Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Selling Software Using Emotion and Imagination

December 16th, 2014
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Tahiti“Good writers make the reader’s imagination work for them.” So says Patricia T. O’Conner, the author of the book “Words Fail Me – What Everyone Who Writes Should Know About Writing.”

Most advertising experts tell us that effective sales copy is all about emotion. People make decisions based on emotion, and they use logic to justify their decisions.

O’Conner believes that if you use emotion, you can leave part of the “story” out, and the reader will fill in the missing pieces using their own experience.

This technique might be a good way for software developers to sell a home inventory application. Talk about how your software benefits people who are victims of burglary or fire, and your reader will relate at an emotional level.

Perhaps this technique is a good way for microISVs to sell educational software. Talk about how your software will help prepare the prospects’ children for school – and for life.

When crafting your sales presentation, weave emotional writing into the message. Get your prospects emotionally involved, and you’ll turn more of them into customers.

– by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy

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Plans, Luck, Accidents, and Software Sales

July 14th, 2014
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“In creative endeavors, luck is a skill.”

So says Twyla Tharp, the dancer, choreographer, businesswoman, and author of the 2003 book “The Creative Habit – Learn it and use it for life.” She devotes a chapter of her book to recognizing accidents and mistakes, and turning them into creative successes.

It’s good to have a plan, Tharp insists. But it’s a mistake to over-plan. Learn to plan ahead, and to recognize great stuff when you discover it.

Tharp believes that you have to have a plan. But following it too closely will stifle creativity.

Some people deny that luck is a factor in their creativity because they want to take credit for all of their accomplishments.

Sometimes plans fail to achieve their desired results, for a number of reasons:

  • Other people get in the way of our plan.
  • Our plan isn’t perfect. Many people can’t get started until they have a perfect plan, and a perfect series of the precise steps to follow. Sometimes we just have to get started, even if we’re not perfectly prepared. Sometimes it’s a blessing to have very limited resources such as too little time or too little money.
  • The format of our plan is bad. Sometimes we fail because we’re trying to fit a new idea into an old pattern.
  • We have misplaced obligations. We’re under pressure to please somebody with bad ideas. Or we have to conform to the wishes of the person who’s in charge.
  • We have the wrong resources. We simply haven’t equipped ourselves with the tools that we need to carry out the plan. Sometimes, having too little time to accomplish something motivates us to run and get the job done.

This chapter has three exercises that are designed to increase our creativity. Tharp asks us to pick a fight with ourselves. Choose a presumption that we’ve been depending upon for the success of a project, and reject it. Dismiss it. Do the opposite. And derive ideas from the tension and conflict that you create.

In another exercise, Tharp tells us to get lucky by being generous to other people. In my opinion, that’s the fundamental principle of success in business – being generous to other people and forming lasting, mutually-helpful relationships with others in the industry.

In a third exercise, Tharp urges us to work with the best people available. Again, this is a great insight from an accomplished artist.

It’s hard to use a short blog posting to summarize an entire chapter in a book about creativity. I’d recommend that you add “The Creative Habit” to your bookshelf. Twyla Tharp is a creative person who can explain how each of us can become more creative. The book will help your microISV business and your software sales.

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The customer isn't always right

May 11th, 2014
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The customer isn’t always right.

So says Robert A. Lutz, the former President and Vice Chairman of Chrysler Corporation and the author of the book “Guts – The seven laws of business that made Chrysler the world’s hottest car company.”
One of Lutz’s Immutable Laws of Business says that the customer isn’t always right. In fact, Lutz says that nobody in his or her right mind could possibly believe that the customer is always right.

  • Customers don’t know what they want.
  • Customers lie.
  • Customers can’t predict the future.
  • Customers certainly don’t have the industry-changing ideas that companies need to succeed.

Since customers and prospects aren’t very good at pointing companies in the right direction, many firms decide to play it safe. They create products and services that are right for everybody.

Lutz believes that this approach is doomed.

Companies can make more money, Lutz tells us, if they create niche products and services that are enthusiastically embraced by prospects and customers. When you water down your product or service, and try to please everybody, you end up not pleasing too many people at all.

In today’s marketplace, people no longer have to settle for their second choice. Prospects simply won’t buy bland, one-size-fits-all products and services.

I don’t recommend your adopting Lutz’s strong anti-customer attitude. But all software developers should give serious thought to creating niche products and services. Alternatively, create software applications that target the mass market, but create separate niche marketing campaigns for each sub-market that you’re targeting.

