SoftwareMarketingResource

Software Marketing Resource Articles: 2009

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

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Writing Web Copy

The most perfectly crafted web copy will not do much for us if we do not take the time to do some Search Engine Optimization on the final design and layout of our webcopy.

Most of us, after spending some time working on writing copy, become myopic, and loose the ability to be objective about our work. I mean really, we spend a day or two writing and editing the perfect sales pitch. We run it by some family members and friends who tell us it is the coolest thing since sliced bread. We are convinced the copy writing effort will pay off. In the back of our mind, we wonder if it might even be Award winning copy. And it very well may be. In fact, we assume the copy cannot get any better, so we turn it over to the engineering staff to be put up on the website....Hooray!

But now, guess what? It is time to brace ourselves. Do we know what is coming? Our baby....the work we gave all our mental energy to, is about to be picked at, teased apart, added too, modified with new key words, optimized, with new paragraph headings added, and perhaps even a new title. Our masterpiece is coming under the SEO spotlight. The thing we did not realize is that the quickest way to cripple our advertising message on the internet is to forgo the search engine optimization of our content. What is the key phrase density? Do the meta tags meet the goals of the SEO team? What is in the top line of text? Will it need to be changed? At this point, we find ourselves compromising. Why? Because web copy and search engine optimization are two critical partners in our future profitability and success. We cannot do one without the other and expect our website to generate real profit.

If we write an article or web page that has a Key Phrase focus, it will sound odd, forced, and not quite right in the readers mind. The compelling and urgent copy that will cause the reader to move to a “Call to Action” will not be there. It is best to write a compelling, heart felt article that helps the reader, by providing information, solving a problem, or taking them to our shopping cart. After the copy is done, let the SEO experts review, suggest, and improve the copy, to reach the goals of the copy that were set out in the first place.

The perfect copy writing is producing copy that is compelling and leads readers to a call to action, and also makes use of all the SEO tools available. This is where discipline and experience come into play, Those new to the business fail to realize the importance of combining expert copy writing with expert SEO to create the perfect blend.

Expectations, that is what it is really about; we need to have the proper expectations that no matter how good of a writer we are, the SEO review will make the copy better. Even if we complete both steps ourselves, we need to know when we have on a copywriter's hat and when we have on an SEO hat.

We MUST understand the painstaking hours of labor and incredible attention to detail that go into coordinating an entire website marketing campaign. And that's what most new marketers completely miss when they're just starting out trying to drive traffic and business to their sites.

Killer Copywriting + SEO = Higher Sales Conversions!

Pat Holman is the CEO of iXod Conversion Marketing, an Internet Marketing firm.
Pat Holman
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Thursday, September 3, 2009

ASP Launches New Blog

The Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP) has launched a new blog. The first post, "What would you do differently if you had to start your software story again" is the first in many from the wide reaching shareware community that make up the ASP's membership. Ive been a long time ASP member, and recently an ASP board member, and have found it invaluable for the professional software developer. Read the ASP Blog here
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Affiliate Site Blueprint

Dr Andy Williams is offering a free Affiliate Site Blueprint.
This course includes an 180 page manual and 15 videos and it's free!

The following videos are part of the Affiliate Site Blueprint Course that you can download or read online.

Video 1: Getting Niche Ideas
This video explores a number of ways to find ideas for your niche sites.



Video 2: Merchant Reconnaissance
This video shows you how to check up on merchants in your niche. Are there any, and are they any good?



Video 3: Is there a demand?
There’s no point creating an affiliate site if there is no demand for the products in the niche. This video shows you how to check the demand of a product (and niche) before you do all of the hard work.



Video 4: Keyword Research
How do you know what people are searching for? This tutorial shows you how to use the power of Wordtracker to find exactly that.



Video 5: Deciding on main pages
This video looks at how to choose main pages for your website.



Video 6: Creating a Site Blueprint
This video looks at setting up a site blueprint, so that your site can be mapped out before you start the hard work of adding the content.
Being organized in site development will speed up development time.



Video 7: Finding Low Competition phrases
This video shows how you can easily find the low competition phrases in your keyword research database. These low competition phrases make excellent starting points in building a site as it is possible to rank highly for them relatively quickly.



Video 8: Question Phrases
One of the best ways of ensuring your content is valuable and informative is to answer real questions asked by real searchers. This video shows how to find those phrases.



Video 9: Sources of real questions
This video shows you a number of sources of real questions people ask in your niche.



Video 10: Finding theme words in your keyword research
Proof that themeing your content is coming in a later video, but for now, how do you find the best words to use to theme your content? Well this video shows you one method that uses your existing keyword research.



Video 11: Mining Top Ranking pages for theme words
In the last video I showed you how to find theme words in your keyword research database. In this video, I show you how to mine the top ranking pages in Google for a much more comprehensive list of highly targeted and relevant theme words.



Video 12: Exporting a Site Blueprint
This video shows you how to export a site blueprint from KRA Pro so that you can do something useful with the blueprint – create the content.



Video 13: Proof that themeing works
This video shows real data from my own sites highlighting the effectiveness of themeing in getting targeted traffic to your web content.



Video 14: One Large site? No problem.
Do you want to build one large site in your niche? This video shows you how to select the main categories for your site.



Video 15: Smaller Niche Sites?
If you want to build smaller niche sites, that’s easy too. Just specialize in a small part of the niche – this video shows an example.



Get the Affiliate Site Blueprint
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Thursday, August 20, 2009

Affiliate Summit Wrap-Up

When summer rolls around again it always means two things, one bad and one good. The "bad" is that most software vendors experience a dip in sales over summer as our potential customers, at least those in the northern hemisphere, get out of the office and work on their suntans. The "good" is that it's convention time, a chance to catch up with people you only know from exchanging emails and forum posts.


Last month was the Software Industry Conference (SIC) in Boston, which is the must-go conference for independent software vendors. Mark your calendars now for SIC 2010 in Texas and you might just catch a presentation on software promotions by yours truly!


If you didn't make it and want to get a feel for what it was like then check out these presentations that our friends from Avangate have shared:


This month we were in our home town of New York for the Affiliate Summit. If you haven't been before the Summit, held twice yearly, is a large conference with a low entry price, and draws from all sectors of retail who sell online. Sunday kicks off the conference with the Affiliate Meet Market, which is a hectic free-for-all networking event, exhausting, but worth it. Many e-commerce vendors and affiliate network programs made a showing this year, but special thanks go to Denise and Rick from Digital River for throwing their exclusive cocktail party just for us software people to get together. The rest of the conference was the traditional booths and seminars.


The Affiliate Summit publishes their own survey of over four-hundred and fifty affiliates after the event. The report features dozens of charts of data, based on the responses from the participating affiliates. Also included, an uncensored view into the opinions of affiliates on a variety of other subjects. Affiliates were asked to share any complaints, ideas, suggestions or opinions they have regarding affiliate marketing. Plus there are some great resources for affiliate marketers: a glossary to explain industry terms, as well as lists of suggested message boards, blogs, and Twitter accounts that you should know about.


You can download the report or visit the affiliate survey website.


If you're just starting out as a software developer and wondering if you can justify the costs of travelling and going to a conference, then I'd say that almost all of them have been worth it for me. Putting a face to a name really cements a relationship and I always take away something unexpected and new.

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Software Industry Conference 2009

This year's 2009 Software Industry Conference was no disappointment. With some great speakers and great company it was an excellent chance to put some faces to names that we knew only by email and newsgroup postings.

