Tuesday, April 28, 2009
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.
Monday, April 27, 2009
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?
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.
Thursday, April 9, 2009
Wednesday, April 8, 2009
What are some winning strategies for software marketing in a slow economy?
Bottom line, your goal should be to do more with less… and then do even more with even less. But that does not mean cutting back on getting your message out there. Instead, you just have to figure out some more creative ways to do it more cost-effectively.
Here are four tips for software marketing on a budget during slow economic times:
1. Drive Viral Marketing Through Current Customers.
Start a referral program. Re-engage current customers for feedback to make your product or service even better.
2. Show how your Product Saves Money.
Does your positioning need an overhaul? In a recession, customers care about today’s bottom line. They are not investing for the future. Write an article describing how your software saves them money (or stops them from wasting it) and post to online article sites, in your newsletter and on your website.
3. Sponsor a Competition.This doesn’t have to cost you much money. Offer a bonus of some sort, and a spotlight on your website to the winner(s). The type of competition you run will depend on your market segment. For example, if you sell nutrition software you could run a competition for the best, most nutritious recipe. Promote it to blogs and magazines in your segment.
4. Lockin with a Free Trial.
Many software companies now offer a free trial of their product. The challenge is how to upsell trial users to paying customers. It is important to figure out a creative way to lock in the user. Make it painful for them to stop using your software. Make it easy for them to pay on a low-cost subscription basis.
Joanna Lees Castro is owner of Software-Marketing-Advisor.com, a resource for software and services companies wanting to grow their business strategy, marketing and sales capability in a services-oriented world.
For additional tips on software marketing in a recession and to vote in our poll go to http://www.software-marketing-advisor.com/marketing-in-a-recession.html