Friday, February 27, 2015

Price Is No Object

Baby Boomers don't understand fiscal responsibility.

So says Kenneth Gronbach in his excellent book "The Age Curve."

Gronbach describes Boomers - that is, the 78.2 million Americans born between 1945 and 1964 - as people who buy "starter castles" instead of starter homes.

And if he were giving advice to microISVs in the software development industry, I think he'd be telling us that Boomers don't mind if the price of the software they want is a little bit higher than expected.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Software Developers
and Marketing Budgets

Too many lazy marketers create a marketing budget first, and create their marketing goals second - if at all. So says Mark Stevens, the author of the book "Your Marketing Sucks."

We see this problem quite a bit in the software development industry. A developer will post a question in a forum that says something like "I have a couple hundred dollars to spend this month on marketing. What should I do?"

microISVs need to set goals, and create a plan to meet those goals.

You can't ignore your finances when you set marketing goals. But plan your objectives before you determine how much money you'll invest in your software marketing efforts.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Selling Software and
Handling Online Sales Resistance

In face-to-face selling, a salesperson who didn't have to cope with objections would be just an order-taker. Dealing with sales resistance is simply part of the sales person's job.

In his book "How to Close Every Sale," Joe Girard explains how business people should deal with sales objections. And much of Girard's advice applies to selling software online, too.

"The Guinness Book of World Records" calls Joe Girard the world's greatest salesman. In 15 years, Girard sold thirteen thousand automobiles, with no fleet sales and no vehicle leases. Joe Girard knows quite a bit about selling!

On the Internet, you have to anticipate objections and answer them before they're asked. One risk to this approach with dealing with sales resistance is that you may find yourself talking about problems that never would have occurred to your prospects.

Software developers can reduce the number of objections by delivering a sales presentation that discusses every facet of their software. "You must realize that your answer to every objection doesn't have to be 100 percent satisfactory," Girard explains. Sergio Zyman says something similar when he tells his readers that they don't have to win every round to win the fight.

Objections are good things. Objections indicate that your prospect wants to buy your software, but has a specific problem that you need to deal with.

Realize that prospects won't always be honest when they raise objections to buying your application. For example, prospects who believe that they can't afford your program may not want to admit that. So they might make up another objection to making the purchase.

Never get into an argument with your prospect, Girard warns. And certainly never back them into a corner. You may win the argument, but Girard assures you that you likely won't close the sale.

Joe Girard lists the six most common objections that you have to be prepared to answer. Again, his advice was developed in the world of face-to-face selling, but his principles apply to Internet software sales, too.

(1) I can't afford it.

If you're selling business software, explain that your application will pay for itself by delivering savings that are greater than the cost of buying the program. If you're selling entertainment software, tell your prospects that they deserve to enjoy your application. Convince them that they're worth it.

(2) I want to talk it over with my husband or wife.

(3) I have a close personal friend in the business and I'm obligated to buy software from them.

(4) I want to shop around and see what your competitors are offering.

(5) I'll get back to you after I've studied your website or read your brochures.

(6) I have a specific objection about your product or service.

Answer the prospect's objection, Girard tells us, and close the sale. When microISVs sell software on the Internet, Girard's advice might be that you anticipate the objection, and include the answer on your products' web pages and in your software's frequently asked questions (FAQs.)

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Expert Video Tips
from an Advertising Legend

David Ogilvy offers some expert advice for producing a TV ad. And most of the ideas from his 1983 book "Ogilvy on Advertising" apply to the efforts of today's software developers to create video promotions of their software.

Here's Ogilvy's advice for video producers:

  • Mention the brand early and often. Most people forget the brand, and even confuse you with your direct competitors.
  • Show the package.
  • Open with a splash.
  • Try using sound effects.
  • Talking actors are more effective than voice-over.
  • Don't be afraid to superimpose words over your images, to reinforce your sales message.
  • Make the visuals exciting. Or at least interesting.
  • Changing scenes confuses people. Explain your transitions.
  • Show the product being used.
  • Be clear. It's easy for viewers to misunderstand your message.

These are great ideas from David Ogilvy, one of the legends in the field of advertising. And good software marketing advice for today's microISVs.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Magical Software Adjacencies

Retail stores use magic to better merchandise their products and increase their sales. So says Paco Underhill, the author of "Why We Buy - The Science of Shopping." Underhill discusses techniques that managers of retail stores use to grab prospects' attention. With a little creativity, microISVs can use many of these techniques to sell more software.

Retail Store Adjacencies

Retail stores create adjacencies to increase their sales. It's a fact - putting two products next to each other will often get prospects to purchase both products. Software developers can use this same technique on their websites to increase their software application sales.

