Monday, December 21, 2015

Brand Names, Advertising Headlines,
and Toll-Free Phone Numbers

Always include your brand name in the headline of your ads. So says Jeffrey J. Fox, the author of the book "How to Become a Marketing Superstar - Unexpected Rules that Ring the Cash Register."

It doesn't do any good for a software developer to educate the public that there's a really neat application out there. Somewhere.

Include your brand name in your ads, brochures, and flyers, and more people will remember your software and find it when they need to.

Interestingly, Jay Conrad Levinson, the author of the book "Guerrilla Marketing - Secrets for Making Big Profits from Your Small Business," advises us not to include an important keyword in the toll-free phone number that we choose for our company. "Be warned that if it spells out a word, people probably won't write it down because they'll figure they'll remember it. But the truth is they won't"

Friday, December 18, 2015

The Value of eCommerce

"The value of e-commerce is not in the e, but in the commerce."

... quotation by Octavio Paz, quoted in "The Big Book of Business Quotations"

To learn more about eCommerce, visit my Software Marketing Glossary.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Software Brands versus Quality

Your brand is more important than the quality of your product. So says Harry Beckwith, the author of the book "The Invisible Touch - The Four Keys to Modern Marketing."

Beckwith urges you to name your brand something that has sensory appeal - something you can see, smell, taste, feel, or hear.

Choose a name, Beckwith says, that makes the prospect feel important, and don't worry about whether or not it makes you feel important.

Don't use a commonplace name, Beckwith advises, or your prospects won't think your company or product are particularly important.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Writing Effective
Software Sales Messages

Here are three practical ideas about sentence structure from Patricia T. O'Conner, the author of the excellent book "Words Fail Me" -

  • Use a mix of sentence structures.
  • Give the reader one idea at a time. Make the transition easy from idea to idea.
  • Often, long sentences are difficult to follow. Long sentences can work if they present one idea at a time.

It's simple. If you write well, you'll sell more software. "Words Fail Me" helps you write better.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Software Developers:
Do New Things

"Find things that are 'just not done' in your industry, and do them."

... quotation by Seth Godin from his book "Purple Cow"

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

Monday, December 7, 2015

Help Software Buyers Decide
to Buy Your Program

You can increase your software sales if you give people advice about how to make a software-buying decision. Give them the reasons they need to buy your application.

In his book "Small is the New Big," Seth Godin says that people could care less about your opinion. They do, Godin points out, value your analysis.

Present your prospects with a logical, objective, thorough analysis of the reasons they would benefit by having your software installed on their computers. Your prospects will value your analysis, and you'll value their becoming your customers.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Make Yourself Familiar
to your Software Buyers

"Before you try to sell yourself, make yourself familiar."

... quotation by Harry Beckwith from his book "The Invisible Touch"

To learn more about empathy and familiarity, or to learn more about Beckwith's book, visit my Software Marketing Glossary

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Get Your Audience
to Listen to Your Sales Message

"If your target audience isn't listening," Seth Godin tells us, "it's not their fault. It's yours"

If you're not getting your message across, don't complain. Do something different.

No software application should ever be sold as a commodity, with price being the tie-breaker between your program and your competitors' programs. Find a way to differentiate your software from its challengers. And find a compelling way to describe your software's benefits to your software-buying prospects.

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.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Winning the
Software Development Game

"Winning ideas win only if they are executed brilliantly."

... quotation by Mark Stevens from his book "Your Marketing Sucks"

To learn more about winning, or to learn more about Stevens' book, visit my Software Marketing Glossary.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Software Pricing and
Software Marketing Strategies

Small, independent software vendors (microISVs) can sell more of their software if they make it simple for prospects to learn the price. If you hide the price, your website visitors won't be reading the marketing presentation on your website. Instead, your web site visitors will be scrolling and clicking, trying to learn how much you charge for your program.

Paco Underhill, in his book "Why We Buy – The Science of Shopping," tells us that shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores dislike obscure or hidden price tags. The same distaste for hidden prices carries over to the Internet. I believe that Underhill would be urging software developers to make it easy for prospects to find their pricing information.

Software price and differentiation

Lots of microISVs use their software's price to differentiate their applications from their competitors' programs. According to Jack Trout, the author of "Differentiate or Die," price can rarely be an effective differentiating tool. In fact, Trout believes that price can be the enemy of differentiation.

As soon as you talk about price, Trout tells us, people assume that you're not able to state why your product or service is different from – and better than – your competitors. So, it's best to avoid competing on price.

If you should decide to compete on price, then be sure to have an integrated theory on how price and value are merged together to provide something unique. Trout provides a number of examples of companies who have merged price and value into a cohesive sales message:

  • Southwest Airlines used this strategy with their low ticket prices plus a system of hubs in smaller municipalities. They offered lower prices, and they justified their ability to offer bargains to their customers.
  • Wal-Mart succeeds with low prices, plus store locations in smaller towns (versus in larger cities with their higher costs of living), plus vendor contracts that support their lower prices.
  • For years, Dell used affordable prices along with direct sales to succeed. 

Price alone is not a good basis on which to compete. But price plus something else – something that makes a low price logical – can be an effective way to differentiate a product or service.

Responding to competitors' software price decisions

If you have a competitor who is denting your sales by lowering the price of their software applications, then there are some strategies that you can use to deal with the problem. Here are three of Trout's suggestions, translated into the software development industry:

  1. Do something odd. Don't simply cut your price to match a competitor's. Instead, create a software bundle, or find a non-price way to change what you're offering to your customer base.
  2. Confuse the marketplace. Trout points out that that's what MCI did when they launched their "Friends & Families" discount program. MCI made it very difficult for prospects to tell if their pricing would be higher or lower than, say, AT&T's more traditional long-distance pricing.
  3. Change the discussion. Admit that your software costs more to buy initially, but tell your customers that you offer deeply-discounted upgrades for the first two years. Talk about the total cost of ownership (TCO), and how your software pricing results in lower long-term expenses. Discover a way to change the discussion from initial price to overall cost for the life of the software.

Marketing and low software prices

Trout argues that price reduction sales are bad for businesses. He doesn't believe that sales bring in incremental income in the long run.

Sergio Zyman, author of "The End of Marketing As We Know It," believes that discounted prices are a sign of marketing laziness. Price cutting is what lazy marketers do when they can't think of any creative marketing ideas. "When a price promotion ends," Zyman tells us, "the consumers move on to the next guy who's willing to pay them to buy his product."

