Selling Abroad, Wherever You Are

By Dave Collins
Founder, Shareware Promotions

“On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a dog”.

What the well-known saying neglects to clarify is this: On the Internet, nobody knows you’re a French/German/Japanese/Bolivian dog, until you sink your foreign teeth into their ankle. As much as we may like the idea of the Internet being the last great equalizer, the truth is that we never leave our own identities and expectations behind. And to a large extent, these expectations are tied to our culture and language. When they’re not met, we get frustrated and angry, and the chance of our spending money decreases significantly.

In the US, there is a tendency to think that foreign is simply a synonym for non-American. However, this is not the case – look it up if you don’t believe me. Everyone’s a foreigner outside their own country, and thanks to the Internet we can now spend hours outside our cultural comfort zone whenever we choose to. Most of the time, that isn’t a problem – but the fun starts when we want to spend money.

 There’s enough material to write an entire book on this subject, but because the main purpose of this article is to get you thinking about this issue I’ll stick to nine practical ways in which you can avoid annoying potential customers.

 1) If you sell real, tangible products, make it very clear where you do and don’t ship to – right from the very beginning, rather than making your visitors hunt through the fine print only to be told they’re not wanted. Telling visitors you’re only selling to the US/UK/Australia is the polite thing to do, and means that there won’t be disappointed would-be-customers wanting to strangle you in every corner of the world.

 2) If you hope to sell outside your own cultural sphere, avoid slang, local metaphors and “inside” terms or jokes on your website. Don’t confuse/annoy visitors by using sports terms such as “ballpark figure”, “playing hardball” or “having a good innings”, because as clear as you think they are, they’re not universal. At all.

 3) Similarly, anyone wanting to sell abroad would be wise to avoid graphics with symbols or gestures. You might think the “thumbs up” sign is universally positive, but in many Middle Eastern and South American countries it’s actually incredibly rude. Trust me, you don’t want to know why.

 4) Flags aren’t always the best way to signal a link to a French/Spanish/German part of your website, at least not if you’re hoping to sell beyond the borders of those particular countries. French, for example, is also spoken in Canada, Morocco, Senegal and Lebanon, but these countries might not appreciate being bundled together under one, foreign flag. Using the actual names of the languages – Français, Deutsch, Español – is often a better, safer option.

 5) Don’t force your ideas or expectations on your visitors – people are more flexible than IP addresses, and you should be too. If someone in Germany is using the English version of your site, it’s probably for a very good reason. Don’t send them emails in German, and don’t keep redirecting them to the German site. Not only German people live in Germany!

 6) Don’t assume that what works well on your US website will be just as effective for all native English speakers. Your compatriots may respond well to the suggestion that they should buy something to “support their country”, but this is likely to put a lot of Canadians off. Many Americans love clear, simple explanations and illustrations, but your arrogant British visitors will hate being “preached” or talked down to.

 7) If you’re not in the US but you’re hoping to sell to a lot of Americans, you have to work hard and do your research to meet their expectations and their standards. As an example, some surveys have found that US users react negatively if their country isn’t the default option in a drop-down list of countries.

 8) If you create separate pages or sections of your site for other languages, make sure you have them checked by a native speaker. Don’t rely on translation software combined with vague memories of high school French – at best you’ll entertain, at worst you’ll offend. There’s more to cultural differences than replacing one word with another.

 9) Finally, basic but well worth repeating: let visitors be flexible about the way the enter their address. Zip codes don’t exist outside the USA, and neither do states – make sure your customers can enter their own versions, or leave those fields blank.

 Naturally, these rules don’t apply every single time or with every single customer. I’m sure there are people reading this who are thinking “Well, I’m from Senegal and I don’t mind clicking on French flags” or “I’m Canadian and I think American patriotism is perfectly charming!”. Good for you – but that doesn’t change the fact that some people may feel very differently.

Also, if you’re a small business it goes without saying that you can’t set up a separate website for every language you want to sell to. Neither can you hope to set up a friendly, patriotic American site, a neutral, funny-accent Canadian version, and a smug, superior British one. What you can do, however, is be aware of these issues, and make conscious informed decisions how you want to handle them. Selling in the dark is never a good idea – and when there’s a whole world of foreign “dogs” out there, it can become downright dangerous. After all, some of them might have rabies.