– by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy

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Buy Software from Yourself

August 10th, 2013
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How to Become a Marketing SuperstarJeffrey J. Fox wants you to be your own customer. He wants you to experience your own company’s interface with the public.

Fox is the author of the book “How to Become a Marketing Superstar – Unexpected Rules that Ring the Cash Register.”

For most software developers, the only area where this makes sense is to buy your software from time to time, to see how your eCommerce providers are doing. Find out if there are any delays. See if the “buy now” process is smooth.

It only costs a couple of dollars in eCommerce company commissions. And you may uncover problems that you didn’t know that you had.

    – by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy

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Software as Holiday Gifts

July 8th, 2013
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software as holiday giftsSome software developers have experimented with enticing customers to purchase their software as gifts for friends, family members, and business colleagues. Most of these efforts have revolved around the year-end holidays.

Truth is, some microISVs can increase their sales by promoting their applications as gifts for all types of holidays.

Here are some 2010 numbers for US holiday gift spending. The figures were compiled by the National Retail Federation.

  • Winter Holidays – $462 (billion)
  • Mother’s Day – $16.3
  • Valentine’s Day – $15.7
  • Easter – $14.7
  • Father’s Day $9.8
  • Halloween $5.8

    – by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy

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It's My Name – What's in a name?

June 8th, 2013

Hello everyone, my name is Steve Mekkelsen Madden, or Steven Michael Mekkelsen Madden if you want my full legal name.  🙂  So why am I being formal here of all places?  The answer is quite simple actually, I am creating this blog so that I can get all my fellow software engineers comments and opinions on a very real life software problem; the “name” fields and then make a decision to change the world, or at least a standard anyways.

As you can probably surmise, this subject has to do with changing some of our standards and ways we view/think about what we set name type fields to be in our software applications.  Are we using a 1970’s, a 21st Century standard or something in between them?  I’ve spent a considerable amount of time fighting with organizations to support our name in their business applications, only to be told, sorry Steve, we just don’t have enough spaces for your last name or we can’t put a space in a last name field.  This is just one sad story after another and it is now time that “we” set a new Global Software Standard for Names!

User Name Standards Proposal to Association of Software Professionals

Overview: When the computing era began to hit the retail markets and consumers back in the 1970’s, disk space was at a premium cost for each byte/character used.  As a result, some field names were set extremely short like AN (account name), or AcctN (account name).  There were also restrictions on the number of bytes allocated for the values of these fields and hence a name field could be as short as 15 characters for both the first and last names.

At the time, world travel was still in its infancy and our standards were not compromised.  When all the new airlines came in and started offering round trip flights to most parts of the world, this also led the U.S. into a new era of foreigners coming to the U.S. and staying either on VISA’s or as new citizens.  So what’s the issue you may ask?  Well first, let’s think about what our most common names were at the time.  We didn’t have many personal computers in the market place, so we didn’t have to worry about how long names were.  But even in the 1970’s, a name like Steve Madden, Tom Jones, Albert Einstein and Bill Cosby would fit in our 15 character values for whatever software may have been available at that time.  Unfortunately, other countries citizens names didn’t quite follow our standards because their culture included family names and some on both spouses families which makes for a very long name.

So flash forward to today where personal computers are in almost every household in the U.S. and abroad. Now the standard short 15 character name field becomes a serious limitation to the software.  Now let’s consider businesses and what services they have to offer for their customers.  There are fields like account_name, customer_name, legal_name, billing_name, mailing_name, etc.  There are many fields which attempt to cover what is needed for today’s marketplace.  Unfortunately, we still fall short even with the field names and values.  With “disk cost” being at its all time low, we still as software developers, restrict the amount of spaces to be used and what is worse, what the default validation on those field values impose.  Some software restrict the use of dashes “-” or spaces in a name field value.  Well, as you may or may not know, the name field values can contain spaces and dashes in them and are perfectly legal.  Did you know that you can go to a court in the U.S. and request a name change to virtually anything you want (within reason, and not to escape debts of any kind)?  The judge will speak with you during the name change process and approve or deny the request.  This is very common when citizens get married and want to include their name in some way or for other reasons.  If our software cannot accommodate these scenarios, then we have failed as software professionals.

