Software Marketing Resource Articles: January 2004

You wrote the code, now how do you sell it?

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Top Ten Tips for Writing a Shareware Press Release

Sending press releases to computer editors is still the most cost-effective way to promote your shareware. Here are some tips that will increase your chances of getting your press release published:

10. Talk about your program and your trial version, but don't use the term "shareware". To the magazines, shareware is software published by companies that don't buy ad space. All magazines will tell you that there is a wall between their editorial and sales departments, and that the editors don't think about your becoming an advertiser when they're deciding which press releases to print. Some walls are stronger than others. Don't mention shareware in your press release.

9. Spend a lot of time writing your tag line. Editors usually need a tag line to serve as the title of your press release. If you write a good one, they'll use it. Often your tag line will jump out at you as you're writing the press release. Sometimes your tag line can be lifted directly from your web site, or from the program descriptions that you've written for the download sites. Make it short and snappy. Being descriptive is usually better than being clever.

8. Telephone only those editors whom you consider to be friends. Before you send them your press release, if you call editors who are strangers, you're going to annoy them because they don't have the information they need to carry on an intelligent conversation with you. If you call them after you've sent the press release, and ask them if they've gotten it, read it, and are going to print it, you're going to annoy them even more. Your press release must be a stand-alone document that tells your entire story. Telephones are for ordering pizza.

7. Tell the editors where they can find you. It's okay to work in an office. It's okay to work on your kitchen table. It's not okay to work in your car. If the editors don't even know what country your company is based in, they're not going to tell their readers about your software. You need to give them more than your e-mail address and url. It's best to include a full postal address and a daytime phone number (even if it's connected to an answering machine).

6. Focus on a single product. If you have light, standard, and pro versions of a program, put all of the emphasis on the product that you expect to generate the most profit, and briefly mention the others in a single sentence at the end of the press release. If you have two unrelated programs, write two separate press releases.

5. Write simple copy. Organize your thoughts before you start writing. Begin by writing an outline of the key items you need to cover (tag line, introduction, key features, contact information). When you write your press release, pretend you're talking to a friend. Use common words to make simple sentences. Vary the sentence structure by including a few second-person sentences. Write in the active voice.

4. Write tight copy. Never repeat yourself by saying the same words, over and over, redundantly. All things being equal, eliminate meaningless cliches.

3. Send press release copy, not an operations manual. You only have a few sentences to tell your story. If you find yourself describing what happens when you press F3, then you're moving down the wrong track.

2. Send the editors press release copy, not ad copy. If you hype your software, the editors won't print it. They're not going to say that your software is the greatest or the fastest or the most powerful program in its class. And they're not going to say that it has set a new paradigm. If you include this kind of writing in your press release, the editors will rewrite it (very unlikely) or trash it. Sales hype is perfectly appropriate on your web site, but it won't work in your press releases.

1. Send press releases! The reason the computer magazine editors wrote about your competitors' new software is because your competitors sent their press releases to the magazines. Editorial space is free. Now is a good time to write your press release and send it to the editors.

article provided by DP Directory

since 1984, Al Harberg has been president of DP Directory, Inc., a marketing firm dedicated to helping software authors bring their programs to market. You can visit Al on
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Thursday, January 22, 2004

Seize the Internet!

For many years, libraries have been regarded as the 'ultimate source of information and knowledge', yet so many people use them for other purposes. They are used as social and cultural forums, community centres, meeting places, entertainment venues, and even for warmth and shelter. The same may be said of the internet - the fairly recent version of this ultimate resource for individuals and businesses alike. The internet is certainly used for entertainment and social purposes, and offers much in the way of social functions and communication. However there's so much more to it than that, and so much more that any individual or business, and especially software developers, can utilise. It's there for the taking.

When it comes to opportunity, the newsgroups would seem to be one of the more neglected areas of the internet, especially by software developers. First of all they're a superb source of current information and public opinion, but that's only the beginning. They offer the developer two opportunities - advertising and exposure. A great forum for announcing new software, new releases, upgrades and updates... the newsgroups also offer you the opportunity to be seen as an expert in your field. Not only do you get the chance to be seen, but to be seen as an authority in the areas of your choosing. Use this tool wisely, and its benefits may be immeasurable. There are a few dangers though - make sure that you follow the rules and etiquette of each newsgroup; you don't want to be labelled as a SPAMMER, and irritating people is no way of improving your image. Going on from this, be careful what you say, and how you say it. Your comments and manner will reflect on your company and software; never forget this. My own opinion is that it's the wise man who sits and listens first, and only speaks when he has something to say. When he does so for long enough, people lean forward to hear him.

Discussion lists
Joining a discussion list is another invaluable way of raising your profile and establishing a reputation as a knowledgeable source. Don't go in for blatantly selling your product as soon as you get a chance; the person that runs the list will not take kindly to having their work hijacked for your own free publicity, and neither will the readers. But it is a great way to establish yourself as a knowledge source, and depending on the list moderator and rules, you should be able to get your signature at the end of every posting. At the very least this should contain your website URL and email address. If you're lucky you might even get your slogan in there too. Your signature is another frequently overlooked tool - at the end of every single email and newsgroup posting you send, get your essential contact details in there. Don't waste any opportunity to be noticed. The same rules apply as to the newsgroups - be professional and courteous at all times, and if you don't have anything to say, don't say it!

