IMG_0003.png

Reducing Decision Fatigue

The brave new world we are building online has it’s share of brave new problems:

  • Does the Internet remain a level playing field or do large corporations “help” it by picking and choosing whose bits are more important (theirs)?
  • How do we deal with the Media Tsunami that is growing to truly apocalyptic size day by day?
  • Humans can only make so many decisions a day: after that our brains turn to mush. Between the web and social media, our supply of decisionmaking is wiped out before we start whatever we do to earn money.

He’s one answer to that last problem: reduce the number of trivial decisions you make each day by making checklists for all the routine stuff. Then instead of wasting XX decisions feeding the cats every day, you conserve those decisions for things that matter.

Thanks to MacRae Linton for turning me on to Checklist Wrangler today – it’s far from perfect, but if you pair a bluetooth mac keyboard to you iPhone, you can easily and quickly make checklist templates that will auto generate as you need them. Not a perfect solution, but it helps reduce decision fatigue.

read more
Bob WalshReducing Decision Fatigue

Useful or not?

As you may have noticed, I’ve been fairly quiet here of late. That’s changing, but as part of that change I need to know if continuing the weekly MicroISV Digest is of value to you. If it is, let me know, and please vote!

read more
Bob WalshUseful or not?
UPDieCutBusinessCard-ed.jpg

A small startup giveaway…

[ 4:31 PM PT – update: Carla just upped the ante to 6 from 4, so Karl, you’re in and there’s one more left.]

The one thing every self-respecting startup founder needs is snazzy new business cards, so let me pass on to you an offer from Carla San Gaspar at Uprinting.com, an online printing company. The first four people to comment on this post will get 250 Die Cut Business Cards from Uprinting.com, free.

These are real business cards, not the cheesy kind with “printed by Acme printer” on the back. Here’s the details:

  • 2 x 3.5”, 2 x 2” (square card) or 1.75 x 3.5” (slim card)
  • Die cutting options available: Rounded Corners, Leaf, Rounded One-Corner, Half-Circle Side, Circle.
  • Paper Type: 14pt Cardstock Gloss, Matte, or High Gloss; 13pt Cardstock Uncoated.
  • Color: 4Color Front, Blank Back; 4Color Front, Black Back; 4Color Both Sides.
  • Limited to US residents only  18 years old and above.

read more
Bob WalshA small startup giveaway…

What’s Twitter for if you’re a small software company?

Well, it’s not for sending out Tweets of version 2.31… 2.32…. 2.33. That’s insufferably boring and a waste of your time. Instead:

  1. Find things you can retweet that your customers will be interested in. Set aside a fixed amount of time a day to do this. Not to get too personal, but an iPad, Flipboard and Tweetings can turn answering the call of nature into productive social media time :).
  2. Congratulate your customers – if you are doing B2B or variations thereof, keep up with their news by creating a twitter list of your twittering customers and scan that. When they get excited, retweeting that news and reaching out to them puts you head and shoulders above other vendors.
  3. Reach out: watch for hashtag conversations (#) that you can join and add value to. Not hijack, not add noise, but add value.

(Need more ideas? Check out Kristin and I’s Twitter Survival Guide. It’s getting up there in Twitter years, but you’ll find the profiles from some major Twitter People useful.)

photo credit: 7son75

read more
Bob WalshWhat’s Twitter for if you’re a small software company?

5 Mistakes Developers make Selling to Developers

By Brian Noll
Code Complete Software

A few typical things can happen when developers sell and market development tools to other developers. Here are some things to be careful about:

Overselling

OK, here is the deal.  It’s plain and simple, but sometimes forgotten.  Developers, engineers, and any scientific thinking person tend to reject outlandish marketing that overpromises.  Also, that same disgust and rejection is now directed towards “management speak”. How many sites, sales processes, and emails to prospects are still bathed in sports analogies, non sequitur solution selling, and ROI vagueness, It’s simple, in reality developers just want products to make their life easier.  Keep away from sensationalism and overstating the benefits of your product.  Keep it pragmatic, honest, direct, and understated.  Solicit both good and bad feedback.   This goes not only for marketing, but also for communication during the sales process.

Also, although you might think it is about closing, it is a sales person’s job to help discover issues.  As far as development tools go, all tools have issues.  All tools have problems.  Not sure if I should write this, but it is your job is get users to come to conclusion that your tool “sucks less”.  Even if you are lacking some features, if you are responsive and helpful, you can land a happy user.

