Archive for January, 2012

ASP Takes Official Stance on Proposed Copyright Legislation

January 26th, 2012
Comments Off on ASP Takes Official Stance on Proposed Copyright Legislation

The ASP board of directors unanimously agreed to an official position on SOPA/PIPA and related laws.

While efforts to curb online piracy are laudable, the ASP’s members rely on fair copyright laws and a free and open Internet. It is the position of the ASP that the SOPA and PIPA bills create an unacceptable potential for abuse that would raise compliance costs, slow innovation, and discourage business growth and startups.

While SOPA/PIPA are no longer being brought up in the U.S. House and Senate, the ASP will be keeping an eye on these bills and future legislation such as the OPEN Act to ensure its members’ interests are promoted and supported.

More information on the ASP’s official position is available on the ASP’s news page.

Announcements, Uncategorized

30 books every mISV should read (and why)

January 25th, 2012
Comments Off on 30 books every mISV should read (and why)

I’ve recently published a post called “30 books everyone in software business should read (and why)” and it has gotten a very positive reception in the developer/startup community and went viral. It lists the best 30 books I’ve read in the last 5 years that helped me grow my software business.

Readers of the post suggested many other very interesting books in discussions on multiple sites, and I’ve added them all in the appendix list in the post.

So if you are looking for something interesting to read, this is a fairly comprehensive resource.

I didn’t know what to read next, but with all those great recommendations by other developers and mISVs, I still don’t know what to read next 🙂 Many of these titles look very intriguing. However, I’m sure that you will be able to pick something out of my original list of 30 books. Each book includes my short description and reasons why you should read it.

And if you have read something great that’s missing there, don’t hesitate to post it in the comments. I will keep updating the appendix list.

News, Uncategorized

Last Chance for the ISVCon Early Bird Discount

January 23rd, 2012
Comments Off on Last Chance for the ISVCon Early Bird Discount

The Association of Software Professionals purchased the rights to the Software Industry Conference last year. and registration for ISVCon, the new Software Industry Conference, has been open since December.

ISVCon, the ASP’s official event for independent software developers, marketers, and vendors, will be held in Reno, Nevada between July 13 – July 15 this year.

With sessions for newbies and for the experienced, there will be plenty of relevant, useful information for everyone. By attending ISVCon, you’ll learn valuable business tips from your peers and make great contacts in your industry. You’ll hear from speakers on topics ranging from mobile app development, marketing and product management, UI trends, outsourcing best practices, security, and more!

If you haven’t registered yet, you’ll want to do so soon. Besides ensuring that you’ll get the “energized after-ISVCon” feeling to start applying everything you learned, you’ll be saving $100 by registering at before the end of January in order to get the Early Bird discount.

And remember: ASP members also get 15% off registration, which is just one of the perks you get for becoming a new member!

You can follow the conference on Twitter at @ISVCon and on Facebook at

So, are you attending ISVCon? What are you most looking forward to?

Announcements, Uncategorized

Using News Stories to Market Your Software

January 14th, 2012
Comments Off on Using News Stories to Market Your Software

newsworthy press releases are good software marketingYou can get free publicity for your software if you link it to a popular news story. Tech editors and bloggers are curious about press releases that describe software with interesting features and benefits. But it’s better if you can attract a wider audience of writers and columnists. Editors representing every beat, from business to lifestyle, are looking for an interesting angle for covering a newsworthy story.

Many of you know Alex Krivov as the guy who runs jProductivity, the company that offers Protection Licensing Toolkit to keep pirates from stealing your software. Alex’s company also offers InstaTodo, a to-do list manager for iPhone and iPad that lets you create custom, reusable to-do list templates.

How do you get editors interested in telling their readers about yet another to-do app? The proven approach is to talk about its unique usage of reusable templates. Another approach is to send a press release that talks about InstaTodo’s built-in capabilities to manage an imminent emergency such as Hurricane Irene.

Hurricane Irene confronted millions of Americans with the urgent need to somehow prepare their families as this huge storm threatened to devastate the eastern part of the United States. InstaTodo users, however, were prepared with expert guidance. And the InstaTodo press release offered concrete ideas that would help people prepare for the storm.

jProductivity partnered with the US Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to provide InstaTodo users with Emergency To-Do lists, including FEMA’s Emergency Supply Kit, First Aid Kit, Unique Family Needs, Emergency Food Supply, and Useful Government and Non-Profit Organization Links.

InstaTodo users didn’t rush to grocery stores, trying to guess how many batteries to buy, or how much food and bottled water to purchase. With just a tap or two in InstaTodo, they had all of the information that they needed.

With thousands of editors and columnists looking for a fresh approach to reporting on the fast-approaching Hurricane Irene, Alex sent them the news story that they needed. Here’s PC World Magazine’s today@PCWorld blog posting covering the press release.

Many software developers can use today’s hottest news stories to help market their products or services. Start by thinking about how your software can benefit people in your target audience. For each group of prospects that you target, create a benefits profile that describes how their day-to-day activities would be enhanced by your software.