Disclaimer: I’m British, proud of it, and therefore naturally arrogant and dismissive. But I’ve tried to mock “both sides” equally here. Even though “we” don’t deserve it as much. Obviously.

Be seen, be sold.

++++++++

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.

[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!]

[tags] Dave Collins, micro-ISVs, marketing[/tags]

The Shape of things to Come

By Bob Walsh

I’m back from Mix07, trying to a) build out a Mac Book Pro (my first mac in 13 years; I think I’m in love!) as my ultimate Vista PC (yes, I did say that), salvage what I can from my fatally wounded Sony laptop and most importantly mentally digest the implications of Microsoft’s Silverlight announcements at Mix07 for micro-ISVs. I’m still mulling over Silverlight and other items, but as I read through this thread and this thread at Business of Software and I was struck by just how much misinformation is getting cast about.

First off, if you are a micro-ISV, head over to Michael Lehman’s post re Silverlight. Yes, Michael is a paid evangelist for Microsoft – he’s also a very experienced micro-ISV, smart guy and a friend. He is not just blowing Microsoft Marketing Smoke in your face – he’s right. Silverlight and WPF are going to remake what we think of as software, and micro-ISVs have the most to gain precisely because of their size, agility and lack of investment in big fat legacy product lines.

Obviously, all this stuff – Silverlight, Expression Studio, Orcas, even .NET 3.0 (WPF, WF, WCF) are totally in the early days: Silverlight 1.0 will ship this summer, 1.1 is in alpha, Orcas is beta, Expression is 1.0 and pushing to 2.0 already. Early days are good: that’s the best time to get into a new technology if you are going to make money with/from that technology. And, I have not had time to play/learn anything more past what I learned at the show, although I’m really looking forward to that once (ahem) I get through a few IT issues.

The reason I’m writing you this post is what I see are the reasons Silverlight et. al. is worth your attention as a micro-ISV. Here goes:

  • While at Mix07, I talked to two developers who between them have authored 27 programming books. I’m not naming names because I did not tell them I was going to post about them. What struck me was they both said the same thing: Silverlight is going to be a disruptive opportunity as was .NET. That got my attention.
  • Silverlight means I can write VB .NET applications for the web, not (hated) ASP.NET. That got my attention. And by the way if you are a Ruby programmer you can write .NET now and I’ll bet before the end of the year you will see a fully supported PHP .NET.
  • There’s a Silverlight Chess demo with source code comparing processing speed of Silverlight (managed code/CLR) to JavaScript. Silverlight is roughly a thousand times faster. That got my attention. Try the demo, look at the source code – and keep in mind Silverlight is beta!
  • There was one demo – Metaliq’s Top Banana video editing Silverlight application. Build in one month, from beta/alpha bits, a 50k (sic) download. Able to run/edit 9 running videos at the same moment. On a PC or a Mac (or Linux) absolutely no difference. That got my attention. Watch the video (especially at 4:04!).
  • Time to install Silverlight on a clean XP box (no .net, no nothing): 4 to 10 seconds. So total time my prospective customer can go from “What is this?” to “I must buy it now!” – 10-12 seconds? It is the best damn install experience I’ve ever seen on a PC (Don’t know how it compares to a Mac – haven’t installed anything but the first updates yet!)
  • Best damn looking interfaces I’ve ever seen. Expression Blend is an awesome interface editor for both Silverlight and WPF. That got my attention bigtime. Looks matter.
  • Michael made some excellent points – Silverlight is an app that is served from your server running on their PC or Mac, with localized data storage if you want. Say goodbye to being screwed over by the cracked/warze crowd. That got my attention, as did being able to do software by subscription, software based on ads (Silverlight can go back and forth between living in a Div on you web page to full screen – while playing video with your controls overlaid without dropping a frame).

Undoubtedly over the weeks and months ahead you will read comments here, discussions at BOS, thumbsuckers by professional trade reporters and for all I know Jay Leno monologues disparaging Silverlight. I assert that a year from now the people trashing Silverlight will be wrong and the people excited by it and building apps with it will be right. And I predict that Silverlight + WPF + Window/Office Live Services + Amazon Web Services (3S, C2 etc) will have made it possible for thousands of micro-ISVs to run rings around traditional software and traditional software companies and make money hand over fist.

