Thursday, May 29, 2014

Price, Brand, Packaging,
and Relationships

Book review of The Invisible Touch - The Four Keys to Modern Marketing by Harry Beckwith (published 2009 by Warner Books).

"The Invisible Touch" covers the ways service providers need to deal with price, brand, packaging, and relationships.

The line between products and services is gray. And the rise of the software-as-a-service (SaaS) marketplace makes the line even fuzzier.

Is the software that you offer your prospects a product or a service? Your prospects and customers can't touch it. They expect you to improve it and deliver additional functionality for years to come. Delivering software - even desktop/laptop software - sounds like a service when you define it in terms of customers' expectations.

While much of the book is written for accountants, financial planners, and entrepreneurs, it's easy to translate these principles into the software development industry. "The Invisible Touch" can help microISVs with their software marketing.

Successful software developers have to deal with much more than the quality of their applications. They have to manage their websites, blogs, support systems, documentation, and dozens of other things that affect their prospects' experiences.

Beckwith is not a fan of market research. "People who know that they are being studied change what they do," Beckwith explains. People won't understand complex or innovative ideas immediately. And when you do market research on such a complicated product or service, the researcher's conclusion will probably be wrong. Researchers are likely to say that the idea won't be successful. Trust your tummy, and not what people tell you, Beckwith advises.

"The Invisible Touch" discusses a dozen fallacies of marketing, and explains the work-arounds. Beckwith argues against bundling and cross-selling. While I don't agree with his argument, you should read it. It will allow you to structure software bundles and cross-sells that don't fall into the traps that he warns us about. Truth is, I often learn more from ideas that I disagree with than from those that immediately make sense to me.

Many microISVs include unique features and functionality in their software applications, resulting in a distinction from their competitors that will be the primary emphasis of their software marketing. Beckwith urges us to take a different approach: Create a list of our points of contact with our prospects and customers, and find a way to make each of these contact points extraordinary.

In today's marketplace, it's easy to find software categories with lots of developers offering nearly identical functionality. In my experience, the unsuccessful software developers within a category are offering tech solutions. The winners in each category, on the other hand, have packaged their software as business solutions. It's all about software marketing.

In the final two-thirds of "The Invisible Touch," Beckwith delivers advice on how to deal with price, branding, packaging, and relationships. These concepts apply just as much to software developers' marketing efforts as they do to the marketing efforts of the service providers who are the target of his book.

This is a quick read, with lots of practical information. I strongly recommend it.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Press Releases and Vertical-Market Editors

The number of computer editors, columnists, and bloggers who should be receiving your press release will vary depending on the type of software that you offer. It's a different world for consumer versus business software, professional versus home programs, and for Windows versus iOS versus Android apps.

Don't include off-topic or off-platform editors in your press release submission. On the other hand, be sure to send your press releases to properly-targeted vertical markets. For example, if you sell educational software, you want to send your press releases to the computer and education editors and bloggers. You also want to send your educational press releases to parenting, women's interests, and seniors/mature editors.

Similarly, you want to send press releases about your multimedia application to tech editors plus music critics, movie columnists, and other editors who cover multimedia applications.

It's simple: Press releases generate software sales. Contact me about your news release campaign.

Friday, May 23, 2014

microISVs and Originality

"More marketing dollars have been wasted in the senseless quest for originality,"  Jay Conrad Levinson believes, "than in the noble quest for profits."

In his book "Guerrilla Marketing Excellence," Levinson tells us that art collectors are interested in originality. Guerrilla marketers shouldn't be.

Levinson claims that many businesspeople give up too early on their marketing campaigns. They get tired of their own sales presentation, and look for something new and original. This is a real error.

Focus on profits, and not on originality, Levinson warns. That's marketing advice that can help you sell more software.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Designing a Site
for the Average User

Each of the stakeholders in a website has their own idea of who the "average user" is, Steve Krug tells us. Krug is the author of the book "Don't Make Me Think - A Common Sense Approach to Web Usability." And he has participated in endless arguments about website usability.

Krug feels that almost all of these discussions are a waste of time. Designers, Krug explains, want good looking sites. Developers want sites with state-of-the-art functionality. And there are people who want to attract employees, venture capitalists, financial analysts, and more.

The marketplace has become more complicated since Krug wrote his book. Today's website designers need to take into account smartphones, tablets, and phablets.

Personally, I think the challenge is even harder for entrepreneurs, because we have to wear all of these hats when designing our own web pages.

Krug recommends that we make these decisions by not trying to ask, say, if pulldown menus are good or bad. Rather, ask if a pulldown menu on this web page, with these menu items, will accomplish the desired task with most website visitors.