Next, think through how your software can be tied to current news items. How can your software users benefit from your application during a time of economic turbulence? How can your software help people land their next job? Will your program make people’s leisure time more relaxing, exciting, or fulfilling? Can you tie your application to a particular holiday?

Find a way to link your software to today’s hottest news stories, and your income will go up. It’s good software marketing.

– by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Glossary guy

Articles, Uncategorized , , , ,

microISVs versus Software Giants

January 8th, 2012
Comments Off on microISVs versus Software Giants

microISV competition using trial softwareSince the beginning of shareware, small software development companies have been competing with software giants. On paper, it’s a tough software marketing challenge. It’s very difficult for the microISVs to win these competitions. Yet year after year, we find one-person companies taking significant market share away from the well-financed software publishers.

How can a small company – say, a small software developer – compete with a huge company? microISVs can learn a lot from David Ogilvy. Time Magazine called David Ogilvy the most sought-after wizard in the advertising business. Chapter 14 of Ogilvy’s classic book “Ogilvy on Advertising” is called “Competing with Procter & Gamble – Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf?” And the lessons from this 1983 book are as valid today as they were when Ogilvy penned it.

Ogilvy had competed against Procter & Gamble for decades, and he respected P&G’s advertising prowess. Yet in head-to-head competition, Ogilvy’s advertising firm helped his customers take significant market share away from P&G.

Procter & Gamble spent $700,000,000(US) a year on advertising back in the early 1980s. Their sales were $12 billion a year. P&G’s success was based on their intelligent application of sound marketing principles. Here are some of the things that P&G did to become successful. Today’s software developers can learn a lot about software marketing from P&G’s successful practices.

(1) Product samples

Ogilvy tells us that P&G distributed home-delivered samples on a massive scale. The company was convinced that if they let consumers try their products, they would want to buy them. This was a very expensive way to market consumer goods. They had to manufacture samples, postal-mail them to consumers, and be sure that grocery and department store shelves were stocked with P&G’s products when it was time for end-users to buy more.

market search for microISV software develoopersSoftware developers have a much easier time distributing trial versions on the Internet. Once a software application has been developed, the distribution cost is nominal. No doubt, the cost of advertising and promoting your software, and letting potential buyers know where to find it, can be significant. But these expenses pale when compared with the costs of manufacturing and distributing samples of toothpaste or laundry detergent.

For prospects who land on your website, you have to decide if you want to sell them your software, or entice them to download the trial version. For most developers, selling software should be the primary goal, and coaxing prospects to download the trial version should be a distant second choice.

(2) Categories and competition

P&G never entered small categories unless they expected them to grow, Ogilvy explains. The consumer products giant simply wouldn’t spend time in niche markets. While this may be a good practice for well-financed publicly-traded software companies, many microISVs find it quite lucrative to find and dominate niche markets.

“They (Procter & Gamble) often enter more than one brand in a category,” Ogilvy wrote, “and allow each brand to compete with its sibling – with no holds barred.” There are some software developers who take the same approach. In addition to selling their software on the Internet, they’ll contract with a publisher to distribute their boxed software in stores, often under a different brand name.

(3) Market research

Procter & Gamble did a lot of market research. And Ogilvy believed that they created products that were better – and were perceived to be better – than competitive products. In addition to surveying potential buyers before creating a new product, P&G also did extensive test marketing. They would rather be right than first. This philosophy seems to contradict today’s wisdom that being first to market a new category of product is the most important factor in a company’s potential success.

It would seem that Apple has followed P&G’s example. Many years after the first computer tablets were introduced, Apple launched the iPad. By waiting, and by designing a tablet that people would genuinely want to use, Apple revived a tired old concept and turned it into a marketplace success.

(4) Advertising

advertising and microISV competitionOgilvy pointed out that P&G’s ads stressed one key benefit. If they wanted to stress two important benefits, they would run two separate ads (versus stressing two benefits in a single ad). Most microISVs’ advertising is found on their websites. And most software developers’ websites present a library of information about their applications’ benefits and features. Perhaps developers would have more success if they followed P&G’s lead, and spent most of their time emphasizing a single benefit.

P&G’s commercials spoke directly to consumers. Many microISVs have been taking a similar approach by writing their websites’ sales messages in the second person. This means speaking directly to prospects, with lots of “you” and “your” and “you’re” words. In contrast to this conversational approach, other developers talk in the third person about their products, and occasionally mention “the user” as some abstract person who buys their software. Clearly, P&G’s speaking directly to potential customers is a more effective way to do software marketing.

P&G used unknown actors in their commercials. Compare that with today’s practice of getting celebrity endorsements from Hollywood stars, famous musicians, and sports heroes.

While it seems that P&G’s products were on television day and night, Ogilvy pointed out that less than one third of P&G’s advertising budget was allocated to prime-time advertising. Perhaps there’s a lesson there for software developers: If you’re buying search engine words, you don’t have to limit yourself to Google. If you’re buying text or banner ads on download sites, you don’t have to only buy from the highest-traffic sites.

(5) Product names

Procter & Gamble’s product names, Ogilvy pointed out, were short and simple. Today’s list includes Cascade, Cheer, Comet, Crest, Febreze, Gillette, Olay, Clairol, Ivory, Tide, and Pringles.