Remove roadblocks

Make it as easy as possible for someone to get a look at your product.  As a general rule, remove roadblocks for trying your product.  If you can get the user experience in a web based sandbox without an install; do it.  If you have several registration pages with logins to get a build; remove it.  Make it as easy as possible for new users to get a look at the product and make it even easier to solicit feedback.  If you can solicit feedback from within the product; code it in, as it is much easier than soliciting an email response (if you capture email information).  You will have very little time to hold a prospective users attention, so make the most of the situation.

We get it.  You’re smart. We’re smart. Now about the order?

Monitor situations where the support and development team gets into conflicts over technical details.  Is your team responding like a cheery English mouse or more like the soup nazi from Seinfeld?  Sales can and should help monitor the situation.  Think about it, for every 1 response you get about an issue, there could be 5 to 10 silently suffering.  Make sure you aren’t dismissive of technical objections on the way to an order.  Make sure the response from your company doesn’t make them look technically challenged.  After all, they are possible customers. The company goal is to sell product, not to show how smart we are, although we sometimes can get confused.

Be responsive.

Think of your product as being completely like an open source project without the need for contributors to do the hard work of coding features.  Get responses.  If someone makes a feature request; respond.  Listen, ask more questions, survey, and solicit responses.  If you are able to turn those responses into product changes, you’ve empowered those users into loyal users.

Communicate

I know it is the age or permissive marketing and spam, but it’s OK to send emails, especially if someone downloaded your product.   Pick up the phone and talk to those who respond via email or on your site.  Ask for a live chat via Skype or GoogleTalk with a customer who is having an issue.  Don’t worry as much about the finesse as the act itself.  Customers love to talk about their own experiences and not enough vendors reach out in friendly consultative ways.  After all, you are trying to improve the experience of using your product; not trying to necessarily close a deal.

====

Brian and Code Complete Software, which markets and sells some of the world’s best development tools, is sponsoring 30 six-month StartupToDo.com Scholarships for startups creating/selling products to developers. To apply for a free scholarship, just email me (bob.walsh@startuptodo.com) with your startup’s URL or a brief non-proprietary description of what your startup will be selling.

read more
Bob Walsh5 Mistakes Developers make Selling to Developers
4856805781_61f96cde4b.jpg

Paperless So Far – The Apple App Store

By Jim Rhoades
Founder
Crush Apps

In the article “How to be a successful iPhone developer”, Bob Walsh offered some thoughts on why apps succeed or fail. As a developer who has had an app in Apple’s app store for a few months now, I thought I’d add to the discussion with some hard data and thoughts on what I think I’ve done right, and what I could be doing better.

Ten months ago, I decided to learn to make an iPhone app because I wasn’t satisfied with any of the to do list and notes apps in the app store. All of the ones I tried were too complicated, or didn’t offer the features I wanted. So, I bought a couple of books and started learning objective-c and the iPhone programming API’s. It started off as an experiment, but I discovered that I really like developing software for the iOS platform.

In March I released my first app “Paperless“, which is used to make lists and checklists. My goal was to make it flexible and easy to use… something that just about anybody could find a use for. I’ll spare you the sales pitch though – if you want to find out more you can read about it on my website.

The first couple of months were slow in sales due to the fact that I didn’t have much time for marketing, but the people who did find it were generally very positive about it and provided good feedback. Over time I’ve made improvements based on that feedback, and my user base has grown steadily.

During May, I released “Paperless Lite”, a free version of the app to let people try it out before buying the full version. At the same time, I temporarily lowered the price of the full version to just $0.99 to generate more sales. Both of those things really helped, and after another small update 3 weeks later, I reached the number 3 spot in the Productivity category in the UK app store, and was doing okay in the U.S. app store as well.

User reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and for most of July Paperless hovered around the #30 – #45 spot in the Productivity category in the U.S. At $1.99 per sale ($1.39 after Apple takes its 30 percent) that works out to around $100 – $150 a day. It’s not enough to meet my long term goal of being able to develop apps full time, but it’s a good start. A couple of Sundays ago, sales of my app brought in over $150 while I spent time with the family at the beach.

In the graphs below, you can see how offering the free version of Paperless helped to generate some sales – and how pricing adjustments have affected the number of sales and the income I’ve made. I can’t fully explain the first big spike on June 3rd. I released a new version then and that’s when it caught on in the UK. The popularity of it there only lasted a month, but luckily as sales in the UK dropped, sales in the U.S. picked up.