That’s why this new Microsoft stuff has my full, undivided attention – and what I suggest is worthy of your time as well.

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Back from Mix07

Next week – after I’ve had a chance to mull over what I saw and head at Mix07 and a chance to either repave my Sony laptop or use it for target practice ala the late Hunter Thompson – I’ll have a good deal to say about micro-ISVs, Microsoft and the Weekly Site Review.

In the meantime, anyone have an argument against getting a MacBook Pro now and running Vista on it?

Through The Eyes of your Customers

By Dave Collins
Founder, Shareware Promotions

Stop what you’re doing and concentrate. You shouldn’t read this article with your feet up on your desk, cradling your morning coffee. Nor should you read it before 8 am or after 4 pm. And don’t even think of skimming it.

You need to concentrate.

Why?

Because the ideas I am going to present in this article are guaranteed to increase your sales. That’s right. I absolutely guarantee it. Terms and conditions may apply.

The ideas that I’m about to go into aren’t revolutionary. No-one will write books about the Dave Collins theory of Customers’ Eyes. Nevertheless, these ideas are not only critically important, but overlooked by companies on a regular basis.

Have a quick look at the first few paragraphs of this article. I guarantee that my words had the desired effect and caught your attention. I know, there I go with my guarantees again.

But my point is that I am 100% confident that they worked.

(1) You’re probably a software developer, and you’re most probably interested in making more money by increasing your sales.

(2) You wouldn’t be reading this far along unless my tantalising words served their purpose.

Being able to see the world through the eyes of your customers is one of the most fundamental skills of sales and marketing.

If you can get into their minds, see and understand their needs and speak their language, you’ll have them reaching for their credit cards before you can shout the word gotcha.

I assume I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. But never overlook an important fact. The web not only makes reaching the world and selling your software a lot easier, but also changes the balance of your marketplace.

The customer has truly become king. The fact that they found your website means that they have probably found your competitors too, meaning that they call the shots.

Competition is great for the market, but doesn’t half put the squeeze on the companies selling their products and services.

Unless you’re lucky enough to be in a very cosy niche market segment, complete with high demand and low/no competition, then chances are that there is more supply than demand. You have to work to sell your wares.

So understanding who your customers are, where they come from, what they are looking for and why is of vital importance.

Nowadays, so the theory goes, the typical consumer takes less than three seconds to decide whether or not to purchase. Personally I’m in awe of these typical people. It can sometimes take me weeks or even months.

But I’d also hazard a guess that online, that tiny sliver of time gets cut down even further. Clicking back on your browser takes a lot less effort than walking out of a store, and in some ways there are far more compelling reasons to walk away. Think fraud, payment risks, the many unknowns, delivery delays and so on. Selling online is a tough business.

So if we push aside the theories, what does this mean to you?

Well, unless you’re phenomenally wealthy, incredibly bored or both, then chances are that you yourself don’t purchase the moment something catches your eye. If you do, please click the following URL and enjoy yourself: http://www.sharewarepromotions.com/overview.html

But the rest of us very quickly weigh up a number of different factors before deciding whether or not to purchase, and this unfortunately includes your customers.

So how do you turn the sceptic into a customer in those precious three seconds? With five variables:

Benefits. Value. Pricing. Empathy. Clarity.

I know, BVPEC doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. But I’m not going for clever and cute here. I’m trying to help increase your sales.

Benefits.

I’ve stated this so often that I can actually lower my heart rate just by repeating the word too many times.

But the fact remains that benefits sell over features. Always. You know it. I know it. But to some extent we are all guilty of making the mistake.

Developers love features. They tend to get very excited, and while they’re telling you about them they occasionally get quite red faced and shiny eyed. Scary.

Customers get freaked out by features. We don’t like them, they sound intimidating, and they do nothing to make us smile. But we love benefits. Save time, save money, use more for less. Lovely. Music to our ears.

Value.

Tangible benefits communicate value to your customers. We crave them, and as software developers, you need to understand this.

I have an Outlook add-in that looks out for the words attach, attachment or attachments in my outgoing emails. If there isn’t an attached file, a little window appears and asks me if I meant to attach one.

