Software Marketing Resource Articles: The Software Promotions Interview

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

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Software Promotions Interview

If you've been to the Software Industry Conference (SIC) then you've doubtless seen Dave Collins. Dave's conference session where he asks willing volunteers to put their business cards into a hat, and then dissects what's right and wrong about their websites in front of the audience is now legendary; it should be, Dave knows his stuff! We caught up with him and asked some questions...

1) Dave you run which has been promoting software for over ten years. Can you tell us a little bit about what you do for software publishers?

We help software companies to sell more software. We generally work with a two-pronged approach. We bring targeted visitors to their websites through Google AdWords, SEO and press releases, and then make sure that more of them convert into customers.

2) I know you're Google Adwords certified, but surely the rise of Facebook, Twitter and Social Networks have changed the game? How do software companies work with social networks, and is it effective?

The Social Networks have indeed changed the game, but only offer most software companies a limited number of opportunities with their PR, support, branding and reputation management. But the beauty of AdWords is that you're targeting the right people at the precise moment that they're looking for a solution. Customers don't go searching for software solutions on the social networks, they go to Google. And as much as people are singing the praises of social networking, few companies can actually point to them as a source of new customers. The likes of Facebook and Twitter have their place in a company's marketing strategy, but they won't produce sales.

3) You proudly tout 450 clients on your homepage, can you tell us a few success stories?

Our website contains case studies that show how we increased a company's monthly sales by 3090% in eighteen months, how we improved another company's conversions by 34% in a few weeks, and how we achieved top ranking results in Google for phrases bringing in hundreds of visitors a day with a 40% download conversion rate. Sadly, however, we can't talk about our greatest successes, as some of our clients wish to keep such information from their competition. I'd love to name the company that we achieved a 600% conversion rate improvement for... but we can't!

4) Given all the success I'm sure that there are things that don't work too. Some companies have very bad luck with online marketing and promotions. What have you seen fall flat?

Our failure rate is incredibly low, but under certain circumstances we simply can't produce the results. A company can have the greatest product in the world, but if no-one is actively searching for what it does, even the best set-up AdWords account can't hope to be effective. And sometimes unrealistic expectations can really curtail the chances of a good product. I understand that budgets are tight for small companies, but if you're hoping to see an AdWords account break-even within two to three weeks, you're going to be sorely disappointed.

5) There's a lot written about Search Engine Optimization(SEO), so let me ask a question I've always wanted answered. Can SEO experts really make a difference if I've already done the basics like put keywords in my titles, links and headers and added a meta description to my page?

Yes - without a doubt. A genuine and experienced professional in any field will almost certainly produce better results than an enthusiastic amateur. I don't write my own contracts, I don't file my own taxes and I don't service my own car. If the search engines have the potential to be a source of income for your business, why wouldn't you use an experienced professional to reap the results? For example you might well put keywords in your titles and links, but are you confident that you're targeting the correct keywords? An experienced SEO professional will know how to carry out the research, and how to balance between targeting, competition and demand.

6) What's the most effective way for a software publisher to get the word out to their fans, a blog, email newsletter, twitter or facebook?

The standard marketing reply fits perfectly: it depends. If you're just starting out with 20-30 visitors a day to your blog, then how many sales can you expect by blogging about your new product? It makes more sense to utilise gearing. Instead of trying to reach thousands of people directly, target the people with a far bigger fan base. Getting the attention of 1,000 people is relatively easy, but will produce little by the way of results while being very time consuming. Getting the attention of one key person can be much more difficult, but the results have the possibility of being exponentially better. Look at what we're doing right here. Getting interviewed by you today has the potential to reach more people than I can on my own.

7) What are your thoughts on things like link-exchange and online forums for software marketing, are these a things of the past?

Yes, they sailed past their use-by dates years ago. Natural link exchange is the backbone of the web, but artificially emulating it productively and profitably is difficult. And while forums can be useful for support and building a community, they're not going to be particularly successful at actively marketing your product.

8) You must have seen a lot of websites in your time, could you tell us what's the most common mistake that software sellers make on their website.

Focusing on what their customers don't care about. Too many software companies don't realise what their customers are looking for, and often don't know how to speak their language. There's a company in California that have a great piece of photo software. I use it for showing slideshows, for publishing to a private blog, for securely putting my pictures where my friends and family can access them, for automatically identifying people I know, for printing, sharing, editing my pictures and more. How do they describe it on their website? "Picasa is free photo editing software from Google that makes your pictures look great. Sharing your best photos with friends and family is as easy as pressing a button!". Beautiful.

9) It's easy to spend a lot of cash to get traffic for your site, but how do you recommend software developers get targeted visitors who are actually interested in their site?

Sorry to be predictable, but the answer is simply search engines; or more precisely Google. Seth Godin opened our eyes to the futility of interruption marketing - advertisements that try to disrupt what we're doing, yet many still don't get it. The reason why few (if any) software developers have made Facebook advertising work is that people go to Facebook to see what their friends are doing, not to buy software. But people go to Google to find solutions, information, products, services, images, ideas and more. Learn how to use Google and stop wasting your money interrupting people.

10) With the rise of free apps, online apps and open source software are the days of desktop software publishing numbered?

The price, license and means of delivery of an application are incidental to the solution. Free apps and open source are nothing new, and offer no threat to most desktop applications. If the product is better than the competition, it will prevail over them. Every new technology has someone ringing a death bell for the old - the fax machine to mail, the PC to the fax machine, the netbook to the PC and so on. Good solutions out-live good technology.

11) Do you see anything new in the industry that we should be aware of and looking into in the new year?

The 359th degree. We've almost gone full circle now, so I predict a surge in "back to basics" marketing. Email is becoming more popular again, after being apparently superseded by RSS feeds and then Twitter. But time-tested email just works, and an increasing number of companies are starting to realise it - again. Have you noticed how many companies are using MailChimp lately?

Stay ahead of your competition - go back to what you were doing years ago! It worked then and it works now.

Dave Collins runs, and blogs at


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