Saturday, March 29, 2014

Does Your Software Marketing Suck?

Book review of "Your Marketing Sucks - The Hard-Nosed Guide to Implementing ROI (Return on Investment) Marketing" by Mark Stevens (published 2006 by Crown Business).

Stevens starts the book with "If the moola you spend on marketing isn't growing your business and bringing in more moola in return, then you have marketing".

The author urges us to look at every marketing expenditure, and measure its impact. If it isn't generating more revenue than it costs, then abandon it - it's bad software marketing.

"Your Marketing Sucks" describes extreme marketing, a non-linear process in which all aspects of your advertising and marketing are integrated. Measure the effectiveness of each element of your advertising and marketing campaigns, and ensure that they're contributing to your profits. It's easy to measure the effects of the upgrade emails that you send to your existing customers. It's harder to track the effectiveness of your press release campaigns. Software developers need to make the effort to quantify all of their advertising and publicity campaigns.

This book gives you a chance to take a look at all of the facets of your advertising, sales, and software marketing programs, and to revamp them. Stevens urges us to stop following the followers, and to do what we think makes sense in our respective target markets.

Take bold and sometimes outrageous steps, Stevens insists, but be sure to measure the financial impact of everything that you do. Continue to do only those things that deliver a profit.

"Your Marketing Sucks" is written for larger companies  - firms that spend serious money on television and print ads, and whose sales volume makes tracking results easier. But the principles also apply to independent software developers' companies.

microISVs need to have a marketing strategy - a clear statement of their firm's growth and profit goals. They also need a plan that ensures that their software marketing efforts support these goals. The book doesn't describe some of the advertising vehicles that are popular with software developers, such as banner ads, search engine keyword purchases, software registration incentives, or software upgrades. But it's easy to translate "Your Marketing Sucks'" principles into the day-to-day world of software application development and marketing.

I recommend that you buy the book. The chapter on picking the low-hanging fruit will more than pay for the price of the book, and the time that you'll spend studying it. It's good software marketing to learn ideas like these.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Editors Like Emailed Press Releases

Editors don't miss the days when they received software developers' press releases by fax or by snail mail. Unlike faxes and printed press releases, editors can copy and paste your information directly from your email. There is no need for them to incur the expense of re-keying your announcement from hard copy. If they have a question about your software, they can just click "reply" and ask you for additional information.

In 1997 DP Directory introduced our email press release service. Between 1984 and 1997, our customers purchased our editorial lists on peel-and-stick labels and on floppy disk. Within one year of offering our email press release submission service, all of our business had moved from labels and disks to email.

The reason for the popularity of emailed press releases may surprise you. The move to emails wasn't because software developers wanted to save printing and postal-mailing costs. It was the editors who said that they no longer wanted to re-key paper press releases. Avoiding re-keying work. and avoiding the awful curly-paper thermal fax machines that were popular back then, account for the failure of faxed press releases to catch on.

The ability to submit press releases by email saved the editors a lot of work, and saved software developers a lot of money. Emailed press releases have made it even easier for mISVs to compete with large software publishers. Because of the low cost of an email press release campaign, the small independent software vendor (microISV) can compete with the largest software publishers for space in magazines' and newspapers' New Product Announcement columns. Emailed press releases deliver the impact of an ad, at a fraction of the cost.

Some software companies continue to postal-mail press releases to tech editors because they want the editors to see their brochures, flyers, and press kit. If you're going to postal mail a press kit to the editors, be sure to include a CD or DVD that contains the plain text of your press release, along with screenshots and box shots. If you're going to send the editors a press release by email, be sure to include a link to your online press page. You can read more about creating your microISV press page in my Software Marketing Glossary. The Glossary is packed with wall-to-wall information to help microISVs sell more software

You need to send your New Product Announcement to the proper press people. You're wasting time and money if you're submitting news releases to generic names (such as "Software Editor" versus real names such as "Sam Jones") or to generic addresses (such as news@ instead of sjones@). Use a professional press release submission service like DP Directory that will deliver your news releases to the editors' personal mailboxes.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Software Developers' Websites -
Style versus Substance

According to Jay Conrad Levinson, we need to emphasize the solid benefits that we offer. This seems to contradict the traditional marketing advice that we should sell the sizzle, and not the steak.

I believe that both style and substance are important to creating sales.

In his book "Guerrilla Marketing Excellence," Levinson says that the product should always have the "starring role."

For software developers, does this mean that the purpose of the website should be to get the prospect to test-drive the software (versus buying it without trying it first)? Or does this mean that mISVs should put less emphasis on website technology and graphics, and more emphasis on the website sales message?

There is no "one size fits all" solution. Measure your current sales. Change your sales presentation. Measure again. And keep fine-tuning your message.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Overcoming Software Sales Obstacles

When a prospect says "no", it doesn't mean that they don't want your product or service. It means that at this point in time, they value their money more than they value your software. So says Michael LeBoeuf in his book "How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life."

LeBoeuf urges us to listen to prospects' objections, and agree with them as much as you can. Develop trust. Explain that they need your software. Understand your competitors' products, and explain why yours are better.

"How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life" is not particularly about the software development industry. But the book offers a lot of suggestions that will strengthen your software marketing.

Minimize the risk of making a buying decision by offering a money-back guarantee. Find something additional to add to the sale for free.

LeBoeuf tells us to anticipate objections and deal with them in advance. If you're selling software on your website, you have to do exactly that.

Don't let the prospect rattle you. Or if they get under your skin, don't let it show. Take as long as required to calm down before you answer an email that makes you angry or upset.