When they advertised their products, P&G never named their competitors. Rather, they would use a phrase such as “the other leading detergent.” Some software developers name their competitors in their websites’ sales presentations. For example, some microISVs create feature-comparison tables that show their applications’ features and benefits side-by-side with competitive products. And some developers offer competitive upgrades for customers who abandon an alternative product in favor of their own.

microISVs sell software with benefitsShould microISVs include the names of their competitors in the sales presentations on their websites? It depends. In some jurisdictions, it may not be legal to mention competitive companies or products. Where it’s legal, developers might try it both ways, and compare sales results.

(6) Talking about benefits

Ogilvy mentioned an interesting attribute of P&G’s advertisements that might have implications for microISVs: P&G showed consumers how the product will benefit them, without explaining why it might benefit them. Their ads promised softer skin, or a happier social life, and other benefits, tangible and intangible. And the reader or viewer of the ads was left to figure out how the products’ features would lead to these benefits.

Often, product users were portrayed as benefiting emotionally from using P&G’s product. And seldom did a P&G ad connect all the dots. Prospects were on their own to figure out how P&G’s consumer products would deliver all of their benefits.

Most marketers believe that advertising is more successful if you can offer – and prove – a specific, quantifiable benefit. Again, choose the approach that makes the most sense to you, and measure the results. Change your sales message, and measure again.

The bottom line

How do you beat a well-funded, well-known company like P&G? Or to bring the question closer to home, how can a microISV beat a well-funded, well-known software publisher? Take advantage of your strengths. You can move much more quickly than a large company. Once a microISV identifies an opportunity, it’s easier to allocate resources to working on the new development project.

And learn from Procter & Gamble. Bring their successful design, advertising, and marketing ideas to the software development industry, and sell more software.

– by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Glossary guy

Articles, Uncategorized , , , ,

January 2012 ASPects

January 1st, 2012
Comments Off on January 2012 ASPects

Every month, the ASPects newsletter is sent to ASP members. The entire 25-year history is available online in the members’ archive, and is fully-searchable.

Here are this month’s articles, available to members of the Association of Software Professionals.

Newsletter of the Association of Software Professionals, January

New Year, New Leadership, New Opportunities
by Gianfranco Berardi
Happy New Year! The annual calendar change is a good time for us to reflect on the past, look forward to the future, and in so doing, determine our focus for the present.
   2011 featured quite a few changes. First, I’d like to address the fact that I’m your new President… (page 1)

Trade Show Calendar
(page 2)

ISVCon/SIC Registration Open, $100 Early-Bird Savings
by Sue Pichotta
Registration is now open for ISVCon 2012, the new Software Industry Conference. This year’s conference will be filled with new and wonderful things – a new venue, new speakers, new subjects, new schedule, new break room, new vendor access, free breakfast and lunch, new evening entertainment options, new post-conference meet-up, and more.
   New Pricing & Discount: This year, we are offering a substantial discount for early-bird registration. Prices are discounted $100 if you register before February 1… (page 3)

ASP News:
New President
Annual Meeting Results… (page 4)

Selling Your Software Through the Educational Channel
by David Raimondo
The “Adobe model” is the reason you want to be in the education channel. Adobe software, founded in 1982, started off in the education market with their software Photoshop. It became a standard with schools, and when students left school after learning Photoshop, that was a product they used in the commercial world.
   Many software companies want to increase their sales by selling to the educational channel… (page 5)

Get Rid Of the Discount Code Field
by Jiri Novotny
I’ve recently changed all our order forms and unmercifully removed the discount code field from all of them. Don’t get me wrong, we still run promotions and offer discounts to some potential customers, but we’ve stopped using discount codes.
   Do you have a “Discount code” field in your order form? Yes? Well, in that case, I have both bad news and good news for you… (page 6)

Are Your Game Mechanics Off Balance?
by Gianfranco Berardi
You’ve been working on your action game for so long that you’re sick of playing it. You have a wide variety of enemies with different strengths and weaknesses, and you’ve provided the player with dozens of different weapons to take advantage of those weaknesses. You’ve tested so many different playstyles, changing variables as you found issues, and you even had your family and friends try it out to make sure that they don’t think it is too hard or too easy…
   Except something goes wrong. Someone discovers a way to use a weapon that dominates all of the enemies in your game, eliminating the challenge and fun entirely. Or perhaps there’s a sequence in the game that to someone who doesn’t know all of the intricacies of the game, it’s frustratingly too hard. In either case, your game isn’t balanced… (page 7)

by Jiri Novotny
As a software author, the little book called Appillionaires written by Chris Stevens has caught my attention and found its way to my Kindle. Just as Kindle revolutionized the book industry, the Apple App Store has revolutionized the mobile applications industry. Let me share with you what I learned in the book… (page 9)

ASP Member News:
GRAHL software design ‘s PDF Annotator Wins 2011 Epsilon Award for Software Excellence
Help+Manual 6: Authoring Tool Now Publishes Documentation Directly to iPad and iPhone (page 11)

ASPects Newsletter, Uncategorized