It’s absolutely inspired. And it’s dirt cheap. But most importantly of all it stops me looking stupid, and saves me and my clients time by avoiding the “I think you forgot to attach the file” exchange.

If you have any other plugins that stop me looking stupid let me know. I need all the help I can get.

On the subject of help, do you think that this article is worth $50?

If so, please go to the following URL to make the payment:

https://usd.swreg.org/cgi-bin/b.cgi?s=783&p=783SIXstd&v=10&d=00&q=1

If you do, be sure to state your name, company and URL so that I can thank you in another article.

I suspect there’ll be no takers. Why?

(a)Â Â Â Â You don’t have to pay. And you know it.

(b)Â Â Â Â There isn’t enough value to make doing so worthwhile.

(c)Â Â Â Â Where are the benefits to you?

By all means prove me wrong. I’m usually right, so it would be nice to be proved wrong every now and then. And at least you’ll get a kick out of it, and thereby knock theory (c) on the head. How am I doing?

Pricing.

The product’s price is of course linked to its value. But as long as I (a) see the value and (b) think the price is reasonable, then I’m probably hooked.

This further reinforces the importance of communicating benefits. If I don’t realise the benefits, then even $0.10 is too high.

Empathy.

Understand me. Understand my needs. Understand what itch is causing me to seek the solution that you offer. And speak the language that I speak in. Your customers are hungry. Find out what they want to eat.

Clarity.

If your website and sales pitch aren’t crystal clear then you’ll lose sales.

A convoluted diatribe may massage your ego, but clarity always prevails. If your sales pitch is only set to tickle the needs of the average genius, then you’ll probably exclude most of your visitors. If, however, they’re aimed at the average person in the street, then everyone will understand what you sell. Even the geniuses.

Push the benefits. Demonstrate value. Price reasonably. Empathise and understand. And keep it clear.

More sales? Be seen, be sold.

++++++++

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.

[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!]

[tags] Dave Collins, micro-ISVs, marketing[/tags]

Weekly Site Review – NewsInjector

This week’s micro-ISV volunteer for my Weekly Site Review post is Vilmantas Baranauskas, founder of newsinjector.com.

NewsInjector modifies any PHP, Perl, Ruby on Rails, Java, ASP .NET server based application in one very specific way. With NewsInjector, a corporate system admin, PM or programmer can inject and control a stream of news announcements into a web application without modifying the underlying codebase.

NewsInjector is priced reasonably – $99 USD per application – and solves a very specific problem – how to add to a wide variety of Open Source, custom, in-house and commercial apps a flow of information from the people who administer the applications for that company to the people using these applications.

While the software looks good, the price is cheap, there’s a real problem identified, Vilmantas when he volunteered for the Weekly Site Review back in early March had yet to make a single sale. How come? In my opinion, it’s because NewsInjector neglects one critical part of a micro-ISV’s presentation to prospective customers and because it’s missing that one key element, the entire effort is wasted.

Let’s look at what’s missing and what Vilmantas can do about it.

Here’s how NewsInjector scored out – and note, from now on as several people have recommended the higher the score the better (0 is totally missing, 5 means this is very well done indeed):

What

Score

First Actionable Task

USP

3

The USP needs strengthening, but that’s not your first to-to.

Benefits/Features

4

These are fine, but need better translation into English.

Visuals

4

The tour is very good – but start with the punch line, and then explain how you got there.

Testimonials

0

Totally missing – see below.

Credibility Markers

0

Totally missing – see below.

Tech Support

1

Three email addresses don’t cut it.

Blog

0

None.

Overall Average:

1.4

This site is missing the foundation of any sale – trust.

USP

(The USP – Unique Selling Proposition – is the most important part of your site. It’s your first foot forward, you first impression and the basis for all else on your micro-ISV product’s site rolled into one.)


NewsInjector has a prominent USP – “News Management for Corporate Web Applications” – but it’s dull, lifeless. The USP is what it does, not what problem it solves, and why this solution has value. Adding a one word would provide by implication the problem and what the value of this solution is: “Simple News Management for Corporate Web Applications.”

