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Profile: Jim Allen

November 25th, 2011
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The Association of Software Professionals started out in 1987. Our members broke the shelf-ware model, inventing try-before-you-buy, and now, that’s how software is sold.

Here’s another in our series of profiles of our members. All we asked was this: How did you get started?

Jim Allen, of J.A. Associates, joined the ASP December 5, 1999, and is online at http://www.j-a-associates.com/

Jerry Stern, Editor, ASPects


 

Jim Allen

Spent my entire working life in Southern California working for various transformer companies.

Self taught myself Basic in 1968 using a teletype, what fun. Didn’t use it much, fairly expensive connect time, replaced most of what I was using it for with an HP 65 then HP 97 programmable calculator.

Then along came the Commodore 64, I wrote and had published (Run and Compute! magazines) several programs for it and the Commodore 128 while still using the HP 97 at work.

After getting my first IBM compatible I wrote and sold a program for designing inductors and another to calculate the Q of inductors, kept my day job; actually by then I’d started my own consulting firm.

I joined the ASP in 1999 after I wrote the first rendition of the RPN Engineering Calculator.

Retired in 2007 after moving to Coos County on the Oregon coast, bought an RV and we’ve racked up about 30,000 miles since.

Interviews, Uncategorized

Profile: David Hyde

November 15th, 2011
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The Association of Software Professionals started out back in 1987. Our members invented try-before-you-buy, and changed how software is sold. Now, we have everyone from app builders to web developers benefiting from our private newsgroups, member discounts, and our shared experience on how to market software.

Here’s another in our series of profiles of our members. All we asked was this: How did you get started?

David Hyde, of HydeSoft Computing, joined the ASP July 23, 2002, and is online at www.dplot.com

Jerry Stern, Editor, ASPects


 
David Hyde

My college training was rudimentary at best (CS majors would say non-existent): Introduction to FORTRAN and a steel frame analysis class that involved hours and hours of typing punch cards, standing in line (don’t you DARE drop that stack!), then several minutes after feeding the cards in, getting a syntax error due to a typo on card 786 of 1324. One diagnostic at a time, so the cycle was repeated MANY times. What I learned from that class was mostly that I didn’t want to work with computers :-), though I did pick up enough FORTRAN to get by.

In ‘82 I went to work at an engineering lab. Most computer work was done at a dumb Tektronix terminal (that had REALLY good graphics for the day–no pixels, instead vectors were… well, vectors) hooked to a Honeywell mainframe. And then PCs came along and POW. I fooled around a lot with BASICA and IBM’s FORTRAN offering and hoped that jazzing up my hotrod 6Mhz system with a 9Mhz clock crystal wouldn’t cause the building to catch on fire. I fooled around with a lot of graphing stuff and pretty basic physics problems. I also taught myself assembly language to optimize graphics and create my own menu system (all of which became irrelevant when Windows took over the world, but it was good experience).

Then in ~’88 our director dictated that each of five labs should publish a report/manual in some sort of electronic format, and I jumped at it thinking it sounded like fun. At the time I was involved with a big test series and figured I’d come up with an electronic version of my report, complete with 16-color pictures 🙂 (How in the world did we put up with that?) Thankfully that project got delayed and delayed and delayed some more and, because the deadline for an “electronic version of ” was going to occur before that project was completed, I chose instead to publish an electronic version of a technical manual our lab had contributed quite a bit to, including all the calculations and… this is the important part for the private me… graphical output of those calculations.

If the test program had kept to the schedule… well, I’d most likely not be an ASP member or have ever heard of the other ASP members in our newsgroups, and that would be a tragedy.

Interviews, Uncategorized , , ,

Software Marketing – Pricing Your Software Application

November 11th, 2011

Software pricing and software sales

software marketing and pricingYou can sell more of your software if you make it simple for prospects to learn the price. If you hide the price, they won’t be reading the sales presentation on your website. Instead, they’ll be scrolling and clicking, trying to find out how much you charge for your application.

Paco Underhill, in his book “Why We Buy – The Science of Shopping,” points out that shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores dislike obscure price tags. The same distaste for hidden prices carries over to the Internet. I’d guess that Underhill would be urging software developers to make it easy for prospects to find their pricing information.

Software price and differentiation

Many developers try to use their software’s price as a way of differentiating it from their competitors’ programs. According to Jack Trout, the author of “Differentiate or Die,” price can rarely be an effective differentiating idea. In fact, Trout believes that price can be the enemy of differentiation.

As soon as you talk about price, Trout tells us, people assume that you’re not able to state why you’re different from – and superior to – your competitors. So, it’s best to avoid competing on price.

