Friday, May 29, 2015

Spelling Software Names Correctly

If your website references the names of people, organizations, or products, be sure they're spelled properly. It's one of the basic principles of copywriting.

In my decades of press release writing, I've found that it's optimistic to expect to find product or company names spelled consistently on the owner's website.

Sometimes, this is a good thing. It's good to have spelling variations on your site, so people who type the variants that are lesser-known and less correct will find you in Google. But there's something to be said about knowing how to spell your own product name, too.

If you think it would be good to include misspellings of your company or product names on your website, then place these incorrect versions of your names in your images' alt tags. Or find other places where your prospects won't find these errors.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Choosing Your Next
Software Development Project

David Packard has some great ideas about innovation, choosing what product to develop next, and growing your company. Packard talks about these ideas in his book "The HP Way - How Bill Hewlett and I Built Our Company."

In 1964, HP had $125 million in sales. Instruments (and not computers) made up 100 percent of their sales in 1964. Thirty years later, computers made up 78 percent of their sales. Their 1994 computer sales were $20 billion.

Packard says that the company didn't plan to move into computers. They were pushed by market forces in that general direction.

Packard says that there is never a shortage of good ideas at HP, or at most other high-tech companies. The difficult task is to identify those ideas that fill a real marketplace need.

Two necessary conditions for HP choosing to pursue a new product are
  • The idea must be practical.
  • The idea must be useful.
Packard defines "useful" as something that can be built at an affordable cost - a cost that people are willing to pay.

The author describes a method which they named the "next bench" method for determining if a new test or measuring instrument should be developed, manufactured, and sold. Basically, if an engineer could convince the engineer working at the next bench that the idea was solid, then that added a lot of credibility to the notion of developing that particular piece of electronic gear.

Unfortunately, this type of peer-review test is still used a lot in the software development industry, and the results aren't always pretty. Ideas that sound great to fellow-developers might not appeal to a general audience of non-technical end users.

Another test that HP used to determine which projects to choose was the ratio of lifetime profits to development cost. If they could reasonably project that they could earn six times the development cost in lifetime profits, then they would build it.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Differentiate your Software
by Being First

"Make a habit to keep on the lookout for novel and interesting ideas that others have used successfully," Thomas Edison said. He was quoted in Jack Trout's book "Differentiate or Die" in support of Trout's argument that being first is a good way to differentiate your company and your products.

Positioning is all about getting into prospects' minds with a defining idea about your software. Naturally, then, if you're the first company to create a particular type of software, this is a good way to differentiate your application.

Buyers have been trained to believe that there are originals, and there are me-too copies. Being first is a position of strength.

Another advantage to being the first to release a particular product is that your product name might become the generic term for all such products. Trout cites Xerox, Kleenex, and Scotch as examples.

The downside, of course, is that it can be difficult to get a new idea accepted in the marketplace. In our software development industry, it's particularly difficult because there is a huge support system that keeps people thinking about existing categories of software. The download sites are divided into categories that are known to most serious software buyers. And software searches on Google tend to use an established list of keywords and key phrases.

If you can stay ahead of imitators, then being first to release a new software product is a great place to be.

Not everybody agrees. For example, in his book "Small is the New Big," Seth Godin said "Web searches, digitally augmented word of mouth, low barriers to entry, and quick speed to market are all conspiring to make 'first and biggest' a pretty old-fashioned strategy."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Sell more software with
whitepapers and eBooks

All companies that do business on the Internet need to use whitepapers and eBooks to boost their sales. So say Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman in their excellent book "Content Rules."

eBooks and whitepapers allow organizations to turn their knowledge and experience into something that is valuable to prospects - and something that can turn them into customers.

Educating software buyers

Many software developers need to educate their prospects before they can turn them into customers. Whitepapers and eBooks are vehicles that can accomplish this task. These two types of content can convince each of the decision-makers in your prospect's company or home that you offer a valuable solution to their problem.

If you compete mainly on price, Handley and Chapman explain, then eBooks and whitepapers might not be useful for your company. The more you portray your software as a commodity, the less value these two forms of content have.