This year we spent a lot of time talking in the hospitality suites, here's who was on hand:


Nico and Roger hang out in the BitsDuJour exhibition booth on Friday night. We had a lot of familiar faces and some new ones stop by, a really great night.



We had some tasty "bytes" on offer on the exhibition night too.



Nico chats with Oliver Grahl, who tops the BitsDuJour leaderboard of top sellers for PDF Annotator



Mike Dulin cracks jokes at the ASP Luncheon.



Most of the e-commerce providers were on hand at the SIC this year. We caught up with the new e-commerce company UpClick.



Rik Roberts shows how a real man should perform at the Shareware Industry Awards.
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

Don't Reinvent the Marketing Wheel

Stand on the Shoulders of the Giants

In this time and age, each and every company is trying its best to be different. Innovation seems to be the name of the game and entrepreneurs are literally scratching their heads to be original, creative and off beat in their sales and marketing strategies. And of course, the call of the times is to have a unique selling proposition, out-of-the-box strategies. But I can’t help but wonder why entrepreneurs single-handedly have to do all the spadework. Can’t they take reference from the past? And most importantly, doesn’t this question call for a passing thought at least?

In simple words, the entrepreneurs need not ‘reinvent the wheel’ again and again. Just look out, what your peers and predecessors have done. Examples will be in plenty. If that’s not enough, check out some renowned books written by distinguished sales and marketing gurus. Almost all the marketing strategies will find a mention here.

Have you heard of the phrase ‘standing on the shoulders of the giants’? The dictionary meaning says “Using the understanding gained by major thinkers who have gone before in order to make intellectual progress”. Don’t you think this is the best way out.

Some of the well-known books that entrepreneurs can peruse include,

- The E-Myth by Michael Gerber

- Magnetic Marketing by Dan Kennedy

- Meatball Sundae by Seth Godin

- Duct Tape Marketing by John Jantsch

All of them are great read; hopefully you like them and most importantly help you expand your Business.


Bridging the Gap between Actual Offer and Sales Copy

You are all set to open your sales innings on an encouraging note. And you have already crafted a grand sounding sales copy for that purpose. The best things being you are pretty sure that your copy will strike a chord with the prospects.

But as someone said, Man proposes and God disposes, your sales efforts fall apart like a pack of cards. The buyer has out rightly rejected your offer. But wasn’t your sales copy fool-proof, then why was this red-light shown.

While not disputing for a moment, about the brilliance of your sales copy, however, there may be a combination of factors that may have contributed in this deal going awry.

Flaunt your price-tag- Never, be ashamed about the price of your products. Customers or prospects simply don’t flip through the pages, ignoring the price element, for the simple fact that price has a fundamental role to play, before a sales deal is finally closed. If your sales copy is really good, then be rest assured that you have hit the bull’s eye. However, don’t go about feeling sorry for you have given your product a price tag that it’s worth of.

Clear-Cut Offer- Be sure that you mention the price. Furnish complete details of the products and services you are offering and any additional bonuses you are planning to unfold in the future.

Purchase Options: Give the prospects a variety of ways to order: phone, fax, mail, online. The more diverse you make, there are chances that you will receive more offers.

Payment Options –Present different kinds of payment methods. Purchasers are keenly interested in knowing the various payment options available.

Contact Information: Some brilliant marketing messages have been dumped as the prospects have failed to find the contact details

Don't miss your sale at the offer point.


How to attract Your Prospect to the Sale

Did you ever try to figure out why your customers are not reverting back, when you are sending them some attractive marketing offers? May be he (she) hasn’t even taken the pain to read your offer. But what more can you expect from the customers, who are flooded with more than 3,000 marketing, messages. So it is but natural for them to dump each and every marketing offer that comes their way

There are certain marketing filters you need to take into account, before the customers start reading your copies and are ready to communicate with. Here are the steps:

Step 1- Know your customers- This makes the message more targeted and helps you draw his (her) attention. And your customers or prospects will get a feeling that you deeply care for them.

Step 2- Keep a tab on the customers- Make it a habit to take follow-ups with your customers, probably you will be able to strike a better deal.

Step 3- Give value to your customers- Every marketing message that you are putting out should be from the prospects viewpoint. It should bring profits to the prospects first. Moreover the message that you send should do a little more than what you sell. It should educate, engage, entertain and helps your prospects some way or the other.

Step 4- Give customers due importance- Once your prospects fall in to your trap, see that you keep in touch with him(her) on constant basis. New customers and the old customers need the same kind of attention. Shower them with your attention, and see how your fortunes turnaround.

About the Author
This article was provided by Mayur Dicosta from made-from-india.com
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Thursday, July 9, 2009

UpClick Brings 0% Fees to Software Sales

There's been a lot of talk about the latest e-commerce platform to emerge on the scene. We took the time to talk to Michael Dadoun, UpClick's COO. Here's what he had to say.


1. UpClick is the new kid on the block' in a world of many e-commerce services. Why does the web need another payment processor?

You are right. There are a bunch of payment processors in the market already, but we see ourselves as much more than a basic payment processing platform. UpClick offers software vendors a one-stop solution for selling online with an economic model that makes it a no brainer for them. Before UpClick, there were basically two types of payment processors that software vendors could choose from: on one side, they could choose companies that offer a commoditized product where differentiation is low and the only factor is pricing. On the other side, they could choose a value-added ecommerce platform that (on average) cost between 7 and 15% to use. We have a different approach. Our emphasis is to create value for our customers by offering the best technologies and practices, maximizing their Average Revenue per Order with optimized cross-selling and by offering a dynamic affiliate marketplace.


2. On your homepage there's a big "0% fees" advertisement. If you don't charge any fees then how do you make any money - what's the catch?

No catch. We indeed absorb the payment processing costs and the costs of first level customer service. We make our money in 3 ways:

- We enable merchants to cross-sell products from other UpClick Merchants on their check-out pages. When this happens, we take a small commission and the two merchants split the remaining revenue.

- We offer consumers complementary products -- such as CD backup of the software they bought -- at the time of check out and/or after the transaction is approved, and split the proceeds with the merchants.

- We charge a small $1 fee for transactions generated by our affiliate marketplace (compared to up to 30% of the commissions charged by other affiliate networks).


3. We've seen UpClick mentioned in the media a lot recently, are vendors signing up?

Yes! The reaction has been tremendous and our value proposition gets our potential customers’ attention every time. Of course, we understand that changing to a new platform provider is something customers do prudently and often only after testing. However, we’re seeing a lot of traction and are actually exceeding our forecast


4. So give us the rundown, what features does UpClick's system have?

We have a long list of features and the best way to see all of them would be to visit our website. Even with all our features, one thing we’re especially proud of is our extremely simple interface. A software vendor can sign-up, upload his product and license keys, and get our innovative buy buttons to put on his site in about 5 minutes!


5. Besides the big "0%" is there anything that differentiates you from the most established e-commerce solutions such as Digital River and Plimus?

Pricing of our services is of course the obvious one, which helps our Merchants save money. But, we also enable merchants to make more money as well, through our cross-selling capabilities and our affiliate network. Merchant A can dramatically increase his average revenue per order by offering to his customers a product from Merchant B at the time of check-out, creating new revenue for both of them. Another differentiator is our geo-targeting tools that allow merchants to customize pricing per currency (ie. $19.99 in the US or 19.99 Euros in Europe, instead of the typical straight conversion that would give 14.39 euros). There are many more features that differentiate us, and as I said earlier, despite the feature-rich platform, we’ve very easy to use.