An example is the use of my legal name “Steven Michael Mekkelsen Madden”  where “Steven” is my first name, “Michael” is my middle name and “Mekkelsen Madden” is my last name(s).  My maiden name (name prior to marriage or name change) is “Madden”.  When my wife and I married, I added her last name before my last name and she added my last name after hers resulting in SherriLee Mekkelsen Madden.  So that gives me 31 characters for my name and 26 for my wife’s.  Sounds simple right?  Not so!  We have issues with State and Local Government Offices, Healthcare Professionals (Insurance, Hospitals, Doctors and Specialists), Utility Companies like Telephone, Cable, Satellite, HVAC’s and as well as Department Stores and Banks who provide a credit/debit/store card of some kind where our names just does not fit.  Our youngest daughter also has two middle name “Violet Mary” so when she is asked to provide her middle initial she is not happy when the software only allows one middle initial.

That’s the overview behind this proposal to correct our series of name issues across all markets and once and for all provide an industry standard for “name” fields and values to support organizations and individuals on a Global Scale!  This link contains the content of this post “plus” two tables describing each field name, value and validation imposed.  Supporting this new standard may require programmatic changes to support increased field widths on a variety of displayed data and/or printed data on forms, pdf files, cards, etc.  I am looking for your comments, suggestions and your support.  If you support this and agree to make the changes in your software applications (or already do), please add them here and I will make sure they are also posted on my websites.


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ISVCon, the Software Industry Conference, is now opening sponsor registration for the 2013 conference.

May 14th, 2013
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ISVCon2013 Logo (redesigned by Jerry Stern)


ISVCon, the Software Industry Conference,  is now opening sponsor registration for the 2013 conference.

Quick Links

About the ConferenceSponsorship OptionsBecome a Sponsor/Exhibitor



ISVCon 2013 will once again be held at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa in Reno, Nevada.  The Atlantis, a 4-Star hotel, was recently awarded the prestigious 4-Diamond rating.  It has a beautiful, modern conference area, with a large, comfortable, and surprisingly quiet foyer overlooking the casino.  The property includes 9 restaurants and 10 lounges, and a cabaret with live entertainment.  It is also just a 10-minute ride from the Reno airport via the Atlantis’ free airport shuttle.

Reno is located in Northern Nevada, a wonderful area with lots to do both inside and outside of the casinos.  Reno is just 15 miles from the California border, and is a popular weekend vacation destination for Northern California residents.


New Dates, Days, and Options

ISVCon 2013 will be held September 27-29.  The conference will run for 2-1/2 days, Friday through mid-day Sunday.  We’re hoping to attract lots of new faces, given that Reno is within driving distance for San Francisco/Silicon Valley, and we are also planning to do considerable marketing.


Sponsorship Levels

Our existing Sponsorship levels, prices, and benefits received an update this year.  Our Silver Sponsorship is priced at $1299 and includes 2 free conference registrations;  our Gold Sponsorship is priced at $2599 and includes 4 free conference registrations and a free Sponsor Table; while our Platinum Sponsorship is priced at $4999 and includes 8 free conference registrations, and 2 free Sponsor Tables.  All sponsorships include many other benefits, please see our Sponsorship Options page for more information.

Also, we’ve added a new Sponsorship option this year!  Our new “MISV” sponsorship level was added by request, for those industry participants who don’t necessarily want to exhibit, but simply want to attend and show their support for the event.  This new sponsorship level is priced at just $599, and like our other sponsorship levels, it includes a variety of perks and benefits.  See our Sponsorship Options page for more information about this new sponsorship level.


Sponsor Tables Instead of Break Room Booths or Hospitality Suites

You may notice that instead of having “Break Room Booths” or “Hospitality Suites” we now offer the availability of Sponsor Tables.  These Sponsor Tables will be set up in the main foyer/break room area of the conference, which is located directly in the path of the session and lunch rooms… meaning that each and every conference attendee must pass through this area in order to get to any of the presentations, breakfasts, or lunches!  The break room is also where all the snacks and refreshments will be located, so the attendees will congregate there between events and sessions.  The Sponsor Table concept was added by request from previous sponsors, and will include tables and chairs rather than pre-defined “exhibit booth” style areas.  This area will be open for attendees during the entire conference schedule, and will also be part of the Welcome Reception and other special events during the conference.  Sponsor Table spaces are limited, and will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.


Your Sponsorship

Your sponsorship of ISVCon will help support this long-standing industry conference, and give you an opportunity to meet with both experienced ISVs and start-ups in a new, exciting, and professional setting.  The sooner you sign up as a sponsor, the sooner your logo/ad box will be displayed on the ISVCon website for visitors to see.  Early sponsorship also helps support the conference financially, and is appreciated.  And, early sponsorship allows you to receive primary placement for your Sponsor Table areas, which have limited availability and will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.


