What’s with the Long Tail?

[Editor Note: Dave Collins, noted UK micro-ISV marketing expert, is sharing his considerable expertise on marketing, SEO, Google AdWords and more on Fridays at MyMicroISV. Thanks Dave!]

By Dave Collins
Founder, Shareware Promotions

It’s not an unusual scenario. We take on a new client, and at the beginning of the SEO process, we start discussing keywords. The client is adamant – his main keyword is “funky software”, and that’s what he wants to rank for. Number one on Google, that’s his goal. Every page on his site is already set up for “funky software”. Identical page titles on each page proclaim that this is indeed the home of the coolest “funky software” on the web, and if you’re interested in “funky software”, this is the place to be.

There’s only one problem. There are approximately 1.2 million other sites trying to sell “funky software”, and at the moment, this particular client is ranking squarely at #52. To be honest, with an average to low number of incoming links and a PageRank of 3, ranking in the top ten isn’t going to happen any time soon. As for #1 – well, forget it. With a lot of hard work, yes, we could definitely increase the rankings, but it’s going to take time – and this client wants to see results next week. Tomorrow, preferably. But here’s the unfortunate truth: ranking at number one for one single phrase, no matter how good it is, is no definite recipe for success and high sales. In fact, focusing too much on a single keyword is never, ever a good idea. Even two or three different terms aren’t going to bring you happiness and early retirement.

So what do we tell our clients? Diversify, diversify, diversify. Forget about that one term you’ve got your heart set on. Do your keyword research, and use as wide a variety of different terms as possible. In itself, this is a great thing – but it’s what happens afterwards that’s really interesting. You see, when your site is properly optimised for a multitude of different phrases, you’ll start seeing visitors for terms that you’d never even dreamed of. Maybe it’s just one or two visitors per phrase, but there are literally hundreds of those small, narrow, perfectly targeted phrases. In addition to this, you’ll almost certainly find that these visits convert to sales more often than those “funky software” searchers you were so desperate for.

This is what people are talking about when they mention the “long tail”. This is something of a buzzword nowadays, but it’s what we’ve been preaching to our clients for years. It’s nothing new, and it’s something that all the big online sellers have known for a long time. As an example, did you know that Amazon makes 57% of its sales outside the obvious, big and popular search terms? Well, they do – and so should you.

We see this with our clients, too, especially once we’ve worked with them to improve and optimise their sites. When we look at the traffic they receive from the search engines, the top ten or fifteen predictable, popular phrases are always at the top, bringing in large numbers of visitors. It would be easy to say “See! I knew they were our best keywords!” and leave it at that. But then you scroll down the list…and further down…and even further. Hundreds and hundreds of phrases that only one person searched for – and when you add them up, you usually find that they actually bring in as much, or more, traffic than all the obvious phrases put together.

Why does this work? Because people are individuals, and you can’t predict all their actions. You might think all your customers search for “photo editing software”, but your next potential customer will search for “software to make photos smaller for email”. You think you’re selling “organizer software”, but what people are looking for is “tool to help me control my time better”. The great thing is that as long as your site is set up for a wide variety of terms, chances are you’ll rank very highly for these narrow, extremely targeted phrases. All you need to do, as always, is think about your target audience. What do they want, and how do they really use your software? Start there, and build your keyword research around that principle. The long tail sales will follow on from there.

++++++++

Dave Collins is the CEO of SharewarePromotions http://www.sharewarepromotions.com, a well established UK-based software marketing company. Dave specialises in Google AdWords, Log Analysis, Online Marketing and Delegation.

Technorati Tags: Dave Collins, micro-ISVs, AdWords, keywords

The key is Perseverance.

The MicroISV Show interview with Jessica Livingston, author of Founders at Work is now up and even if I hadn’t been one of the interviewers, I’d highly, highly recommend it. Here’s why: Jessica has gone out and person to person interviewed 32 people who were either micro-ISVs or VC funded start ups. These people opened up to her. They told her what, how and why they started their companies. They shared with Jessica their mistakes – and what they learned from those mistakes. There are two of the interviews – Steve Wozniak and Joel Spolsky up at the book’s site.