6. Is UpClick just for software sales or does your system allow selling of other products?

Our expertise is in software sales, so for now, that’s where we are focused However, we also support some related products such as ebooks, and have plans to eventually expand into membership sites (content, newsletters and even Software as a Service) and maybe some other product categories.


7. E-commerce continues to grow, even in this sluggish economy. How do you see the next twelve months playing out for software developers?

The software industry is a great place to be. It is still a growing industry. The international markets have been an area of strong growth for North American software companies and will continue to be. Consumers are buying their software online now more than ever and that trend will continue in the next 12 months.

That being said, the online selling of software is extremely competitive, but we believe that we offer the tools to allow companies of any size to compete internationally.


8. With new business models such as SaaS (software as a service) and web applications, do you see desktop software, and desktop software sales, as having a limited lifespan?

Very interesting question. Obviously SaaS is a growing segment and one that is getting a lot of attention particularly in certain markets such as Asia. We don’t see this as a threat since we will be supporting both business models in the future. Having said that, we don’t see the downloadable software market as disappearing any time soon. We believe there will always have a need for software to run, protect and maintain your machine.


9. As you work with a lot of developers, you must see people making the same mistakes over and over again. If you had one piece of advice for developers what would it be?

Keep it simple. Most of us working in technology have a tendency to try and build too much functionality into our products to a point where they become too complex for most people.


10. Will we see you at the Software Industry Conference in Boston this July (we'll be there too)?

UpClick is a proud sponsor of the SIC. We will have a booth and I should be giving a presentation on Localization and Cross-Selling. We’ll see you there!


About the Author
Michael Dadoun is the COO and co-founder of UpClick
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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Pay Per Click Marketing


PPC marketing can be a powerful online marketing channel for software products. But there are several ways to help make your marketing dollars work harder for you. For those of you that already have active PPC campaigns, here are a few tips for better PPC campaign management.

PPC KEYWORD DEVELOPMENT

Tip 1 – The Google AdWords Keyword Tool is a great starting point for keyword discovery, given that Google is very good at the keyword (kw) relevancy game. Since a majority of searchers use Google and its partners, the idea is to ‘go to the source’ for kw lists based on actual user searches. Simply input seed kw’s and Google will spit out additional relevant kw ideas. Access the Keyword Tool at the top of the kw list in any ad group.

Tip 2 – Use the Search Query report to further expand and refine your kw lists. This report has been much improved, and now displays more granular data. Focus on search queries that have received conversions, rather than just impressions or clicks. Add queries with match type showing as ‘broad’ or ‘phrase’ to appropriate ad groups. Bid based on query CPA and average CPCs.

Tip 3 – Mine Google Analytics, Omniture, or other web analytics reporting systems for kw ideas. Focus on organic kw’s that have resulted not only in clicks, but in conversions, goals, and measurable value. In GA, select Traffic Sources, then Keywords, then click on non-paid, and lastly select the Goal Conversion tab.

Tip 4 – Use all 3 match types: broad, phrase, and exact. Using all 3 match types gives the advertiser greater visibility and control into their campaigns. Add phrase and exact match for kw’s that show a high volume of impressions, clicks, cost or conversions – or for kw’s that are core to the software products that you sell.

PPC AD CREATION & TESTING

Tip 5 – Test Keyword Insertion (KWI) in text ads. KWI automatically inserts the user’s search query into the text of the ad. KWI can be used in headlines or in lines 1-2. Text KWI cautiously, and only in ad groups that exclude high-volume, broad match keywords. Example headline: {KeyWord:Morphing Software}.

Tip 6 – Set ad-serving to rotate(!) Ads must be rotated evenly in order to be tested properly against each other. AdWords defaults to serve higher-CTR ads more often than lower-CTR ads; this makes more money for Google at the expense of the advertiser. This option is found in Campaign Settings.

Tip 7 – Remember ad text basics: highlight the advertiser value proposition; incorporate relevant ad group kw’s within ad text; use a compelling offer (e.g. Free 30-day Trial) and include a call-to-action or implied call-to-action (e.g. Learn how to improve your PPC campaigns – Free white paper).

PPC CAMPAIGN STRUCTURE

Tip 8 – A simple account structure benefits day-to-day navigation, management and bid optimization. Consider separate campaigns for breaking out geo-targets, differentiating between different target metrics, or for reporting purposes. Always run Content campaigns separately. This is acknowledged best practices, since Content is an altogether different medium vs. Search.

ADWORDS EDITOR

Tip 9 – Download and use AdWords Editor (AE) for: bid optimization; ad creation and optimization; creating new campaigns; adding kw’s in bulk to multiple campaigns and ad groups; modifying destination URLs for conversion tracking, and much more. Download AdWords Editor here.

GENERAL APPROACH

Tip 10 – Start simple and small, and go where the data takes you. PPC is an iterative activity. The data determines next steps. If you started with one campaign composed of five ad groups, expand the ad groups that show click and conversion activity and leave the others for later. Over time, advance to complex and large. Expand kw’s, ad groups and campaigns based on what has worked. In terms of time and effort, feed the winners and starve the losers. This approach will help you best focus your time and make you (or your client) more money!

About the Author
Terry Whalen from CPCsearch.com, a paid search agency About Terry:
Terry is a partner at CPCsearch, a full-service PPC Management firm that optimizes PPC campaigns on behalf of its clients. CPC Search is a Google AdWords Qualified Company. Prior to running CPC Search, Terry led marketing initiatives at Citrix’s GoToMyPC.
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Friday, June 19, 2009

Why is Video Marketing so Highly Recommended?

Video marketing is considered to be one of the exceedingly clever ways to capture the attention of the potential customers. Like a blockbuster movie, if the video has an explosive start as well an explosive finish, it will undoubtedly leave a greater impact on the minds of the visitor. And of course, it brings to the table, the most fascinating aspect of TV advertising and Internet’s most praiseworthy characteristic, interactivity.

If the internet surfer finds the ad really attractive then there is a high probability that he/she will be very much drawn to the offers that you are putting across. In fact, in the recent years, online video marketing has emerged to be the most cost-efficient technique as compared to regular TV ads, given its production cost and market penetration.

On-line Video Marketing - A Definition

On-line video-marketing is a progressive marketing strategy employed by companies to advertise products and services, by use of catchy, short videos. The objective is to create awareness about a particular product and thereby allure clients into buying them. Did someone say picture speaks a thousand words?

Exclusivity of Online Video Marketing

Since the advent of TV and PC, reading has become a passé en masse. Since information is delivered at a faster rate through images rather than through text, it is natural for people to lunge for the best and smartest means of marketing communication that is video marketing.

The biggest advantage of Internet Marketing videos is that they can put the point across to the prospective customers’ much faster vis-√†-vis the traditional text format. This will save the web users from the grueling ritual of going through the whole text, in an attempt to cull out the imperative details. On the other hand, videos will help deliver the same message in half the time.
When to Use Video

Video marketing plays a prominent role especially when a company aspires to promote its products. This helps in getting touch with the customers faster than the visual advertising screened by televisions. And with large number of people turning to internet for information, internet marketing videos are playing a gratifying role in satisfying the appetite of web users need for something new, useful and exciting

Benefits of Video Advertising

If you intend to use video in your marketing campaigns, then it’s a real good idea, since it manages to leave a lasting impression on the clients as compared to other types of advertising. It attracts the web users easily and delivers the message at a lightening speed than simple text messages.