Trout talks about an example of low prices in the sports retailing business. The four biggest sports retailers were all losing money. They'd all been competing on price. And when Wal-Mart and Kmart got to the point where they were selling 35 percent of all sports equipment in the US, the major sports retailers could no longer maintain viable margins.

Trout is not a supporter of the "free" trend that has become so popular in the software development industry. His belief is simple: It's tough to give away products or services for free, and still make a profit.

Can microISVs succeed with a high-price strategy? Lots of consumers believe that the highest quality products should cost more. And people are willing to pay for products that they believe will impress their friends and family. A high price, Trout tells us, becomes a benefit of the underlying product because it impresses the buyers' coworkers and colleagues.

Lowering prices is not a good long-term marketing strategy. So says Philip Kotler, author of "Kotler On Marketing – How to Create, Win, and Dominate Markets." At the time Kotler penned this book, he had sold more than three million marketing textbooks, and done marketing consulting work for Fortune 100 companies including AT&T, General Electric, Ford, and IBM. Professor Kotler knows a lot about marketing.

Kotler tells us that the marketing pro's who attend his seminars believe that their customers are more sophisticated than they were in prior years, and more price-sensitive. At the same time, these attendees believe that dropping your products' prices doesn't work because competitors respond in kind, and everybody loses.

Kotler argues that it's a mistake for a business to price its product based on a mark-up. Your prospects and customers don't care how many hours it took you to write the program, or how much you paid for the programming tools that you deploy. Instead of using a mark-up method of pricing, software developers should base their prices by figuring out the value of the application to their software-buying customers.

Branding and pricing are connected, Kotler tells us. Marketing is all about building a brand. If you don't build a brand and differentiate yourself from your competitors, then you're selling a commodity. There is only one way to differentiate yourself in a commoditized market, and that's by lowering your prices.

Software pricing and marketing strategy

Determining the price of your software is a vital component of your marketing strategy. Avoid using a simple definition of price. Your strategy should take into account the software's list price, site license discounts, allowances, coupons, credit terms, affiliate fees, and commissions, as well as any bundled products or services that you may be offering.

Developers often ponder if it is wise to offer a low-priced personal license and a higher-priced business license, for identical software. Some consumers may be offended by the idea. On the other hand, consumers see this kind of pricing every day.

For example, if you go to a concert, you'd expect to pay more for seats that are closer to the stage, even though the seats cost no more to manufacture or install than those seats that are in the back of the auditorium. Similarly, most consumers expect to pay more for weekend tickets than for weekday tickets. The concept of identical software being sold at different prices to different audiences isn't bizarre, but you have to craft a convincing sales message for all of your prospects.

Kotler urges business people to add value to the more expensive version of our products and services. You could offer priority support, or coupons, or long-term discounts to the customers who purchase the business license. The solution is to create a series of attractive offerings at a range of price points.

Software pricing and repeat customers

Developing long-term customers delivers advantages to microISVs. You can cross-sell and upsell to your long-term customers. It takes considerably less effort to complete transactions with them because they're familiar with your software, communications, emails, and procedures. Long-term customers are more likely to recommend your programs to their friends and colleagues.

But there is also a pricing consideration. Long-term customers are less price-sensitive because they've developed a relationship with your microISV firm. They may even pay a little more for your software because they trust you, and because they're comfortable buying from your company.

Kotler tells us to use pricing as a way to manage difficult customers. Most firms lose money on some percentage of their worst clients. If you're getting customers who need too much hand-holding and technical support, for example, find out why they're buying from you, and do something to make your company less attractive to these difficult prospects. If you want to keep these customers, then find a way to educate them so you're not spending too much time delivering support services. Alternatively, raise your prices to these prospects so it becomes worthwhile to deal with them.

Marketing with higher software prices

Advertising genius David Ogilvy shares some ideas on maintaining high prices in a price-sensitive marketplace. In his book "Ogilvy on Advertising," Ogilvy said to his prospects, "If you are going to choose your agency on the basis of price, you are looking through the wrong end of the telescope."

Ogilvy urged his prospects to concentrate on the increased sales that his advertising agency could deliver, and not the amount of fees that he charged. This approach can also be effective in marketing software on the Internet.

Don't price your software too low. Ogilvy mentioned that people judge the value of a product by its price. I agree. I've said for years that too many software developers price their applications too low, and it damages their profits.

Harry Beckwith, the author of "The Invisible Touch – The Four Keys to Modern Marketing," agrees that low prices are not the answer to business success. Beckwith believes that higher-priced goods and services are perceived to be better than lower-priced alternatives. Price changes perception. In fact, price can actually enhance the experience of using a product or service.

"Higher prices don't just talk," Beckwith insists. "They tempt." My nearly 30 years of marketing experience in the software development industry confirms Beckwith's belief. In the software industry, most developers will tell you that their Pro version outsells their Standard version.

Beckwith says that price is often the excuse (but rarely the reason) that you're losing market share to your competitors. "Look deeper," he recommends. Most people can afford to pay more money for your software application. Don't lower your prices. Instead, do a better job of convincing prospects that your applications have more value than the software that your competitors are marketing.

Pricing your software application

There's no shortage of advice on how to set the price for your applications. And there is no simple formula for arriving at the perfect price-point. Take into account all of the factors discussed above, take your best guess at the right price, and measure your sales results. Then, change the price and measure again.

If in doubt, raise your prices. Based on my work with microISVs, you're probably charging a little less than you should be asking.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Adversity and
Software Marketing

Bill Russell says that adversity does not always bring out the best in people. This is true in the software development industry, and in all facets of our lives. Some microISV business owners respond well to adversity, and some react badly.

Russell led the Boston Celtics basketball team to 11 championships in 13 years. And he was the only basketball player to win an NCAA Championship, an Olympic Gold Medal, and an NBA Championship in a single year. In his book "Russell Rules," he delivers a bunch of advice that can help business people of all types, including those of us who spend our days immersed in software marketing.

Russell disagrees with the popular wisdom that we should treat adversity as an opportunity. He believes that this leads to a victim mentality in which people who have been mistreated might believe that they are powerless. Russell urges us to take control of every situation, regardless of how it was caused. Russell believes this to be a positive action on our part, and not just a reaction to the events that are going on around us.

