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.

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