A video displays product’s use and usability. Moreover, the presence of human face and a pleasant voice will both add to its selling quotient. By using this technique, the prospective customer can easily relate to the company and the product as well.

A Few guidelines

Well, just making a video and enlisting it in a video directory won’t take you places. You need to go the Search Engine Optimization way, if you wish to turn the tables in your favour. Remember, videos are sort of big fishes for the search engines, so take your time and make a video that is sheer search-engine friendly.

Modern technology provides you with various opportunities to track traffic and analyze results. So spend some time to study the success rate of the videos, whether it is being instrumental in boosting profits of your prospects. Also, look for tools that will help you identify the time the prospect has been playing your video before tuning it off. How many prospects get drawn to your site after watching your video, posted on a different site? Now how many visitors can be converted into customers and so on.

While making the video, in addition to the visuals, the content aspect should also be given due importance. Providing in-depth information via content is as important as the visuals to attract visitors to your products/services.

Experts suggest of using videos on the first page. It’s like a business card. Tucking your video away in some corner of your website will not help your cause. Make it noticeable. Also, give your visitors the scope to skip your video. May be there’re not in mood to view it, and the last thing you want is an upset visitor.

Optimizing Videos for Search Engines

* Optimize, both for video search engines, and content search engines. The best approach being to use meta tags for the content (text) of the page where your video is placed.

* Names of the videos should be relevant. Giving an out-of the-box name, which is not related to the video, will not help in SERPs.

* Utilize keywords both in the video titles and their descriptions as this will help video search engines index your video files and link it to your web pages.

* If you are link video from other pages of your Web site, then use anchor text.

* Ensure the video files that are been submitted have a proper extension.

* Keep it short. If you can, just take 2 minutes to inform.

* SEO professionals suggest making individual video site maps, which can be submitted to both video and content search engines. Both SEs will index these site maps.

* Incorporate RSS feeds. Metadata can be incorporated here.

* Research, test, measure, report and optimize.

Endorsing your Video

• The best way to popularize your on-line marketing video is through “submitting”. The prominent video hosting sites include, YouTube, Yahoo Videos or Google Videos. The biggest advantage being that your videos will be hosted for free and they won’t take up any of your site’s bandwidth.

• Keep circulating your videos. If you want to climb up in popularity rankings, then let users link to your videos. Viral marketing video is the best means to make companies and their product and services known across Internet users.

• Add phrases like "Tell a friend" or "Visit our Web site" at the end of the video.

Conclusion

To sum it up, use online marketing video in addition to traditional TV ad campaign. Both online and broadcast should endorse one another. For one, on-line marketing videos help in information sharing, more accurately and efficiently. In addition, videos can be the single-most differentiating factor between yours and your competitors business.

The internet marketing video should be short, so that web users don’t get bored and feel enthused of what they saw. And remember, the video ads should be significantly shorter than TV ads.

About the Author

This article is written by Made-From-India.com
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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Building Customer Loyalty Through Meaningful Version Updates


When it comes to releasing an updated version of your software application, it's not enough to just concentrate on fixing bugs - you've got to strive to continually add value to your product with each release. Depending on your application's audience, every day can bring several competing software packages from developers that have had the time to inspect your application, mimic its useful features, and add useful functionality that it doesn't offer.

In order to stay competitive and build customer loyalty and market share, you need to issue periodic updates to your software that address two areas. First, of course, you need to resolve any bugs that may have been discovered since the last release - nothing slows an application's momentum than bugs that continue to thrive even after the developer has been made aware of them. But, just as importantly, you must also deliver new features that build on the strength of your application and make it even better.

Your goal should be to generate as much positive buzz for your new version as your original application did when it was first released. Think about how Apple does this with its music players - even though the first generation of iPods can play music just as well as the new ones, there remains a rabid hunger for new iPod hardware because Apple is committed to continually improving its user experience.

Constant improvement doesn't necessarily mean 24 hour brainstorming sessions, although that wouldn't hurt. Sometimes, all it takes to develop a substantive, meaningful software update is the willingness to listen to feedback from your existing customer base and incorporate the most desired functionality into the next version update. You may even be surprised when your users suggest features that you hadn't even thought of before!

When you do release your next software version, encourage your users to comment on the new features. In fact, you may want to recruit a trusted group of users to beta-test your new version before it's released. Take the time to document the changes in your release notes, starting with the bugs that have been worked out, and continuing with the new features (making sure, of course, to include the most requested new functionality at the top of your list).
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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

TrialPay, The Interview

We spoke exclusively to Alex Rampell at TrialPay, an innovate software sales service that's seen a lot of growth over the last few years.

1. What's the concept behind TrialPay?


In a previous life, I founded a software company and ran into the problem that every software company encounters: though millions of customers may download free or trial editions, only a very small percentage of customers upgrade to the full version. I ran a few promotions where customers could get his company’s software for free by signing up for a music subscription or DVD rental service—and sales more than doubled, as revenue from these transactions paid for the software.
The success of this promotion provided the inspiration for TrialPay: a bad customer for one brand may be the ideal customer for another company. The key was figuring out which customers were good candidates for which offers. TrialPay’s proprietary optimization engine connects shoppers with ideal offers and pays the merchant out of advertising revenue. Everyone benefits from this arrangement. Merchants make more sales from their current traffic, advertisers acquire new customers on a pay-for-performance basis and shoppers get a free product with every online transaction.

2. How long as TrialPay been going?

Since 2006

3. Give us some numbers, are people really using TrialPay?

More than 7,500 online merchants use our e-commerce solutions, including AVG, McAfee, Lavasoft, Trillian and more. We also work with more than 2,000 blue-chip advertisers, such as Gap, FTD, Netflix and Discover Card. More than 30 million users from around the world have registered with TrialPay.

4. TrialPay is being used for other things beside software sales, such as subscriptions to magazines. Do you see software as your focus, or just a piece in the puzzle?

We got our start in software, which will always be an important part of our business, but we’ve since expanded to serve nearly every industry. TrialPay is an effective sales and promotions tool for any type of digital good sold online, from software to dating site subscriptions to online gaming subscriptions. We’ve also worked well in the food industry—Restaurant.com and Papa John’s have both seen great results with TrialPay.

5. Are small software vendors seeing success with TrialPay, or is it just for the big players?

It’s not the size of the software company that determines success with TrialPay, but how aggressively and creatively the TrialPay payment option is implemented. For example, we have very successful software vendors of all sizes that offer TrialPay as a payment option to anyone who attempts to download a free version from their site. On the other hand, we have much less successful software vendors—large and small—that only offer TrialPay via e-mail to small groups of expired users. So it ultimately depends on where the software vendor is displaying the TrialPay option (i.e. on their homepage, in a download interstitial, as an in-product upgrade) and the amount and quality of traffic the TrialPay option is displayed to (i.e. to all Web site traffic or to a small e-mail list).

In particular, the “Download Interstitial” touchpoint has done exceptionally well. For example, go to www.lavasoft.com and click on the large green “Download Ad-Aware Free” button at the top right. This action will take you to the “download interstitial” touchpoint. TrialPay helps Lavasoft convert customers before they have a chance to download the free version of Ad-Aware by offering a compelling way to get a full, free upgrade. Lavasoft was the originator of the download interstitial touchpoint, and pretty much every software company we work with has followed suit. The results speak for themselves! (see the Lavasoft case study)

6. Are you considering integrating your service into existing e-commerce platforms?

TrialPay works with any e-commerce system, from standard online cart solutions to in-house e-commerce systems. Our plug-and-play platform is second to none in scalability and performance.
In addition to our ability to work with any e-commerce platform, TrialPay has direct relationships with Kagi, asknet AG, Mercantec, E-junkie and more, which enables simple integration for all clients on these platforms.