We need to be resilient, Russell explains, and respond to the problems that affect our business and our lives. Problems happen. What's important is how we respond to them.

Our businesses will have highs and lows. We need to be flexible, and not become distracted by the ups and downs that will always be part of business – and of life. That's good advice for microISVs who cope every week with the stresses of software marketing.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Navigating a
Software Website

"Navigation isn't just a feature of a web site; it is the web site."

... quotation by Steve Krug from his book "Don't Make Me Think"

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Marketing Remarkable Software

According to Seth Godin, author of Purple Cow, the opposite of "remarkable" is "very good”.

"Very good is an everyday occurrence," Godin explains, "and hardly worth mentioning."

Godin urges us to create a product that Saturday Night Live could spoof. If Godin were writing software marketing advice for microISVs, I believe he would be coaxing us to create applications that computer trade and consumer magazines would enjoy writing parodies about.

Godin believes that good marketing is when you change the product, not the advertisements. In addition to changing the product, it never hurts to find a slogan or positioning statement that is remarkable, too.

Boast about something that's true. You'll sell more software.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Software Quality is in the
Eye of the Beholder

Software developers often assume that their notion of "quality" is perfectly aligned with the ideas about quality that their prospects and customers hold. Don't make such an assumption.

This type of advice comes from Robert A. Lutz, the former President and Vice Chairman of Chrysler Corporation, and the author of "Guts - The seven laws of business that made Chrysler the world's hottest car company."

Lutz believes that customers define quality as the addition of new things, and not as the removal of flaws from your company's product or service. Lutz also remarks that customers can believe that your product has a high level of quality, even if they see it as neither useful nor practical.

Based on his work in the automobile industry, Lutz believes that people will often choose a delightful product or service, even if it has some flaws. Such a product or service will be a better seller than a flawless one that doesn't delight your target audience. I'd guess that Lutz would urge microISVs to weave innovative features and benefits into their software.

Charm, fun, and romance. Lutz says that our definition of quality should include these fuzzy concepts. That sounds like good software marketing advice.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Nurturing Profitable Software Customers

Philip Kotler devoted a chapter of his excellent book "Kotler on Marketing" to acquiring, retaining, and growing customers.

Kotler defines marketing as the science and art of finding, keeping, and growing profitable customers.

Generating leads, Kotler explains, involves identifying the target audience, gathering leads, and qualifying them.

A suspect (versus a prospect) is somebody who might be interested in buying your software, but who might not have the money or need.

Kotler urges us to calculate and track Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) and Customer Lifetime Profits (CLP).

Affinity marketing means targeting a group of prospects, and trying to sell them your software. While Kotler doesn't particularly address the software development industry, I'm confident that he would say that affinity marketing might be as simple as adding a medical dictionary to your existing software application, and targeting doctors and other health practitioners. But few things in life are ever that simple.

You can turn customer complaints around, Kotler explains. Studies have shown that 34 percent of customers who have major complaints will buy again if their complaint is resolved, and 52 percent will come back if their resolved complaints were minor. Responding to these complaints quickly notches up these percentages dramatically.

Kotler believes that cultivating long-term customers has a lot of advantages. You can cross-sell and upsell to them. In the software development industry, this might mean becoming an affiliate of another microISVions, and offering its applications to your customers. And upselling involves encouraging your customers to upgrade from the standard version of your program to the professional or enterprise version.

It takes less effort to complete transactions with existing customers, Kotler believes, because they're familiar with your products, communications, emails, and procedures. They're more likely to recommend your programs to their friends and business colleagues. And they're less price-sensitive because they've developed a relationship with your company.

Kotler tells us that most companies lose money on some percentage of their worst customers. If you're getting some customers who require too much tech support, for example, find out why they're buying from you, and do something to change that.

Kotler says that if you want to keep these customers, then educate them, so you're not spending as much time supporting their efforts. Or raise your prices so it's worthwhile dealing with them. If you don't want to keep these customers, then send them to your competitors.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Writing Software Marketing Messages

In her excellent book "Words Fail Me," author Patricia T. O'Conner gives us writing advice that we can use in our blogs, newsletters, website pages, and in all of our writing.

Carve out enough time to write well, O'Conner advises. Write when it's time to write. Don't wait until you feel inspired. Start writing, and the inspiration will flow. I agree with O'Conner. The best cure for writer's block is to start writing. Write something simple, and you'll soon feel comfortable writing the complex material.

Realize that your first draft will have a lot of rough edges. "Write a first draft as though you were thinking aloud, not carving a monument," O'Conner tells us.

Every sentence has to be understood by the people in our target audience. When I can't find a way to explain something to every subgroup in my target audience, I find a way to send people, niche by niche, to pages that are tailored to them. I talk to the tech people in tech talk, and I talk to business people in simple business English.

Intelligible sentences are always more effective than cute or clever ones. It's simple to write flashy or complicated sentences. It requires real work to write clearly and crisply.

Take breaks, O'Conner tells us. They're part of the writing process. I believe that they're part of software marketing.

Work hard, she urges. It pays.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Customer Centricity and Functional Silos

Fifty-two percent of marketers say that the biggest roadblock that they encounter when trying to make their company more customer-centric is the structure of their company. According to a report from SAS and the CMO Council, as reported in Direct Marketing News back in 2013, the companies' "functional silos" get in the way of putting the customer at the center of all of their marketing efforts.

In the fifteen years that I'd spent doing application development work for two Fortune 200 insurance companies in the 1970s and 1980s, I experienced first-hand the barriers that today's marketers are encountering. Back then, the Sales Department wasn't convinced that the people in the Marketing Department knew what they were doing. Neither of these departments paid too much attention to what the home office administrative departments had to do to process and maintain the insurance policies that the marketing and sales people created and sold. And most new computer systems were frowned upon by the end users' managers because these systems were designed to save money by reducing head-count. Absent annual head-count growth, it was hard for VPs to build their empires and increase their perceived value to the corporation.

Today's microISVs have a huge advantage in their competition against larger software development companies. These larger firms suffer from the same types of internal battles that prevent firms from becoming more customer-centric. One- and two-person microISV outfits, on the other hand, can ensure that the customer remains the main focus of all of the companies' activities.

Take advantage of the agility of your microISV. Focus on your customers. Since happy customers are the greatest source of income in the coming years, it makes sense to use your nimbleness to ensure that your customers get the attention that they deserve.