Decide. Then test. Make your final decision based upon your website design's effect on sales and profits. It's good software marketing.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Stop Asking Your Prospects Questions

Most marketers would say that you can't tell consumers what to buy. You have to get them to decide that your product would best suit their needs. And you do that by asking questions, and letting prospects come to the right decision.

Robert M. McMath and Thom Forbes suggest that you might want to stop asking your prospects questions. In their book "What Were They Thinking? Marketing Lessons You Can Learn from Products That Flopped," the authors argue that many prospects are overwhelmed by the decisions that they have to make every day. Make it easy for them. Tell them what to buy. Tell them to buy your software.

As with any idea designed to increase your software sales, you need to measure your current sales, change your sales presentation, and measure the impact on sales and profits.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Structuring Your Software Sales Message

Structure is an important part of our online sales presentations. So says Hank Nuwer, the author of the book "How to Write like an Expert about Anything."

If you have a bunch of ideas, and present them in an unstructured way, you'll overload your readers. You have to make the data useful by structuring it, and organizing it into information.

If he were writing to software developers, he would be saying that when you present a message to a prospect, that software buyer needs to know the topic you'll be covering, as well as your "angle" or "hook" that you're using to describe your software. The reader needs to know how you've narrowed your focus, and how you've organized your thoughts into a useful theme.

If you're selling a Windows utility, and you're targeting three or four niche audiences, don't try to create a single sales message that will be understood by all of your prospects. Instead, create multiple sales paths on your website, and nudge each prospect into reading the web page that would best describe how your application can make their life better.

Structure your website for your target audience and you'll increase your software sales.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Stop Giving Away Freebies

Philip Kotler, the author of the book "Ten Deadly Marketing Sins - Signs and Solutions," believes that many businesses give away too many products or services.

In the software development industry, there is far too much of this behavior going on. Offering free technical support is usually a good idea. Offering free lifetime upgrades is usually a terrible idea. Offering free low-end versions of commercial software can fall into either category, but I'm not too fond of this approach to attracting new prospects and customers.

It's common for sales people in every industry to offer free products and services to entice people to buy, Kotler explains. Typically, companies offer free shipping, free support, or free installation.

Most customers devalue products and services that are free. And many of these items could make a solid contribution to our cash flow.

Kotler tells us to rethink the freebies that we offer. Depending upon our positioning and our target audience, we need to make this decision market segment by market segment.

Maybe there are prospects who need extra incentives to buy. But we shouldn't be giving away products and services that could otherwise be sold. That's good software marketing advice.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Search Boxes on microISVs' Sites

Find a way to sell to your website visitors. So says Seth Godin in his book "The Big Red Fez."

If you have a search box on your website, Godin tells us, and a visitor uses it and there isn't a single thing on your site that matches their search criteria, don't serve them a message that says "we don't have what you're looking for".

Instead, show them a list of the five most popular things on your site that people search for. Coax them to re-enter the search criteria with different wording. Offer them a discount coupon for your most popular item.

You have a potential buyer on your site. Sell them your software!

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Differentiation for microISVs Step by Step

Logic should drive our strategy for differentiation. That's the opinion of Jack Trout, author of the book "Differentiate or Die - Survival in Our Era of Killer Competition."

To develop a successful differentiation strategy, it's not enough to be cute or clever. We have to be logical.

Trout believes that too many marketers try to sell by being creative. And most of them fail. If they had given prospects a logical reason to buy, Trout tells us, many more marketers might have succeeded.

Using Trout's experience, and applying it to the software development industry, here's how he might suggest that microISVs proceed. To create a logical argument for buying your software, you need to:

Understand your story's context.

Advertising does not take place in a vacuum. You have to understand your software niche. You need to understand how you're perceived by prospects and customers, and how your competitors are seen by this same audience.

Find an idea that will differentiate your product.

To differentiate your product from your competitors' offerings, your means of differentiation need not be related directly to your software. As an example, Trout cites a US college that refused to accept federal money. This enabled the school to say that they were free of government influence. And this notion has a lot of appeal to the people - both students and teachers - whom they're trying to attract to the college.

Build your credibility.

If you're going to say that your product is different, and that it's better than the competition, you have to be credible. Demonstrate and prove your claims of superiority.

Market your strengths.

Communicate with prospects so they'll know why you're different from the pack. Trout reminds us that better products don't win. Better products, along with excellent marketing, win.

To communicate your idea, it helps to have a lot of money in your advertising budget. Or you need to get financial backing. Or you need to take advantage of publicity, press, and other so-called "free" advertising.