Thursday, July 30, 2015

Spontaneity and Chance

"Spontaneity is too good to be left to chance."

... quotation by Herb Cohen from his book "Negotiate This"

To learn more about spontaneity and chance, or about Cohen's book, visit my Software Marketing Glossary.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Can a Shopping Basket
Increase Your Software Sales?

When employees handed shopping baskets to customers holding three or more items, Paco Underhill tells us, sales went up.

Underhill is the author of the book "Why We Buy - The Science of Shopping." He has performed objective studies about how people make buying decisions in brick-and-mortar stores. And many of his ideas apply to microISVs who sell software online, too.

On your software web site, should you be encouraging customers to use your electronic shopping cart? Shopping cart abandonment is still a major problem in online sales. If somebody wants to buy a single item, you certainly don't want to confuse them with a shopping cart, or force them to start the sales process by putting something into a shopping cart, only to "take it out" a moment or two later.

You can create simple two-item bundles without a shopping cart. And without calling them bundles.

Offering shopping carts is an important factor in online sales for companies such as amazon.com. Could a shopping cart boost your software sales?

Measure your current sales. Add a shopping cart. Measure again.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Good Software Customers

"Good customers can be tough, exacting, impatient, challenging, finicky, exasperating, demanding, needy, insistent, and a million other things."

... quotation by Jeffrey J. Fox from his book "How to Become a Marketing Superstar"

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

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Wearable Device
Software Development Opportunities

Currently, there are 2,500 third-party apps available for wearable devices. According to IDC (as reported in the July 10, 2015 issue of Processor magazine) there will be 349,000 such applications by 2019. That should boost revenues for a lot of small independent software developers (microISVs).

"To succeed in what we expect will quickly become a very crowded category," IDC's research vice president John Jackson opines, "consumer-oriented app developers need to focus on intelligent service delivery and 'always on you' experiences that leverage the human factor improvements that smart wearable devices offer."

IDC predicts that we'll see mostly programs that connect wearable devices to smartphones in the near term. Look for standalone software as the wearable devices get smarter, and the software development community becomes more experienced.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Age Matters when Selling Software

If you're selling products in a store, make the signs big enough to be read by people with declining visual acuity. So says Paco Underhill in his book "Why We Buy - The Science of Shopping."

"Why We Buy" is about how people buy items in retail stores. But Underhill's lessons apply to buying software on the Internet, too.

Underhill mentions that a popular group of drug stores in Florida had magnifying glasses on chains, attached to the shelves. If you're selling online, don't use tiny type, and don't use fonts whose sizes are fixed by the web designers. Let people with bad eyesight use their web browsers to select larger fonts, whether they're using a Windows PC, a Mac, an iOS device, or an Android phone or tablet.

Underhill's studies have shown that the better educated and more affluent a consumer is, the more likely it is that that consumer will want to read what's written on labels, boxes, and jars. And perhaps on the EULA in your application, and on your web site.

Another interesting finding is that older customers prefer to receive instructions from somebody in their own age group. They don't like to be told how to do things by people whom they regard as kids. We all need to think through how we deliver that particular feature on our web sites. Perhaps it sounds cool to deliver your sales message in a young and trendy way. Perhaps such an approach won't appeal to older prospects.

As with every aspect of your sales message, you need to measure today's sales results, tweak your sales presentation, and measure again.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Software Marketing Opportunities
in Business Applications

The customer relationship management (CRM) market grew 13.3 percent in 2014. So says Gartner, as reported in the July 10, 2015 issue of Processor magazine.

It figures. With all of the talk about Big Data, it makes sense that a lot of companies have started playing catch-up with their plain-vanilla customer data.

Small independent software vendors (microISVs) will find it interesting that the top ten CRM software houses garnered more than 60 percent of the $23.3 billion US dollars that were spent in 2014 on CRM. That leaves nearly ten billion dollars that was earned by the scrappy little companies - like yours - that are offering CRM applications.

The article quotes Joanne Correia, Gartner's VP of research: "Strong demand for SaaS continues, with SaaS accounting for almost 47% of total CRM software revenue in 2014."

Does this mean that more one-person software development shops should launch CRM programs? Not necessarily. But it certainly suggests that you should be thinking of creating a desktop/laptop program or a software as a service (SaaS) application that meets the business needs of a large number of enterprises. The marketplace remains strong for business software that companies and nonprofits can use to replace legacy applications.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Targeting Niche Software Markets

"A product for everyone rarely reaches anyone."

So says Seth Godin in his book "Small is the New Big - and 183 other riffs, rants, and remarkable business ideas."

I agree with Godin. I believe that you'll sell more software if you target niche markets. Small independent software vendors (microISVs) should think about creating a general application, and tailoring it to every audience that you want to target.

