when measuring how effective our online content is in attracting new customers.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Creativity, Skill, and Software Developers

"Skill is how you close the gap," Twyla Tharp tells us, "between what you can see in your mind's eye and what you can produce."

She devoted a chapter of her 2003 book "The Creative Habit - Learn it and use it for life" to the topic of skills and creativity. Tharp draws on her enormously successful 35-year career as a dancer, choreographer, and businesswoman, and explains how we can learn to be more creative.

Tharp believes that we need to learn the fundamentals of our craft if we ever expect to succeed. Writers need to read. Painters need to know how to work in a wide range of artistic media.

Personality is a skill, Tharp tells us. Certainly the mastery of interpersonal relations is a skill that everybody can benefit from.

Perfection of skills requires practice. And work.

In the software development industry, we need more than technical skills. Most developers agree that the best-selling programs are seldom the programs that are the most technically advanced. We need communication skills, motivational skills, persuasion skills, business skills, marketing skills, and many others.

Tharp believes that skill and passion are both needed to be creative.

"The more you know," Tharp explains, "the better you can imagine."

Monday, January 6, 2014

Make Your Software Business Remarkable

Book review of Purple Cow - Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable by Seth Godin (published 2009 by Portfolio, a member of the Penguin Group).

Cows are boring, Godin insists. Purple cows are remarkable. This book is all about making your business remarkable. While "Purple Cow" is not particularly about selling software, the book can help microISVs' software marketing.

Godin believes that you have two choices: Be remarkable or watch your business fail. Remarkable marketing means building into your product or service the things that are worth noticing.

You won't be remarkable if you create a copycat or me-too product or service. And you can't salvage a boring product or service by creating an unusual marketing or sales campaign. Good software marketing requires your application to be remarkable.

I think Godin would be upset by the number of look-alike products that independent software developers are building and selling. If he were more familiar with the software development industry, he might be shouting, "Stop writing me-too desktop/laptop applications, and start thinking in new ways about the cloud, about software as a service (SaaS), and about iOS and Android apps."

You have to place a purple cow into every application you develop and market. Start innovating. Now. You can't compensate for a ho-hum program by buying adwords, banner ads, or popunders.

Developers have to create remarkable applications, and get them immediately into the hands of early adopters, and people who will use buzz to spread the word about these products and services. Short development cycles, along with major changes, are the way to craft and market your software.

This is not a book about the software development industry. In one case study in our industry, however, Godin talks about Logitech. Godin believes that Logitech  became the fastest-growing technology company in America by recognizing that they're in the fashion business. They may not make high-tech mouse products, Godin points out, but they make unusual ones that people want to own.

The book is a quick read. It's worth the hour or two you'll spend reading it. "Purple Cow" will boost your software marketing.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Showrooming, Competitive Strategies,
and microISV Sales

Showrooming is the ability of customers to do in-store comparisons of the prices of retail products. Without leaving a store, prospects can use their smartphones to compare the price that the store is charging for a retail product with the price that other physical and online stores are charging for the same or similar items.

Showrooming is hurting retail stores worldwide, including the office and home electronics stores that sell boxed, shrinkwrapped software applications. Taken to the extreme, showrooming will drive prices down and will ultimately lead to the commoditization of software.

Brick and mortar stores are implementing innovative ways to deal with the problems caused by showrooming. Price-matching is a common tactic. Stores agree to match other stores' prices for identical products.

Some retail stores are trying to mimic the product reviews that buyers love (and hate) online. These local stores have made their websites' reviews available so customers can compare competitive solutions to their problems. Other retail outlets are training their salespeople and customer service representatives to be able to field prospects' questions about the products that they offer.

Competitive Strategies

What can microISVs do to take advantage of the price-shopping that takes place in retail stores? There are no perfect solutions. But here are some strategies that might respond to prospects' demand for the lowest prices for the software that they want and need:

Adjust your prices

Don't automatically lower your software prices. But carefully review your competitors' prices, and ensure that you're not being undersold.

Create a family of products

Consider converting your application to a family of programs, with different feature sets, and different price points. Be very competitive in your pricing at the low end of the spectrum. Since you're probably competing with free programs at the "Lite" end of your product line, you might want to release your light version at a particularly low price.

Price your high-end products a bit higher than your competitors, and tell a strong story about the value of the features that they include.

Compare prices online

Create a page on your website that compares the prices of your software with the prices of your competitors' applications. Check your competitors' prices and feature sets regularly, and ensure that your price-comparison page contains current information.

Publicize your software with press releases  

If magazine editors, newspaper editors, bloggers, and software reviewers don't know about your applications, then they can't tell their readers about the programs that you offer. Send press releases, and get some of the free publicity that press release campaigns generate.

News releases can help with your software's visibility, even months after you launch your press release campaign. Many publications and online software review sites have roundup articles. These write-ups have titles such as "Best Excel Add-Ins" and "Handy Windows Utilities You Should Own." Getting listed in these roundup articles can generate publicity in holiday gift-giving guides, best-of-the-year software picks, and similar write-ups that identify editors' picks for must-have applications.

Build an affiliate network

You might not have the resources to develop the kind of value-added reseller (VAR) program that you'd need to attract the huge VARs that call on corporations, nonprofits, and government agencies. But you can still use other microISVs to cross-sell software. Contact software developers who offer applications to the same niche that you're targeting, and sell each other's programs on a commission basis.

Content, content, content

Increase the number of words on your website. Lots.

Use your blog to generate a steady stream of articles about your software and about the industries and customers that you serve. Add case studies, whitepapers, and eBooks to your website. The more keyword-rich articles you add to your site, the more traffic the search engines will send you.

The bottom line

Showrooming has heightened consumers' awareness of prices. Even software sold at home electronics and office superstores may not have the competitive edge it previously enjoyed. With a series of strategies to increase your visibility and ensure that your pricing is attractive, you could benefit from the showrooming trend and increase your retail software sales.