I could go on, but the USP isn’t the big problem for NewsInjector – something else is. One thing to mention because it’s a great USP in waiting at the bottom of the home page: “Spend your time writing news. Don’t waste your time figuring out how to get them into your application.”

Benefits/Features

I like NewsInjector’s benefits and features – there’s one set for developers and administrators, one for Project Managers and Editors. This identifies the four kinds of people NewsInjector is likely to be of interest to in the corporate world.

There is one issue with the features and benefits, and just about every other section of NewsInjector: the text is almost, but not quite good English. Now let me make something perfectly clear: having the benefit of speaking and writing English for nearly 50 years, I mostly have it down. And my linguistic ability in any other language are so incredibly bad, so unspeakably awful, fellow high school and college students literally ran from the room rather than listen to me torture them further.

But still.

Statements like “News are saved on a file system as XML files.” And “It inserts news into existing web application without a need to adjust web page design or do programming.” and “Explains why NewsInjector is better than alternatives.” just don’t sound right to native English speakers.

Micro-outsourcing – outsourcing very specific tasks – is fast becoming a standard way of getting specific tasks completed. I’d suggest a very light edit by someone who does copywriting in English would be beneficial.

Visuals

I like NewsInjector’s visuals – no fluff, now businessmen shaking hands over a conference table. NewsInjector’s tour is a good example of content triumphing over programming: no ubercool YouTube video, flash movie with soundtrack – just march through using NewsInjector to get the job done.

I would suggest moving the punch line – your news showing up on the login page for XPlanner, a popular Open Source project planning application (see image below) – to first screen of the tour instead of the last.


Testimonials

NewsInjector has no testimonials – and that’s a big part of what is crippling this micro-ISV site in my opinion. Testimonials are both a way of establishing credibility and relating your product or service to who and what the market thinks it is. Let’s break that down a bit further.

When you have attributed testimonials (“This product saves me an hour a day” – Bob Walsh, http://safarisoftware.com, Sonoma, CA) you are drawing on a very powerful part of human nature – the power of the Group. Whether it’s jumping in a pool when you’re seven years old, being politically active, or buying a product most people most of the time favorably respond to being explicitly identified as part of a group of people, rather than a single isolated individual. The advertising industry has known this for about a century – you should too.

Online, groups are far more intangible – and we rely far more on reputation rather than experience. That’s why I – and probably you – give increasing credence to testimonials the more specific, the more explicit the identity of who is offering the testimonial is. Put another way, it’s far more of a “reputation loan” if a testimonial is attributed, with a link back to that person’s online presence (web site or blog).

Testimonials serve another function – they help you identify the group of people who have bought a product and whether you see yourself as part of that group. Let’s say you run a small IT department that relies heavily on Open Source apps to get the job done, but you have this problem: you need to customize half a dozen of them to show admin updates specific to the app and or your company. Which would get your attention: 5 testimonials from 5 IT managers just like you, or a testimonial from say Tom Cruise. Even if you actually believed that Tom Cruise does IT on the side, the 5 testimonials from IT managers just like you, especially if they include last name, Company URL and geographical location are going to be more persuasive.

How does a new micro-ISV get testimonials? You do a public beta, or you give away your software one license at a time by reaching out to members of your market and begging them to try it. Did I say beg? Yes, I did. Because at that stage of the game, the people who you convince to try your software and who will provide testimonials for it if asked nicely are lending you their reputations – something far more expensive and valuable than the price of your software.

However, while the lack of testimonials hurts NewsInjector, it’s the secondary problem. The primary problem is identity and the lack thereof.

Credibility Markers

NewsInjector’s biggest issue right now is the complete lack of credibility it has with potential customers because it has no identity. Outside of a tiny copyright line at the bottom of each page, there’s no information whatsoever about the company, its location, or the person or persons behind it. Just how many IT people are prepared to buy software that does something to their in production applications from an anonymous source? Zero.

NewsInjector needs a business identity: A business name, a logo of some sort but most of all an About Us page with specific information about this micro-ISV, who is Vilmantas, and his contact information (phone number, mailing address and personal email address). Now, I have no idea how hard it is setting up a small business in Germany – and I’m hampered by my lack of German. But, given what I could gleam this morning from this site, and this site and this site, it looks doable.