Monday, September 28, 2015

Feedback from Software Customers

The two most important questions that you can ask your customers are "How are we doing?" and "How can we do better?".

Michael LeBoeuf calls these the two platinum questions in his book "How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life." LeBoeuf tells us that relative quality as perceived by the customer will determine our long-term success.

Figure out a way to measure the quality of your product or service. Create a questionnaire or launch a telephone survey. Ask customers how you're doing. LeBoeuf suggests that we ask questions such as -

  • Did we listen to your questions and concerns? 
  • Were we attentive and polite? 
  • Did we understand what was important to you? 
  • Would you purchase from us again? 
  • Would you recommend our firm to your friends and colleagues?

If he were in the software development industry, LeBoeuf might suggest that you also ask product-specific questions such as -

  • Did our website describe our software well?
  • Did you have any problems downloading or installing the application?
  • When you ran it for the first time, did you know exactly what to do?
  • Did anything in the program confuse you or frustrate you?
  • Were the help files helpful?
  • Why did you almost not buy the software from us?

Be sure to ask questions about future sales of your software -

  • What new features would you like us to add to our application?
  • What might persuade you to upgrade from the Standard version to the Professional version?
  • What new applications would you like us to develop?
  • What other platforms would you like to see our software run on (Windows, Mac, Android, iOS)?
  • Would you prefer to pay for upgrades each time there is a major new release, or would you rather pay an annual fee and receive upgrades each time we add new functions? 

Be sure to contact customers whom you've lost, and get their feedback, too.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Future of
Desktop Application Development

There's far too much pessimism about the future of the Windows desktop/laptop software market. Truth is, small independent software vendors (microISVs) have a bright future for designing, programming, and marketing business applications for the Windows desktop/laptop market. Here are some considerations to keep in mind as you're planning your future software development projects.

The economy will help microISVs

The worldwide economy continues to recover. And with this recovery will come more opportunities for small software development companies.

Forrester Research recently predicted that global IT spending will go up in 2015 by 8.1 percent. They say that software is the leading spending component in IT spending.

As the economy expands, more companies will hire knowledge workers. And these employees will need desktop and laptop computers to do their work. Increased hardware sales will drive more software sales. And that's a formula for success for microISVs.

Will knowledge workers use smartphones and tablets at work instead of desktop and laptop computers? Some will. Most companies, however, cannot decrease their employees' productivity by giving them tiny screens and toy, on-screen keyboards.

As the economy grows, more and more companies will be hiring system designers and programmers to develop in-house systems. As more programmers are hired by larger companies, fewer competitors will be available to create the one-person startups that are the basis of the microISV economy. With fewer competitors, microISV income will rise.

The mobile market and microISVs

Lots of software developers have started developing apps for the smartphone and tablet markets. Programmers are grimacing and using the primitive app development tools that simply don't measure up to the development platforms available in the Windows desktop/laptop world. These same developers are trying to ignore the depressed, depressing retail prices that they'll get for their apps in the iOS and Android marketplaces.

As more microISVs turn their backs on the Windows marketplace and move to mobile development, the microISVs who continue to develop Windows applications will find fewer competitors. And that means more income for the successful developers who stay in the Windows world.

Cloud computing and the desktop/laptop market

Cloud computing continues to gain more market share. The industry experts who project continued growth in cloud computing ignore the impact of the handful of security scandals that will no doubt occur in the coming months and years. And it's uncertain how the marketplace will shake out as more and more developers create hybrid apps that will run in the cloud and also run on local devices, from smartphones and tablets to desktops and laptops.

As more developers move their applications to the cloud, the microISVs who remain in the Windows desktop/laptop market will have fewer competitors. Again, fewer competitors could result in increased income and profits for successful microISVs who remain in the world of Windows.

The Internet of Things (IoT)

In the coming years, you won't have to ask your daughter if she spent two minutes brushing her teeth before bedtime. Her electric toothbrush will go online and transmit that information directly to your tablet or smartphone.

With the Internet of Things, many of your appliances, devices, and automobiles will be communicating with you in real time. In addition to receiving tweets from your cousins about what they ate for breakfast, you'll also be receiving feedback from your toaster about the food that it prepared for your family.

Gartner predicts that by 2020 there will be 25 billion devices connected to the IoT. While most of these devices will be deployed by home users, Gartner predicts that manufacturing (15%), healthcare (15%), and insurance (11%) will contribute substantially to the Internet of Things.

These IoT devices won't program themselves. Thousands of microISVs will be creating software for intelligent appliances. And that means fewer competitors for microISVs who continue to develop for the Windows desktop/laptop platforms.

Wearables and microISVs

Juniper Research predicts that the wearable technology market will take off in the next few years. Between 2014 and 2016, Juniper tells us, shipments of wearable devices such as smart watches and glasses will be about 130 million units. That's about ten times larger than the 2014 baseline number.

Sales of wearable devices are low, Juniper explains, because there are privacy, legal, and social problems that need to be resolved. And a lot more marketing work has to be done to convince people that these devices aren't just toys, but necessities.

Google Glass has the potential to become a huge force in the marketplace. Put on your titanium-framed glasses, and tell Google Glass what you want. To take a picture, simply say the words "take a picture." Receive navigation information and driving directions on your eyeglass screen. Ask questions aloud, and your wearable device will do a Google search and put the results on your lens. Let Google Glass translate phrases in real time into a different language.

Last year, Forbes Magazine published an in-depth article about the emerging sports wearable device market. They studied 34 companies that have released devices, and predict that there will be many winners and losers among these contenders. "The companies that can build a platform around helping their target customers reach their goals will win. Customer intimacy and tightly integrated technology and services that meet these needs will be ultimate winners."

All of these wearable devices, and the thousands of additional devices that will be released in the coming months and years, will require intensive programming efforts. And as more and more systems engineers leave the desktop/laptop marketplace to work on wearables, the companies that are positioned to develop Windows applications could be in stronger financial shape than they are today.

The bottom line

The Windows desktop/laptop marketplace is in decline. But it's not falling like a stone. It will continue to remain strong for many years to come.

Now is the time to learn more about cloud computing, the smartphone and tablet markets, the Internet of Things, and the wearables marketplace. But this is not the time to panic or jump quickly from Windows to other platforms.

