Thursday, July 31, 2014

The Role of Experts

"The function of the expert is not to be more right than other people, but to be wrong for more sophisticated reasons."

... quotation by David Packard from his book "The HP Way"

To learn more about experts, or to learn about Packard's book, visit my Software Marketing Glossary.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Editorial Evaluation Software

Most press releases should include an offer to send editors, columnists, reviewers, and bloggers an "eval" or editorial evaluation copy of your software.

An evaluation copy is a full copy of your program, and not the trial version. As recently as ten years ago, it was common for editors to request evaluation copies. Today, very few editors will ask for one. But when they do make such a request, you should send them the full version, and not the time-limited trial version. There is very little danger that editors will intentionally or accidentally distribute your program.

Since many software developers who send press releases to editors are selling shelfware, the editors are used to getting evaluation copies in full-color, shrink-wrapped boxes. If you don't offer boxed software, you could respond to an editor's request for an eval by suggesting that they download your trial version, and that you'll email them a registration code. Truth is, many editors would prefer to have the program today, and not wait a few days to receive a copy in a colorful box (which they'll immediately throw away).

If your press release describes your software as a service (SaaS), your offer to the editors should be for a complimentary account.

Market your software program with press releases. Be certain that your prospects are finding write-ups about your computer programs and Android/iPhone apps in the tech blogs, magazines, and newspapers. Send news releases regularly to the media, and keep your name in front of your prospects.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Press Releases versus Advertising

Book review of The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR by Al Ries and Laura Ries (published 2004 by HarperBusiness).

Advertising lacks credibility, Al and Laura Ries tell us. On the other hand, buzz, press, and word-of-mouth are much, much more effective. The premise of the book is that public relations (PR) has credibility, and advertising doesn't.

Al Ries is a respected marketing writer. He coauthored (along with Jack Trout) the best-selling book "Positioning," as well as several volumes about the "immutable laws" of marketing and branding.

Advertising is all about companies bragging about their accomplishments. PR, on the other hand, lets journalists tell your story. You send press releases to magazine and newspaper editors, and these journalists tell their readers about your products and services. From the readers' perspective, these stories are written objectively by experts. PR is credible. PR is intelligent software marketing.

The authors urge us to not limit ourselves to the traditional press. "When Tony Soprano told his psychiatrist, on the HBO series The Sopranos, that he liked Sun Tzu's The Art of War, the book jumped to No. 6 on USA Today's best-seller list," the authors explain. "The publisher had to print another 25,000 copies of the twenty-four-hundred-year-old book."

In the software development industry, microISVs have to get the attention of bloggers and newsletter publishers, too. Avoid the software portals. While there are some high-traffic software portals that could possibly attract real software buyers, many of these portals are run by youngsters who are looking for free copies of your software, or by bulk emailers who use their portals to harvest and sell email addresses.

"The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR" is not about the software development industry. You have to translate the authors' principles into your day-to-day business concerns. But if you work a bit, this book can strengthen your software marketing.

Advertisements won't let you build your brand, the authors tell us. They believe that ads can be used effectively to defend your brand. But you need third-party endorsements to effectively launch a new software application.

Public relations is not without its flaws, the authors point out. When you send press releases, you can't control the content or the timing of your message as well as you can when you pay for advertising.

"The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR" talks about choosing product and company names, line extensions, creating new product categories, doing brand maintenance, and dozens of other marketing topics, all of which will help your software marketing efforts.

Many consumers find out what software is best by crowdsourcing - by asking what other people are using. They pay attention to what they read in magazines and newspapers, and they listen to what their friends and colleagues tell them. People know that if newspaper and magazine editors devote valuable space to a product, it must be good. Buzz in the press will get you noticed.

This 300-page book is an easy read, and full of useful information about marketing in general, and launching new products and services in particular. It will help your software marketing.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Your Customers Tune in to WII-FM

Your customers care a lot about WII-FM - What's In It For Me?

They care a lot less about you than you might wish.

In his book "The Big Red Fez," Seth Godin devotes a chapter to this topic. He reminds us that people visit our websites because they're trying to solve a problem.

Your prospects really don't care very much about your mission statement, or the reason you started your company, or how intensely you say that you listen to your customers.

If you don't convince website visitors in the first few seconds that you can help them solve their problem, they're going to hit their "back" button, return to the search engine, and find your competitor's site.

In the software industry, that means that each web page on your site has to catch the attention of your prospects, and get them to read on. Talking about benefits, or discussing how your software can solve people's problems, provide your best chances to accomplish this goal.

A number of successful software developers have told me that there's an exception to this rule. If customers are ready to buy a software application, then they often go to the "about us" page to find out more about the company before they start typing their credit card information into the order form.

Prospects want to know that you've been in business for more than just a few months. They want to ensure that you're located in a country that has a strong reputation for respecting credit cards.

The larger the order, the higher the probability that your prospect will read your "about us" page. If a prospect is serious about buying a site license for your Windows utility, or a district license for your educational software application, you can be confident that they're going to be interested in who you are.