An anonymous company is an oxymoron, and any effort to sell software in general, let alone enterprise/business/corporate software as an anonymous company is a nonstarter.

Tech Support

Tech support is very weak – just three generic email addresses – and reinforces the lack of identity. Pull from other parts of the site info into an FAQ at the very least.

Blog

None. Normally, I’d jump up and down on my blogosphere soap box about this missed opportunity, but NewsInjector needs to focus on establishing its identity and credibility first.

Overall

The bad news is until Vilmantas and his micro-ISV have an identity, NewsInjector has no hope of getting off the ground. The good news is this something fixable. Once fixed, then Vilmantas can start taking specific steps to garner testimonials, customer success stories and the like.

+++

The Weekly Site Review is a regular feature of MyMicroISV.com. (Although I missed last week – sorry!) Please add your comments, rebuttals and opinions. If you’d like to volunteer your micro-ISV’s web site for a free public review, email me at bobw@safarisoftware.com. Micro-ISV’s only need apply!

Technorati Tags: Micro-ISV, Weekly Site Review

Going to Mix07 – how about you?

I’ve never been one for trade show or tech conferences, but I’m trying the opposite thing this year, starting with Mix07. I’m going for a host a reasons – rave reviews from people I know of Mix06, looking for micro-ISVs and others to interview for The MicroISV Show, a keen desire to see what people have been up to with WPF and Silverlight.

How about you? Are you going to Mix07? If so, comment here or at BOS and maybe we can get some sort of microISV thing going; you might also want to add yourself to David Winer’s list.

Nick Bradbury been there and done that

This week’s The MicroISV Show podcast on Channel 9 features one of my personal heroes: Nick Bradbury. Nick’s the guy behind HomeSite, TopStyle and FeedDemon. Nick probably doesn’t remember, but he was kind to answer my email to him years ago regarding a good source of for icons – just another aspiring micro-ISV he’s helped through the years.

Nick’s micro-ISV, Bradbury Software was acquired by NewsGator in 2005; so in a way, Nick’s come full circle. For what it’s like running a highly successful micro-ISV to what it’s like rejoining the corporate world, have a listen to this week’s The MicroISV Show.

Independent Innovators have a new resource

I’ve gotten to know Michael Lehman pretty well the past year or so, so when he launched Independent Innovators today, I was pretty excited.

The world is changing. Micro-ISVs are selling world class software. Indie bands are firing their predatory record labels. People are escaping their cubicles. And Michael, well here’s his mission:

“On this blog and podcast I plan to explore this exciting new world by highlighting successful Independent Innovators, interviewing companies and consultants who are helping Independent Innovators to take advantage of the wave of opportunity and regularly talk about the nuts-and-bolts of how to do this yourself.”

So, please visit Independent Innovators and join the movement!

[tags]micro-ISV, Independent Innovators[/tags]

Top 50 ways of selling more software:

By Dave Collins
Founder, Shareware Promotions

Lists are popular. We all like reading them, and quite rightly so.

My particular list is infinitely more useful than most. If you follow my advice, I can help you to sell more software. Really.

Disclaimer: This isn’t an exhaustive list of everything that you can or should do to sell more software. It’s a collection of 50 items that I think are important. Are there others? Definitely. But the top 60 just didn’t do it for me. And the thought of compiling the top 100 made me want to cry.

Useless yet fascinating facts: Within the top 50 list, the word “don’t” was used 18 times, “you” 48 times, and “marketing” 4 times. Draw your own conclusions.