Preview
Preview

What I’m Doing Right

Some people have said that the app store is like the lottery. That, in order to do well, you have to get lucky with Apple featuring your app or placing you in their “New and Noteworthy” or “Staff Favorites” category. While that would certainly help (a lot) – it isn’t something I’m relying on. What I AM doing is:

Trying to make apps that are functional, easy to use, and look great… it’s the Apple way and it’s what customers expect. Some apps try to do too much, which leads to a complicated and cluttered user interface. With Paperless, I think I’ve done a pretty good job at keeping it simple and attractive, while offering a lot of functionality.

Enjoying what I do, and creating things out of the love for doing it – not out of trying to make a quick buck. I care more about my product and my users experiences with it, than I do about making money. I figure that if I have a good product that people really find useful – then the money will come.

Listening and responding to customers needs. I have a “Feedback” button in my app so that people can easily email me if they need help or want to offer suggestions. I’m open with customers, and am genuinely interested in knowing what they think could be done better in Paperless – and they appreciate that.

Constantly making improvements. I know that Paperless isn’t perfect, and there are a few key features (landscape mode!) that need to be added. I have an FAQ to let customers know what features I plan on adding in a future release – or at least offer some reasoning behind why a specific feature isn’t there.

Creating a recognizable brand for myself, that people trust. A few customers have said they can’t wait to see what I come up with next. So, once I do make another app, I know that I’ll have some interest in it from the beginning.

Always learning new things. I’m constantly reading Apple’s documentation, iOS development books and watching video tutorials to try and expand my knowledge.

What I Could Do Better

So, those are the things I think I’m doing right – but what about things I could do better, or that I’m not doing at all? There aren’t enough hours in each day to do everything I would like, and here are the big things I’ve neglected:

The Cloud. Users don’t like their data stuck on one device. They want to be able to view and edit their information on their computer as well as their phone and possibly their iPad. Not every app needs this, but for something like Paperless the ability to sync and share information would be very useful. I’d love to build a web service that synced with Paperless, along with a Mac OS X app and an iPad version – but, as a one person shop doing this in my spare time, those things are going to take a while.

Localization. While my app is available for purchase in any of the Apple app store regions, I haven’t taken the time (or spent the money) to have features within the app translated to other languages. Translating it to the biggest 3 or 4 non-English speaking markets could potentially double my income.

Marketing. If I’m not relying on a featured spot by Apple, then the only way I’m going to gain more customers is by reaching out in other ways. I need to spend a lot more time letting people know about my app, and in a way that sets it apart from the hundreds of other list/todo/notes apps in the app store. With so many other developers vying for attention, it’s hard to get coverage for your app on many of the app review sites or tech related news sites. I’m going to have to find ways to reach outside of the online Apple community.

In Steve Jobs’ presentation on iOS4 in April, he stated that over 50 million iPhones had been sold. If you add the number of iPod Touches to that, it’s over 85 million. The 3 million iPads and 1.7 million iPhone 4’s bring the total of iOS devices out there to around 90 million. That’s a huge market, even if you consider that some people own more than one device.

If I sold Paperless at the current price of $1.99 to be installed on just one half of one percent of those devices, I’d make roughly $600,000 (before taxes).

Surely there must be a way? I’m working towards that, and feeling optimistic…

===

(Got something to share with the microISV/Startup community? Why not do a guest post for 47Hats? Email bob.walsh@47hats.com.)

read more
Bob WalshPaperless So Far – The Apple App Store

B2C, B2B, B2G: what about us B2Developer Startups?

You’ve heard the adage that doctors make the worst patients? Well, software developers can be a hard market to sell software to. That’s why I’m especially pleased to announce a new StartupToDo.com Scholarship just for those startups building and selling the tools we all need to build our products.

Code Complete Software, which markets and sells some of the world’s best development tools, is sponsoring 30 six-month StartupToDo.com Scholarships for startups creating/selling products to developers. To apply for a free scholarship, just email me (bob.walsh@startuptodo.com) with your startup’s URL or a brief non-proprietary description of what your startup will be selling.

Code Complete Software is one of those companies you won’t find mentioned on TechCrunch – they’re in the business of being the sales force for some of the best development tools and packages out there. For example, they’re the exclusive North American distributor for JetBrains (IntelliJ IDEA, RubyMine, and other software tools) since 2002.

If your startup is (or will be selling) to developers, why not grab a Code Complete Software StartupToDo.com Scholarship while supplies last?

read more
Bob WalshB2C, B2B, B2G: what about us B2Developer Startups?

