This week’s volunteer for my Site Review Monday post is Brian Rasmusson, founder of BitBerry Software, a micro-ISV based in Holbaek, Denmark.
UpdatePatrol is a Windows desktop application for monitoring changes in web sites and blogs. BitBerry’s site, http://updatepatrol.com, is an excellent site overall – lots of good things to learn here.
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.)

Brian has one of the best USP’s I’ve seen:
“Automatically watch web pages for updates”
This is UpdatePatrol in a six very well chosen words, twice as big as anything else on the page. It doesn’t wash windows, maximize profits, or any other buzzwords, it just watches web pages for updates, so you don’t have to.
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This USP is worth repeating, and Brian does, “Discover a quick and easy way to monitor the Internet” between the product’s logo and BitBerry Software’s logo. Brian avoids a very common mistake made by micro-ISVs: giving away a third of front screen of the home page to a giant logo that tells prospective customers nothing. Small is beautiful, confident, and frees up your most valuable pixels for marketing work.
Benefits and Features:
Again, Brian does a very good job of presenting the benefits of his micro-ISV product: Here’s his text, with my comments in brackets:
This web page monitoring software makes following hundreds of web sites and blogs as simple and fast as checking your e-mail. [relate the unfamiliar – the software – to something familiar] It will visit web sites for you, as often as you like, and notify you when it finds a change. [compound simple and your choice] Stop wasting time in your browser – never visit an unchanged site again! [in bold on the site; one of only three phrases in bold. The other two are the price and the date of the recent update]

  • Automatically monitor web sites, blogs and text files for updates [say it again, add another way to use the product]
  • View updated sites with changes highlighted in the internal browser [answering the unasked question a customer might have – how will I tell what’s changed?]
  • Filter out dynamic content like page counters and dates [answering the unasked question a customer might have – What about changes I don’t care about?]
  • Custom checking schedules and update notifications [the customer wants to know about changes – here’s how the program will do that. Note the lack of detail! It’s still too early for detail, the prospective customer has been on this site for less than a minute. Keep your marketing message clear and focused.]
  • NO monthly fees – buy once and you own it [people ask questions like this – not programmers, people]
  • NO limit in number of pages monitored [ditto – and this is a genuine benefit]

If you want more info on the product before you take action, there’s a Features page you get to from the Main Menu. And I bet Brian wrote the features page and then boiled it down to use on the home page.
Visuals:
UpdatePatrol hasn’t a lot of graphics on it’s home page: just three “button images” that all lead to the same page. On the plus side, the three screenshots are clearly and concisely annotated:
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I’d like to have seen a few more screenshots – oh wait! There’s a link to a Quick Start Guide that expands out the screenshots page. I will bet that Brian leveraged creating the quick start guide by cutting it down to be the screenshots page. Maintaining a product web site is to be blunt a huge time expense – anything you can do to leverage that time investment is a good thing.
Credibility markers:
So far, Brian’s done a really good job of selling UpdatePatrol. If I want to track changes in web sites, this looks like the tool I should invest my time and money into. But why would I want to track changes in web sites? This question needs to be much more strongly answered.
Like a lot of people, the prospective customer may have a problem or need they are unaware of. Marketing – at its best – brings clarity to poorly defined problems as well as offering solutions.
Nick Hebb recently posted a pointer to a Sloan Management Review article that in a nutshell recommended products need act more like job applicants than expressions of some impersonal market segment, and that makes a lot of sense.
UpdatePatrol does a great job of applying for the job of tracking web sites for you. But it needs to include in its job application why this job needs to be done.
While there are five links to examples on the home page sidebar, they are wordy (each has almost as many words as the rest of the site combined), written in the third person, with a very passive voice.

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Where are the testimonials? While each of these use cases cites some specifics, I’d recommend either one of these approaches:

  • Get some testimonials on the main section of the home page:
    • Each would have a heading “Web Professional”, “Job Seeker”, “Investor”.
    • Each would start, “I use UpdatePatrol to…” and then go into what the person said.
    • Each would have the person’s name, location and if possible, URL (this would work for the web designers who want publicity.
    • Each would have a picture of the Customer.
  • Or, have a section on the home page, How our customers are using Update Patrol with bullets like:
    • To keep an eye on their competitors, (link to a greatly shortened small business use case)
    • Jump on new job postings without logging in (the Job Seeker page)
    • Track the companies I invest in (Investor page).
  • Or, load up the sidebar with testimonial quotes, and do the How customers are using UpdatePatrol in the main area (may be the good enough solution, given that format used for all pages – and good enough is good enough.)