7. What new innovations can we expect from TrialPay?

We will continue to introduce payment and promotional tools that help any online seller increase the probability of conversion and maximize the profit of each transaction. Our new Purchase Incentives Platform is a good example of a new initiative.

8. Will you be changing your system to move into non US and European markets?

We are already in non-U.S. and European markets. We provide local, relevant offers in more than 100 countries, and localize the checkout process in ten different languages. Also, we allow our merchants to set different price points for any region of the world without showing those price discrepancies to their customers

9. How has the economic downturn impacted software sales from your point of view?

I think the economic downturn has caused customers to look for more affordable solutions for everything they buy, including software. And through TrialPay, shoppers can get a free product with every purchase. TrialPay had its highest sales day and most profitable quarter in the midst of a holiday shopping season with the worst sales drop in four decades—which validates this claim.

10. How do you see the software sales landscape changing over the next five years?

It’s becoming increasingly hard to convince shoppers to pay for digital content. As more of these products become free (from free software included on a new computer to free content available through online media outlets), shoppers’ demand for free digital content will continue to rise.


About the Interviewee::
Alex Rampell is co-founder and CEO of TrialPay
1 comments

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Improve your Apps Using Non-Technical User Feedback

From time to time, we get so caught up in the technical details of software development that we forget that potential customers, seeing the application for the very first time, may not have the same level of understanding and familiarity as we do. Seeing your build in action, debugging it, and running through the program again and again, for days and weeks on end, brings a certain level of knowledge and intimacy to your thought process. It’s natural for a developer to become somewhat detached from the typical new user experience. It's even possible for a group of like-minded individuals to completely miss a design flaw or bug that is obvious to someone who looks at the program with new eyes.

It’s beneficial, then, to occasionally test your software interface using folks who have absolutely no idea what your application is supposed to do. Without a proper introduction, run the program for someone, put their hand on the mouse, and then sit back and watch what happens. Observe how they interact with your program, listen to their questions, and pay particularly close attention to anything that frustrates or confuses them.

Does the layout of your user interface allow your user to find functions intuitively? Do the field names on your screens make sense to non-technical people? Did you start calling a form name by the name of the variable that’s populated by it, and continue to do so today, even when a plain english label would make more sense? Does the person intuitively understand how to perform basic functions without asking you how it’s done, and do those basic functions invite the user to explore more advanced ways of using your program?

Listen to the feedback provided by your testers. You may not think that a particular feature was sufficiently important to include in your build, but if its absence is repeatedly mentioned by several different testers, you can bet that potential customers will also want to see it. Be prepared to swallow your pride and implement a feature that you, personally, may not see as useful, but that your target audience wants. Consider the impact of not including it - you get your way, sure, but who knows how many potential customers will elect to use a competing software product that is similar to yours, but has this one additional feature that they really want?

You may not always need to completely overhaul the design of your user interface. Based on the feedback you receive from non-technical user testing, you may be able to address some issues adequately just by clearly explaining a process, feature, or technique in your end-user documentation or embedded application help.
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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Association of Shareware Professionals - The Interview

As a member, and recently director, for the Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP) I've found it an invaluable resource for connecting with fellow professionals in the industry. We spoke to Dennis Reinhardt about the ASP and the recent changes to the association.

1. What is the ASP and what does it stand for?

ASP is the world's premier organization of professionals dedicated to strengthening the future of shareware software marketing. It is known more formally as the Association of Shareware Professionals, a Not-For-Profit US corporation . The ASP helps software entrepreneurs and businesses learn how to improve their sales through the exchange of ideas and insights into how to successfully market software.

ASP members pool not only knowledge about selling, but also managing e-commerce, customer service, program anti-piracy, and many other challenges facing the Independent Software Vendor (ISV). Many of our developer members have few or no employees beyond the owner, so we specialize in bringing together micro-ISVs (uISV).

What the ASP stands for is embodied in its Code of Professional Conduct, which all members subscribe to. That code includes obligations to the public, customers, and the Association and fellow members.

2. What's the history behind the ASP, and what has it achieved?

The ASP was originally discussed in February 1987 during a convention in Houston Texas for Public Domain and Shareware Programmers, Software Librarians, and Bulletin Board Sysops. By September of that same year, the ASP was created, had 63 members, and established its first slate of Officers and Board of Directors.

Many things have changed in the ASP since then. Most notably, disk vendors and BBS operators have vanished, and the Internet has transformed shareware marketing into a 24/7, always available world-wide business based on the free trial models started here in the ASP. Originally a US-centric organization, ASP influence is world wide with over half our membership based outside the United States..

3. How does the ASP help software professionals?

ASP Association of Shareware ProfessionalsPrimarily, the ASP helps software professionals by providing a forum for discussion among peers. The ASP newsgroups are closed and confidential.
Many consider the newsgroup discussions the primary benefit of the ASP. The actual benefits are specific to each discussion.

However, the common membership outlook is that our businesses sell software, and growing those businesses underlies most discussions.

That said, many of our members participate in our newsgroups infrequently, or not at all. Those members receive our monthly ASPects newsletter and President's email message.

Members often offer each other member discounts. You do need to be a member to take advantage of an offer. but not to make an offer. However, it is very advantageous to be a member when making an offer because the feedback the offerer receives by following and participating in discussions about the offer is very valuable.

Start-up software companies may not have existing customers to provide feedback. Members often help each other by offering pointed website critiques and trying out software (informal beta-testing). Few things will stop a business cold more than an app which runs only on the developer's machine, and without a community such as the ASP to provide feedback, your customers may take months, to tell you of a problem, if they take the time at all. ASP members will let you know about problems with your site and application simply by asking.

It is helpful to know what services are available, and just being part of the ASP community allows you to find out what is available, and what others have done and are doing to advance their businesses.

4. Is the ASP just for developers?

The ASP's membership is drawn from all industry participants, and includes E-commerce service providers, download site operators, marketing consultants, attorneys, other software organizations, trade show organizers, developers, and other industry participants. We estimate that 90% of members are developers, but this is not a hard statistic. Developers in business for themselves are the core of our membership, but the ASP is open to all sizes of ISV, and especially micro-ISV. Several companies with capitalization in excess of $1 billion are ASP members.

Just being a developer in itself is not a reason to join the ASP. For example, some developers give away their software. The focus of ASP members is on selling software and software sales, increasing sales, pricing, anti-piracy, e-commerce providers, marketing, trial period restrictions, effective customer service, and other concerns which matter to software businesses.

5. Tell me about membership; why should I join?

If your business is based on profiting from the sale of software, the ASP is focused on your needs. Membership consists of networking with others whose business is also based on profiting from the sale of software.

The value proposition here is whether the ASP can benefit you in excess of what you invest in ASP membership. .... or whether it can save you enough time not repeating the mistakes of others. So, even if your software business is still in the planning stage with zero sales, an ASP membership can benefit you by getting your first product released to market sooner and/or with fewer mistakes.

Once they've joined the ASP, many members regret that they did not do so sooner. They report that they could have saved many months of their time knowing what they learned from the ASP.

Perhaps you are in start-up mode and working on your uISV at night, while you still continue working at another increasingly dubious employment situation. Some members are in the same situation, while others have graduated to being full-time independent software business owners. You can draw on their success, and learn to avoid the pitfalls that they've already discovered.