Underhill found that bookstore managers sold more volumes when they grouped books by the gender of the buyer. You'll find that most bookstores generate additional sales by grouping together books about nutrition, health, fitness, exercise, diet, and other book categories that are popular with women.

The author recommended that one of his clients - a computer store - group printers together by manufacturer. They quickly discovered that this wasn't the way that printer buyers want to see them grouped. Consumers come to a computer store knowing approximately how much they want to spend on their next printer. And they want to see, say, $100 inkjets across all manufacturers grouped together. After grouping printers by price range, printer sales increased.

Underhill went on to recommend that bookstores group children's books by price range. He found out very quickly that nobody cared about the minor differences in the prices of kids' books. So, for very low-priced products, people don't care about prices.

Online Software Adjacencies

How do Underhill's findings apply to online software sales? Software developers have to experiment and see which adjacencies create the most profit.

Try creating bundles. Combine two of your applications into a single product, and sell it at an attractive price. Bundle your software with other developers' programs, and share the profits. Try bundling downloadable software with related computer hardware, accessories, supplies, or books.

Perhaps you need to create adjacencies and bundles that are less obvious. Next to your "buy now" button you could place another button that says "Learn about our affordable family license." Or perhaps a banner that says "Coupon for a free upgrade to the next version of our software."

Bundle your software with a premium support package. If you're selling multi-user or site licenses to corporations and other large enterprises, selling premium support could be a real money-maker.

If you're like Underhill, your initial attempts to group software applications may not be very good. Try something, and measure the results. Tweak your bundle, and try again.

One last thought about Underhill's observations in retail stores - Endcaps and self-standing displays often increase product sales. Perhaps online merchants can find ways to replicate the effect with their online sales. Many microISVs are experimenting with floating windows and floating banners that follow the website visitor as they scroll around the page. As always, experiment with new marketing ideas, measure the results, make changes, and try again.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Help Prospects
Buy Your Software

Consumers know that they have choices. But they don't know how to decide.

So says Sergio Zyman in his excellent book "The End of Marketing As We Know It." Zyman says that we should help consumers decide. While Zyman's experience is in selling Coca-Cola and not software, his advice would be to help prospects decide by defining ourselves, by defining our competitors, and by positioning ourselves in the software marketplace.

Defining yourself

Tell your software prospects who you are and why they should buy your application. Take it one step further by creating in prospects' minds the expectation that all software in your category must have one or more features that are unique to your application. Don't leave anything to chance. Tell prospects why they should choose your program, and not your competitor's.

Defining your competitors

If your software has features or benefits that your competitor's software lacks, then talk about them on your website. Even if your program's features aren't spectacularly beneficial, talk about them in glowing terms, and point out that your competitors are lacking.

Does your software cost more than the competition? Then tout your high price. Explain to prospects that high quality comes with a high price. Tell them that they deserve to own the best software available.

Does your software cost less than the competition? Then explain that your low price doesn't reflect low quality. Tell prospective customers that they don't have to pay too much to own the best software.

Positioning your software

Stop pretending that your application is the perfect program for everybody. Prospects know that no software can be the best choice for newbies and power users alike. No program is the best choice for both people who want an all-in-one solution for every problem known to humankind, and for people who want a streamlined solution to one particular problem.

Zyman believes that we should never let price be "the tie breaker." Even if there aren't big differences between your software and the applications that your competitors are offering, make sure you tell your prospects why yours is different - and better. Don't let prospects define the criteria for comparing your software with your competitors' because, if you do, many of them will do it on the basis of price. And that's not good software marketing.

Objections to buying your software

In his book "How to Close Every Sale," Joe Girard lists the six most common objections that every salesperson has to deal with. Girard, a record-breaking automobile salesman, wrote about nose-to-nose sales. But microISVs need to anticipate these objections to their online sales presentations, too, and make sure that prospects can easily find answers to these issues.

   * I can't afford it. 

Some people are hooked on freeware, and they simply won't buy your software. They'd rather spend time installing free software than spend a few dollars to buy your application.

If you're marketing business software, tell your prospects how your application will pay for itself. If you're offering games or entertainment software, tell your website visitors that they deserve to enjoy your software.

   * I want to talk it over with my spouse.

Tell prospects that they can feel good about their decision to buy your software. Tell them that your excellent product support will ensure that the software will continue to deliver the results that they've paid for.

   * I have a good friend in the business.

While this objection is not likely to come up in the sale of an off-the-shelf software application, a lot of people want to check with their tech-savvy family member or business colleague before buying your program. Use your money-back guarantee to nudge them in the right direction.