Plan now for a time when the desktop/laptop market will be problematic for microISVs. But that time is not coming for a few years. Don't throw away your experience with Windows development tools, your customer base of Windows software users, and all of the other tangible and intangible assets that you've created in recent years because of the unfounded notion that Windows sales will dry up tomorrow. They won't.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Clever Software Sales Messages

People tend to remember the most clever part of your sales presentation. So says Jay Conrad Levinson in his book "Guerrilla Marketing Excellence - The 50 Golden Rules for Small-Business Success." And Levinson's principles apply to software marketers and to all of us in the software development industry.

Because people will remember the most clever part of our marketing messages, we need to be certain that the clever message is also the critical message that leads to the sale.

Levinson urges us to make sure that the information about our product or service is the only thing that we present in a particularly cute manner. We need to motivate prospects to close the sale. We're not there to amuse or entertain our prospects.

Being clever is okay. However, there are some attributes of a sales message that Levinson believes are much more important. I've translated the author's ideas into the language of the software development industry.

  • Surprise software prospects with your marketing message. Tell them something they don't already know - something useful that will make their home lives more pleasant, or their work lives more productive.
  • Clarity is important. Be clear about benefits. Unless you're selling a technical application to power users, avoid tech talk that might confuse your prospects.
  • Involve the reader. Use second-person writing (you/your/you're words) to paint your prospects into a word picture in which they can envision themselves benefitting from using your application.
  • Make them think. Stimulate their minds. Cater to their curiosity.
  • Demand that they take action. Ask for the sale. Tell them to buy now. Quantify how they will benefit by using your application.
  • Be credible. If prospects don't believe your sales message, they won't reach for their credit cards. Motivate them to buy with a professionally-written explanation of your software's benefits.

Writing a clever software marketing presentation is bad if it takes attention from your software's main benefits. Being clever can be good if it makes your software sales message memorable.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Copycat Software Marketing

"When everybody else is doing it, don't," said Robert A. Lutz in his book "Guts – The seven laws of business that made Chrysler the world's hottest car company."

Lutz is the former President and Vice Chairman of the Chrysler Corporation. He has useful insights about marketing, including notions that can help microISVs sell more software.

Following the herd, Lutz explains, can result in disaster for your company. In most cases, the prudent decision is to not get caught up in the currently popular fad. Translated into the software development industry, I believe Lutz would tell us that the world doesn't need another me-too application.

Lutz talks about alternatives to following other firms. One technique that he found useful for Chrysler was paying a lot of attention to detail. Make customers and prospects think that, if your company spends a lot of time ensuring that each small thing is done properly, your company is probably equally passionate about ensuring that the critical things are done right.

Never be confined by what is currently being done in the industry, Lutz urges. Instead, try to find a category buster – an idea which, if implemented intelligently, can put your company at the top of your software niche.

Lutz believes that our brands should be known for excellence in one or two specific areas. Never try to be all things to all people.

That's a great software marketing strategy, too.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Worry-Free Software Development

"Worrying is rehearsing for failure."

... quotation by Charlie Jones and Kim Doren from their book "That's Outside My Boat"

To learn more about worrying, or to learn more about the book by Jones and Doren, visit my Software Marketing Glossary.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tips for Selling
More Software

In face-to-face selling, you must stop talking once you've sold your product or service to your prospects. If you continue selling after the prospect has made a buying decision, you risk losing the sale. Never oversell.

Stop Overselling Your Software

You can lose Internet sales if you oversell, too. When your prospect clicks your "buy now" link, they most likely have their credit card in hand. They're ready to buy your application.

Don't fill your "buy now" page with additional sales information about your software. Your prospect has already decided to become your customer. Send them to your eCommerce company's order form, and close the software sale.

Stop Confusing Software Buyers

Confusing your prospect can lose the software sale just as certainly as overselling can. Don't confuse your website visitors with tech talk. Your prospects don't have to understand the underlying technology to buy your software and use it to solve their business problem. Unless you're marketing power tools to network managers, data administrators, and computer consultants, don't get bogged down in technical details. Sell your software's benefits.

Don't Bore Software Prospects

Advertising guru David Ogilvy says that you can't bore prospects into buying your product or service. Expert salesman Joe Girard, no doubt, would agree. Girard suggests that you say something such as, "Have you sold yourself yet, or should I continue to tell you more?”

Include "buy now" links throughout your website's sales presentation to accomplish the same goal. Sell your application software. But never oversell it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Selling your Niche Software

Some software developers believe that their software targets such a tiny, specialized market that it makes no sense to blog about it, or write about it on Facebook or Twitter. Not so say Ann Handley and C.C. Chapmen in the case study about Indium Corporation in their book "Content Rules."

Indium manufactures and markets solder paste. And they have had a lot of success with blog postings and with social media sites. Before you decide that your software is too arcane for a blog, or that it targets a market that is too vertical to attract an audience on the social media sites, then I have two words for you - solder paste.

Indium does a good job of tracking their blog metrics. As a result of their blogging work, the number of their new contacts has increased by 600 percent.

The best bloggers, Handley and Chapman tell us, are good listeners, and not just good writers. These bloggers have to understand the problems that customers and prospects are trying to solve. The key to success for Indium is to have their bloggers write like real people, and not like salespeople.

If you love your software, then write about it on your microISV's blog. It's good software marketing.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Start with your Strongest
Software Sales Message

The first words that people read are the most important. Choose these words well.

Or as Patricia T. O'Conner says, "Don't start out by clearing your throat."

O'Conner is the author of the book "Words Fail Me - What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing." If she were writing about the software development industry, I think O'Conner would say something like, "On your web site, don't start by saying something vapid like 'Welcome to the Widget website'".

Similarly, don't talk about your mission statement. Instead, deliver your strongest software marketing message first. Or say why your prospect needs to buy your software.

Sell. Talk about your application's most powerful benefit. Say why the features that you offer will help your prospects.

O'Conner suggests a number of alternative ways to start your sales message:

Summarize your sales presentation.

This makes sense. Since your main message is "buy my software application," you could start with a summary of how the prospect will benefit by using your software.

Start with an anecdote. 

This might work - if you're sure that you understand your target audience, and you're sure that you know how to tell your prospects a good story.

Provide a description.

Tell prospects what your application does. That's what most software developers do. Unfortunately, most microISVs deliver a description of the application's features. Describing a rich mix of both benefits and features is a more effective way to sell your programs. Or talk about how your application solves a problem.