MicroISV Digest 07/31/2010

Community News:

  • Russell Thackston, Auburn University microISV Research Alliance, has kicked off the 2010 microISV Pain Point Survey, and if you’re a microISV you should definitely take this survey now:
    • Get exclusive access to anonymized survey results.
    • Get a company profile listed on our participants page (optional).
    • Get a link to your microISV site from our participants page (optional).
    • Be registered for a chance to win an iPod touch ($180 value), an iPod shuffle ($55 value), or a 16GB USB Flash Drive ($33 value).
    • Help the microISV community by guiding future applied research.
  • The microISV Research Alliance is the public face of Auburn University’s Department of Computer Science and Software Engineering microISV Research Lab. Its mission is to assist microISV operators in building and growing their businesses by providing insight and research into topics and issues specific to the microISV community.

  • Saeol Ltd has launched Speech Bloom, the first online study program to help you overcome the fear of stammering (stuttering), and other negative emotions.
  • Burag Cetinkaya, SmartPointment LLC, has opened up their beta of a cool, new scheduling service for small businesses, professionals and online people. Designed by a small business for small businesses, SmartPointment lets small organizations offer online appointment scheduling to their customers at an affordable price even if they don’t currently have web sites. SmartPointment takes the hassle of scheduling and following up with appointments out of the way so business owners can focus on delivering value by excelling at their core service.
  • Jay Cincotta, Gibraltar Software, has just released version 2.5 of their  error tracking, performance and metrics software for .NET developers, and lowered the price for teams.

Interesting Answers.Onstartups.com questions with useful answers:

News/posts for microISVs and Startups:

StartupToDo.com, The Startup Success Podcast and other plugs:

  • What’s new at StartupToDo.com this week. (StartupToDo.com is a subscription-based community of startup founders; if you’re not already a member, get your free 30 day free trial membership):
    • No new Guides this period: I’ve been focusing on adding a new major feature to StartupToDo.com.
  • New shows at the Startup Success Podcast:
    • Show #77 [link] [iTunes] This week Bob and Patrick talk with Jordan Ritter, CTO of CloudCrowd, a new kind of cloudsourced labor service. What do you have when you build a system that can take typical business tasks, break them into small units of work, including quality control, and let the cloud provide labor as needed and at cost? It’s not outsourcing, and it’s not crowdsourcing, it’s an Internet-based labor operating system. In this fascinating discussion with Jordan (co-founded of Napster and Cloudmark), we get a glimpse of what the future of global work might become: where each of us act as our own labor exchange, offering a multitude of services and quantified reputations within the cloud to the world at large.
    • Show #76 [link] [iTunes]. Bob and Patrick talk with Shawna Pandya, Co-Founder of CiviGuard. What if your smartphone could save your life in a disaster? That’s the ambitious and laudable goal of CiviGuard, a startup getting traction disrupting the established limits of how technology, governments, disasters and survivors interact. Disasters happen – yet the fundamental technologies public agencies use in emergencies hasn’t changed in a substantial way in 20+ years. How can a city use mobile technology to save lives? If you’ve ever lived through a major earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or terrorist attack, this is an interview you don’t want to miss.
  • Active Scholarships at StartupToDo.com:

====

(If you have an announcement of interest to your fellow microISV, indies or startups, please email me at bob.walsh@47hats.com with the word digest in the subject.)

read more
Bob WalshMicroISV Digest 07/31/2010
4831739747_4421f89d97.jpg

The pain is gone!…

…from calculating what time it is across multiple time zones, thanks EveryTimeZone.com by Amy Hoy and Thomas Fuchs.

Besides being a dead-easy way to figure out what time will work for a Skype conference call with three people in three different time zones, it’s:

a) A very cool HTML5 example pointed out by John Allsopp in Lesson 1 of his SitePoint HTML5 course I’m consuming with lunch, and,

b) An excellent example of how creating “non-product” value can get your product – in this case Freckle Time Tracking – generates huge attention from your target market. Way to go Amy and Thomas!

Every Time Zone

read more
Bob WalshThe pain is gone!…

How can you not do this?

Just got an online training offer from SitePoint – the awesome Australian IT powerhouse: “The course costs just $9.95 and includes eight lessons containing a mix of videos, mini articles, and exercises, as well as two live Q&A sessions where you can ask questions of John directly. You’ll also gain access to a private forum where you can talk HTML5 all day.”

What convinced me to put aside the time for this and do this was this video – John Allsopp is passionate about HTML5 (and the next course, CSS3) and it comes across. I think that will make this a fun way to further my tech education. Now, how are you keeping up with your fellow developers?

read more
Bob WalshHow can you not do this?