Many of us in the software development industry use the terms "whitepaper" and "eBook" interchangeably. Here's how the authors describe these similar vehicles for presenting content -

eBooks

An eBook is an electronic book that can be downloaded and printed, or read on your computer, tablet, or smartPhone screen. Unlike whitepapers, eBooks can have any style or mood that you choose, from whimsical to serious. eBooks can be fun to read, and easy to scan. Your eBooks should have images, photos, and illustrations of every kind. According to Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, eBooks are a conversation among equals, versus whitepapers which are written by so-called experts.

Whitepapers

A whitepaper is a report that gives prospects and customers information that can help them make the decision to purchase your software. Whitepapers are also called research reports or technical briefs. As a general rule, reading whitepapers is work. They're supposed to be serious. They're rich in text, with the odd illustration to break up the text.

Selling more software

eBooks and whitepapers can drive traffic to your website, and increase your software sales. Be sure you're writing them regularly. It's good software marketing.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Competitors Matter -
Business Tips for Software Developers

Small independent software vendors (microISVs) can learn some of the lessons of businesses in the ski business and the golf business.

Charlie Jones and Kim Doren, authors of the book "That's Outside My Boat - Letting Go of What You Can't Control," write about the ideas of George Montgomery, former President and CEO of TaylorMade Golf.

In the ski business and in the golf business, Montgomery tells us, it's common to have swings in retail sales as large as 20 percent year over year. It's important to anticipate these financial and economic fluctuations, and adjust your inventory. Otherwise, you can have cash flow problems.

In the software development industry, microISVs usually don't have to worry about inventory issues. But there are cash flow issues, often related to what competitors are doing or how the economy is going, that need to be monitored.

Tune in to the general economic climate and to the marketing activities of your competitors. By being aware of forces in your marketing niche, you'll be able to do a better job of planning your marketing strategies.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Press Release Nouns and Pronouns -
News Release Writing Tips for Software Developers

Years ago, most press releases were written in the third person.

These antique press releases talked about the software by name, or referred to it using noun phrases such as the software, the program, or the application. Editors expected to receive formal, proper news releases.

In the early 2000s, as magazines and newspapers relaxed their writing styles and became much more conversational, press release writers started using a lot of pronoun-rich second-person writing, with you/your/you're words all over the place. But that's ancient history, too.

The search engines have changed how press releases are written. Pronouns are out, and keywords are in. If you're marketing an invoicing application, for example, you would be missing an SEO opportunity by saying "You can invoice your customers..." instead of "Entrepreneurs can invoice their customers...". Today, all of your "You can do this" and "You can do that" writing would be replaced (in this invoicing example) by "Business managers can do this" and "Billing professionals can do that".

While the most important audience for your press releases is the audience of human prospects, it's not a bad idea to write for the search engines, too.

Sell more software and SaaS by using our press release services.

Press releases are a cost-effective method to tell the world about your computer and iPhone software. Send press releases regularly, and ensure that you're getting your share of the free publicity that blogs, software reviewers, magazines, and newspapers provide to micro independent software vendors (mISVs). Start your press release campaign now.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Fine-Tune Your Home Page
and Sell More Software

Book review of Homepage Usability: 50 Websites Deconstructed by Jakob Nielsen and Marie Tahir (published 2001 by New Riders).

Jakob Nielsen is one of the pioneers of evaluating companies' websites. In "Homepage Usability," Nielsen documents all of the criteria that he uses when optimizing a customer's home page, and shows 50 in-depth examples.

