Monday, November 30, 2015

Software Buyers' Attitudes
Resist Change

Jack Trout believes that minds are hard to change. In his book "The New Positioning," Trout explains that it's difficult to change attitudes in the short amount of time that somebody will spend on your website.

Sometimes it's too big a challenge to tell prospects that your software is brand new, and that they need to decide immediately to buy this completely novel product or service.

How do you get people to consider buying your software?

  • Go back and reclaim an old idea. 
  • Talk about the years of success that you've enjoyed in the business.
  • Try to piggyback on concepts that are accepted by prospects in our industry.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Tout Your Software's Benefits,
and Not Its Features

"Lead with your strongest selling point," Mark Stevens declares, "and stay focused on it."

Stevens is the author of the book "Your Marketing Sucks." He implores us to not clutter our marketing message with secondary benefits. Less is more, Stevens believes.

I'm not so sure. I tend to believe that more is more.

Software buyers aren't two-dimensional cardboard figures who can only manage one thought at a time. Prospects have very different needs and desires. I think microISVs have to paint a complex canvas of a better life, with their prospects clearly painted into the picture. Get your prospect to think of herself as a user of your application, and make her understand how your software will make her life more safe and secure, simpler, more productive, more competitive, or whatever benefits your software offers.

More is more. Talk about all of your software's benefits. You'll sell more software.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Upselling and Cross-Selling Software

In the United States, the day after Thanksgiving is the start of the Christmas gift-buying season. A few years ago, I was standing outside the local computer superstore at 6:00am, when they opened for their huge pre-Christmas sale. Although there were a dozen customers waiting to get into the store that Friday morning, there were plenty of sales people ready to help customers. I was greeted with a smile, and asked what I'd like to purchase.

I named the item from the morning newspaper ad, and a minute or two later, the clerk brought it from the back room.

He asked, "Is there anything else that you're interested in today?" and I thought for a second and said, "No thanks; that'll do it."

A minute later, I was sitting in my car with my sales receipt and my purchase.

I asked myself, how would I have responded if instead of asking, "Is there anything else that you're interested in today?" he had said, "We have nearly fifty high-tech gadgets for sale for under $30 each, and they'd make terrific holiday presents. Would you like me to show you one or two of my favorites?"

Or if he had asked, "Have you completed your holiday shopping, or would you like me to show you a couple of our affordable best-sellers?"

I think the store made quite a few sales that Friday morning. But they could have made a lot more if their sales staff had been properly trained.

Software developers have lots of opportunities to sell additional software at the time of purchase. Credit card in hand, your buyers are thinking about having fun on their computer, or solving business problems with their tablet, or whatever problem your applications solve. You're in a position to sell them other applications that you offer. In addition, offer your customers the software that you sell on an affiliate basis - other software that your fellow microISVs are marketing.

Anybody who has purchased books on Amazon has experienced the ultimate in being asked to buy additional books. From the moment you put your virtual hands on a book that you want to learn more about, Amazon suggests a two-book bundle. They display the names of other books that earlier buyers have purchased. Amazon names additional book titles in the same category, and suggests that you buy them too. And they remind you that your book qualifies for shipping discounts if you buy additional books at the same time.

When you close the sale on Amazon's website, they offer you a discount if you buy and ship additional gift copies of your books. The amazing part is that Amazon does all of this cross-selling without making buyers feel like they're being pressured.

I believe microISVs should do something similar on their websites -

  • Encourage people to upgrade from a single-user license to a family license, entitling them to use your software on all of their home computers.
  • Suggest that they buy an additional copy, to give to a friend or colleague as a gift.
  • Offer gift certificates. 
  • Offer to ship a physical CDROM or DVD, with or without a gift card and gift wrapping.
  • Encourage the sale of your multi-user and site licenses.
  • Offer bundles of your applications, or combinations of programs from your company and others. There are many ways to create product line extensions, brand extensions, suites, and software product families.

Don't jeopardize your original sale by confusing or offending your prospects with your attempt to upsell them. Make sure your customers know exactly what they're buying.

But take every opportunity to increase your average order size by cross-selling and upselling to your customers.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Marketing Not-So-Great Software

If a once-remarkable product is no longer remarkable and is no longer capable of being perceived as remarkable, Seth Godin tells us, then you'd be more successful by abandoning it, and working on something new, something remarkable.

In his book "Purple Cow - Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable," Godin discusses what Procter & Gamble (P&G) should do with Tide, their famous laundry detergent. From my perspective, it would be crazy to abandon a money-maker like Tide. The folks at P&G seem to agree with me. They're now offering Tide Pods, Tide with ActiLift, Tide Vivid White - Bright, Tide plus Febreze, Tide plus Febreze Sport, Tide Plus Downy, and Tide HE with ActiLift. They also offer Tide Free, a product whose packaging is even free of the orange color that millions of people associate with Tide.

microISVs with software applications that were once remarkable should try to find a way to make them remarkable again. And if that's not possible, I think you should continue to market them for many years to come.

Godin says that if you introduce a new product, most people won't buy it, even though it is indeed remarkable. Most people are happy with the old stuff that they have already. For the software developer with a new, remarkable application, this can be frustrating. But for developers whose products are established and bringing in significant revenue, this is good news. It means that you have some time to bring your software back into its former leadership position.