There’s another problem with this part of the home page. Can you spot it? “Almost everybody will benefit from using an automated Internet monitoring tool” Opps! Not true, rings false and loses you customers. And it’s made worse by “and most likely you too!”
Narrow your market! Almost everybody is way too big. How about:
“UpdatePatrol is not a tool everyone needs. But if you’re a web designer who needs to monitor sites, if you’re in charge of keeping track of what your business’s competition is up to, if you want to know the instant a company you invest in changes it’s public information, UpdatePatrol is your indispensible tool.”
The neighboring Requirements section costs credibility in two ways: Vista is not listed, and product is said to require 64MB of RAM. Now while we are still in the early days of the Vista Era, it would not hurt to mention it given that “Windows 95, 98, Me, NT 4, 2000, 2003 or XP” are mentioned. And the bit, “with minimum 64 MB RAM” makes no sense in this context and only confuses the customer.
Finally, at the top of the sidebar there’s this:
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Proud? What’s proud got to do with this? Brian already has on the home page – and every other page (good!) a box at the end where you can download or buy and it says *Secure online ordering, *30 day money back guarantee, *Volume discounts available and that’s fine. If you want to reinforce this, link each of these points to an anchor point in a page on this secondary topic for people who want to dig into it; you could style the link via CSS to make a strong statement if hovered.
All of these things cost credibility and without credibility, you’ve not going to sell.
Blogs:
Missing in Action. There’s no UpdatePatrol blog. For a tool that bloggers could really use – an automated way to easily track pages they post comments too – a blog is more than a nice to have. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be 10 long posts a week. It could be structured to cover:

  • Updates to UpdatePatrol
  • Posts to cover any usage issue that has come up more than once,
  • Ongoing customer stories, without identifying information about the customer.
  • Innovative/topical ways of using UpdatePatrol. For example, set up a group of Not Vista Ready watches to monitor new drivers and versions.
  • Posts about other BitBerry Software products, projects or Denmark in general.

I’d say a floor of two posts a week and a ceiling of 5 a week would be all you’d need here. But you do need a blog.
The Bottom Line:
Brian Rasmusson and BitBerry Software get big points for their USP and features, some points for their visuals, but are losing too many sales because this site needs to do a better job of establishing that real people use this product to solve real needs. They do – but without testimonials, examples and a blog, prospective customers who are not already burning with a well defined need to track a particular page are not going to bite even though they do need this product.

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4 Comments

  1. Nice review, Bob.
    I use UpdatePatrol and am very happy with it. I guess I was sold on UpdatePatrol just because I was looking for a program to do what it does – I didn’t need much convincing. The professional website helped though. I like the site very much, but also agree with your comments.
    Even when you have a great looking site, I guess there’s always room for improvement.

  2. Charlie Williams Reply

    Nice review – I agree with most of your points.
    However, in the Example Use section of the sidebar, I think I’d drop the first line of your suggested replacement. I don’t think you need to specifically point out that “UpdatePatrol is not a tool everyone needs.” The rest of your version points out the people who do need it. Leaving out the first sentence gets the point across without closing the door on everyone who’s not a web designer, business person, or investor.
    By the way, please keep this site review series going. I’m really enjoying it so far!
    Charlie

  3. I love the reviews you do of the websites! Very helpful.
    On this one, maybe you should have talked about the price of the product also. $49.95 !?! This is a neat tool, but not for that money. I already use a free tool that is similar (but not as powerful) as this. If it were about 1/2 the price, then I might consider it.

  4. Hi Bob,
    thank you for a great review. As the author of UpdatePatrol, I really do appreciate your honest feedback. Your suggestions are good, and I will make most of the changes ASAP. As for a blog, I’m still considering it. I agree that it would be a good idea, but my fear is that I won’t have enough interesting topics to write about 🙂
    Thanks again!
    Brian

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