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Archive for October, 2012

Invisible Competition

October 28th, 2012
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microISV competition and invisibilityIf you use invisibility creatively, it will enhance your chances of success. So says Bill Russell, the only basketball player to win an NCAA Championship, an Olympic Gold Medal, and an NBA Championship in one year – and the author of the book “Russell Rules – 11 Lessons on Leadership from the Twentieth Century’s Greatest Winner.”

Bill Russell wasn’t particularly writing with the software development industry in mind. But his ideas apply very nicely to the world of microISVs. Here I’ve taken the liberty of translating his ideas into the software business.

We don’t have to be in our competitors’ faces to compete effectively with them, Russell tells us. We can quietly contact prospects, quietly develop better software, and quietly enhance our market share.

You can be subtle as you shape how you’re seen by competitors and by stakeholders in the industry. Create a powerful reputation – a powerful brand – and you’ll appear to be bigger than you really are in the marketplace.

But you don’t have to make every aspect of your business visible to your prospects, customers – or competitors. Describe what your software does, and how it benefits your customers. But don’t necessarily explain how you engineered the software to accomplish these goals. Keep that part of your business invisible.

Use your website and blog to talk about the benefits of using your applications. But don’t brag about how long it took you to develop specific parts of your software. Your prospects and customers don’t care. And your competitors don’t need to know. Keep that part of your software development company invisible.

Talk about the direction that you’re taking your company if it will help you with current and future sales. But don’t give your competitors insights into your plans for capturing additional market share. Keep that part of your strategy invisible.

Invisibility can help you sculpt the way that others perceive you, your company, and your products or services.

     – by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy

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How to Plan a Blog that Thrives for Years

October 3rd, 2012
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software developer blog“If your target audience isn’t listening, it’s not their fault,” Seth Godin tells us in his 2006 book Small is the New Big. “It’s yours.”

If I could sum up Godin’s advice in three words, it would be “Start a blog!”

Before you launch your blog, there are some things that you can do that will help your blog succeed. Too many people in the software development industry dive in, create a blog, post up a storm for a few weeks, and then burn out. With proper preparation, you can create a blog that will last for years, and boost your software sales.

I started my Software Marketing Blog ten weeks ago, in late July of 2012. And I spent a long time working on it before I ever posted my first write-up. Here are some things that you should think about for your new blog – or for reviving your slumbering blog.

Fresh blog content

Blogs are best when they’re fresh and spontaneous. Actually, that’s not true. Blogs are best when they nudge your prospects closer to buying your software. Blogs are best when they get your customers to tell their friends and colleagues that your software is very nice. Blogs are best when they get last year’s buyers to upgrade from the single-user license to the family license.

Appearances matter. Blogs are best when they appear to be fresh and spontaneous. With some postings such as news items and stories that tie into current events that your readers have heard about on TV, the only way to make your article seem fresh is to write it in realtime. It’s ineffective to write a news-related posting, and then post it six months or twelve months later.

My new blog will have tips for software developers about differentiation, branding, line extensions, positioning, and hundreds of other software marketing topics. I’ll give advice on writing a powerful sales presentation, and illustrating it effectively. And I’ll be writing about these topics two or three times each week.

Other topics, however, cannot be handled effectively by sitting down with your text editor every week and trying to write something fresh. A perfect example of this is my new blog’s treatment of my favorite topic: increasing software sales by sending press releases. If I were to write an article on this topic every three weeks, I would be in good shape for a few months. After that, I’d forget which items I’d already written about. And I’d find myself writing overlapping articles, or articles that are missing important content.

Two years of postings about press releases

I’ve been writing and distributing press releases for software developers since 1984. Before I launched my new Software Marketing Blog, I gathered together everything that I’d written about press releases. I found the press release descriptions that I used to postal-mail to software developers in the 1980s and 1990s, the articles that were published in ASP’s and ESC’s newsletters, the press release articles from my Software Marketing Newsletter from years past, the FAQ’s and sales messages from my website, information from my Software Marketing Glossary, my presentation notes from the Software Industry Conference (SIC) seminars that I delivered, and every scrap of press release-related writing that I’d written.

I rewrote all of this material, brought it up to date, eliminated the duplicate items, and organized it into 37 separate blog postings. For the next two years, you’ll be able to read one of these press release articles every three weeks on my blog. And because I wrote the entire body of press release information in one sustained effort, I’ll never have to worry that I’m presenting duplicate material that I’d posted weeks or months earlier. Sure, I’ll be using my blog to talk about new developments regarding microISVs’ press releases. But the main body of microISVs’ press release information is ready for publication now.

Two years of book review postings

I’m going to be posting a review of a business, marketing, sales, or writing book every two weeks. Each book review will be written from the perspective of the software development industry. Before I launched my blog, I went through 50 of the hundreds of business books that I’d read and underlined in recent years, and I wrote enough book reviews to last for the next two years. Sure, I’ll be changing the schedule and including new books that I’m currently reading. But I have a huge cache of material that will help my readers sell more software. And I don’t have to worry at all about having enough postings for my blog.

Software Marketing Blog imagesIllustrating your blog postings

Illustrations are important in blogs. For most readers, large blocks of text are uninviting. Reading large clumps of text seems too much like work for many of your prospects and customers. Use photos and drawings to break up the space, and make your blog more inviting.

For my new blog, I created artwork for 20-or-so topics that I’ll be covering. For most of my blog’s shorter postings, I don’t have to worry about the artwork because it’s already been crafted. For longer articles, I’ll be going back to my favorite stock image site and searching for more artwork.

Tags are important

Plan today for how you will want prospects to search your blog two years from now, when there might be more than 100 postings on it. Choose the tags and categories today that will help you with both human visitors and the search engines. Plan for today’s and tomorrow’s searching needs.

Building a library of microISV blog postings

For me, building a library of blog postings means writing press release tips and tricks, writing about how to craft a powerful sales presentation, writing business book reviews, and delivering website design ideas.

Software developers can do something similar for their blogs. Depending upon the type of applications that you offer, you could create a topic page for each program. List the main features that your target audiences need to know about. And list the associated benefits.

Be sure to include everybody in your target audience. If you’re marketing educational software, for example, list each of your target markets – school kids, their parents, their teachers, homeschoolers, homeschooling parents, and corporate trainers. Talk about the specific benefits that each group will enjoy if they use your software. And write a blog posting for each feature/benefit combination. Depending upon the applications that you offer, we might be talking about five blog postings, or hundreds of them.

Similarly, create an exhaustive list of tips and tricks for using your applications. Write them all up in a single week, so you won’t have to worry about forgetting pieces of the puzzle, or about writing duplicate, overlapping messages.

With a large cache of articles ready to be posted, you’ll feel a lot more positive – and a lot more confident – about launching your blog. And you’ll be able to write about new ideas with more enthusiasm and spontaneity.

Reviving a tired blog

All of these ideas can help you revive a blog that you’ve created but not supported in recent months or years. So many microISVs have started blogs, realized how much work it takes to feed them each week, wondered if anybody is really reading them, and abandoned them.

Truth is, it’s never too late to reinvigorate your blog. Your new blog postings will get picked up by Google and the other search engines. And your human visitors will get back into the habit of reading your postings.

Launch your blog now

Don’t just jump in the blog pond and thrash about. But don’t procrastinate, either. A well-delivered blog can bring new traffic to your website, and increase your software sales. Plan ahead, and you’ll increase your chances of long-term blogging success.

Interested in more ideas for setting up your new blog? Visit my Software Marketing Blog for a feature-length posting about where to host your blog.

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