One incredibly important bit of metadata Jessica extracted from all these interviews (see list below), was the one trait all of the men and women whom she interviewed had: Perseverance. These people did not know how to quit. They overcame obstacle after obstacle to make their dreams come true.

Definitely give the podcast a listen and if you need a big boost of inspiration while you’re making your dream a reality, buy the book.

Interviews in Founders at Work include:

David Heinemeier Hansson
Partner, 37signals and creator of Ruby on Rails

Charles Geschke
Founder of Adobe

Ron Gruner
Founder of Alliant Computer and Shareholder.com

Steve Wozniak

Founder of Apple

Philip Greenspun
Founder of ArsDigita

Evan Williams
Founder of Blogger.com and Odeo

Craig Newmark
Founder of Craigslist

Joshua Schachter
Founder of Del.icio.us

Joe Kraus
Founder of Excite and JotSpot

Blake Ross
Creator of Firefox

Caterina Fake
Founder of Flickr

Joel Spolsky

Founder of Fog Creek Software

Paul Buchheit
Creator of Gmail

Ray Ozzie
Founder of Groove Networks and Iris Associates

Sabeer Bhatia
Founder of Hotmail

James Hong
Founder of HotorNot

Mitch Kapor
Founder of Lotus

Bob Davis
Founder of Lycos

Arthur van Hoff
Founder of Marimba

Mark Fletcher
Founder of ONElist and Bloglines

Ann Winblad
Founder of Open Systems and Hummer Winblad

Max Levchin
Founder of PayPal

Mike Lazaridis
Founder of Research in Motion

Mena Trott
Founder of Six Apart

Dan Bricklin
Founder of Software Arts and creator of VisiCalc

James Currier
Founder of Tickle

Mike Ramsay
Founder of TiVo

Steve Kaufer
Founder of TripAdvisor

Paul Graham
Founder of Viaweb and Y Combinator

Brewster Kahle
Founder of WAIS, Internet Archive and Alexa Internet

Steve Perlman
Founder of WebTV

Tim Brady
First employee at Yahoo!

The Microsoft Roadshow from a micro-ISV’s perspective…

There’s a very good post – actually several – by a micro-ISV called ProcessBridge.com on his or her take re an MSDN Roadshow event showcasing Microsoft’s latest and greatest. The upshot: yawn, yawn, yawn, WPF!Wow!!, yawn, that’s nice.

Have a look if you are still on the fence about what WPF and WPF/E will mean for micro-ISVs this year:

“Yes, yes, yes! I’d not seen a demo of Windows Presentation Foundation that really sold it to me in terms of actually selling packaged software to real, live business people. Until yesterday at the MSDN Roadshow, Reading.”

I want that graph and so do you

Seth Godin, the guy behind Squidoo.com and a lot else, has posted and blogged about Squidoo’s pageview chart for its first year:

Squidoo now has 100,000 “here’s how you get started with X instead of spending 4 hours on Google” pages and 50,000 “I want to establish my online reputation by helping people learn about X, make a bit of change and boost my Google ranking to the top” members.

In past posts here I’ve recommended Squidoo to micro-ISVs as a way to build online awareness of you, as a way of contributing to the discussion about the problem your app or service solves and as an altogether cool thing. And now momentum is building. Not convinced? Have a look at some of Squidoo’s top pages , find something that interests you and have a look. Or have a look at (presently) Squidoo Lens #675: The Micro ISV Toolkit, by none other than Gavin Bowman or this lens on presentations.

What makes Seth’s post so interesting is he spells out what’s worked and what’s not in Squidoo’s first year. Here’s the gist of his points (with some good stuff left out so you’ll go read the original post and really get some value J):

  • It takes longer than you think it will.
  • People learn by example.
  • Bad actors are everywhere. And most of them will go away if we focus on eliminating anonymity.
  • Google matters. Yahoo and Ask too. Not manipulative SEO, but honest pages that benefit users if they get found.
  • The community is smart. Really smart.
  • You don’t need VC money if you plan around it.
  • You don’t need many people.
  • Temptation is everywhere.
  • What you start with is wrong.