   * I want to shop around.

Tell prospects that their software search is over. Summarize your software's main benefits, and tell prospects that you deliver everything that people have come to expect in an application like yours.

   * Give me some brochures, and I'll get back to you.

Again, you won't get this objection online. But you can sell more software if your online sales presentation is crisp and easy to understand.

   * I have a specific objection about your product or service.

Be sure that your product page addresses all of the objections that you think your prospects might have. Remember that you are usually selling to multiple people, especially when you're offering multi-user and site licenses. For example, if you're selling educational software, you have to convince the student, the parent, the teacher, and the school system's tech person that they need your application.

Invite your website readers to find answers to additional questions on your FAQ page. Ask prospects to email you with questions that they can't resolve on your website. Anticipate and answer these objections, and you'll sell more software.

Why don't people buy?

In his book "Never Wrestle with a Pig," Mark McCormack writes about the reasons people aren't buying from you. Again, the author isn't writing about the software development industry. But most of his ideas apply to microISVs' companies.

  • No money
  • No authority
  • Too much risk-aversion
  • No understanding of what you're offering
  • No affection for what you're selling
  • No affection for you personally
  • Weak sales message

I believe that in the software development business, most people don't buy from us because they've never heard of us. We can all do a better job of using the basic tools of publicity to talk about the products and services that we offer.

All of us can improve the way that we use Google and the other search engines to target the people who should be using our products or services. We should be adding keyword-rich content to our websites, and ensure that we're using the best  SEO techniques. We should be using our blogs, newsletters, press releases, webcasts, and eBooks to make prospects comfortable with our products and services.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Craft Strong Sales Messages
for your Software

Your website sales message has to be crisp and strong. Every component of your website has to contribute to the sales process. You have too many competitors to use your home page or your product pages to tell an interesting story. Your website has to sell.

The trial version of your software has to sell, too. Don't expect your prospects to figure out what to do with the mostly-gray screen that they'll be staring at after they've installed and started running your trial version. Make it easy to find a QuickStart Guide or a series of getting-started Tips. Let them easily find a sample file to play with. Otherwise, most prospects will simply uninstall your application's trial version.

Your competitors' sales messages are getting stronger and stronger. You need to continually work on your marketing presentation if you want to build your sales and profits. Make every word on your website help you sell more software.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Your Marketing is All Wrong

Book Review of Can't Buy Me Like - How Authentic Customer Connections Drive Superior Results by Bob Garfield and Doug Levy (March 2013)

"If you are still selling goods and services by blanketing the world with advertising, trying to persuade or entertain or flatter consumers into submission,"  Bob Garfield and Doug Levy explain, "you are doing things all wrong. Because the world has changed. A lot."

We're now in the Relationship Era. The authors believe that the important qualities for every company to have are authenticity, trust, loyalty, and pride.

Fifty years ago, The Beatles sang that money can't buy you love. Today, consumers are swamped with ad campaigns and marketing slogans. If Lennon and McCartney were writing the song's title today, they might have chosen "Money Can't Buy You Like."

Reputation Matters

Business owners have to see all of their stakeholders as friends, the authors believe. That includes customers, prospects, employees, and suppliers. If Garfield and Levy were writing about the software development industry, no doubt they would include eCommerce companies, copywriters, download sites, press release professionals, Internet marketers, industry trade associations, and trade show organizers in the list of important stakeholders.

"In the Relationship Era, brands can no longer project the image of their choosing."

The authors believe that there are four forces that are changing the rules of marketing: First, mass media is costing more and delivering less. Second, the Internet has made it impossible for businesses to buy the image and reputation that they want to project. Third, social media sites have turned news into conversations. Fourth, trust is at least as important as quality and price.

Quality and price are no longer enough. Reputation matters.

The authors tell us that we can't make a gradual shift from the Consumer Era to the Relationship Era. We have to change our focus immediately, and adopt marketing methods that meet today's needs.

Buying Like

There was a time when you could turn a huge advertising budget into product sales. Today, it's much more difficult.

The Consumer Era ran from 1965 thru yesterday. Consumer Era TV ads no longer work cost-effectively. Nearly half of the people in the US have DVRs, and many industry experts believe that they're skilled at ignoring advertising messages.

"Genuine relationships are built on equality, not subservience," Garfield and Levy tell us.

Money Can't Buy Me Love

The authors cite a problem with "buying love." They suggest that we type "I love Apple" into a search engine. You'll find a few million hits. By contrast, swap out "Apple" and see how many hits you'll find for people who profess their love for Citibank, AT&T Wireless, ExxonMobil, and Dow Chemical. These four companies spend a combined $2 (US) billion each year on advertising. The Beatles were right: "Money Can't Buy Me Love."

