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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.

4 comments:

Dmitry Pavlov said...
Hi, ASP co-members!

I think that ASP should be translated and start looking for ways to promote yourself in such countries like Russia, Ukraine, India, China, etc. In these countries there are a lot of developers, ISVs and many of them are producing a huge amount of shareware. Translation will help to bring them to our association I guess. Not all devs read in English (or like to do it) enough to join ASP.

It should be VERY clear described that joining ASP every member can get valuable benefits that he/she can't get in other places. For example Microsoft BizSpark program is real benefit. But discussions between members - not (we can chat on a billion web forums without ASP). Discussion is good itself but not the key feature to pay for. Selling software we have a difficulty like updating software catalogs with new versions of our products. That would be nice if ASP will take care about submitting our PAD files to set of important catalogs. Let say - to Tucows.com, Download.com, etc.

So as a conclusion: to be popular ASP should take care about member's products selling. Help to get discounts for tools we use to develop. There is should be clear reason to join ASP - "I will join ASP and it help me to buy equipment cheaper, to sell it faster and make my status higher."

Hope that helps!

Thank you,
Dmitry Pavlov
Dmitry Pavlov said...
Also you mentioned that ASP has a group on LinkedIn. Could you please share the link to this group - I can't find it on LinkedIn.

Thank you!
Nico Westerdale said...
sure it's

http://www.linkedin.com/groups?gid=52913
0s0-Pa said...
Whoa, I had no idea. Time for me to get updated on Linkedin. Thanks for posting the link Nico.
-Jack @ Professional Association Software
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