[tags]Squidoo[/tags]

13 Fewer hurdles = more micro-ISV sales

By Bob Walsh

In a recent post, usability guru Jakob Nielsen makes a point every micro-ISV needs to learn by heart: “Annoyances matter, because they compound.Jakob was talking about online forms that use unfriendly dropdowns for state instead of the standard 2 letter abbreviations everyone in the U.S. knows and uses, but the point applies to the entire micro-ISV marketing, selling an support process.

If you annoy prospective customers too much – whether out of indifference, ignorance or misguided objectives – they will not buy from you and your business will fail.

Here’s a breakdown of 13 annoyances you should avoid, how customers perceive them and what you, in my opinion, should do as an alternative:

The Web Site:

  • No contact (address, name, phone, physical address) information listed.
    You want to sell me something and you won’t tell me who you are? This is not just an annoyance – it’s a dealbreaker for most online customers. State your contact info clearly.
  • Only means of contact is an online form.
    I have to use a form that asks me all sorts of irrelevant questions just to be worthy of conversing with you? Post your email, not an anonymous sales@acme.com. Put the customer’s convenience ahead of your own. Why? Because they are paying you money, not the reverse.
  • No price visible.
    You won’t tell me the price unless I agree to be annoyed by your email, or even worse, telemarketing call? Are you crazy? State the price on the home page or no more than one click away. If your sell big ticket software, state the base price, and what the typical sales price range is.

The Trial Version:

  • Require a name and email address or worse to download.
    They’re going to nag me to buy, or sell my email or telemarket me! You don’t care how many people download your trial version; you care how many buy it. Or you should. What value are you providing your prospective customers by making them jump through this hoop?
  • Cripple your trial version.
    They want me to buy their product but they don’t trust me. Do not cripple your own product! Don’t limit the number of things it can do, or its ability to save, print or any other functionality. All you do by crippling features is demonstrating you don’t trust your prospective customers, your coding abilities or your product. By all means, limit the trial to the industry-standard of 30 days, but breaking a leg of you product and then expecting it to go out there and sell is unrealistic.
  • Don’t offer trial version tech support.
    If I can’t get answers to my questions now, when will I? Treat prospective customers like they are customers and they will become customers. Sure, some of that will be “wasted effort” – but surprisingly little, and those who stand and not buy also serve your word of mouth reputation.
  • Hard sell the prospective customer during the trial.
    Great, another spam email from those guys. And they want me to give them money? Your marketing has already worked because they downloaded the trial version – now it’s time to make them comfortable about their relationship with you – and if and only if they want to. Want to send them a getting started email? Ask them. Have a great video? Ask them. Offer them real, understandable, respectful value.

    Â

    Not convinced? Consider this – there was a time when there were dozens of Windows screen capture programs for sale by micro-ISVs, with no clear market leader. TechSmith became the market leader – and a mid-sized ISV – by offering a solid product with fewer annoyances than its competitors and keeps that position today by not succumbing to internal motivations to annoy the customer. Here’s what they do:

The Purchase:

  • Use your own ecommerce process, because it’s better.
    Why can’t they do things right like Amazon? What if they screw it up or steal from me? Can I really trust this company? Unless you sell an ecommerce shopping process, go with an established vendor. Digital River, Avangate, PayPal, 2Checkout.com, ClickBank, Google Checkout, SWREG and RegNow are among the many vendors out there who provided a trusted third party to your interaction with customers and who lend you credibility as a vendor.
  • Be vague about what you’re selling.
    So does that license mean I can run this on my work PC and at home? What about upgrades? Be clear what the customer is getting for their money – state how long they will get major upgrades after they purchase.
  • Make them reinstall the product.
    You mean I have to download this thing again? If the rest of the industry manages to avoid inflicting a second download on their customers, you can too. Yes, there are products out there that require you to download the full version, but fewer every year.