If you should decide to compete on price, then be sure to have an integrated theory on how price and value are merged together to provide something unique. Trout provides a number of examples:

  • Southwest Airlines used this strategy with their low ticket prices plus a system of hubs in smaller municipalities.
  • Wal-Mart succeeds with low prices plus store locations in smaller towns plus vendor contracts that support their lower prices.
  • Dell uses affordable prices along with direct sales to succeed.

Price alone probably is not a good basis on which to compete. But price plus something else – something that makes a low price logical – can be an effective way to differentiate a product or service.

Responding to competitors’ software prices

software marketing, pricing, differentiationIf you have a competitor who is making your life miserable by lowering the price of their software, then there are some strategies that you can use to compensate. Here are three of Trout’s suggestions, translated into the software development industry:

1. Do something unusual. Don’t just lower your price to match a competitor’s price. Instead, create a software bundle, or find a non-price way to change what you’re offering to your customer base.

2. Confuse the marketplace. That’s what MCI did when they launched their “Friends & Families” discount program. MCI made it very difficult for prospects to tell if their pricing would be higher or lower than, say, AT&T’s more traditional long-distance pricing.

3. Change the discussion. Admit that your software costs more to buy initially, but tell your customers that you give away free upgrades for the first three years. Talk about the total cost of ownership (TCO). Find some way to change the argument from initial price to overall cost for the life of the software.

Marketing with lower software prices

Trout believes that price reduction sales are a bad idea. He doesn’t believe that they bring in incremental income in the long run.

software marketing and competitive softwareSergio Zyman, author of “The End of Marketing As We Know It,” believes that discount prices are a sign of marketing laziness. Price-cutting is what marketers do when they run out of creative new marketing ideas. “When a price promotion ends,” Zyman tells us, “the consumers move on to the next guy who’s willing to pay them to buy his product.”

Trout gives us an interesting example of low prices in the sports retailing business. The four biggest sports retailers are all losing money. They’ve been competing on price. And when Wal-Mart and Kmart got to the point where they were selling 35 percent of all sports equipment in the US, the major sports retailers were in a world of trouble.

Trout is not a fan of the “free” trend that we see so much in the software development industry. He believes that it’s very difficult to distribute products or services for free, and still turn a profit at the end of the year.

Can you succeed with a high-price strategy? Many people believe that the highest quality products should cost more. And people are willing to pay for products that will impress their neighbors and coworkers. A high price, Trout believes, becomes a benefit of the underlying product because it impresses the buyers’ friends and colleagues.

software marketing, raising software prices, and lowering themLowering prices is not a particularly good long-term strategy. So says Philip Kotler, author of “Kotler On Marketing – How to Create, Win, and Dominate Markets.” At the time Kotler penned this book, he had sold more than three million marketing textbooks, and done marketing consulting work for AT&T, General Electric, Ford, IBM, and other Fortune 100 companies. The man knows a lot about marketing.

Kotler reports that the marketing professionals who attend his seminars believe that their customers are more sophisticated than before, and more price-sensitive. At the same time, these attendees believe that dropping prices doesn’t work because competitors respond in kind, and everybody loses.

Kotler believes that it’s a mistake to price your product or service based on a mark-up. Your prospects and customers don’t care how many hours it took you to write the program, or how much you paid for the programming tools that you use. Instead, software developers should base their prices by figuring out the value of the product to their customers.

Branding and pricing are tied together, Kotler suggests. Marketing is all about building a brand. If you don’t build a brand and differentiate yourself from your competitors, then you’re selling a commodity. And the only way to differentiate yourself in a commoditized market is by price.

Software pricing and marketing strategy

Determining the price of your software should be part of your marketing strategy. And don’t use a simple definition of price. You need to consider the list price, site license discounts, allowances, coupons, credit terms, affiliate fees, and commissions, as well as any bundled products or services that you may be offering.

Developers often ask if it makes sense to offer a low-priced personal license and a higher-priced business license, for identical software. Some consumers may be offended by the idea. On the other hand, consumers are used to this kind of pricing.

software marketing and pricing strategyFor example, if you go to a concert, you’d expect to pay more for seats that are closer to the stage, even though the seats cost no more to manufacture or install than those seats that are farther away from the stage. And most people would expect to pay more for weekend tickets than for weekday tickets. The concept isn’t bizarre, but it has to be sold to your software prospects.

Kotler tells us to find a way to add value to the more expensive version. You could offer priority support, or coupons, or long-term discounts to the people who buy the business license. The solution is to create a series of attractive offerings at a range of price points.

Software pricing and repeat customers

Developing long-term customers, Kotler believes, can offer a lot of advantages to people who are marketing products such as software. You can cross-sell and upsell to them. It takes less effort to complete transactions with them because they’re familiar with your software, communications, emails, and procedures. They’re more likely to recommend your programs to their friends.

But there is also a pricing consideration. Long-term customers are less price-sensitive because they’ve developed a relationship with your company. They’ll pay a little more for your software because they trust you, and because they’re comfortable buying from you.