LeBoeuf recommends using the "feel/felt/found" formula. This is one of the time-tested closing methods that you'll find in any book about closing sales. Tell the prospect that you understand how they feel. Tell them that many of your other customers felt the same way. Finally, tell them what these customers found - specifically, tell them the particular benefits that your software offers which will overcome the prospect's objection.

Sell a mix of features and benefits. After describing a feature, say something like "What this means to you is..." and deliver the corresponding benefit.

Some prospects simply won't buy, LeBoeuf reminds us. They'll answer everything you say with "Yes, but..." and raise yet another objection. Realize that you can't sell to some people. At some point, you have to end the seemingly endless stream of emails that a tiny number of prospects might send you.

LeBoeuf tells us to let the customer experience the benefits of buying. In the software industry, most mISVs do this by offering a trial version of their applications. But when you have to decide between urging prospects to download the trial version or buy the full version, you should encourage the prospect to buy.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Marketing Remarkable Software

Seth Godin, in his book "Purple Cow - Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable," offers some insights into what it means to be a marketer in today's business climate. While Godin didn't specifically write about the software development industry, many of his ideas apply nicely to our industry, too.

Stop worrying about running your company, and start marketing your products, Godin tells us. By spending less time doing administrative management and accounting, we can devote more energy to marketing and selling.

Godin thinks we should learn skills that will help us in our businesses -

  • Take a design course.
  • Enroll in a marketing course.
  • Spend time in your company's production facility.

If Godin were writing about the software development industry, he would be urging us to make a list of competitors who offer remarkable software. Find out how they made it happen, and do something similar. Don't create a me-too product. But use the same process that your competitors used, and create a remarkable software application.

There's a difference between outrageous and remarkable, Godin believes. Most marketers - certainly this is true of software marketers - suffer from being too shy, and not from being too outrageous. Remember that the goal is to produce remarkable (i.e., purple cow) products and services, and not outrageous ones.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Test Your Software Upgrade Announcements

If you're fortunate enough to have an installed base of, say, 1,000 software users, and you're about to announce an upgrade to your program, then don't send all 1,000 of your customers the same message. Divide the file into groups, and send each group a different message.

The common term for this type of testing is the "a-b test." If there are only two versions of your sales letter, then this name is accurate. With four variations, call your test an a-b-c-d test.

You'll probably find that one of the sales presentations will out-perform the others by a significant margin. And you can use that information in future emailings to improve your software sales.

If your installed base is larger, you could first run a test using a subset of your database, and then use the results of the test when you write to the remaining users. For example, if you have 10,000 users, you could create three different sales messages, and send each of these messages to 1,000 users. In a week or two, you could determine which sales letter produced the best results, and you could send that version to the remaining 7,000 people in your database.

The winning version becomes your control letter. And the variations you'll make to your control letter are your test versions. A year from now, when you have another software upgrade to announce, use your control letter as the measurement stick, and compare results with each new test version. Rinse and repeat each time you send an upgrade notification to your customers.

By fine-tuning your sales message year after year, you can generate significantly more income than you would if you were to simply guess which version of your sales message would be the most effective. A-b tests are good software marketing.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Writing Tips for microISVs -
"that" versus "which"

You can sell more software if you write well. People will be turned off if they see errors in grammar, syntax, agreement, or usage on your website. Here are some tips and tricks for deciding whether to use "that" or "which" in your sales presentations.

Only one of these descriptions about your new game software is correct -

  • The Mega-Shields, that are only available in the Pro version, will protect you from enemy phaser fire.
  • The Mega-Shields, which are only available in the Pro version, will protect you from enemy phaser fire.

Similarly, only one of these descriptions about your image manipulation application is correct -

  • The feature that users find most exciting is our new gamma-correction slider bar.
  • The feature which users find most exciting is our new gamma-correction slider bar.

It's not necessary to understand the differences between the defining or restrictive pronoun (that) and the nondefining or nonrestrictive pronoun (which). The explanation is painfully boring.

Here's how you can tell which word is the right one: Simply say the sentence aloud. If you pause before saying the that/which word, then use "which." If you don't pause, then use "that." And if you're writing the sentence and feel the need to pause, use "which" and set the phrase off with a pair of commas.

Here are the two correct sentences -

  • The Mega-Shields, which are only available in the Pro version, will protect you from enemy phaser fire.
  • The feature that users find most exciting is our new gamma-correction slider bar.

Just remember the image of the critter with paws wearing a witch's hat. If you have to pause, use "which."

Friday, March 7, 2014

Marketing and Visibility

"A campaign or promotion that doesn't get consumers to buy more of your product is, by definition, a dud," Sergio Zyman tells us. "Buy my product. Period."

In his book "The End of Marketing As We Know It," Zyman talks about the right and wrong reasons to launch an advertising campaign. Actually, there's only one right reason. Advertising is all about selling more product and making more money. It's not about visibility or brand-building or market-share.

Recalling his job as a top Coca-Cola marketing executive, Zyman discusses the famous Mean Joe Greene Coca-Cola ad. Everybody remembers it. But it didn't sell more Coke. It was a dud.

If Zyman were in the software development industry, he would be urging all of us to do those things which generate more profit. Becoming more visible is a nebulous concept that often doesn't translate into increased revenue or profit. Gaining market share sounds good, but not if the advertising cost eats up your profits.

There's never certainty when it comes to marketing, advertising, and promotion. You'll never know in advance if buying pop-unders will be cost-effective, or if an AdWords buy will generate significant revenue. But you owe it to yourself - and to your brand - to think through the likelihood of the success of your marketing campaigns, and to choose the ones that generate real dollars.

Since the 1960's, press releases have been an essential part of every successful software developer's marketing plan. Press releases are an affordable way to generate interest and excitement - and sales - about your software.