The After Sales and Tech Support:

  • Provide tech support only through a phpbb forum.
    I have to read all these fracking messages just to find out why I can’t install? Why did I buy this piece of crap? I hate phpbb forums. Large ISVs like game ISVs use them as a cheapie go to hell way of not providing support. Large companies use them because they are hopelessly bureaucratic and don’t give a crap about their customers. Micro-ISVs use them because they can mess with the code. Offer your customers a way to at least get tech/sales support via email. As much as I hate phpbb forums, I agree they can – if part of a range of support options and done right – be positive. By way of example, consider micro-ISV Thraex Software’s forum.
  • Don’t update your product.
    It’s been months since I reported this bug and it’s still not fixed – dump it. Updating your software lets customers know you are still alive and that boosts sales. Yes, it’s hard to find time to do updates, but it’s the single most important thing you can do to boost sales. I know from personal experience just how hard it is to update, and what it costs you in sales to allow even trivial bugs to fester: learn from my mistakes.
  • Don’t respond to each and every query.
    I emailed them a week ago – why don’t they answer? You may not like that they found a bug in your app, are rude or too stupid to read the help screen. Tough. Tech support requests are how the universe tells you that you have screwed up because there is a bug in your app, because you’ve pissed them off or not connected to them so they feel they can be rude to you, because no one gets your way of doing something and they think should be done some other way. This is called feedback, valuable feedback, feedback you can use to make a better customer experience and make more money – not something you can ignore.

There are plenty of other annoyances that need to be squashed out there, but the above are the biggies in our micro-ISV world. Consider them carefully. By rooting out annoyances people have to contend with to do business with your company, you prove your micro-ISV is worth doing business with. And that’s a very, very good thing.

Site Review Monday – LeadsOnRails.com

This week’s volunteer for the Site Review Monday post is Scott Meade, founder of Synap Software.

Synap Software’s main micro-ISV product is LeadsOnRails.com, a Web 2.0 small business leads management application. With LeadsOnRails, a small business such as an insurance agency, elective surgery practice, consulting firm, software development shop or micro-ISV selling to businesses can capture, manage, track and most importantly move through the selling process prospective customers, clients, patients.

If you’re looking for places Scott fracked up, you are going to be very, very disappointed with this review. I looked hard at the LeadsOnRails.com site, at their signup process, at his blogs, even their privacy policy and I found exactly one error and one area that needs work. This is a sterling textbook example of how to do a micro-ISV web site.

The USP:
(The Unique Selling Proposition a.k.a “the elevator pitch” should be the first thing the visitor sees, communicates the value of the product and must immediately be relevant to the visitor.)

Here’s the above the fold part of LeadsOnRails.com home page. Can you tell me what the USP is?

Of course you can. And that’s very, very good. Let’s take apart each of the two sentences in the USP. “Lead management software that you can use now.” zeros in one of the biggest issues with small business software – it’s too damn complicated – and creates a differentiation between LeadsOnRails and the rest right off the bat.

Furthermore, only someone who really understands how frustrating the life of a small business sales person or owner would get this. The next sentence, “More capable than contact managers or autoresponders and easier to use than large CRM systems, LeadsOnRails helps small businesses convert leads into customers with its unique “track” system.”, does the following:

  • “More capable than contact managers or autoresponders” – again, Scott demonstrates he really understands his market niche: Many of the small service/product firms out there that decide to automate start – or try to start – with Act!, Goldmine or some similar product. If they automate, their first tentative step is likely to be an autoresponder.
  • “and easier to use than large CRM systems” – if the service firm survives it’s encounter with a contact manager (I know of two insurance agencies that did not!), and they still have cash to burn, a Big CRM System like Siebel will latch onto the unsuspecting small business owner who will soon learn to their sorrow the vast distance between “works the way we work” and “works this way out of the box”. Want to make a grown small business owner break down in tears and rent their hair? Just find one who went for a Big CRM System because that’s what Big Business uses and ask them how much they spent before they abandoned all hope.
  • “LeadsOnRails helps small businesses convert leads into customers” the words “leads into customers” are magic, special words to the small business owner. They don’t want to track each paper clip in the office with an asset management RFID tag, be able to generate regression analysis reports on lifetime customer value. They just want to convert leads into customers. Period.
  • “with its unique “track” system.” Again, smart move. While LeadsOnRails is indeed a Ruby on Rails app, this means exactly nothing to 999 of 1,000 prospective customers who, charitably, tend to be holding up the late adopter part of the curve. You could call the workflow that LeadsOnRails supports a sales funnel, sales process, decision tree or Christmas bush for all prospective customers care. But they get “track” (reinforced with the bold heading in the body of the page) and they get unique.