Regardless of how you structure your sales message, start by describing your strongest benefit. Explain why your application is different from - and better than - your competitors' software.

Monday, August 31, 2015

Software Developers Should Stop
Giving Away Freebies

Too many software developers give away their products and services for free. While there may be times when it makes good economic sense to give away your software, you should be looking for ways to turn free products and services into money-makers.

Free Software Applications

There are some perfectly good reasons to spend months developing a software application, and to distribute it for free. You can use a freebie as a loss-leader for the standard and professional versions of your application. You can use your free software to drive traffic to your website. You can use your free application to generate adware and other revenue.

There are also a lot of bad reasons for giving away your programs. Make sure you're not offering software for free for the wrong reasons.

Some developers create an application, try to market it to the world, and fail. Out of frustration, they provide the software for free, or release it as an open source program.

Before declaring your software application to be a loser, you owe it to yourself to understand why it wasn't a financial success. Perhaps you need to apply some creative marketing to your program to turn it into a moneymaker.

Put the program back into beta testing, and ask your testers why they believe that you weren't able to sell it. Watch in silence as your friends, family members, and neighbors try to install the program on their computers. See if they run into technical or logistics problems. If they're confused, then a lot of your prospects may have been befuddled, too.

Search the Internet for similar programs that are being offered for free or at bargain-basement prices. Compare your program's feature-set with your competitors' offerings, and add more features if needed.

Find a better way to describe your software. Ensure that the people who use your trial version have expectations that line up realistically with the features and benefits that your application delivers.

Examine your program's characteristics and your marketing efforts exhaustively before you consider giving away your application.

Free Software Features

Many software developers give away too many features in the free version of their programs. As a result, they have hundreds or thousands of users who haven't paid them a cent, and who are receiving all the benefits that they will ever need from this type of application.

Remember that the free version of your application is a marketing tool for selling the standard and professional versions. The purpose of the free version is to show the buying public that you offer a family of well-designed, well-executed applications. Don't give away so many features that software buyers don't need to pay for the income-producing versions of your software.

Free Lifetime Software Upgrades

Don't offer free lifetime upgrades to your software. If you talk with successful microISVs who have been in the software development industry for a decade or more, they'll tell you that the majority - the vast majority - of their income is generated by selling software upgrades to happy customers. Without exception, these successful entrepreneurs will tell you that you should always charge for upgrades.

It's tempting to use free lifetime upgrades as a way to differentiate your software from your competitors' offerings. The value of these free upgrades, however, appears to be larger in the developers' minds than in many prospects' minds. Most software buyers know that the chances of a software developer being in business six or eight years in the future are low. Buyers know that the value of a free lifetime upgrade guarantee is not huge.

In addition, many software buyers have found that their software application is no longer being offered a few years after they bought it. The Widget program has been replaced by Widget Gold, a new program that isn't covered under the discontinued program's lifetime upgrade guarantee. Buyers have been burned, and they don't perceive a free lifetime upgrade policy as having a lot of value.

Offering free lifetime upgrades may generate a few more sales at the beginning. But this policy will cause an ever-increasing financial drag on the company in future years.

Free Software Support

It's usually a good idea to offer free technical support for the software that you sell, especially if you're selling your programs to consumers. Most software customers expect to receive free support for the applications that they buy.

With business software, however, you might be able to turn technical support into a profit center. Business software buyers expect to receive ordinary support for day-to-day problems. But if your program is a mission-critical application for a particular business, the company might be willing to pay for an annual support contract or for some other type of premium support.

For a price, offer 12-hour turnaround on support tickets instead of your usual 24-hour turnaround. Offer telephone support in addition to email support. Offer to assign an account representative to your customer. Find a way to deliver product training and support that your business customers will find valuable, and market that service aggressively.

Free Multi-User Licenses

Many microISVs price their multi-user and site licenses with the small business customer in mind. By concentrating on small businesses, software developers often sell their larger licenses to larger companies at prices that are far too low.

Software developers have two pricing models to choose from:

(1) Some developers create price bands whose per-user cost decreases as the number of licenses increases. For example, a single-user license costs $25, two through five licenses cost $23 each, six through ten licenses cost $20 each, 11 or more licenses cost $18 each, and a site license is priced at $450.

(2) Some developers create packs. A single-user license costs $25, a 5-pack costs $115, a 10-pack costs $200, and a site license is priced at $450.

While either of these pricing scenarios might be attractive to the owner of a small business, they're an absolute giveaway to larger enterprises. If you're selling to large corporations or nonprofits with hundreds of employees, the pricing regimens described above would mean that you're offering your application for a few pennies per user. Looking at it from a different perspective, under these scenarios you'd be getting a fair price for the first 10-or-so copies of your application, and you'd be giving hundreds - perhaps thousands - of copies away for free.

Be sure that your pricing bands or pack prices include an attractive profit margin for huge institutions that buy enterprise-wide licenses. Stop giving away hundreds or thousands of copies of your program for free.

The Bottom Line

You work hard to create and support your software applications. Stop giving away your software unless there's a compelling reason to do so.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Use Routine microISV Emails
to Sell More Software

When you send routine correspondence to your customers, be sure to include a sales message for your software. Whether you're sending a receipt for the credit card payment that you just processed, or a reminder that the customer needs to renew their annual support contract, the email that you send should include an offer for another product or service.

In addition to my press release writing and delivery services, I also have a "Rent Al's Brain" service in which I spend four hours analyzing a website, prioritizing concrete suggestions and actionable ideas for optimizing the website to sell more software. When I email a customer a "paid in full" message for their credit card payment for a press release emailing, I always include a suggestion that they rent my brain. And when I'm emailing a receipt for the "Rent Al's Brain" service, I always remind my customer that I offer press release writing and distribution services.

Every microISV should do something similar with the invoices, receipts, newsletters, and other routine correspondence that they send to their customers.

Invite customers to buy another of the programs that you offer. Suggest that they upgrade from the Lite version to the Standard or Professional version. Mention the availability of multi-user and site licenses. Nudge them to buy copies of your software as gifts for friends, family members, and business colleagues. Tell them about other microISVs' software that you offer on an affiliate basis.