Consumers judge you by your actions, and not just the quality of your product or service.

"...doing business in the Relationship Era has many requirements. Ethical conduct. Seamless customer relations. Constant contact and cooperation with all stakeholders, including not just investors but also employees, suppliers, distributors and retailers, neighbors, governments, and the society at large."

The authors believe that you don't need to advertise. You need to amplify the word-of-mouth advertising that good companies naturally get. Organizations must entirely retool to accommodate the Relationship Era. It has to happen right now.

This conversion "means attaining full understanding of social media, most especially Facebook and Twitter, not as channels for sending out ad messages but as virtual salons for sharing what humans share: observations, discoveries, ideas, concerns, interests, opportunities, and just plain cool stuff of mutual relevance."

Trust is Essential

The authors cite a recent Nielsen survey. Trust in TV and magazine/newspaper ads dropped 23 percent in just three years. By contrast, the trust level of word-of-mouth, online reviews, and publicity gained through press release campaigns (earned media) is 92 percent.

The most basic level of trust is that your software will work as described, and that you will stand behind it if it fails to deliver what you've promised.

Because there is so much information on the Internet, today's consumers know about - and care about - how a company conducts its business. You have to behave well to get customers to buy from you.

The most admired brands thrive because of a loyalty loop of trial, satisfaction, and advocacy. These firms are profitable because they can get the word out without spending a lot of money on advertising.

Trust starts with credibility. Most companies strive to be credible. Trust is a huge asset in the Relationship Era.

Your Purpose Matters

In the Relationship Era, marketers need to have a purpose, and to be clear about it. The purpose entices people not just to buy the brand, but to join it. People want to join brands that conduct themselves well in the public arena.

The authors talk about United Airlines' attempt to get customers to buy their services. United had a long-running advertising campaign in which they urged people to "fly the friendly skys." In 1987, they started a 25-year ad campaign that featured TV advertising with Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue playing prominently in the background.

Despite the moving, uplifting music, the authors tell us, United's service got uglier and uglier. "High fares and surcharges. Shrunken schedules, Surly, mistreated employees. Reduced services. No pillows. Pay-as-you-go food. Fees for ticket changes. Fees for bags. Fees for child escorts. Lost luggage. Long waits and a litany of petty humiliations."

Billions of dollars of Rhapsody in Blue brought in the paying customers. But one incident in 2008 changed everything.

Dave Carroll of the band Sons of Maxwell had a very unpleasant experience with United. A United employee was seen throwing the duo's musical equipment onto the tarmac. United declined to take responsibility for damaging the guitars or to pay for the damaged equipment. So Dave Carroll wrote a tune called "United Breaks Guitars" and posted it on YouTube in July of 2009.

"Correlation isn't necessarily causation," the authors explain, "but in the aftermath, United's market capitalization fell 10 percent."

You have to have a purpose. And your actions have to be consistent with that purpose. You can no longer tout the wonder of your company, behave badly, and retain customers.

In the Consumer Era, the goal was to claim that your brand had a bunch of features and benefits that made it a good marketplace choice. Today, you have to engage people with the purpose of your brand. Prospects need to hear about your purpose and vision, and not just about the features and benefits of what you offer.

It's no longer about positioning, the authors tell us. It's about inspiring people to join your brand. Success comes when people believe in your brand's authenticity.

I'm not so sure. Formica is a successful brand because the very word is what people think of when they talk about any type of laminated kitchen counter. Scotch Tape is a successful brand because it's the term that many people use to describe cellophane tape, regardless of the name of the manufacturer.

The authors, by contrast, point out that KFC uses Twitter to "sell, sell, sell" while Krispy Kreme uses it to "engage, engage, engage." It's easy to find examples of old-school companies who continue to use Consumer Era sales techniques and who are failing. And it's possible to find examples of forward-thinking firms who use Relationship Era techniques to succeed.

The Bottom Line

I'm not certain that everybody in the software development industry should abandon traditional marketing techniques immediately and fully embrace engagement as the predominant way to attract and retain customers. Don't ignore everything that you've learned about software marketing and blindly embrace Bob Garfield's and Doug Levy's ideas.

It would be a mistake, however, to ignore the authors. They make a powerful argument for moving in a new direction. Their book is an easy read. It's entertaining. Their ideas are based on well-researched examples. Check out "Can't Buy Me Like" and think about how their ideas can boost your software sales.

Buy it Online

Can't Buy Me Like on