Benefits and Features:

LeadsOnRails could have derailed (sorry) at this point by doing a laundry list of features, leading with the ultra sexy (to programmers), ultra cool (to programmers), fact it’s in Ruby on Rails; that it’s not a Web 1.0 app, but a Web 2.0 app (only programmers understand this), that it’s driven with clean URLs (I barely understand this), etc., etc., etc.

They did no such thing. They understand that while these features appeal to programmers, benefits – especially benefits couched in terms of what small business owners care about – was the way to go.

Further, Scott layered the seven bulleted benefits by highlighting key phrases (“consistent marketing process and message”, “who is accountable for each activity and when it is due”, “view of your pipeline”). Nice touch and effective: nothing is more off-putting to the small business owners who are looking at this site because they want a believable solution to a really painful pain than line after line of text.

Credibility Markers:

Scott establishes LeadsOnRails.com’s credibility right off the bat in the USP and then backs that up in three ways:

  • Three short, attributed, testimonials scattered through the main text. Attributed with links is the gold standard for online testimonials.
  • A bit of humor and understanding re pricing for this hosted service: “Hosted (but not Hostage)” will ring a bell with anyone who’s put all their eggs into a hosted service basket.
  • “Find out here how LeadsOnRails is more capable than contact managers.” This line right under the USP that contains the claim “More capable than contact managers” is exactly the right way to go. If you make claims in your USP, or in your Features and Benefits, or anywhere, you must offer something to support those claims or they – and you – will fall flat on their face.

Visuals:

LeadsOnRails.com is not an overly complicated site: it uses as its entire navigation structure and the structure of the site is a product walk through starting on the home page:

By the way, here’s the only error I could find. On the home page it’s called Product Tour. On the rest of the pages the headline reads, Product Features. Bad, bad bad Scott! Earth-shattering cataclysmic showstopper! (No, I don’t mean it – I should be so lucky if my micro-ISV site once it’s redone only has that bad an error.)

Here’s the screen shot from the LeadsOnRails.com home page (actual size):

Notice you can read the text? That’s good. Notice too that even though it’s a demo account, it’s reasonable and credible? That’s good too. Finally, notice it’s simple? That’s very good for an online application that is selling effectiveness and simplicity.

One more visual note: there’s no company logo. None. Just a link. This both frees up space for the important business of selling this service and subtly reinforces the idea that LeadsOnRails.com is all about their customers, something their customers are sure to like.

The Blog:

LeadsOnRails.com has not one blog, but three, starting with two right at the top of the home page:

Small Biz Marketing blog sounds interesting if you are a small business, a product blog defines up front what you will find there, and having the company’s phone number right there certainly communicates credibility and confidence and is to the good.

Scott has broken with the idea of one blog, multiple topics, and gone with one blog re small business marketing and then two other blogs, one re the product, one for other programmers interested in Rails.

I think this might work given the situation, but, in my opinion, Scott would be better off focusing on the small business marketing blog leavened with a sprinkling of posts directly about LeadsOnRails.com. I noticed that in March there were four non-Scott comments on the small business blog, and zip on the product blog.

Scott has a lot of experience when it comes to making small business marketing and sales work – I’d like to read more about that. Success stories/very short case studies would be good (of LeadsOnRails.com customers of course), but Scott needs more posts, and above all more reasons for people to comment to get his marketing via blogging up to speed.

The takeaway:

There is no substitute for understanding the needs, motivations, attitudes and world view of your market, and LeadsOnRails.com is a great example of how compelling a micro-ISV site and offering can be when that comes into play. You don’t necessarily have to have Scott’s level of experience, but you have to make the effort to get to know what your customers are all about and to think through your product from their point of view.