You don't have to write a long sales message. Here are the two most common messages that I paste into invoices for my two most popular services:

  • There are hundreds of editors who could print a press release about your software. We've recently added hundreds of new music, video, photography, and other multimedia editors. We have women's, parenting, and lifestyles editors. And, of course, we have computer, business, education, game, and programming editors.
  • Rent Al's Brain. For $299(US), I'll spend four hours analyzing your website. I'll give it a sales makeover that will turn it into a sales machine. Visit for more information.

Even if you don't think that it's appropriate to send a sales message to your customers with your routine correspondence, find a way to invite them to do something that strengthens your business. Ask them to follow you or like you on your favorite social media site, to subscribe to your blog's RSS feed, or to request your monthly newsletter.

Be sure to take advantage of every contact point that you have with your customers to promote and market your software.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Social Media Collaboration
Campaigns for Software Developers

A well structured, well executed social media collaboration campaign might increase your software sales. Unfortunately, only ten percent of enterprise social collaboration campaigns succeed.

A couple of years ago, Anthony Bradley, a group VP at Gartner, studied campaigns across a variety of industries. "The underlying reason for the low success rate," Bradley explains, "is usually that the organization did not provide a compelling cause around which a community could form and be motivated to provide their time and knowledge."

To succeed, Bradley suggests, marketers need to develop a plan that will define the audience that they're trying to reach. In addition, marketers need to define the result that they're trying to achieve. If you can provide your target audience with a goal that they can support, they'll rally to your efforts on the various social media groups.

As with most social media marketing campaigns, it's not enough to develop a cute tag line and a so-so call-to-action message. Marketers, including software developers, need to figure out what's important to their target audience, and create a message that draws prospects in and makes them want to participate.

Your social media collaboration campaign can be launched on one of the huge social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook. Or you can run your campaign on a home-grown web page that you've built to encourage your stakeholders to participate in discussions about your product or service. Encourage your customers, prospects, friends, and suppliers to use your forum or newsgroup to talk about your business and its products.

You may be surprised to learn that your customers aren't using your software the way you thought they would be. In their book "What Were They Thinking?" authors Robert M. McMath and Thom Forbes found that the marketplace is full of surprises. When you launch a new product, you may find that your buyers aren't the people you thought would be your buyers.

For example, Kleenex was initially launched as a cold cream remover. Sales were not very impressive. But the Kimberly-Clark marketers found that people liked the idea of having disposable paper handkerchiefs, and they repositioned Kleenex. Since their repositioning, sales have been enormous.

Similarly, Liquid Downy was developed by Procter & Gamble (P&G) as a way to soften diapers. Before long, customers started using it to soften all of their washables. So P&G repositioned the product and sold quite a few bottles of Liquid Downy.

By creating a community for your customers and prospects to discuss your software, you can get them to share ideas about how your software can be used in the real world. And that could result in increased software sales.

In 2001, before the social media sites became the huge force in the marketplace that they are today, Faith Popcorn and Lys Marigold encouraged marketers to create a community for consumers. "Connecting your female consumers to each other," Popcorn and Marigold believe, "connects them to your brand."

The authors devoted a chapter of their book "EVEolution - Understanding Women - Eight Essential Truths that Work in Your Business and Your Life" to the topic of getting your female customers to connect with each other.

Women connect to other people - at home and in the workplace - better than men do, Popcorn and Marigold tell us. Take advantage of this by creating a brand that brings women together. The authors say that a brand can become the glue that connects women into communities.

The book cites a study that declares that women are three times more likely than men to recommend a brand to friends and colleagues. Help women connect to each other, and they can tell others about your software.

Popcorn and Marigold insist that they are not talking about word-of-mouth marketing or relationship marketing. This isn't about putting a simple "tell a friend about our software" link on your website.

It's about creating a genuine community around your brand. Weight Watchers did this. They transformed dieting from a private act to a public one.

Use the social media sites, or create your own website where people can discuss what they're worried about and passionate about. If the site is centered around your software brand, then you can get prospects and customers to join your brand.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Targeting Prospects and Customers
for your Software

"Before you build a better mousetrap, it helps to know if there are any mice out there."

... quotation by James Donnelly, Jr. from his book "Close to the Customer"

To learn more about targeting prospects and customers, visit my Software Marketing Glossary.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Overcoming Procrastination
in Software Sales

No salesperson wants to hear you say, "I want to think it over." While this objection comes up a lot in face-to-face sales, it's even worse online. The Internet turns your software website into a procrastination machine.

Joe Girard, the author of "How to Close Every Sale," tells us that people procrastinate because they are afraid to make the wrong decision.

Girard knows a lot about sales. The Guinness book of World Records named Joe Girard "the world's greatest salesman." He sold 13,000 cars, with no fleet sales and no leases, in just 15 years. He knows a bit about face-to-face selling.

Translating Girard's ideas into the world of the software development industry, it's not just the $30 that you charge for your software that your prospects are concerned about. They also worry about the time that they'll be spending on it, as well as the fear that they might discover a better application next month. And they worry that their software-buying decision might be challenged by friends and colleagues. Take away prospects' fears and at the same time build up your software development company's credibility. You'll increase your software sales.

Enthusiasm is contagious, Girard explains. So is hesitation. The microISV's website has to enthusiastically talk about their software. Convince people that they need to start benefiting from owning your application. Urge them to buy.

I'm confident that Girard would tell you that it's good for your customer when you deliver a powerful sales presentation. You're helping your prospects by pushing them to make the right decision - the decision to buy your software. Don't be shy about it. And that's why believing in your software is so important to your being able to sell it effectively.

One approach to avoiding procrastination is to appeal to prospects' egos. Tell them that they're competent and important. They're certainly important enough to make a decision about buying your affordable software application.

Tell prospects that they deserve to enjoy the benefits of using your program. Parents make decisions every day about how to best educate their children. They should be comfortable making the decision to buy your program. Similarly, business managers and entrepreneurs make important business decisions every day. They have the authority to buy a site license for your application so they can increase the productivity of everybody in the office.

On the web, software developers need to anticipate procrastination, and deliver a sales message that encourages prospects to buy. Now.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Software Developers' Content
and Software Sales

By managing content creatively, companies - including software developers - can increase their sales. So say Ann Handley and C.C. Chapman, the authors of the book "Content Rules." The book's last ten chapters are case studies of how various companies used content successfully to promote their businesses and increase sales. Here are some insights about how one company uses content to increase its revenues.

This company creates three or more blog postings every business day. They also create videos, webinars, reports, podcasts, and free tools. Some of their videos have had tens of thousands of YouTube viewers.