  1. Google AdWords. Invest the time, learn how to tame it or get someone to do it for you.
  2. Search Engine Optimisation. If you don’t think SEO is worthwhile, then you probably shouldn’t bother reading the rest of this list.
  3. Press Releases. Don’t just go for the free options. PRWeb is a good option if you can write a good release, and companies like DP Directory – http://www.dpdirectory.com – are very good value if you can’t.
  4. Blog and RSS feed. If you have something to sell then you should have something to say. But don’t (i) just talk about your dog and favourite Star Trek episodes and/or (ii) only post once every two months. Marcus’ Macro Blog gets the balance right – http://www.mjtnet.com/blog/ – and FeedForAll makes creating an RSS feed simplicity. http://www.feedforall.com.
  5. Social bookmarking. Learn what it is and how to tap into it. It works.
  6. Blitz the software sites. There are a choice of reputable services out there that can do this for you. Doing it yourself is no longer necessary.
  7. Online demo. If your application looks good in action then show people. Watching a good demo can be as good as installing a trial version, without the headache. But do it right. Listening to a slow-talking muffled voice over the sound of someone hammering away at his keyboard is painful. BB FlashBack is a good choice – http://www.bbsoftware.co.uk.
  8. Pushing it in front of the right eyeballs. Droning on about your app to your grandmother is futile and a little cruel. Making sure that the people who could use and buy it know about is a better idea.
  9. Set yourself up as a friendly expert. Forums, notice boards, discussion lists, blogs, panels at conferences and print publications all give you the chance to show people how much you know. We’ve been using this approach for years, and are happy to testify how well it can work. What, you thought I was just a nice guy?? http://www.davetalks.com.
  10. Targeted discounts. Depending on your markets, people really like time limited “special offers”. If they’ve already heard about your product and were interested, this can be a good means of boosting your sales.
  11. Set the right price. Low pricing is one of the more common mistakes in the online software industry. Experiment and track.
  12. Have a fresh set of eyes look at your software. There is no way that you can possibly look at your own software objectively; you are blind to how it looks, feels and works. Have other people look at your software for you – without your hovering over their shoulder telling them what to click and how cool it looks. http://software-evaluation.info.
  13. Use your time more efficiently. Are 20+ postings a day in the ASP newsgroups really more important than developing your product, website or marketing? If you have time to spend hours in the newsgroups and forums each day, you’re either incredibly wealthy and successful, have a lot of spare time on your hands, or have developed procrastination into a fine art form. Be honest with yourself.
  14. Accept that you can’t do everything yourself. Look into outsourcing or taking someone on. It’s not as big a hurdle as it might at first appear.
  15. Know your strengths and build on them. Are you a golden sales person, a marketing wizard or a code guru?
  16. Always know what your competition are doing. Software makes doing so very easy, and you should be aware of what they’re up to.
  17. Be the first to know when the winds of change blow through your industry. Don’t wait for your customers to educate you.
  18. Expand into new markets. Unless you have the most targeted of niche applications (Excel plugin for UK-based Organic Egg Farmers in the South of England who only export to Germany) then there are almost certainly a whole range of brand new markets just waiting for you to dip your toes in. Find them.
  19. Know what your website visitors are doing. Repeat after me: Log Analysis is Essential.
  20. Learn to prioritise your work. And don’t do so by reading 15 books about time management. Software like Action Outline makes setting and managing your priorities very easy. http://www.actionoutline.com
  21. Have a fresh set of eyes look at your website. You’re far too used to seeing it, and are probably missing the obvious. http://sharewarepromotions.com/website_review.html
  22. Use technology to save you time – tools like Macro Scheduler and Type Pilot can save you literally hours every week. http://www.mjtnet.com/ and http://www.colorpilot.com/typepilot.html.
  23. Diversify. The more products you have, the more sales opportunities you open, and the more you cover yourself for the future
  24. Strike the right balance between a trial version that’s too restrictive and one that’s too generous. Don’t give your software away, but don’t nag them into uninstalling either.
  25. Look into partnering. Learn to recognise partners who are worthwhile and the black holes of time and effort.
  26. Software bundles. Easy to setup, nothing to lose.
  27. Plan. If you drift from day to day, responding to whatever happens upon you, you may want to either get your head looked at or do a little planning. Stay in control.
  28. Learn how to upsell. Once your potential customers have jumped over the “I don’t like parting with cash” barrier, they are usually receptive to buying the better version and/or other products at a discount. With one hand on their credit card and the other on their mouse, seize the opportunity.
  29. Be seen, be sold. Never miss an opportunity to get your name and/or product in front of people. Within reason.