I may have more to say about this excellent web application down the road – I found the site so compelling I signed up for the trial!

Very cool Guy Kawasaki video!

Microsoft – to its credit – had its “Second Annual Small Business Summit” this week: extremely good, passionate, video presentation by Guy Kawasaki, VC elder evangelist statesman and others:

Guy passionately talks about the 10 things you need to know about the Art of Innovation. Absolutely must (free) viewing for all micro-ISVs!

Google AdWords Keywords

[Editor Note: Dave Collins, noted UK micro-ISV marketing expert, is sharing his considerable expertise on marketing, SEO, Google AdWords and more on Fridays at MyMicroISV. Thanks Dave!]

By Dave Collins
Founder, Shareware Promotions

Identifying the single most important factor in achieving Google AdWords success is tricky, but the keywords are the obvious starting point. Get them wrong and your ads may not only remain hidden from the right people, but could also be shown to the wrong people.

Although there are plenty of other factors that play a part, it is clear that the whole of the AdWords process begins with and rests upon the keywords.

Generally speaking, there are two different ways of approaching your keyword lists. Either you use a very small number of highly targeted keywords, or you use a large number, where hundreds or more is the norm.

Which is the right approach? As in most things Google AdWords related, there are two ways of doing things. The wrong way, and the potentially right way.

In other words, the right length for your keyword list is somewhere between the two extremes. Usually. But I know you’re not going to be happy with that, so let’s delve a little deeper.

Highly targeted lists usually employ tight matching options. Perhaps a very small number of keywords, all of which are exact or sometimes phrase matched.

Some argue that this is the right approach. That it is more prudent to be safe, and you’re unlikely to waste much money this way. Usually.

The problem is that you’re unlikely to make much either, and the ultimate goal of an AdWords account isn’t to save money. It’s to make it.

The fact is that any form of money making carries an element of risk, and advertising is certainly no different. But you usually need to strike the right balance between caution and risk taking.

Some people argue that a huge keyword list is the way to go, because the more bait you scatter, the more likely it is that something will bite. But the problem with this approach is that much of your bait is likely to be lost along the way, or eaten by fish that you have no interest in catching.

Again, balance is the key.

For me, the process begins as simply as possible. I often start my keyword research using little more than my copy of Microsoft’s One Note (seriously useful software) and my brain. (I won’t comment on usefulness of the latter).

I like to scribble down a list of features, benefits, user groups, usage scenarios, basically anything regarding the itch that needs to be scratched, and/or where to find the itchy people!

Once I have this basic list, I fall back on a little more common sense, and brainstorm a list of variations. Synonyms, slang, regional variations, combinations, plurals, misspellings and so on. The more the merrier, at this point.

When it comes to using these keywords in your Google AdWords account, keep a careful eye on the matching options that you choose. It’s usually a bad idea to leave everything broad matched.

Some keywords will also work well using multiple match options. Example: You may get more impressions using spam blocking, “spam blocking” and [spam blocking].

I know. It shouldn’t work that way, but it usually does. Welcome to the world of Google AdWords.

It’s also worth noting that your keywords may be used in different contexts than your software, so make sure you keep an eye out for that. We once worked with a company who had been bidding on a phrase matched keyword that happened to be the name of a band! They had wasted a fair amount of money on some totally untargeted traffic. You’d think that the ad text would have worked as a filter, but it didn’t.

If you follow all of the above instructions, you’ll usually end up with a fairly massive list of keywords. The problem is that you may well find your ad group unwieldy and difficult to tame.

Because of this, there are a series of steps that will not only improve how you handle your list, but will usually also improve your click through rates and overall return on investment.

First of all, when you add your new keywords, give them a while to generate some solid data, but keep a careful eye on them during this time. Look out for any that are generating more impressions than you expected, and if any catch your attention, make sure you understand why.

Aside from any big blunders (for example your software’s called White House and you only used broad match), you should give the new keywords a full week at the absolute minimum, and wherever possible try to work with units of seven days.

Once you have some data, go into your ad group and order by impressions, and take a careful look at both ends of the scale.