Make your "about us" information easy to locate. Don't let it interfere with your prospects' ability to find your software sales presentation. But make it convenient for website visitors to find the information about you and your company after they've decided to buy your program.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Biometrics and Mobile Devices

According to a recent report from Gartner, by 2016 thirty percent of organizations will have turned from password-protection of mobile devices to biometric authentication.

Large companies, government agencies, and nonprofits are expected to bring biometrics to devices that are permitted in their "bring your own device to work" (BYOD) regimens.

Software developers need to stay on top of the BYOD movement and the inclusion of biometric protection for smartphones and tablets. If individual iOS and Android apps in the future need to interface with biometric protection protocols, then microISVs need to ensure that their apps support these new security solutions.

Count on reading more and more horror stories about the failure of passwords to protect hardware and data. Businesses will be eager to choose solutions that will enhance security with biometrics. Be ready to support these new solutions.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Goals, Dreams, and Deadlines

"Have a goal. A goal is just a dream with a deadline."

   Quotation from Marjorie Blanchard in Richard Edler's book "If I Knew Then What I Know Now - CEOs and other smart executives share wisdom they wish they'd been told 25 years ago."

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Smartphone Theft Doubles

Nearly twice as many US smartphones were stolen in 2013 (3.1 million) than in 2012 (1.6 million). So says the latest Consumer Reports "Annual State of the Net" survey.

According to Consumer Reports' electronics editor Glenn Derene, the number of lost and stolen smartphones is growing, and many smartphone owners are putting their personal information at risk by "not taking basic security measures."

The survey reports that the number of smartphone owners in 2013 who set a four-byte passcode is about 50 percent greater than the number who set a passcode in 2012. Few smartphone owners, however, take greater security precautions.

microISVs who develop and sell iOS and Android apps should have password-protection and privacy-protection regimens in their apps. As consumers and business people become more aware of the risks associated with lost and stolen smartphones, the software developers who position themselves as supportive of security and privacy protection will have a marketing advantage over the microISVs who don't.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Curiosity, Commitment,
Success, and Software Sales

Bill Russell believes that curiosity is what distinguishes people who commit to projects and those who choose not to. Some people are driven to act until they achieve.

Bill Russell knows a lot about success. He was the only National Basketball Association (NBA) player to win eleven championships in 13 years. In a single year, he won an NCAA Championship, an Olympic Gold Medal, and an NBA Championship.

In his book "Russell Rules" he tells us that to succeed, you have to continue to ask questions. Easy answers rarely lead to breakthroughs.

Russell describes curiosity as a process, and not a handful of isolated events. Curiosity is what keeps us focused on our goals. It drives us to experiment, measure, and eventually succeed in achieving our objectives.

"When commitment is coerced, thinking is not required - just obedience," Russell explains.

By contrast, when curiosity drives us, it results in our thinking of better ways to solve problems. In the software industry, this would explain why very few innovations seem to come from most larger development companies, while fresh new ideas seem to flow from small independent software vendors (microISVs).

Russell says that much of the success of the early Boston Celtics resulted from the desire of the players to learn each other's strengths and weaknesses, so that they could play better as a team. Curiosity led to commitment, which led to success.

Curiosity in the software industry should drive us to understand our competitors' successes and failures, so that we can develop and market better products and services.

Curiosity leads to commitment, which enables us to take risks and achieve difficult goals.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Software in Search of a Market

The phrase "The market we are targeting has yet to be fully defined." means "We have a concept but no customers."

Quotation from "A Devil's Dictionary of Business Jargon" by David Olive.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Venture Capital Funding Stronger

The venture capital market has been sluggish for years. But the first quarter of 2014 was strong.

One major reason for the sluggish marketplace has been investors' concerns about opportunities to get out of their investments. Because initial public offerings (IPOs), mergers, and acquisitions have been soft for years, fewer venture capitalists have been willing to put their funds at risk by providing venture capital to unproven startups.

Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) did a study, and they're reporting (according to Processor magazine) that the first quarter of 2014 was the strongest venture capital quarter since the fourth quarter of 2007. The $8.9 billion (US) raised in the first quarter of 2014 is up 81 percent over the fourth quarter of 2013, and up more than 100 percent over the first quarter of 2013.

All of this means that more opportunities should be available for small independent software vendors (microISVs) in the coming months to raise venture capital for their software development firms.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Goals for Software Developers

"You don't shoot first and then call whatever you hit the target." So says Alec Mackenzie, author of the book "The Time Trap."

To be effective, goals must be demanding, achievable, specific, and measurable. Mackenzie insists that goals must have deadlines, and people have to own their goals. Finally, goals must be flexible and written down.

In her book "All I Really Need to Know in Business I Learned at Microsoft," Julie Bick tells us that Microsoft uses S.M.A.R.T. objectives - specific, measurable, accountable, results-based, and timebound.

If you threw a rock at the shelf of business books in your town's library, you'd hit a book with its own cute list of attributes that goals and objectives need to have. The point is, avoid squishy goals that can't be measured. And commit your goals to paper.