For example, don't sell a collectibles inventory application. Instead, sell a stamp collectors' inventory program, a coin collectors' inventory application, a doll collectors' inventory software, and a few dozen others.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Software Marketing Strategy
Starts with a Blank Page

Mark Stevens tells us to start with a blank page when developing our marketing strategy. In fact, he devoted a chapter of his book "Your Marketing Sucks" to that topic.

Stevens urges us to not worry about what our competitors are doing. Instead, rethink everything and start from scratch.

If your marketing looks like everybody else's marketing, Stevens advises, then you're not going to be seen. I give my press release customers similar advice. In your press releases, you need to say why your application is different from - and better than - your competitors' programs. Otherwise, you'll have a difficult time getting editors, bloggers, and software reviewers interested in your programs.

Following the leaders might make sense. But following the followers seems to be way too common a practice in the software industry.

Worry about your customers, and not about your competitors, Stevens advises.

Stevens recommends that you look at successful infomercials to gather ideas about how to market your products. More to the point, the author offers four pieces of advice that he learned from television infomercials:
  • Choose a "cool and compelling" name for your product and your company.
  • Images are as important as words.
  • Make prospects think that you're offering them exceptional value.
  • Let your prospects read your testimonials.
If you're skeptical about taking advice from infomercial marketers, you may be surprised to learn that infomercial legend Ron Popeil sold his company, RonCo, for $55 million US dollars. I don't think Popeil ever sold software applications. But he knows a bit about marketing and sales.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Goal Setting, Positive Attitudes,
and Software Sales

"Life is full of disappointments,"  Bernice H. Hansen explains, "but the secret of success is to set goals, and then go out to accomplish them."

Ms. Hansen was an Amway sales professional and one of the salespeople featured in Robert L. Shook's classic book "Ten Greatest Salespersons - What they say about selling."

Being a positive thinker, she tells us, is the key to selling Amway products, or any products or services.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

microISV Credibility
and Increased Software Sales

Credibility is all about convincing prospects to believe your sales presentation. Enhance your credibility with software buyers, and you'll increase your software sales.

Credibility, Confidence, and Selling Software Applications

Credibility is the sum total of all of your marketing efforts. So says Jay Conrad Levinson, the author of the book "Guerrilla Marketing Excellence." Confidence, Levinson explains, is the most important reason that people buy from you. If your business is credible, you can inspire confidence and land many more sales than if your company is not credible. If Levinson is correct, then building your small independent software vendor's (microISV's) credibility should be a key component of your software marketing efforts.

Levinson tells us that we must become problem solvers. If he were writing about the software development industry, he would probably be urging microISVs to increase application sales by making prospects aware of a problem that they have, and by describing how their software can solve that problem. It's best to focus on a single problem, Levinson suggests, or two problems tops. In our industry, software developers lose credibility when they try to present a program as the solution to every problem in the world.

Credibility, Guarantees, and Selling More Software

For microISVs selling software applications on the Internet, credibility means having a well-written, professional-looking web site. It means offering a guarantee when most of your competitors don't. Almost all software developers who offer a no-questions-asked money-back guarantee tell me that the revenue that they lose from abusive customers is tiny compared with the additional sales that they started making when they introduced the guarantee.

Credit Card Payments and Credibility

Many online buyers won't enter their credit card information into an Internet order form unless they can see your company's name, postal address, and telephone number. Add this information to your contact page and your about-us page. On my website, I have all of this information on every page.

If your software development company is located in a country that has a bad reputation with credit cards, then some of your prospects are going to shy away from buying your software. You can solve this problem by touting the credibility of your eCommerce company. Select an eCommerce company that is based in a country which has a reputation for trustworthy banking. Explain on your order page where your eCommerce partner does business.

Don't assume that your prospects know and respect your eCommerce provider. Truth is, most people who buy software online aren't familiar with the major eCommerce companies. It's the microISV's responsibility to sell more software by building up their eCommerce company's credibility. On your buy-now page, tell your prospects why you've chosen your particular eCommerce firm. Talk about the eCommerce company's well-deserved reputation for security, privacy, and stability. Your eCommerce firm's credibility will transfer to your microISV, making prospects more comfortable buying from you online.

Competition and Credibility

Jack Trout, the author of the book "The New Positioning," has a fascinating idea about competition and credibility. Trout believes that we should look forward to having competitors. Having two or three competitors adds credibility to your software niche. There must be a need for software like yours if you have a bunch of other companies who offer it, too.

I don't expect too many microISVs to become giddy each time they learn of a new competitor. But a new competitor may mean that your market is growing, and that's good news.

Longevity and Credibility

In his book "Differentiate or Die," Jack Trout espouses an idea about credibility that will be much easier for microISVs to embrace than his idea (above) about the joys of competition. Trout says that heritage and longevity are forms of leadership, and leadership leads to credibility. Your microISV firm may not be the sales leader in your software marketing niche, but your company has credibility if you've been in the industry for a long time. If you've been in business for years and years, Trout would urge you to write about your company's history and experience.