"Homepage Usability" is really two books:

In the first 53 pages, Nielsen talks about the purpose of a home page, and discusses the 113 guidelines that he employs when analyzing a home page. He presents good insights about communicating your website's purpose, information about your enterprise, the site's content, links, navigation, search-engine considerations, graphics and design, your user interface, window titles, URLs, news and press releases, popup windows and splash screens, and tools for gathering customer data and fostering a community. Even though the author didn't write this book for software developers, the information applies brilliantly to our industry, and will result in increased software sales.

n the final 250+ pages, Nielsen deconstructs 50 websites from enterprises with high name recognition. In painful detail, Nielsen inspects every inch of the home page and offers constructive criticism. He breaks every homepage screen into its component parts: operating system and browser control (roughly 19 percent of the real estate), welcome and site identity, navigation, content of interest, advertising and sponsorship, self-promotion, filler, and unused portions of the homepage. The percentages allocated to the various categories vary from site to site (and browser to browser) by huge amounts. It's fascinating to see the different approaches that major companies use on their home pages.

Most of the information in this book was developed by watching real users access real web sites. The good news is - when Nielsen recommends that you include a search box on your website, that you place it in the upper-right corner of your home page, and that you label the button "Search" (rather than "Go" or "Find"), you're not reading Nielsen's personal opinions. You're reading about the actual experience of real users.

As a result, Homepage Usability's recommendations carry much more weight than the typical marketing book's ideas that are based on hypothetical theories or personal taste.

From the point of view of small independent software vendors (microISVs), Nielsen didn't select the best companies to study. It would be more useful if Nielsen had selected smaller companies instead of huge enterprises. For example, small independent software vendors rarely have to include stock quotes, news for stockholders, investor relations press releases, links to multi-national legal pages, or other issues that Fortune-100 companies need to address on their websites.

On the other hand, it's really entertaining to browse through the 50 websites, and look for ideas that can be adapted for our own home pages.

"Homepage Usability" is an expensive book, and worth every penny. If software developers only read the first 53 pages, the book will pay for itself many times over. It can strengthen your software marketing.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Collecting Information Online

"Don't ask twice," Seth Godin tells us in his book "The Big Red Fez."

Godin believes that prospects and customers should be asked only once for information. The website should use cookies or a database to collect needed information, and never ask a second time for the same data.

After going online to report that a recent storm pulled the phone wires from my house, I'm tempted to send a copy of "The Big Red Fez" to my telephone carrier.

Here in the software development industry, it should be particularly easy for us to collect, maintain, and retrieve information without asking the user to type it more than once. And we can use this data to make the visitors' website excursions more pleasant and productive.

Happy customers are much more likely to take out their credit cards than frustrated customers are. It's basic software marketing.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Teamwork and Software Development

Robert Lutz discusses the disadvantages of teamwork in his book "Guts."

While he acknowledges that good teams are a wonderful asset to a company, he warns us about the disadvantages of teamwork -

  • Teams tend to play it safe.
  • Teams discourage some of the creative ideas that have the potential to lead to breakthroughs.
  • Teams don't launch products that turn a company or an industry around.
  • Teams often spend too much time on non-productive work, and too little time on real work.

Small independent software vendors (micro-iSVs) shouldn't avoid working in teams. But don't think that teams are the solution to all of your software development problems.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Why Software Buyers
Don't Buy Your Software

In his book "Never Wrestle with a Pig," Mark McCormack writes about the reasons people aren't buying from you -

  • 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
  • Lousy sales message

I believe that in the software development business, most people don't buy from you because they've never heard of you.

For most of us, this means that we're not using the basic tools of publicity - tools like press releases - to talk about the products and services that we offer. And we're not using Google and the other search engines well enough to target the people who should be using our products or services.

The solution is a combination of launching a news release campaign, adding keyword-rich content to our websites, and using basic SEO techniques. It's good software marketing.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Imagination
and Software Development

Imagination means seeing the unseeable. So says Bill Russell, author of the book "Russell Rules."

We all need to find new ways to do the things that need doing in our business and personal lives, Russell tells us. Curiosity is required for imagination. And imagination is required for innovation.

Innovation is a necessary part of success. Creating a good idea is more than just merging two or more existing ideas. You have to weave these ideas together in a way that helps your business.

Visualization can help you succeed. By thinking through the challenges that you have now - and the challenges that you'll have in the future - you can develop ideas to solve your problems.

Imagination gets better with age, Russell insists. It's a skill that we develop over time, if we exercise it regularly.