For the high impressions, do the click through rates match accordingly? Any surprises? And at the lower end of the scale, look for keywords that generate zero impressions – preferably after at least two weeks if not longer. Get rid of them. All they’re doing is cluttering your account and possibly hurting your quality score.

Once you’ve done this, you are ready to split the keywords into their own campaigns and/or ad groups, each of which will be grouped around new themes. Effectively you’re dragging and dropping from the existing group/s into the new, but Google don’t make this process particularly easy.

Once you’ve done this, you need to write new ads around these keyword groups.

The result? A large list gets broken into several smaller lists, all of which are grouped around their own features, themes, user groups or subjects. And the new ads are an exact match for their keywords. As you already know, relevance is usually the key to Google AdWords success.

The process then begins again, at least if you have the time to spend on it. As well as ensuring that your ads and keywords are well matched, this method allows you to only work with the keywords that are worthwhile. Would you rather write ads for a keyword that gets 11 or 1,100 impressions a day?

Although this process is time consuming and tedious, it is a rock solid technique for expanding the scope of your AdWords account, increasing your list of keywords, pruning the deadwood and having ads that are tightly built around targeted keywords.

One final note. The word “usually” has been used more than ten times in this article. Why? Because much of the Google AdWords system is hidden from view. They don’t want you or me to be in complete and total control of all aspects of their account, as this wouldn’t be to their advantage. Sometimes there seems to be a random factor, and what works for ten accounts may not work for the eleventh. But the above techniques work well more often than not. Usually.

++++++++

Dave Collins is the CEO of SharewarePromotions http://www.sharewarepromotions.com, a well established UK-based software marketing company. Dave specialises in Google AdWords, Log Analysis, Online Marketing and Delegation.

Technorati Tags: Dave Collins, micro-ISVs, AdWords, keywords

Dealing with the danger of talking not doing

Ken Brittain over at his micro-ISV’s Formal Software Blog has stepped into a trap I knew well, but have of late forgotten about. Ken is archiving his old posts and restarting his blog.

“Originally I had planned to use the blog to tell the story of my MicroISV development. It turns out that writing about creating software doesn’t actually create any software.”

Here’s how the trap of talking out your great idea works. You hit upon a great idea for a product, an application, a business. You’re so excited by the idea you tell your friends, blog about it, you talk about it to anyone who will sit still to listen. You brag about how much money it will make, how cool it will be that you can write this, how much everyone will want it.

And a curious thing happens.

You start noticing that it’s harder and harder to actually do the work instead of talk about it. You find your enthusiasm waning, your burning desire burning out, your clarity and focus turning to mist. What happened?

Whether it’s some weird quirk in our brains that replaces doing with talking, I don’t know. When I started building my micro-ISV the more I talked about it, the less I coded. The more I’d tell others what I was working on, the less actual work I got done. So one day, I stopped talking about what I was going to do and restarted focusing on doing it. I got more work done that week on my micro-ISV than I had in the previous month. For the rest of the development cycle, I only talked about it with the people I needed to talk to – my beta testers.

When I wrote my first book, I shut up about it to friends and family. Ditto book #2. Those books now exist, as does my micro-ISV because after years and years and years of having great ideas that I would talk out with friends and family, I finally shut up.

I do not – in any way shape or form – mean you should not blog. What I mean is you should save the bragging for when the job is done. Ken, to his credit, got the lesson:

“My focus for this blog is going to be related to the actual decisions and choices made while developing the software. It will be the repository for all of the software development artifacts that I am going to create. I will start with the project idea (which I realize I never fully explained before). It will be home the use cases (I do so love doing use case) as well as diagrams and sample code.
So I am restarting the MicroISV Challenge. Hey, we all make mistakes. This time I am going to learn from them.”

Right you are Ken, and thanks for reminding me of a really important lesson.

[tags]micro-ISV[/tags]

Site Review Monday – Bungalow Software

This week’s volunteers for the Site Review Monday post is Clay and Terri Nichols, founders of Bungalow Software.

Bungalow Software has some 22 products designed to help people who have suffered a stroke, brain injury or from aphasia help regain their ability to speak and communicate. Bungalow has been a successful micro-ISV since 1995.