Please consider supporting ISVCon with your sponsorship.  To become an ISVCon sponsor, just follow the instructions at our Become a Sponsor page.  If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  I look forward to working with you.


Sincerely yours,

Rich Holler
Sponsor Manager, ISVCon


P.S.  Attendee registration is ongoing, so signing up for sponsorship right away will insure that your company logo/ad will be displayed on the ISVCon website as more attendees come to register.

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Marketing Cloud Applications

May 7th, 2013
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Cloud computing for microISVsProspects are learning more and more about cloud computing. Whether you sell software as a service (SaaS) or applications that run on laptops/desktops, tablets, or smartphones, you need to understand how cloud computing is being sold, and how it is being perceived in the software marketplace.

The February 22, 2013 issue of Processor magazine reports that a recent survey from KPMG International revealed that about half of businesses and nonprofits have moved some of their applications to the cloud.

Here’s what these early adopters of cloud computing are finding:

About one third of the people surveyed said that the costs of moving to the cloud were higher than they had planned. This means that whether you’re offering solutions that run locally or in the cloud, you need to weave both the expectations and the realities of cloud computing expenses into your marketing message.

About one third found that they experienced “significant implementation challenges” when moving to the cloud. Again, microISVs need to weave this information into their marketing presentations. If you offer desktop/laptop applications, then tout the control, security, and stability that businesses enjoy when data and programs reside on computers that they control. If you offer SaaS, then explain why moving from the desktop/laptop environment to your cloud-based application won’t be burdensome.

More than one quarter of the people surveyed said that they had experienced significant security-related problems. These problems need to be part of your marketing message, too. If you’re offering SaaS, explain how you’ve already addressed and eliminated the security problems commonly associated with moving to the cloud. If you’re selling desktop/laptop solutions, talk about how safe and secure they are.

Some of the people who took the survey said that they are working on legal and regulatory issues associated with cloud computing. While Processor magazine didn’t go into much detail, there seem to be tax and earnings issues that need to be addressed. Software developers need to monitor all of these cloud-related issues, and weave them into their marketing messages.

Until now, cloud computing was a fresh idea with a handful of hypothetical problems. As more and more businesses move applications to the cloud, the problems will become much more real. Stay on top of the cloud computing movement, and make sure your marketing plan reflects both current perceptions and current realities.

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Software that's as Boring as Salt

April 13th, 2013
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software as boring as saltSalt is not boring, Seth Godin tells us in his book “Purple Cow – Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable.” Sure, salt has been sold for centuries as a commodity. Today, however, lots of companies are selling exotic salt for very high prices – and very high profit margins.

Is your software more boring than salt?

Then find a way to change the software so you can get people excited about it. Godin isn’t suggesting that you wrap your application in sales hype. He wants you to change the application itself. Convert it into a purple cow that people will get excited about.

Figure out how people in other industries have started with boring products, and made them exciting. Popcorn comes to mind.

“Find things that are ‘just not done’ in your industry,” Godin tells us, “and do them.”

    – by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy

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Recovering from a Bad Brand Name

March 6th, 2013

Developing a BrandIf you find that the name that you’ve chosen is hurting you in the marketplace, Jack Trout explains, then fix the problem. Trout talks about getting around a bad name in his book “The New Positioning – The Latest on the World’s #1 Business Strategy.”

Two suggestions that Trout makes for fixing a bad name are:

  • Revert back to another name that you’d used in the past, or
  • Consider sub-branding.

By sub-branding, Trout means that you could use your tag line instead of your product name (or company name) as your brand.

Trout believes that the name that you choose is very important. If you don’t have a good company or product name, then get one.

On a personal note, I chose DP Directory, Inc. as my software marketing and press release company’s name back in the mid-1980s. At that time, DP (data processing) was the popular phrase for what is called today “information technology (IT)”.

When I re-launched my website a couple of years ago, I started putting a lot more emphasis on “Al Harberg” and a lot less emphasis on “DP Directory.” I’ve coined a couple of tag lines such as “Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy” and “Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Glossary guy.” As Trout recommends, more and more I’ll be using my tag lines as my brand.

Big companies are doing this, too. For example, you can visit Procter & Gamble’s Bounty Towels website – – or you can use their tag line – Quicker Picker Upper – – to get to the same website.

Don’t live with a bad product or company name. Change it. It’s good software marketing.

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