My recommendation is to set your sights on creating remarkable software. But if you end up with a solid, unremarkable application that brings in respectable revenue every month, then continue marketing it and go for "remarkable" on your next development project.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Objections to Buying Your Software

In his book "How to Close Every Sale," Joe Girard lists the six most common objections that every sales person has to deal with. microISVs need to anticipate these questions to their online sales presentations, too, and make sure that prospects can easily find answers to these issues.

(1) 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.

(2) I want to talk it over with my spouse.

Empower your prospect. Tell him or her that they make decisions every day that have a larger impact on their lives than the decision to purchase your application. Remind them that they don't need approval to make such an affordable purchase.

(3) 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.

(4) I want to shop around.

Remind visitors of the value of their time. Summarize your software's main benefits, and tell prospects that you deliver everything that people have come to expect in an application like yours.

(5) 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.

(6) 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.

Your "plan B" should be your FAQs. Invite your website readers to find answers to additional questions on your FAQ page.

Finally, invite prospects to email you with questions that they can't resolve on your website.

The bottom line -

Software developers should anticipate and answer objections on their web pages. The result will be higher software sales.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Negotiation Skills
for Software Developers

Strong negotiation skills are critical to the success of all businesses - including software development companies. Even if you have no plan today to purchase or sell a company or to create a strategic partnership with another firm, you have to be able to deal with suppliers, vendors, colleagues, and other stakeholders. Negotiation skills are important.

Not all of these negotiating partners share your goals. By learning basic negotiation skills, you'll be more effective in the day-to-day activities such as inviting industry experts to post on your blog, exchanging website links with other microISVs, and strengthening your relationships with industry vendors.

In his excellent book "Negotiate This!" Herb Cohen delivers a ten-step formula for negotiating successfully. Translated into the software development industry, here are Cohen's recommendations:

1. Set objectives

Divide your objectives into must-have items, nice-to-have items, and things that you're prepared to trade. In addition to setting these goals, you need a strategy. Your strategy is your plan for achieving the goals that you've defined.

2. Choose concessions

Create a list of your "how" (versus your "what") concessions. Cohen suggests that we not back down from our goals. But we need to be prepared to give in on issues of how we proceed. Stick to your principles, but be willing to negotiate the tactics that you'll use to get what you want.

3. Start with commonality

Start negotiating by talking about the things that you agree about. Secure agreement on one or two of the easy issues to start the negotiations on the right foot.

Save the toughest issue for last. Cohen urges us to remember that "no" does not mean "never". Try to break down the hottest issues into their component parts, and see if you can agree on individual components.

4. Opponents' demands and needs

Don't assume that your opponent's initial demand is what she really wants. And don't immediately make a counteroffer. For example, if you believe that a reasonable price is "5", and your opponent starts with "10", don't counter with "1" and expect to haggle your way to the right answer.

Instead, ask why "10" is the right number. Try to understand the other side's reasoning. As Joe Girard said in his book How to Close Every Sale, "A good business deal is only a good deal when both parties feel it is."

5. Don't expect rationality

Cohen says that we shouldn't expect our opponent to be rational in the pursuit of his goal. There's a fascinating story in Phil Dusenberry's book "Then We Set His Hair on Fire." It's about the negotiation that took place between Pepsi and Michael Jackson regarding Jackson's participation in a Pepsi ad for TV.

After the contract was signed, Pepsi learned that Jackson declined to have his face appear in the ad. The Pepsi folks had assumed that the five million dollar payment would compensate Jackson for appearing prominently in the TV spot. They compromised. They included flashes of Jackson's face in the ad - enough to make him recognizable, but not enough to get Jackson upset with the video. The lesson, of course, is that we shouldn't be surprised if the person we're negotiating with has different ideas of what's reasonable.

The other big surprise for Pepsi was the music for the ad. As expected, Jackson didn't like the music that Pepsi created. He said, "Why don't you use 'Billie Jean'?" The Pepsi people had never dreamed that Jackson would agree to use his two-time Grammy Award-winning song in the ad. But to Jackson, using the song was no big deal.

Again, don't assume that you know what the other guy will consider to be reasonable.

6. Know your opponent

Cohen urges us to learn as much as we can about the other people in the negotiation. What's important to their team may not be important to you. The more you learn, the more you can offer that is valuable to them, and not so valuable to you. So if you're negotiating a link swap or a trade of guest blog postings, do your research. Find out what kind of swaps they've done in the past, and what kind of postings they normally use on their blogs.

7. Win some, lose some

Don't expect to win every argument, or to be successful in every negotiation. To quote Sergio Zyman, the man responsible for the introduction of New Coke, "You don't have to win every round to win the fight."

8. Make the other guy work

Cohen wants us to make our opponents work for every concession that we make. Don't let them think that they can win every argument without a lot of effort. They won't value their win unless they have to work for it. If the negotiators don't trust each other, Cohen tells us, then it's even more important to make them work hard for their gains.

9. Strange things happen

Unexpected things happen during negotiations. Be prepared. And keep your cool. If you get out of line, apologize.

10. Close the deal

Make your concessions progressively smaller, thereby signaling that you're running out of room to negotiate. Make your opponent feel that they had a major part in shaping the final agreement.

The Bottom Line -

Many business people feel that they only need to strengthen their negotiation skills if they're planning on selling their business, buying another firm, or entering into a strategic partnership. Truth is, basic negotiation skills are critical to the day-to-day activities that are needed for your software development company to succeed.

Knowing basic negotiating concepts will help you with link swaps. You'll be more effective when you try to coax colleagues to comment on your blog postings, cross-sell each others' software, and work together to promote your software. Strengthen your negotiating skills, and you'll increase your software sales.