Monday, January 12, 2015

Your Tiny Software Marketplace

There is no software marketplace. What we call the software marketplace is made up of thousands of tiny niches, each with its own issues and problems. It's not always possible to take good advice from a microISV in one marketing niche, and apply this wisdom to a different part of the software development industry.

America is not one big economic marketplace, either. So says Phil Dusenberry, the author of the book "Then We Set His Hair on Fire - Insights and Accidents from a Hall-of-Fame Career in Advertising." America is a collection of tiny economies.

Dusenberry talks about the difficulties of managing what he calls the "parity economy". The parity economy is a world in which consumers simply can't understand why your software product or service is better or worse than the dozens of products your competitors offer. The challenge for all product and service providers - including microISVs in the software development industry - is to craft and build a brand that is perceived to be better than the competition.

Parity of products soon becomes parity of advertising messages, Dusenberry believes. Competing firms recite the same tired cliches, over and over. Phrases such as "strongest" and "fastest" and "longest-lasting" and "most reliable" and "friendliest" don't have the strength that they had in earlier decades. Me-too, copy-cat marketing and advertising have left consumers numb.

Your competitor adds a secret ingredient to their laundry detergent (or to their software application), so you add a secret ingredient, too. And both companies lose because consumers don't have any faith in either of your advertisements or marketing messages.

Dusenberry talks about HBO's success in a crowded marketplace. Turn back the clock and imagine a market in which people expect television content to be free. To enjoy HBO's programming, consumers not only had to pay for cable service, but they also had to buy HBO's premium service at an additional cost. HBO was able to differentiate their service and become very successful. Interestingly, they used the tag line "It's not TV, it's HBO."

For many months, Wendy's sold more of their burgers and shakes by taking a similar approach to advertising. Their tag line was "Wendy's - it's way better than fast food."

Perhaps software companies need to take this approach. Separate your brand from the rest of the try-before-you-buy market by finding a tag line that encourages people to buy your application without trying it first.

Dusenberry believes that it's not possible to explain your way to strong market penetration and sales. In his words, you must "create a dramatic showcase that appeals to the consumer emotionally and, more importantly, entices the consumer to enter the picture."

Dusenberry believes that the key is to marry logical persuasion with emotional drama. On a lighter note, Dusenberry's advice to firms with too many competitors and no way of differentiating their product or service from the others - buy the other companies.

Short of that, software developers should recognize that there is no such thing as a software marketplace. At best, there is a marketplace for, say, Android smartphone and tablet software that lets home-schooling parents help youngsters aged five through seven learn the multiplication tables.

Define your marketing niche, and find a way to shout that your software is not like the other commodities that consumers have seen. It's good software marketing to say that your application is in a class of its own.

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