Sponsorship of Software Industry Events and Credibility

David F. D’Alessandro, author of the book "Brand Warfare," believes that sponsoring industry events builds credibility.

Few small independent software vendors (microISVs) have the cash flow to sponsor a major national software industry event. But there are other relationships that software developers can form with software industry organizations that could increase their credibility and clout. There are local civic events, educational scholarship programs, as well as regional and national tech organizations that are looking for business partners and relationships. Associating your microISV firm with these organizations can make your company more credible.

In the software development industry, a number of membership organizations and software conference organizers offer visibility – and credibility – to software developers who want to become supporters and partners.

microISVs should look for opportunities in vertical markets, too. So if you're selling educational software, you need to look at sponsoring software organizations and conferences as well as educational marketplace conferences that aren't exclusively software-oriented. Often, charity events have program booklets that provide publicity for their sponsors. Create partnerships with trusted organizations. Your software marketing efforts can begin with simple things like link swaps and blog posting trades, and build to more complex exchanges as the relationship grows.

Copywriting and Credibility

Hank Nuwer, the author of "How to Write like an Expert about Anything," offers insights on how our writing style affects our credibility with the people in our target market. For starters, business people need to learn the jargon of the field that they're writing about.

Software developers have to take care not to weave technical terms into their writing. Replacing tech talk with ordinary business English is usually the best way to discuss computer software. If it's important to use technical terms, then we need to define our terms so our readers can understand and appreciate the information. Otherwise, they won't be able to follow our narrative. If we don't put these technical terms in context, we'll confuse our prospects, and damage our credibility.

Website writers in the software development industry need to talk less like techies, and more like our target audience. If you're selling educational software applications, for example, your web site's sales presentation should sound like it was written by a parent or by a teacher, and not by a computer programmer. microISVs who write and sell business and financial software need to write in a way that is credible to business managers and entrepreneurs.

Content and Credibility

In their book "Content Rules," Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman argue that creating an extensive library of content is the best way to establish our credibility with our customers and prospects. Handley and Chapman say that content builds trust. Content plus credibility can convert website visitors into software customers.

While "Content Rules" isn't particularly about the software development industry, following the book's advice would be a sound software marketing strategy. Software developers need to create podcasts, webcasts, screencasts, blogs, newsletters, whitepapers, case studies, and articles. As you build this library of content, you build your credibility with software buyers.

Credibility and the Bottom Line

Credibility isn't just an abstract notion that we need to think about now and then. Credibility is a serious asset that everybody in the software development industry can use to increase the sales of products and services.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Selling Software
to Corporate Users

Until a very few years ago, software-buying decisions in larger enterprises were controlled by the IT department. Things have changed. Today, many business managers are ignoring the authority of the IT department and the CIO, and are making their own software-buying decisions. Software developers need to be aware of this trend, and adjust their marketing strategies to take advantage of it.

Roughly ninety percent of the business managers (versus IT managers) in corporations and other large enterprises will spend some of their departments' budgets directly on IT expenses, without asking the CIO or IT managers for permission. So says Forrester Research, as reported in a recent issue of Processor Magazine.

Processor Magazine calls these business spenders "renegades." Small independent software vendors (microISVs) should call them "prospects," and find out how to sell them their desktop/laptop software, smartphone apps, and software as a service (SaaS) applications.

The top 25 percent of these renegades are the big spenders. They will allocate an average of 21 percent of their budgets on IT expenditures. Forrester mentions that they will hire their own IT personnel, without going through the normal process of requesting support from their in-house IT manager. They will also buy smartphone apps and analytics without the advice or consent of the IT professionals.

Forrester recommends that enterprises' CIOs accept the fact that they no longer control their corporations' IT expenditures. The CIO and the IT managers need to act as consultants to the business units that they support. Centralized control over IT expenditures is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. IT departments have to deliver high quality support to their business departments, or their influence will continue to decline.

What do microISVs need to do to take advantage of this trend in the business and nonprofit communities? Instead of targeting only the IT decision-makers and buyers, software developers need to find a way to market their applications to business managers and end-users as well:

  • When you're writing and distributing press releases about your software, you can't limit the scope of your press release distribution to the tech publications and blogs. You need to include the general business end-user community, as well as all of the vertical markets that you're targeting.
  • When you're deciding how to spend your advertising budgets, you can't look narrowly at the IT community as the people who might be potential customers. Depending upon the software that you're offering, you need to reach the on-target end-user communities, too.
  • When you're crafting the sales message on your website, you can't address your sales message to just the high-tech, computer-savvy people who work in the IT department. You need to use plain English to explain the benefits of your software to business people who probably won't understand the technical details of your software.

Don't assume that IT departments and CIOs still control the purchase of software within medium- and large-sized institutions. Target your applications - and your marketing presentations - to the end-user community that you're trying to serve, and you'll sell more software.