ASP[Note: One organization I’ve consistently heard good things about is the Association of Shareware Professionals, so I’ve asked Mike to make his case here in a guest post.]
By Michael Dulin
President, Association of Shareware Professionals
Greetings Developers! I’m here to tell you why you should apply to join the Association of Shareware Professionals.  Though I must confess to you that I’m not a developer. What you are still here? You haven’t tuned out yet? Ok for the truly bored I’ll tell you a bit about myself at the end.
The ASP was founded in 1987 and is truly an organization that has helped many developer turn their fledgling dream into a success. We have our own private forums where veteran developers help the new person out. We also publish a paper monthly newsletter that always has useful information.

  • Over 1000 shareware professionals around the world invest $100 (US) every year to be part of the shareware industry’s premier trade association. They would not do that if they did not find value in their membership!
  • ASP members win many awards at the Shareware Industry Conference each year.
  • ASP members are successful in taking their businesses from part-time to full-time. They frequently get ideas on how to do this from other members.
  • Many of the top download sites, registration services, and other industry professionals are ASP members.

We are now a Network Partner in a new program called Microsoft BizSpark. Through BizSpark, we can now offer you fast, easy access to current, full-featured Microsoft development tools and platform technologies, as well as production licenses to develop and bring innovative and interoperable solutions to market.
Here is what one of our members has to say after he enrolled in Microsoft BizSpark: “The amount of software available is amazing from Windows 3.1 to Server 2008, from VC 97 to Visual Studio 2008, from Office 95 to Office 2007, Expression Suite (not just Expression Web) and so much, much more. Everything you need to develop and test applications on all versions of Windows including mobile devices.”  And there are no upfront charges to join this program.
So grow your business faster and more easily than ever with access to the world’s greatest archive of shareware success knowledge and resources. Apply Now!
About me. I’ve been involved with the Shareware business since 1996 when I founded the first software review site on the internet SharewareJunkies.com. I also have a weekly podcast SharewareRadio.com where I weekly feature an interview with an industry insider and industry news. I attend a number of industry conferences every year and I’m also a member of other industry associations. In my past life I was an air traffic controller and chef.  Though I’m an American I live in Finland and Guatemala plus I have a houseboat in Wisconsin.
Thanks,
Mike
Michael Dulin – President
Association of Shareware Professionals
president@asp-shareware.org

12 Comments

  1. I’ve been an ASP member for several years and can testify that it has been the single greatest contribution to my success as an independent software vender. The information and support I’ve received from other ASP members in our private member forums has been invaluable:
    – Like many geeks marketing doesn’t come naturally to me. The advice I’ve gotten in the ASP members marketing forum has helped me to improve my web sites, better target my marketing campaigns and figure out what works as opposed to what just “seems like the way to go about it” to me. It was there that I first heard of Bob’s “Micro ISV Sites that Sell” ebook which I’ve found very useful.
    – When Vista was nearing its release date I got more relevant information and advice in the ASP members technical forum that anyplace else.
    – The ASP members “classifieds” forum has been a steady source of excellent deals on products and services that other ASP members market. Many ASP members offer their products at significant discount to their fellow members. Some even share free licenses. I’ve gotten great deals on a few tools that I use daily in running my business.
    – The ASP members general forum has been a great place to get to know other mISV owners and to talk about what works and what doesn’t. When I made the jump to full time with my business and began working exclusively from home the member forums provided an excellent “water cooler” type of environment for interacting with others in the same business.

  2. Today begins my tenth year as an ASP member, and my biggest regret was not joining back in 1990 when I first had the chance. The ASP has been the single most valuable business resource for our company since we joined. The private newsgroups are very active and filled with industry, marketing, and technical information, as is ASPects (the monthly publication); more importantly, they are also frequented by successful professionals who are willing and able to help other members and who understand the microISV perspective.
    In my particular case, I have formed business relationships that have easily earned our company enough to pay the annual $100 membership well into the next millennium (not to mention many personal friendships as well).

