Software Marketing Resource Articles: May 2009

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

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— 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 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
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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.

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 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

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

The ASP web site at 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 (

If you want to meet ASP members, there is really no substitute for joining the ASP and becoming a member yourself at

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

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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