There are many decisions a new software company must face. Many ASP members are facing those questions right now, and are grappling with the answers.
Many other ASP members have been through these situations, often multiple times, and are more than willing to share their experience freely with other ASP members. Many of our members are not developers at all, but are industry members providing the services you may need. The ASP gives you a chance to meet these people, and approach them at a level beyond what you might accomplish on your own.

You should join the ASP because it makes good business sense to make the contacts and learn from others, rather than going it alone or depending on free resources that are not dedicated to serious businesses.

6. What initiatives is the ASP working on?

We have an ongoing web site project which is bringing new capabilities to our members. In 2008, we added many new search capabilities to our website, and extended our newsgroup access from NNTP-only to a seamless NNTP plus web-based interface.

For 2009, we are releasing a new ASP blog written by our members and starting an outreach recruiting project to insure our membership numbers do not decline during these times of economic challenge.

7. Given the rise of social networks such as Facebook, how does the ASP fit in and compete?

The ASP fits in by having ASP groups on Facebook and LinkedIn. ASP members also discuss and evaluate these social networks, providing effective hints for their use or warnings of traps, all from the perspective of sales, selling software, and the software entrepreneur. In particular, ASP members engaged in social networks typically evaluate these networks for the marketing benefit they provide, and all members benefit from such discussions and evaluations from uISV perspective, which are not typically found on the social networks themselves.

The ASP competes because the private Members-Only discussion forums are valuable. Members also receive a monthly newsletter and exclusive discounts, which are only offered to ASP members.

8. How is the ASP changing?

The ASP is continually changing in response to the needs and composition of its members. Trends in progress that we see are increasing internationalization and deployment of cross-platform applications. Some members are seeing sales slowdowns due to current economy while others are not affected. ASP members are learning what works and does not work as members report in on experiments they conduct.

One of the ways the ASP is *not* changing is its focus on helping microISVs launch and grow their businesses.

9. The ASP conceived of PAD Files (Portable Application Description). Can you tell me more about them and the ASP's role in PAD.

A PAD file is an industry standard description of a software program. There are hundreds of sites listed at http://padsites.asp-shareware.org/ which accept PAD descriptions to populate their listings.

Getting listed on a download site can sell more software, simply by putting it in front of more potential customers. However, filling out submission
forms for hundreds of sites is a daunting task. PAD automates that
process. Just create one PAD file, and then submit that to the various site PAD-enabled download sites.

The ASP defines the PAD interchange standard. That standard is undergoing continuous evolution, and the ASP Pad Specification Committee is responsible for that effort. The specification and other resources are available for free to the public at http://www.asp-shareware.org/pad/.

10. Where can people find more information and meet ASP members?

The ASP web site at
http://www.asp-shareware.org has complete information.

You can also find out a great deal about our members year-round by visiting the ASP download site, where we feature software produced by our developer members and links provided by our industry members (http://downloads.asp-shareware.org).

If you want to meet ASP members, there is really no substitute for joining the ASP and becoming a member yourself at http://www.asp-shareware.org/join/join.asp.

11. I hear the ASP will be at the Software Industry Conference (SIC) this summer. Are there any special events planned?

Our hospitality suite is next to the conference registration desk and open throughout the conference. We'll have an assortment of freebies, munchies, and beverages for everyone, and special bonus gifts for anyone who joins the ASP during SIC. Stop by early to check what we have, and meet the many ASP members who tend to congregate there.

We host an ASP luncheon, which is open to both members and non-members, and sign-up is handled as part of the conference registration process. During the luncheon, we traditionally recognize our hard-working volunteers. The 2009 ASP Hall of Fame inductees they are announced and introduced as well. Past ASP Hall of Fame inductees are listed with biographies on our website at http://www.asp-shareware.org/membership/asphof.asp

SIC spans 3 days while ASP membership term spans 365 days. You owe it to your business to get the year-round focus on growing your business that an ASP membership provides.
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Friday, May 1, 2009

Increasing Revenue and Distribution Channels Using Network Sales

Think about this scenario - would you ever shop at a mall where every store sold only a single brand of a single item? You walk into a clothing store, and all you see are rows and rows of exactly the same suit? Want to look at a different suit and compare styles and prices? Go across the hall, to another suit store, and look at that suit. Pretty ridiculous concept, isn't it? Yet, if you're not taking advantage of network sales, and only offering your product for sale through your website, that's exactly how you're selling your software application.

The core idea behind network sales is not new - you are a part of it every time you go to the supermarket, for example. Go into the snack aisle, and you'll find several tempting varieties of potato chips, pretzels, corn chips - you came for one thing, but you'll likely load up your shopping cart with two or three other items that you would not have considered had they not shared the same space. Network sales affords exactly the same benefits to your software, by allowing you to have your application marketed and sold by other developers on their own sites in exchange for revenue share and reciprocity on your own site for their products. The immediate result - increased product inventory on your own portal, wider distribution channels, and access to a vastly larger number of points of sale for your product. You'll also be receiving revenue from each sale of every item in your expanded inventory. In the end, all developers benefit from participating in network sales.

Network sales also ease the burdens for applications that are trying to forge new ground in unfamiliar markets. By participating in network sales, your software application can be promoted and marketed by partner developers that have already established a reputation of trust in their area, giving you valuable credibility that would otherwise have taken months to build on your own. Every site that features your product immediately expands the number of potential customers; instead of limiting your app's visibility to those who visit your website, your app is instead cross-marketed to thousands of people through multiple websites, every day. Some network sales partners may even promote your software products in blog posts, newsletters, and on social networking sites, in addition to their product website, giving you access to an even more diverse customer base.

E-Commerce providers, such as Plimus, have already begun to capitalize on the strength of network sales, giving you the ability to choose from thousands of products from participating vendors to offer on your site. Adding new items, or even entire categories of items, is easily accomplished with a few clicks. Registering to have your own product offered for sale by other vendors is even easier. Yet, for so little effort, you'll be opening the door to a whole new form of revenue that can have wide-ranging benefits for your own business!
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Tuesday, April 28, 2009

How to Use Twitter to Effectively Market Your Software Application


You've worked hard to perfect your application - it represents the end result of hours of planning, coding, debugging, and polishing. Now that it's done, you need to get the word out on the street about your fantastic product, especially if there are other competing apps that aim to serve the same audience.

For many developers, the only marketing effort that they will ever undertake is the development of a website that showcases their software application. This approach, however, is less than ideal because websites take a while to become established on the internet - web traffic in those first few weeks of existence will be very low, almost nonexistent, and small developers need to start making sales immediately if they are to survive to fight another day. Those sales will not be forthcoming if you're waiting for Google to index your site (it can take a while). And no matter how well-designed, your site won't have a very high search index ranking if no other sites link to it, which is highly likely since no one knows about it.

Twitter represents a real opportunity for small shop developers to promote their software, but only if your relationship with the Twitterverse is carefully established and cultivated. There is a world of difference between "marketing on Twitter" and "effective marketing on Twitter". Here are some tips on doing it the right way.

1. Register, then Follow Your Key Demographic

Your journey through the Twitterverse starts, naturally, with registering an account and profile name. Try not to pick a profile name that's overly cold and corporate, but do try to tie your profile name back to your company or the product that you're developing, so folks will associate your Twitter account with your product or service. Be sure to fill out your Twitter profile with a brief description of yourself, your product, and a link to your website.