  3. Just to echo what Dan said, the ASP forums are the main benefit for most people. The $100/year membership, strong moderation and lack of anonymous posts make for a high signal:noise ratio. Health insurance, BizSpark and other benefits are also very useful to some members. And you can probably get your membership fee back in the software discounts the ASP offers.

  4. It’s hard to describe all the benefits of just having a forum where pretty much everybody is focused on the problem of building and selling software. Got a question about security certificates? The ASP newsgroup has the answers. Trying to compare payment processors? The ASP newsgroup has the collective experience. Want to know if your press release has some gaping holes in it? People on the ASP newsgroup will tell you. Can’t figure out why your shopping cart is being abandoned at such a high rate? The ASP is the best place for quick help.
    Many of us in the ASP feel the primary benefit is that *private* newsgroup, where you can talk about business issues you really don’t want showing up in some Google search for the rest of time. Most any question on any topic related to being a small-time software publisher gets answered quick there, and there’s a lot of relevant topics: choosing domain names, finding SEO help, is that website down or is it just me, licensing software, box shots, revenue models, techniques for tracking conversions, getting off of warez sites, what to do if you’re cracked, experience with AdWords, setup/installation issues, creating demos, pricing schemes, best source for an 800 phone number, experiences with trademark attorneys, the list just goes on and on and on.
    It’s not just that you can ask questions at the ASP, it’s that there’s a high degree of folks helping each other out. Probably the best example of that is the member-to-member discounts. Members, of their own volition, often provide deep discounts on their products to other members. Some members even offer all their products for free to other ASP members. That’s handy, because the membership encompasses a whole lot of products that are relevant to running your own software business. For example, I got back more than my yearly membership fee in savings on professional-quality website maintenance tools.
    Writing a software application and then trying to sell it can be an isolating experience. If you’re doing it (or better yet, just getting started), the ASP offers a unique community that can give you a serious competitive edge over folks who have no such community to draw on. At $100/year, it’s a bargain, IMHO.

  5. I have been building the shareware business by taking advice from BoS forums for the past year (for which Bob is a moderator ;). I joined ASP this week after already being in the business for a more than a year.
    Here is my first impression.
    1. There are some common contributors in both forums / newsgroups, but there are *many* contributors who contribute either only at BoS forum or only at ASP newsgroups. Those who contribute only at ASP have been in the industry for a long time. That “network” is worth much more compared to the membership fee of $100.
    2. There is no “anonymous” post. As Andy has mentioned above, that cuts down on noise.
    3. After I joined, I got a personal note from few members of the “Welcome Committee”. I have even been assigned a mentor who would answer my questions about ASP and help me navigate.
    4. ASP just held its Annual elections. If you join the newsgroup and read the candidate statements, some of them (who eventually won), have openly talked about “change” and “growth” of the organization. Which tells me that its a true organization for the members by the members.
    Its worth the money.
    Saurabh

  6. Shane Sturgeon Reply

    I’ve been a member of the ASP for a number of years, and at each annual renewal it has been a no-brainer to get out the credit card and renew. I have gained so much from the ASP it is hard to know where to start, and I would echo all of the sentiments above from other members. Perhaps one area that hasn’t truly been explored above is just how helpful the members are.
    I have recently been working on automating the sales fullfillment process, and had some PHP and C code to generate licence keys. I am not a C programmer, but there are plenty at the ASP. One of them took me under his wing to help me get it running, when I ran into problems, he used his own machines to compile the code, when that still didn’t work, he (with my permission) logged into my webhost, and got the code to compile there,and then helped me by explaining how he had done it so I could learn for next time. He did all this very generously, and when I offered a token of my appreciation he refused.
    Another recent case – I ran into a development problem with my application, and wanted some information. I scoured the web as is my usual first port of call, and unusually didn’t find much in the way of useful information. I posted a query in the Technical forum, and had several responses. One of them offered source code (for free) and when I gratefully accepted, wrote a demo program around the code so I could see how it worked. I am still using those ideas and refining them today.
    And lastly, just to point out that it is a community, and we all help each other, in 2007 a member wanted help with the English translation of his help file. I took the opportunity to give back, and spent a number of hours reviewing and editing his help file. I didn’t expect anytihng in return, but imagine my surpirse when the largest bunch of flowers I have ever seen arrived at my office some months later. And to top it off, a year after that, he made contact again and sent me a free licence for the professional version of his product.
    The ASP is a truly wonderful resource, full of really generous and helpful people and if you are serious about growing your software business, you should join.
    Cheers
    Shane

