Friday, February 28, 2014

Sell More Software
with Word-of-Mouth Marketing

Book review of The Anatomy of Buzz - How to Create Word of Mouth Marketing by Emanuel Rosen (published 2002 by Doubleday - Currency).

Traditional advertising is out. Buzz is the new way to sell products and services - like your software. Buzz includes word-of-mouth, press releases, social media, and any vehicle that gets people talking about your applications.

"The Anatomy of Buzz" teaches the principles of buzz. Even though this book is not about the software development industry, these principles apply to software marketing, too.

Rosen was the first marketing author to try to systematize word-of-mouth marketing, and to propose it as an alternative to traditional advertising. Rosen interviewed more than 150 executives, marketing professionals, and researchers who used buzz to build brands successfully. He presents his findings in a way that applies to all industries - including giving insights into your software marketing.

I find it difficult to translate Rosen's examples into the day-to-day marketing challenges of microISVs. There's quite a bit of work required to apply his general principles to our industry. For example, the final chapter of "The Anatomy of Buzz" includes about 100 questions that every business owner should be asking, to see if they're using buzz properly to publicize their product or service. While his general questions are useful, there are buzz-related questions that I think would be much more useful for software developers:

  • Are you sending press releases to editors, reviewers, and bloggers who can tell their readers about your software?
  • Have you encouraged well-targeted people to comment on your blog postings?
  • Are you actively talking about your software in the technical and vertical-market forums and discussion groups?
  • Are you using Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and the other social media sites to promote your applications?
  • Have you joined the on-target trade associations, and are you giving not-for-resale (NFR) copies of your application to influential people there?

I would recommend that you visit your favorite bookstore or public library, and spend a few minutes reading "The Anatomy of Buzz." The dust cover gives you a great overview of the concepts discussed in the book. And the final chapter has a great checklist of concepts that you should be thinking about. Decide for yourself. Whether you buy the book or not, good buzz means good software marketing.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Measure Marketing Results Early and Often

Ready, Aim, Fire! is much more effective than Ready, Fire, Aim!

So says Mark Stevens in his book "Your Marketing Sucks."

Stevens' marketing philosophy is simple - Every business has to look at every marketing expense, and measure its impact on the firm. If you're doing marketing that isn't bringing in more money than it costs, then stop that particular marketing activity.

While "Your Marketing Sucks" is written for larger companies that center their marketing activities on buying television advertisements, Stevens' ideas apply well to the microISV world, too.

After you've launched a press release campaign, it can take three to four months for your New Product Announcement to get published in a monthly magazine. Don't measure the results of your press release emailing until the print publications have had time to respond. By contrast, software developers should measure the results of advertising campaigns early and often.

It's more difficult, in some ways, for microISVs to measure results than it is for huge companies. But that doesn't mean that small software companies shouldn't monitor results of their advertising campaigns. In our industry, we may have to be a bit more creative to find ways to measure the effects of our promotion dollars.

Another reason that most marketing sucks, Stevens explains, is that "winning ideas win only if they are executed brilliantly."

I've watched the launches of quite a few new software applications, and the word "brilliant" doesn't always come to mind. As a general rule, software developers can be more effective at making a splash. Use your newsletter to announce your software launch. Create a series of postings on your blog. Enlist a team of affiliates and get them excited about your new product. Send press releases to editors, columnists, and bloggers. Talk with other microISVs, and barter write-ups on their blogs and newsletters.

To sum up: Measure results, and focus on execution. It's good software marketing.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Press Releases from Big Public Relations Firms

A big-name public relations firm has no more credibility with the editors than an independent software vendor has.

The magazine and newspaper editors know that the public relations pro is contacting them because their firm has been hired. Maybe they've been hired by a great software publisher with an exciting product. Or maybe they've been hired by an okay software developer with an okay application.

Magazine and newspaper editors want to make their publications as good as possible. They know that their readers are interested in learning about the hottest new software. And the best publications tell their readers about the latest high-quality software applications.

You don't need a big-name public relations firm to tell your story to bloggers, software reviewers, and publication editors. All you need are a solid application and a clear explanation of why software buyers would benefit from hearing about it.

Hire a professional writer if English isn't your first language, or if you don't feel comfortable writing a press release. Hire a press release submission service if you don't want to build an in-house list of editors and columnists. But don't spend a lot of money on a high-visibility public relations firm, hoping to capitalize on their fame.