Constantly the source of much debate as to their effectiveness, the general consensus is that banners are a dead or dying media. Nonsense! The banner lives - and can also be a vital part in your software marketing strategy. There are free and commercial options available in abundance; but the level of success will be mainly determined by how carefully targeted your exposure is. For example, let's say you had an image editing application, and decided to invest a little in some banner exposure. Having it at the very top of CNN's home page would increase your exposure almost as fast as it would empty your bank account. But how many click-throughs do you think it would get? If, however, you were at the top of the home page of a clip-art site, the exposure rate would be both slower and infinitely more productive. You'd be sure to get more clicks and visitors at a far lower price. The common mistake is to think that having your banner up on a low-traffic site is a waste of time; rubbish! Targeted exposure is more effective and usually cheaper. A thousand exposures at $25 per thousand costs the same whether delivery takes an hour or a month.

Exposure tactics
With creativity, imagination and a little bit of boldness, there's very little that can't be achieved. Don't just think of what options are available - make them happen. Setting up a software give-away, where X copies of your software will be sent to X randomly chosen names is sure to create interest, and bring people to your site. People love getting things, and so many are hard to come by, expensive and illegal! If it's free, they want it. Make sure your site has more to offer than just information on your software. Would you buy a magazine that only had adverts in it? Probably not. But when the content of the magazine is good, people will buy it, and see the adverts. If your site only contains info about your software, it'll probably get a fairly-fixed number of visitors each month. But throw in some useful information, resources, software giveaways etc. and more will come. The Cascoly Software site is a perfect example; as well as screensavers and clipart, their site also contains sweepstakes, contests wizards, online games and more - and I guarantee that their site gets more visitors than the author who only offers a sales pitch. Don't go for links pages though - I can't stand them, and when's the last time you looked through one properly? Old and outdated - move on.

In a way the most neglected of all aspects - the internet is one big pile of information. And lots of it can be useful to you. Use it to see what's popular on the software and shareware sites, where your own products stand in the big picture, and what the competition are up to. Chances are you're not getting around to it - but it's useful and worthwhile. On the first day of every month I write a report on the previous month. Everything. Achievements, failures, wasted opportunities, site statistics, the whole thing. If I didn't do this I'd have already thrown away a few opportunities that have proved to be VERY worthwhile. Do you go through your site statistics in detail? If not, you might be missing some invaluable information. Referrer logs alone can be worth their weight in gold. There's an awful lot of useful stuff out there - use it. Never be content where you are today; be ambitious. Think big. Expand. When you read the biography of the Bill Gates and Richard Bransons of the world they always speak of where they started... but they consistently expand, take risks, think big and move. Diversify, expand, and seek out new opportunities. Don't wait for them to come to you. Seize the opportunities that are out there, and start with what's under your nose. Seize the internet. .

article provided by Shareware Promotions

Thursday, January 1, 2004

Software Marketing

Marketing is about creativity. Outside of posting shareware on download sites there are numerous promotional opportunities available to independent software developers. The first thing that I’ll mention is developers need to take full advantage of their existing resources. Marketing or advertising should not be considered an expense. If done effectively, sales should exceed any time or advertising investment undertaken. Recently Dave Collins from Shareware Promotions created a graph to represent the increase in traffic that a customer of his had experienced while using Dave’s services. A picture is worth a thousand words and it can be very effective in attracting new customers. Is your application one that will save time, help students learn faster, increases office productivity? Can that information be represented in a graph? Do you have real life testimonials, or information about how existing customers are using your software to deal with every day business? White papers and customer testimonials can often be instrumental in attracting new customers.

Software developers need not look far to find inexpensive or free external resources for promoting their software. Buyers Guides are excellent, yet underused promotional vehicles. A number of different industries produce annual or semi-annual Buyer Guides to assist their readers in finding products that may interest them. Typically these guides offer a generic free listing or upgraded listings for a fee. Buyer Guides tend to have a long shelf life and can generate long term traffic.

User Groups are another excellent promotional source. Most User Groups conduct SIGs or Special Interest Groups. These groups usually meet monthly and address a different topic each month. Frequently they will distribute software promotional material in exchange for a door prize or group discount. Discounts are a great way to target specific markets. Consider providing volume discounts or discounts to specific sectors. I have found that the non-profit community is particularly sensitive to discounts and will often recommend, or promote software to others in the non-profit sector if you provide some sort of discount.

Another great way to increase sales is to consider partnering with other software developers that offer similar or complimentary programs. The co-promotion can be as simple as reciprocal newsletter promotion or as complex as integration or software bundles. The promotion should be designed to benefit both authors.

Additional items that are more commonly discussed that can be used to inexpensively market software are affiliate programs, link exchanges and newsgroups. Recently I have encountered resources that assist with monitoring these items. Name Protect monitors domain names and trademarks. Reports are generated monthly and show the number of site links, and the availability of similar domain names. Tracer Lock allows Deja News to be monitored for specific keywords. Email notifications are sent daily if indicated keywords occur in Deja archived posts. Bravenet is another free resource that has been very effective in generating referral traffic. A refer a friend” script can be added to websites and Bravenet monitors the number of customers utilizing the script during given time frame.

Overall there are a number of creative ways available to software authors to promote their wares outside of the traditional download channel, don’t be afraid to experiment and consider other approaches, you might be surprised.
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