Generally, Bungalow Software gets it right, but I see a few minor and two major omissions that I’ll cover below which, in my opinion, would help more people find these very important products.

The USP:
(The Unique Selling Proposition a.k.a “the elevator pitch” should be the first thing the visitor sees, communicates the value of the product and must immediately be relevant to the visitor.)

Bungalow gets this right:

The first thing your eye is caught by is this USP. It’s concise, differentiates itself from other approaches that are either for the patient or a speech therapist, and that’s good.

The first of my minor quibbles is that the text for the menubar, and the USP, should be bigger.

Benefits and Features:

Instead of dumping feature bullets and product names on Bungalow’s home page for some or all of their 20-odd products, Clay wisely focuses on the credibility issues after a briefly reinforcing the USP.

Credibility Markers:

If you are selling health-affecting software, credibility is your number one issue. Does it work? There’s simply no such thing as overdoing how you establish the answer to this all-important question. Bungalow does a good job on this, but could – and should – go much further.

Right now, one testimonial is sidebarred on the right, and there are two links to the Success Stories page. I don’t think this goes far enough. I’d recommend right off the top:

  • A big button under the existing testimonial “More Success Stories” that should be the second most important thing on the page.
  • Reduce in size the Contact information which takes up 2/5s of the page and use that room for other success stories.
  • Change the text color of the testimonial to a more legible black and a larger size.

There are two other things I think would further dispel the natural doubts that arise for patients and caregivers looking for help. They will take more time and effort, but will, in my opinion, be well worth it.

  • Video. Show me someone using the software, with cuts between the screen and them. I am by no means a producer – people like Tom Clifford are the pros in this. But a five minute video – essentially a before and after – would electrify your market, could be leveraged in many ways (yes, I mean YouTube, seminars and conferences), and be worth the investment.
  • A Blog. Clay and Terri know a lot about speech therapy – Blogging about what’s new in this area (there were according to Google 1,232 news stories and 178 blog postings in the past day about speech therapy), and applying their expertise to talk about what’s important would be a real service and a real brand builder. A blog could be done in the “traditional” way of a separate WordPress or TypePad blog with a link in the menubar, but in this case, for this audience, I’d recommend thinking about building your blog into your home page, not as a separate page. What’s more, with the growing rise of RSS, a product like FeedForAll would let you serve an RSS feed directly from your home page.

While RSS may be “too sophisticated” for the patient part of Bungalow’s market, it decidedly is not for the speech therapist market who – with a few screen shots of IE or Outlook – could partake of a valuable information source on an ongoing basis provided by Bungalow.

Visuals:

Frankly, I think the visuals are not doing justice to the programs. First, unless you happen to click on the screen shot in a given product’s page, you’d never know there are more screen shots available:

This kind of software – multimedia – cries out for interaction – screen videos are the way to go. Admittedly, with 20 products, converting to screen videos is a lot of work.

Either get and get proficient with a proven screen video product like TechSmith’s Camtasia Studio, or you might want to outsource this to another company like VTDemos.com (note: I’ve used TechSmith’s SnagIt for years and bought Camtasia a few months back for my, an yet unfulfilled, screen demos. Also, I while VTDemos.com has a good demo, I have no direct experience with them.)

In either case, a visit to Tom Clifford‘s blog is in order, as well as other blogs on the subject. Video has its own language and syntax.

The Bottom Line:

Bungalow software does a creditable job addressing its market with its site. But today, video – both of products and of people – make practical a whole higher level of interaction with that market – one their competitors from what I see don’t yet get.

On a second note, with a good blog about a problem domain Clay and Terri have obvious expertise with, I would predict that within six months Bungalow Software would rise in visibility in Google’s results not just for “Speech therapy software” (they’re already second or third), but for the much broader search term, “Speech therapy” where they lag 3 pages back.

One final thought. It seems to me this product line is ripe for internationalization. While there are Spanish editions of some of the products, why not take Bungalow’s proven success to the global market with dedicated pages in Spanish, French, German and Japanese?