Use press releases to sell your software worldwide. News releases increase your software's visibility with prospects and customers. Start your software company's press release campaign today.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Loving Your Software Brand

You must love your brand. So says Jeffrey J. Fox, the author of the book "How to Become a Marketing Superstar - Unexpected Rules that Ring the Cash Register"

Managing your brand is necessary for success, but it's not sufficient. Being a brand manager results in mediocrity. Unless you understand the value that your software product or service delivers, you'll never be comfortable about the price that you're charging. You'll believe that you're charging customers too much for the application that you deliver.

There are two ways this lack of belief in your brand can be created -

(1) You think your application's flaws are obvious.

You know your software's shortcomings better than everybody. And you assume that your prospects and customers can see the flaws, too.

Truth is, they can't. They'll rarely take the time to do head-to-head testing with other software applications.

I'm not talking about a software application that's full of program bugs. If you have bugs, you need to fix them before they hurt your brand.

I'm talking about having a program with a less impressive feature-set than your competitors' offerings. Or you're marketing a program whose GUI is not as impressive or modern as others being marketed in your software niche. If you're concerned about these things, then take steps to correct them as soon as possible in the next release of your software. But don't let these shortcomings make you think less of your brand.

(2) You created your application in just a few weeks.

Okay, you're feeling guilty because it only took you a few weeks to develop your latest program. And you feel guilty that your customers aren't getting a program that you wrestled with for two years.

Truth is, the user doesn't care how long it took you to design and code your latest desktop/laptop application or smartphone app. Users care only about how they'll benefit from having your software working on their behalf.

You have to love your brand to feel comfortable writing about it on your website in the superlative terms that you need to use. Loving your brand is good software marketing.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Software Developers and Winning

"It's hard work being a winner," Bill Russell tells us. "If it weren't, everyone would be doing it."

Bill Russell was the only National Basketball Association (NBA) player to win eleven championships in 13 years. And he shares a lot of his feelings about winning in his book "Russell Rules - 11 Lessons on Leadership from the Twentieth Century's Greatest Winner."

Too many people turn on their winning attitude only when there's a big goal to be achieved. Russell urges us to look for opportunities to win every day.

Don't let other people set the rules. And don't let other people tell you what constitutes a win. Create the rules yourself.

Russell believes that most people miss the mark by believing that the goal at hand is not worthy of a serious effort. The best way to win, according to Russell, is to set your own goals, and to work hard to achieve them.

Start winning now. You don't have to be better than you already are to start winning. You already have what you need. It's not about improving yourself before you can start winning. It's about applying yourself. Now.

That's good advice for software marketers.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Software Development Jobs on the Rise

Between mid-2013 and early 2019, there will be a 45 percent increase worldwide in the number of professional software developers. So says Evans Data in its "Worldwide Developer And Demographics Study," as reported in a recent issue of Processor magazine. The number of developers will go from 18.2 million in mid-2013 to 26.4 million by 2019.

The Processor magazine article didn't distinguish between software developers who will work for the IT departments of companies and nonprofits versus developers who will become small independent software vendors (microISVs).

Most of the growth in software development jobs will be in India, China, and Russia. Development jobs in the US and Canada will grow about 25 percent during the period.

Fasten your seat belts. It looks like the next few years will bring a lot more competitors into the software development arena.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Computer Literacy and Software Developers

Computer literacy is an expression used in the software development industry "to convince users that they are to blame in failing to master machines and software that, in fact, are not human literate." So says the 2001 book "A Devil's Dictionary of Business Jargon."

There's a lot of truth beneath this sarcastic comment. Every experienced software developer can tell stories about end-users who personified computer illiteracy. Truth is, every experienced end-user of software can tell stories about GUIs which should never have been released, and help files that should have never been written.

To paraphrase the advertising icon David Ogilvy,
The consumer is not a moron.
The consumer is your spouse.
To sell more software, create several learning paths for your application.

  • Give technical power-users a quick-start guide so they don't have to waste time reading instructions that are targeted at newbies (hold down the "alt" key and press the "A" key).
  • Give technical newbies the tools that they need to learn your application. Show them videos. Give them instructions that are targeted at first-time computer users.

Similarly, both experienced business people and business newbies will buy your software. If you're offering, say, a business planning application, you can safely assume that some of your users are experienced at creating strategic and tactical plans, and others aren't. Make it easy for members of both groups to enjoy your software.

The goal is to get prospects and customers delighted with your application - so delighted that they'll tell their friends and colleagues. And while that might require some extra effort, it will pay off in the long run. It's good software marketing.