  7. Interesting comments and points well taken.
    I was one of the “founding” members of the ASP, having gone to the formation meeting in Houston back in 1987 and hold a two-digit member number (Jim Knopf [Button] of PC-File fame got member #1). Served as Secretary and started the ASPects newsletter way back when.
    While it’s been awhile since I marketed any software, I continue to be an active member of the organization as it offers a wealth of marketing information useful to my websites and, perhaps more importantly, is a source of lasting friendships and networking contacts.
    I can’t think of a better place for a new or established software author to get as much useful information in a single package as you can get with the ASP.
    Tom

  8. I’ve been a member of the ASP for over fourteen years now. My experience reflects that of those who have posted above, so instead of repeating what they’ve said, I’d like to add a couple of minor points and personal observations:
    1. Almost every question I’ve had in the past 14 years – whether about programming or marketing – has been answered in the ASP members newsgroups. That’s where I always ask first.
    2. Even when I don’t have questions, the ASP groups are the first thing I read in the morning because I learn a lot about the software industry in general and even when the topics don’t affect me directly (e.g., server maintanence and backup), I find the information interesting.
    3. The newsgroup search feature allows me to find answers to questions I may have in the newgroup posts that have been archived for the past 10 – 15 (?) years. Frequently I find the answer to the question without having to post to the newsgroups.
    4. Many members offer there programs either for free or heavily discounted to other ASP members. I get back in programs several times more than the $100 dues I pay every year.
    5. On a very personal level: I don’t know anyone in “real” life who understands what I do in this part of my professional life. No one I know is interested in programming issues or marketing and sales concerns on the Internet. It’s very satisfying to me to have a place where I can discuss these issues with others who understand them.
    I think that without the ASP, I would have lasted a couple of years in this business. I released my first program in 1994 and I’m still here, and in large part it’s thanks to the ASP.
    Brad Blanchard

  9. Although I’m not so new to the shareware world (I’m selling my product on-line with more or less success since 1999), this is the first time I’m trying to do some serious business with my product. My first step in that direction was to join ASP. In my first post to ASP newsgroups I asked for comments about my product’s web site. I’ve got few very useful advices regarding web site content in less than an hour. Those comments helped me to not only improve the site’s appearance but to avoid loosing potential customers due to unclear explanation of the purpose of my product.
    I’ve also got some really god suggestions about writing and distributing PR and generally abut product advertising.
    I’ve joined the ASP because it is the time for me to hear (and follow) some good advices from people that made serious success with their shareware, and this is the place to meet them.
    Faik

  10. I’ve been a member of the ASP for years. It more than pays for itself every month with information and interaction with other developers. Join!

  11. The difference between the ASP and the good forums and blogs for mISVs is its true sense of community. It’s a place to exchange relevant ideas, connect with software professionals, and develop lasting friendships. Highly recommended.

  12. There really is no way to determine how my marketing efforts would have played out if I didn’t have the luxury of participating in the forums of the ASP. The membership of this organization is so willing to share their knowledge and experiences that anyone starting up would be foolish not to take advantage of it.
    Fortunately I found this organization very early in my product marketing efforts. I can honestly attest, the value received far outweighs the modest association fees.
    My only regret is that I lack the expertise to be more of a participant. ( I’m still learning every day ) I am what is commonly referred to in the forums as a lurker. There is, however, probably not a day that goes by that I don’t take away some valuable information that I can put to use somewhere in my marketing efforts.
    I shudder to think where I would be now if it weren’t for the ASP.
    Regards,
    Lee

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