After you've endured the arduous process of selecting your Twitter name, do a quick keyword search across the Twitter service and start following other Twitter users who do what you do, or are otherwise part of your target demographic for your software. Developing graphics software? Follow folks who are employed as graphic designers, or who design graphics software. By following their tweets, you may just learn a thing or two that makes your software even better. When you start following someone, they'll be notified, and, after sizing you up, may start following you as well. This is how you build your Twitter audience. The best Twitter networks focus on a core group of people allied together around a common theme.

2. Be Open, Be Yourself, and Use Twitter as a Sounding Board

Not counting the Twitter accounts of sites that offer breaking news, daily discount offers, and other "in-the-moment" opportunities, businesses that view Twitter as just another electronic billboard are missing the point and are often puzzled when they don't attract many followers. Successful users of Twitter attract followers because they do and tweet things that interest people, or otherwise offer a peek into a lifestyle that others may not see everyday.

You should start your Twitter account well before you plan to launch your software application, keeping your tweets professional (no vulgarity, for example) but personable, dropping hints about yourself in ways that demonstrate that you have quirks like everyone else. In other words, be a person on Twitter, and not a corporate presence or a PR intern or a robot that spews status reports about the latest build. When you reach a level of comfort with Twitter, and have developed some followers, start tweeting about your application, and how its development is progressing. It even helps to tweet about drawbacks, hurdles, and disappointments in your software development. The point is this - get people interested in you, and they will also become interested in what you do.

Keep tweeting about the progress of your application (along with the usual quirky details about your life), and you will build buzz for the application's release. If you run into a coding problem, ask Twitter! Inviting the counsel of others makes them more likely to be personally invested in your success. It also helps you to build a better network by connecting with others who may be running into the same issues.

3. Promote Your Launch and Encourage Feedback

This is where a lot of companies start on Twitter, and this is where they fail. A company will register a Twitter account, and within an update or two, they're literally screaming at people to buy their product. Since no one knows who they are, and it's obvious that they've created a Twitter presence just to sell things, they get no takers. But you, having built up a measure of credibility on Twitter, now have an audience of followers who've followed the evolution of your project from drawing board, to coding, to debugging, and now - at long last- to launch day. You may want to consider offering a discount to customers that purchase your software using a link that you post to Twitter, or holding a contest to give a free copy of the app away to your 500th follower. No matter what, it's your launch day and you should have fun with it.

Recruit your Twitter followers to help you spread the word of your launch by re-tweeting your launch announcement, and keep them updated throughout your first few days with tweets reporting how well your sales are progressing. You don't have to divulge specific numbers, but something along the lines of "Incredible first day sales! Thanks to everyone" will be appreciated, and further help to put yourself out there as a real, live person behind the Twitter account. Solicit advice and questions from those who buy your app, and be sure to respond promptly - you can use their suggestions as a starting point for the next version, which will give you even more to tweet about after the launch!

Using these tips, you can continue to accumulate greater numbers of followers, keep your existing customer base updated on your progress, provide immediate customer service, and generate buzz leading up to the release of each new version of your application.
1 comments

Monday, April 27, 2009

Ad-supported Software, the MediaCell Interview

We spoke to Josh Fox, marketing professional and founder of MediaCell about an alternative way to make your money from software sales: Ad-supported Software.

1. Tell us about MediaCell and what you do?
Media-Cell matches software publishers and developers with companies looking to distribute their marketing and research applications. This is accomplished via bundling, where the bundled applications are offered during the download/install process. Many factors are taken into account when matching up entities, including but not limited to type of applications offered, geographic distribution and volume of the publisher's download activity. We also act as coaches and consultants, as we have a vested interest in our partners' ongoing success.

2. How does ad-supported software work as a business model?
What's nice is that ad-supported software does not necessarily cannibalize shareware sales. What it does do is virtually guarantee that each download will be worth something. End users who are averse to the idea of ad-supported software may in fact be driven to purchase shareware versions of the software. The publisher can therefore, "Have their cake and eat it too." Another point to note is that software advertised as "FREE" tend to be downloaded several times more often than trial versions, so this should be taken into account as well.

3. What's the bottom line, are people making money with ad-supported software?
YES!

4. Lots of companies are experimenting with bundling software, as an Independent Software Vendor how would I go about doing this?
Provide as much accurate information about download activity as possible before getting started (volume and top 5 countries especially), as well as marketing methods currently employed or planned. A company such as Media-Cell will be able to determine the best fit for the publishers with this data, as well as give free advice for marketing and distribution based on a wealth of experience. We can also provide boilerplate scripts so the bundles can be built and approved quickly.

5. There are several companies who offer toolbars that you can bundle with your software, can you tell us about them and how that works?
I'd prefer not to mention any companies by name, but I can certainly share my general observations. Those who are willing to pay a bounty as opposed to a rev-share tend to be the more robust partners, who are confident in their business model. Rev-share = zero risk, and typically the rewards are far less predictable. Another important thing to take into consideration is that, to my knowledge, any and all of these companies are only going to pay for new installs. So if, for example, XYZ toolbar is already present on the end-user's machine, the publisher will not get credit for a new install. One can read into that what they wish, but those considering working with the widely known and distributed toolbars, etc. might wish to consider bundling applications that aren't as popular (so long as they pay well, of course).

6. How do you see the online software sales landscape changing, especially given the economic crisis?
There has been a steady migration toward the ad-supported freeware model. Many folks just aren't willing or able to pay for software any more unless they absolutely must have it, and publishers who used to be dead-set against this model are coming around to the idea.

7. How does software bundling play into international sales, does it work well in emerging markets?
Publishers in emerging markets have shown by far the most enthusiasm for this model, particularly those with applications that are popular in the countries that pay well, typically US, Canada & EU.

8. Ad-supported software clearly works well for online software as a service, do you see it working inherently better for that model?
I would say yes, but some hardware companies have been getting into a similar model for quite some time now. An example would be new, brand-name PCs being distributed with trial or lite versions of software titles.

9. Some people may view using ads as a turn-off to customers, what rules can you tell us for getting it right?
Be up front with your customers and offer the free, bundled versions alongside the shareware. Also, though many bundled applications are allowed to be required installs, the best advice is to make them optional during the install, keeping in mind that most people will accept and click NEXT anyhow. Choose bundled applications that are easily removed via the add/remove programs menu, and those that follow TRUSTe guidelines are a safe bet. There will always be a certain amount of false-flaggings by some AV software, so it's important to make sure that they are actually false and you aren't distributing nasty applications.

10. Do you see ad-supported sales superseding regular software sales any time soon?
From what many publishers have told me personally, this has already happened. However, this may depend greatly on the type of software being offered.


Josh Fox works for Media-Cell.net. He adds: Please feel free to contact us directly via our website, if you'd like to partner with us.
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Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Faces of Technology Journalism

By Evgenia Kolobukhova, SoftPressRelease


For a long time I have wanted to share my idea of a present-day IT-journalist. Here are three generalized images of a today’s typical characters from Germany, the USA and Russia. Please read between the lines, and you will see that the images are quite typical.

Let’s begin with Germany. It is really pleasant to deal with German editors: the employees are polite and professional. If the person you need is absent at the moment, you will be asked to call again at a given time (e.g. Friday, 11 o’clock) or they can even call back themselves no matter where you live. Well then, here is the first image.