Kotler sees pricing as a way to deal with difficult customers. Most companies lose money on some percentage of their worst clients. If you’re getting customers who require too much technical support, for example, find out why they’re buying from you, and do something to change that.

If you want to keep these customers, then educate them, so you’re not spending as much time supporting them. Or raise your prices so it’s worthwhile to deal with them.

Marketing with higher software prices

Advertising genius David Ogilvy has some thoughts on maintaining high prices in a price-sensitive world. In his book “Ogilvy on Advertising,” Ogilvy said to his prospects, “If you are going to choose your agency on the basis of price, you are looking through the wrong end of the telescope.”

software marketing and pricing software applicationsOgilvy urges his prospects to think about the increased sales that he can deliver to them, and not the amount of fees that he charges. This approach can be effective in selling software online, too.

Don’t price your product too low. Ogilvy points out that people judge the value of a product by its price. I agree. I’ve said for years that too many software developers price their applications too low, and it damages their profits.

Harry Beckwith, the author of “The Invisible Touch – The Four Keys to Modern Marketing,” agrees that low prices are not the answer to business success. Beckwith believes that higher-priced goods and services are perceived to be better than lower-priced ones. Price changes perception. Price can actually enhance the experience of using a product or service.

“Higher prices don’t just talk,” Beckwith insists. “They tempt.” My 25+ years of marketing experience in the software industry confirms this belief. In the software industry, most developers will tell you that their Pro version outsells their Standard version.

Beckwith goes on to say that price is often the excuse (but rarely the reason) that you’re losing market share to your competitors. “Look deeper,” he advises.

Most people can afford to pay more money for your software application. Don’t charge them less. Instead, do a better job of convincing prospects that your applications have more value than the software that your competitors offer.

Pricing your software application

There’s no shortage of advice on how to price your software application. But there is no simple formula for arriving at the perfect price-point for your programs. You have to consider all of the factors discussed above, take your best guess, and measure the results. Then, change the price and measure again. My best advice would be – raise your prices. They’re probably a little bit too low.

by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Glossary guy from DP Directory, Inc.

Uncategorized , , , , ,

Creating Sitemaps for Your Websites

November 6th, 2011
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Main points and benefits of sitemaps:

  • There exist many kinds of sitemap file formats, each optimized for a particular purpose.
  • Sitemaps can help your users navigate your website.
  • Sitemaps can help you get your important pages indexed faster and more often.
  • This article will explain the best usage of the most popular sitemap file types.

 

HTML sitemaps:

  • If you link to your HTML sitemap from all pages in your website, and your HTML sitemap contains links to all important sections and pages of your website, you can ensure link juice (a.k.a. Google PageRank or similar in other search engines) flow to all your pages helping them to be deemed important and get indexed by search engines.
  • A HTML sitemap structured in a sensible way can help users navigate your website. For this purpose, it may be a good idea to only include all the main sections/pages to avoid cluttering the sitemap needlessly.
  • Tip: Use a combination of different HTML sitemaps: Create a single-page HTML sitemap with links to all important sections, but at the bottom include a link to another (possibly multi-page) HTML sitemap with links to all website URLs.

 

XML sitemaps:

  • Google and other search engines created the “XML sitemaps protocol” for websites to offer an alternative way for search engines to find and index all your pages.
  • Tip:  If you in the XML sitemap make sure to only include non-duplicate URLs and assign appropriate URL importance priorities, you can increase the chance of  having your important URLs indexed faster.
  • Tip: The larger your website and the more complex your website navigation (e.g. Javascript and using forms/dropdowns etc.) the more useful having an XML sitemap becomes.

 

Image sitemaps:

  • Image sitemaps is a Google-only extension of XML sitemaps.
  • An easy way to tell Google about your images and how they associate to individual pages in your website.
  • If you have a website that is heavy on using images and pictures, you should include an image sitemap.

 

Video sitemaps:

  • Video sitemaps is a Google-only extension of XML sitemaps.
  • You can let Google know of all your video content and on which pages your videos are found.
  • If you have a website filled with video tutorials or similar, creating a video sitemap is almost a must.
  • Video search results are often blended into the standard Google search results.

 

News sitemaps:

  • News sitemaps is a Google-only extension of XML sitemaps.
  • If your website features major news on a regular basis, you should consider a news sitemap.
  • To be accepted by Google for news sitemaps, there are certain publisher requirements you will need to check and obey.
  • News search results are often blended into the normal Google search results.

 

For more information:

  • This sitemaps comparison article which has code examples and explanations of all sitemap file types.
  • The help pages found in the webmaster sections of various search engines.
  • The official XML sitemaps protocol page.

 

– Thomas Schulz, developer of the A1 Sitemap Generator tool

Articles, Uncategorized