The authors cite a Forrester Research study that says that an optimized YouTube video is 50 times more likely to show up on the first page of Google results (versus an optimized web page without a video).

Talk to your customers, the authors advise us, and write for them. Find out what kind of content they're interested in, and deliver it in the formats that they enjoy most.

Connect your blog and your website. Use a common design, and make it easy for prospects to move back and forth between them.

End each blog posting with a link to a specific piece of content on your website. The company in the case study claims that implementing this strategy tripled the number of leads that their blog generates.

The authors advise us to create a variety of content for our readers, including news, lighthearted articles, and longer thought-pieces.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Software Development Business
Lessons from Microsoft

For decades, software developers have had a love-hate relationship with Microsoft. Those of us in the software development industry love Microsoft for giving us the operating systems that have allowed us to build our businesses and feed our families. These operating systems have also caused us serious problems, from pulling our hair out to destroying perfectly good keyboards.

In 1997 Julie Bick, a former senior product manager at Microsoft, wrote a book entitled "All I Really Need to Know in Business I Learned at Microsoft - Insider Strategies to Help You Succeed." Her business primer provides some good insights that will help one-person independent software vendors (microISVs) succeed.  Here are some of her Microsoft-based ideas about running a software business:

Learn from your Mistakes

Bick tells us that Microsofties (the term of endearment that employees use to describe themselves and each other) are dedicated to learning from their mistakes.

"Microsofties relentlessly study their underdog products, failed marketing programs, and missed forecasts," Bick explains. "This is not to assign blame or prove why it was someone else's fault. Many of the company's best lessons have come from failures. Microsofties figure as long as they lost all that money, mind share, or market share, they may as well learn something from it."

microISV owners would benefit greatly by following this Microsoft practice. Too many microISVs draw the wrong lessons from their failures and mishaps. The software development forums are littered with superficial discussions about marketing and business failures, and many developers seem to be learning the wrong lessons from these conversations.

One developer will post a question such as "I've been thinking about buying a display ad in a magazine to promote my application. Has anybody tried buying display ads? How well did it work?"

Another developer responds, "I tried it last year, and I lost my shirt. I'll never do it again." And a chorus of other developers thank the responder for the advice.

Truth is, there is absolutely no marketing or business information to be gleaned from a conversation like this one. Was the developer whose advertisement failed in a growing software niche, a mature niche, or a declining market? Did the developer advertise in a well-targeted technical magazine, a general computer publication, or a business journal? Did the advertiser have any experience writing headlines and sales messages? Was the display ad's artwork professionally executed? Did the ad's call-to-action attempt to sell the software, or did it encourage the reader to download the trial version?

Without knowing more information than is usually included in these forum discussions, it's impossible to learn enough about the advertiser's failure to know if other developers might suffer the same fate. Studying failures requires a lot of work. It's dangerous to perform a superficial analysis and draw conclusions about how to best spend your time and money.

Don't Punish Failure

Microsoft's employees are not punished for failures, Bick tells us. The company believes that allowing people to fail makes it easier for people to take risks on future projects.

Often, people who run 1- or 2-person companies are too hard on themselves. Herb Cohen, the author of "Negotiate This," calls this the Personal Pimple Principle. "We judge others by what they have accomplished," Cohen explains, "whereas we judge ourselves based upon how far we have fallen short of our potential capability."

Learn from your mistakes, but don't beat yourself up if you've created problems. Everybody makes mistakes. Learn from them, and do better next time.

Listen to your customers

"You can imagine or guess what your customers think of this or that product or service," Bick tells us. "But there's no replacement for asking them directly."

Most developers' websites don't include their support phone numbers. I believe that this is a serious mistake, for a number of reasons.

It's possible that the trial version of your software has a major problem. And if you encouraged phone calls from your software's users, you'd find out about it much quicker than by continuing with the feedback regimen that you're now using.

If you welcome your customers' phone calls, you can ask them why they bought your software. You can inquire about why they almost didn't buy it. You can query them about improvements that they'd like to see in your application.

What if listing your phone number on your website results in your getting lots and lots of support phone calls? You'll find out what's wrong with your software, allowing you to correct the code, or explain better how to use your application. And you can always remove your phone number again, and reduce the number of annoying support calls.

At Microsoft, most marketing managers must take their turn on the product support lines, listening to Microsoft technicians dealing with customers' complaints. Try this in your business, too, by welcoming tech support phone calls.

Think Big

Microsoft likes to think small. Microsoft's "small," of course, is what microISVs refer to as "big."

Microsoft's philosophy is to run individual business units like small microISV shops. Sure, they have huge marketing budgets, and oodles of money to spend on research and development (R&D). But employees are empowered to act like they own the product that they're developing.

Microsoft's ability to make decisions at the individual business unit level, Bick tells us, means that Microsoft can compete effectively with nimble microISVs.

Compete Intelligently

Bick quotes Microsoft's Vice President Chris Peters on the topic of changing the rules: "You usually can't win by doing the exact same thing as your competitors, but ten percent better. You need to change the rules to get ahead. Offer something else."

This attitude is even more important for microISVs.

Think Ahead

What features should you add to your application next month? Next year? Bick tells us that at Microsoft, the management team is encouraged to think "three moves ahead."

They think about competitors, customers, and partners. All of these parties will react to whatever Microsoft does. And before Microsoft implements any change, their management team thinks through how these people will react - and how Microsoft will respond to their reactions.

Fill Real Needs

Microsoft is always looking to fill unmet needs. They've figured out that there are great rewards for being the company to "get to a new platform, paradigm, or even country first with something customers want."

Remember, however, that even the smallest operating unit at Microsoft has access to R&D resources and marketing money. Be realistic when assessing what it will take for your microISV firm to break fresh ground and create a new category of software.

Openly Alpha Test and Beta Test

Microsoft tries to interact with customers and prospects before developing new software.

Microsofties aren't afraid to show prospects early versions of their software, even if there is missing functionality and an assortment of bugs. It's better to get reactions from prospects to your ideas, Bick explains, than to try to figure out everything while locked in your office.

The Bottom Line

Learn from your peers. But be open to learning more about Microsoft's management process. Adopt the ideas that Microsoft employs if these ideas would make sense in running your software development firm.

For more software development business and marketing ideas, visit my Software Marketing Glossary.