Monday, July 7, 2014

SaaS and
Multiple Device Usage

One of the strongest reasons for offering software as a service (SaaS) is that the SaaS model allows consumers and business people to use more than one device to access your software.

Do users actually use more than one device when accessing the Internet? According to a survey that GfK conducted for Facebook, the answer is a resounding "yes".

In a study of 4,000 online adults, half in the US and half in the UK, more than 60 percent used two or more devices each day to access the Internet. A quarter of US users (and a fifth of UK users) use three devices.

One of the survey's most fascinating findings for software developers is that more than 40 percent of the people surveyed said that they start tasks on one device and finish them on another. The most common reason for the switch is the desire to move from a device with a small screen to one with a larger screen. Twenty-two percent of the device-switching respondents in the US (and 25 percent in the UK) finished tasks on a tablet, while 58 percent of people in the US (and 60 percent in the UK) finished tasks on a laptop.

Once consumers become comfortable accessing websites and software applications on PCs, smartphones, and tablets, they're going to expect all software to be capable of supporting all of these devices. SaaS is the easiest way for small independent software developers (microISVs) to deliver applications with this feature. It's time for all developers to plan for a move of some or all of their applications from a device-specific environment to SaaS.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Tablet Sales Growth Slows

Tablet Sales are strong. But IDC predicts that the increase in 2014 tablet sales will be 19.4%, a pale number compared with 2013's 51.6% growth rate.

IDC says that two marketplace forces are causing this reduction in the rate of tablet sales growth:

  • During 2012 and 2013, consumers looking for low-cost tablets had a lot of choices. In 2014, tablet manufacturers are not offering low-end devices at bargain-basement prices. And without the low prices to entice first-time tablet buyers, the growth rate in overall tablet sales will decline in 2014.
  • Consumers who previously bought high-end tablets don't feel the need to upgrade to newer models. The latest models don't offer significantly more functionality than the 2012 and 2013 models. Until there's a strong reason to buy a new high-end tablet, current owners will keep their existing devices.

Tablet sales are strong. But 2014's growth rate in sales is much weaker.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Permission Marketing
for Software Developers

Book review of Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers Into Friends, and Friends into Customers by Seth Godin (published 1999 by Simon & Schuster).

If he were addressing an audience of microISVs, I think Seth Godin would be telling you to move your advertising money away from banner ads and pop-unders, and spend your resources on your blog, newsletter, and social media marketing.

Interruption marketing - Godin's phrase for old-fashioned advertising - no longer generates sales. Hundreds of advertisers interrupt us and try to get our attention every day. This interruption advertising is becoming less and less effective. Godin's theory applies to software marketing, too.

For those of us in the software development industry, banner ads are no longer effective. Pop-unders work a little better. To make software marketing effective, microISVs need to change the way they approach software prospects.

To sell on the web, you have to trade things of value. You offer people something of value - perhaps a valuable newsletter or a newsworthy blog. In return, prospects give you permission to market to them. Just as nobody looks forward to the commercials on the television networks, nobody wants you to send them a newsletter each month that does little more than pitch your software. But if you craft a newsletter that offers money-making, money-saving, and time-saving ideas, your prospects will read it.

Godin wants us to focus on share-of-customer, and not on market share. It's much easier to sell additional software to existing customers than to convince strangers to buy. We should be concentrating on share-of-customer.

Frequency builds trust. Unlike ads (which people tune out), content-rich newsletters and blog postings can make your software welcome in your prospects' inboxes. With each issue of your newsletter, and with each new blog posting, prospects are more likely to purchase your software.

Godin discusses myths about marketing on the web. It's a mistake to equate Internet traffic with success. Or to believe that content by itself will generate return traffic to your site. Or think that Google and the other search engines will send sufficient traffic to your site. Godin would no doubt refer to all of these as bad software marketing assumptions.

"Permission Marketing" works for the one-person firm, as well as the Fortune-100 company. It has practical strategies for setting up your permission-based software industry website.

Unlike many marketing books that urge you to manipulate people to believe something that they hadn't believed, "Permission Marketing" shows you how to use people's current beliefs to sell more of your software applications.

"Permission Marketing" is a quick read, and time well spent. It can help your software marketing.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Useful Facebook and Twitter Metrics

The latest "Sprout Social Index" from Sprout Social (as reported in a recent issue of Processor magazine) has produced some data points that will be useful for software developers who are trying to allocate their limited resources to Facebook and Twitter.

In its comparison between the third quarter of 2012 and the third quarter of 2013, the report finds that active Facebook users grew by 17 percent, while Twitter's active users grew by 44 percent.

Facebook still has many more users than Twitter. But Twitter is growing much faster.

If you had assumed that user numbers and engagement numbers are growing at roughly the same rate, you'd be way off. Engagement numbers are growing nine times faster. Because of this, many businesses are reporting that they're having difficulty keeping up with the increased number of inquiries and conversations that they're seeing.

The average response time from businesses to social media inquiries (and comments that require a response) is 9.5 hours. Government agencies take an average of 14.5 hours to respond.