  30. Be prepared to spend money. If you’re looking for a marketing company but are only prepared to spend $100 a week, you’ll get what you pay for. Those who pay peanuts get monkeys.
  31. Newsgroup/forum signatures are not just a means of filling space. They are useful. And they work. See rule 9.
  32. Be prepared to try everything once. Again, within reason. Every form of advertising or promotion carries a risk. If you don’t try you’ll never know.
  33. Set yourself sales goals with action items to make sure they happen. You may have more control over your sales than you realise. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
  34. Set aside time for planning every week. Never let the business run your days for you.
  35. Invest in time. A part-time assistant to deal with admin can prove to be an effective means of freeing up some time that can be put to better use. And let’s face it, who has ever said “Man, I miss the paperwork”?
  36. Walk away from your business once in a while. Make sure you occasionally realign your priorities, and remind yourself why you work hard.
  37. Tap into experts. Whether it’s a local business advisor, a friend with a good business head, a mentor or a marketing guru. Hint: If a person describes themselves as a guru of anything, then they’re probably not.
  38. Read books that are good for your business. Anyone who will give you new ideas and inspire you (with more than “the world IS my oyster” type of rubbish) is worth reading. And when you’ve bought them don’t just leave them on the bookshelf – that’s my particular specialised sin!
  39. Don’t read self help books. They only help the authors and publishers. If you need to gain more confidence, become more attractive, feel more successful and make more money, follow every one of these top 50 pointers.
  40. Keep up to date with new technology. Don’t ask your customers what an RSS feed is, or whether your software works on their Vista system.
  41. Be flexible with accepting payments. Purchase orders, American Express, PayPal & Debit Cards should all be there next to Visa.
  42. Don’t be stingy with your software. Don’t give editors a 90 day trial version, and don’t battle for days with the person who wants a $19.99 refund. See rule 20.
  43. Remember that there is a world outside the borders of the US. And most of us are friendly.
  44. Insure your company. If you rely on your internet connection, then having a second (low cost) ADSL connection with a different provider on a second phone line might make the difference between being able to work or tear your hair out for a week. Imagine your connection goes down tomorrow for 4 days. It happened to our company last year. $20 a month is very cheap price to pay for peace of mind.
  45. Speak the language of your customers. Know what makes them tick. Techies and veterans of Windows 3.x hate the Windows XP child-friendly look. Your parents would hate the power and flexibility of Windows NT. Give your customers what they want and are looking for.
  46. Make sure your website looks up to date. Retro isn’t cute, and jagged pixels don’t create confidence. Animated animals that bounce across from side to side, fluorescent green backgrounds and midi music all cause pain. To your visitors as well as your sales.
  47. Learn how to write properly. If you can’t, or don’t have the time, then get someone else to do it for you. If English is your second language, I know it isn’t fair. Such is life. Becky Lash from Epic Trends has a well-deserved excellent reputation. http://www.epictrends.com/
  48. Reassure your visitors and potential customers. Show them how established you are. Show them your money back guarantee. Reassure them with how secure their transaction will be.
  49. Keep it brief. If your website makes me scroll my mouse for five minutes to get to the bottom of the page then I never will.
  50. Keep in touch. Make sure that when your website visitors want to contact you they can do so with ease. Every visitor is a potential sale.
  51. Always provide more than is expected. Anyone who complains that my top 50 list contains 51 items should follow the advice of rule 36. Fast.

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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.

[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!]

[tags] Dave Collins, micro-ISVs, marketing[/tags]

Conversation Marketing

I was checking my Google blog radar this morning when I came across an absolute gem of a read: Ian Lurie’s Common Sense Internet Strategies at his blog, Conversation Marketing. Ian’s an experienced Internet marketing consultant whose book (available free online or for $19.95 as a book) is one of the absolute best things I’ve ever read on how to permission-based, customer-centric online marketing can really work.

Ian’s approach – Conversation Marketing – is built on six basic ideas:

  • Know the Room. Understand your audience. Base your campaign on that understanding.
  • Dress Appropriately. Use the right design. Not the ‘cool’ one.
  • Sound Smart. Good content, smart architecture, and good code speak to your visitors.
  • Make a Connection. Opt-in e-mail, RSS and other tools continue the conversation.
  • Observe & Adjust. Analytics provide feedback and guidance for ongoing campaign adjustments.
  • Brag Modestly. Someone else should say how important you are

I strongly recommend, commend and suggest you give this a read. And I would not be surprised if you engaged Ian if your sales did not soar through the roof too.

[tags]Conversation Marketing, micro-ISVs, micro-ISV[/tags]