Friedrich Hoffmann 
Munich, Germany
33 y.o. 
Ziff Davis Online Publishing, Internet Professionell, PC Professionell, PC Welt

I am a wiper by profession!
Friedrich Hoffmann

Friedrich Hoffmann avoids talking about himself without reference to his work by all available means. In his opinion, what is private should remain private. But he shared his tales about his professional activity and his thoughts about IT-journalism of today with pleasure. 

What kind of education do you have?

I graduated from the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich. My major was “Journalism”, and my minor was “Political Science, Sociology and History of Arts”. But I did not start working at once, as I had to take two years’ break in order to do non-military service in a Hamburg orphan asylum.  

And what happened afterwards? Weren’t you disappointed with your profession after a long break and a change of occupation?

Of course, there were a lot of various thoughts in my young head, but I have always felt that it is my vocation to work with the word. I was 23 when I began to look for a job consciously and, as a result, started my career.  I was employed as a PR specialist by a company, which dealt with developing b2c and b2b program solutions for financial management. That experience was really valuable. I got a lot of new knowledge about software market, the current state of the World Wide Web and its business potential. I became more and more concerned by the problems of IT branch. I promoted the products of that company till 2005, and I naturally made some contacts with targeted magazines and main news portals. 

Therefore, you were invited to join editorial staff?

Not exactly. I am not officially employed. Along with my main job, I became a freelance writer: I wrote articles that were bought by some magazines quite willingly. Soon I began to get orders from magazines, and I decided to quit my job and to commit myself to journalism. 

What are your articles about?

About various things – networks, network security, web-design, Internet-marketing, freeware. But the core of my interest is still the social aspects of the Internet: social services, web 2.0 etc. By the way, in 1996, when still going to college, I had written the first German articles dedicated to flirtation, acquaintance and love online long before they became a part of our life.

I know that you also write books. How do you manage to find time for that? 

I guess it cannot be helped. Every journalist writes books, as everybody gathers unique experience in the course of his life, not excepting you or me. And everybody needs to share this experience, but a journalist feels this need stronger than anybody else. I satisfy this need with writing books. One of my books on marketing has already been translated to four languages and is successfully sold in Europe. It means that my experience is instructive for somebody! 

What can you say about the present-day technology journalism? You must reflect on your profession a lot. 

I am a wiper by profession! Everybody is surprised to hear it, but I am going to explain myself. It is commonly considered, that only a “pro”, which has worked in a technical department of an IT company for several years, can work as an IT journalist. So, if you read any IT article, it will be either boring or difficult to understand unless the subject is directly connected to your work. There is too much dust in IT journalism, and somebody needs to wipe it away. That is what I deal with. And, judging by my readers’ comments, I seem to be quite a good contemporary wiper, which wipes the dust properly. 


***


The US. American journalists differ a lot from their German colleagues. First, magazines’ sites contain a great amount of information, which is often irrelevant and difficult to sort out. When you make a call to editorial office, most likely you will hear a cushioned female voice of the answering system, which will make you play a quest game named “If you would like to… then push…” When you eventually manage to talk to somebody, you will be asked to write to the editor’s e-mail, which has been inactive for a long time (as you will tell them later). Though, it must be an “entrance threshold”… and, due to this, overcoming this mental barrier will seem even more rewarding. And here is the second portrait. 


Kevin Gordon
California, the US
45 y.o. 
Computer Shopper, Computer Power User, The Washington Post, New York's Computer Click

I am most likely to be a musician.
Kevin Gordon

Kevin, please tell us about your job. How did you become an IT journalist? 

With pleasure! I live in California, in a small town named Humboldt City, together with my daughter and my wife. Besides, we have plenty of companions: a parakeet, two lizards, a cat and a dog. Our house is not big, but we have managed to transform the basement into a studio: you know that I am keen on music! I adore drums and all percussion instruments. I am a member of a music band and compose music for computer games. 

Amazing! And, in addition, as a journalist, you have one of the most hectic professions!  How do you cope with everything? 

I have excellent leadership qualities and some work experience in a computer company. I got employed as a technical support service manager while still studying at college, proved to be a good employee and became the head of copyrighting department after graduation. In that software company I got deep technical knowledge, and now I possess qualifications, which are virtually exceptional for an IT journalist. 

And what kind of education do you have? What college did you graduate from? 
 
My work is not actually connected with my education. As I have already said, I got my technical knowledge in an IT company, not at college. I took bachelor's degree in a college of journalism, and later I became Master of Psychology in another university. 

Where can we find the examples of your articles? I could not find them on your web site. 

What for should they be there? It would merely provoke copyright violation. I give examples only in private correspondence. The site contains only the most important information: the topics (databases, office technologies and flow of documents, various solutions for business and networks) and the types of my articles. And if you are too lazy to write, use Google then. 

Where do you find yourself? What is your vocation – a journalist, an IT person or a musician?

I am most likely to be a musician. I try to spend every free minute in my studio. But journalism is music, too, so to say – it is the music of words, and you should play it in such a way that those you write for would hear it and listen it up to the end. 

But why do you write about software and high technologies? Why not about music or psychology? 

Because I find it very interesting. In general, all my knowledge, experience and hobbies help me in writing about IT. I have already mentioned music; and psychology helps me understand my readers. I am good at writing for a common user. Look, what Rob Winfried, the former technical editor of a major publishing house, wrote about me: “Kevin’s main advantage lies not in his technical knowledge, but in his ability to understand the level of his readers’ technical knowledge and to write his articles according to this level. There are too many technical writers around us, and very few of them can transform the IT world into several paragraphs, which will take the reader away to an amazing journey…”


***


Russia. It should be noted, that today’s Russian IT journalists are quite adequate, civilized and intelligent. They are analysts, who literately express their expert opinion on market problems. They are vivid personalities, who actually create public opinion and influence it greatly but skillfully, aware of the scope of responsibility. 

As for editors, the situation is not so ideal, as in Germany. When talking to a secretary, who is willing to share her frustration, you feel like you are talking at least to the God. But it refers not so much to journalism, as to the service standards in Russia.

Now, meet our third character. 

Gennady Abuzov
35 y.o. 
Moscow, Russia

For many people “freelancer” means the same 
as “unemployed”, but for me it is the new level 
of a man’s professional actualization. 
Gennady Abuzov

How did you engage in journalism? Why was it IT journalism?

I deal with analytics, because I consider it an intellectual and rewarding work. That is why I have something to say, and that is why I am a journalist. Analytics is a field where one can approve oneself, apply the stored knowledge and, in addition to this, develop further.  

What would you like to come to?

To my own business. I am a manager by education and deep in my heart. IT market is greatly dynamic and bears a powerful business-charge, so it attracts me by all means. 

Do you work as a freelancer?

I do, but in the sense of being able to control my working hours as I see proper. I am an independent artist, so to say. I do not take orders. In general, our society has a strange attitude to this word, as for many people “freelancer” means the same as “unemployed”, but for me it is the new level of a man’s professional actualization, no matter what is his profession – a manager, a writer, a translator or a toast-master. When somebody can organize himself and his time in such a way, when he chooses himself what to do and bears full responsibility for his choice, such a person would manage with any duties in any staff, even if he does not appear at the office. 


***


As a conclusion, I would say that it is difficult to overestimate the role of a journalist in the present-day consumer society. Without those who can speak, those who should hear would never hear anything. The communication with them is getting harder, as more and more people try to use mass media for the purpose of their business. Journalists are humans above all, no matter what country or field they work in. Never forget about it. Take into account and respect your interlocutor’s peculiarities, and you will be treated likewise. 



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