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Tablet Computer Ownership

February 25th, 2013
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computer-tablets-and-educationTwenty-five percent of adult Americans own a tablet computer. Ownership percentages, however, vary greatly based on the level of education of the individual.

So says the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life study, as reported in the November 2, 2012 issue of Processor Magazine.

The study’s tablet ownership results are divided into four education groups –

  •  7 percent of people who didn’t graduate from high school own a tablet
  • 18 percent of high school graduates own a tablet
  • 27 percent of adults who attended college own a tablet
  • 41 percent of college graduates own one

On a personal note, I think tablet ownership will increase in the coming years. Lots. As Android tablets become more popular, and as Windows 8 tablets gain market share, the competition will drive prices down. And as overall tablet sales increase, manufacturing prices will go down, and market penetration will go up.

Conversations with my customers lead me to believe that the software development tools available to tablet developers are not nearly as powerful or sophisticated as the tools that they’ve used in the Windows environment. If you’re thinking about developing tablet (and smartphone) apps, you might want to start climbing the learning curve earlier rather than later.

    – by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy

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Romantics and Visionaries

January 9th, 2013
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romantics“A romantic is a visionary without common sense.”

So say John L. Stanton and Richard J. George, the authors of “Success Leaves Clues – A Marketer’s Guide to Winning Strategy.”

“Leadership is an activity,” the authors explain, “not a position.”

A leader needs a vision. But leaders can’t be romantics.

Leaders take risks. But they’re not reckless.

    – by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy

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Demographics and Software Sales

December 6th, 2012
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Kenneth Gronbach believes that Detroit’s economic woes are caused by the car manufacturers not paying attention to the demographics of buying cars.

Gronbach is the author of the 2008 book “The Age Curve – How to Profit from the Coming Demographic Storm.” The book looks at the marketplace from the perspective of demographics. And it provides some great insights that can help us in the software development industry.

Forty-three-year-old men buy cars. Well, men aged 33 to 53 are the heaviest buyers of vehicles. Generation X (the 69.5 million Americans born between 1965 and 1984) can’t buy cars at the same level as Baby Boomers (the 78.2 million Americans born between 1945 and 1964) bought cars because there are nine million fewer people in Generation X.

Toyota, Gronbach tells us, figured it out. Instead of mainly targeting traditional buyers, Toyota has created cars that attract the much larger, much younger Gen Y buyers. Apparently, Toyota studied the types of used cars that young adults are buying today. And they built new cars that are attractive to these buyers.

Gronbach cites an ad campaign from Porsche 20-or-so years ago. Porsche of America encouraged people to buy used Porsches. Even though this didn’t make the company any money, the company depended on the sale of used Porsches to sell new ones. By making the market for used Porsches robust, it increased the trade-in value of these older vehicles. Many people traded in their old Porsches for new ones.

There might be a lesson here for software authors. Give your software to college students for free. And to high school students. And teachers. Plant the seeds today with users who don’t have the funds to buy your application. And when they graduate and enter the world of work, they’ll remember how great your software was, and buy it. And encourage all of their colleagues to buy it.

   – by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy

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Stakeholder Relationships

November 26th, 2012
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stakeholder relationshipsConsider creating strategic relationships with all of your stakeholders.

This advice comes from Jay Conrad Levinson in his book “Guerrilla Marketing Excellence – The 50 Golden Rules for Small-Business Success.”

If Levinson were writing about the software development industry, his list of stakeholders would no doubt include suppliers, eCommerce companies, bankers, businesses who target the same audience with non-competing products or services, and employees.

Levinson advises that when we’re thinking about partnerships, “think profit, not marriage.” Cooperate with partners. Don’t compete with them. Create a network of people who are helping you succeed.

If you build effective alliances by following Levinson’s advice, you’ll have a significant edge over other software developers.

   – by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy

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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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Talk About All Your Software's Benefits

September 11th, 2012
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“Lead with your strongest selling point,” Mark Stevens tells us, “and stay focused on it.”

Stevens is the author of the book “Your Marketing Sucks.” He urges us to not clutter or dilute our sales message with secondary benefits. Less is more, Stevens believes.

I don’t agree.

People aren’t two-dimensional cardboard figures who can only keep one thought in their mind. And prospects come in a huge variety of flavors, with different needs and desires.

I think you have to paint a complex canvas of a better life, with your prospect clearly painted into the picture. Get your prospect to think of herself as a user of your application, and make her understand how your software will make her life more safe and secure, simpler, more productive, more competitive, or whatever benefits your software offers.

– by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy

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Lifetime Value of Your Customers

August 17th, 2012

lifetime value of software customerLifetime value is much bigger than current sales. It includes your current software sales, plus the sale of updates, plus the income from customers upgrading from the Standard version to the Professional version of your application. Lifetime value includes cross-selling your other software to your existing customers, and selling them the applications that you offer on an affiliate basis. Lifetime value means that these people are inclined to appreciate whatever new products or services you will offer in the future.

Most importantly, lifetime value includes the revenue that comes from current customers’ testimonials and referrals.

You can’t succeed in the software development industry with a “one and done” approach to sales. Your customers are your most valuable assets. Treat them right, and they’ll continue to support your software business.

– by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy

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Software Marketing and Passwords

August 6th, 2012
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choose powerful passwordsIf your software application lets users craft passwords to protect their data, then you have a chance to offer additional value to your prospects and customers. Help your users choose the best passwords, and use that feature to sell more of your software.

According to the “Worst Passw0rds” write-up in the April 2012 issue of AARP Bulletin, online users have an awful track record for picking effective passwords to protect their privacy and security. The most popular password, according to the article, is “password”. Changing the lower-case letter “o” to a zero to form passw0rd is on the popularity list at number 16. The top 25 list also includes awful selections like 123456, 1234567, 12345678, 123123, “qwerty” and “letmein.”

Most computer users worry about their privacy and security. Show your users that you care about them. Don’t let them create low-quality passwords.

“It’s important for developers’ users to protect their data with a long, complex password,” Andrei Belogortseff tells us. “Be sure that they use a mix of upper-case letters, lower-case letters, numbers, and symbols.”

Andrei is the CEO of Utah-based WinAbility Software, a developer of security and password applications. One of WinAbility’s most popular programs is USBCrypt, a program that makes it easy to encrypt and password-protect your drives. USBCrypt has a built-in password recovery feature that lets you recreate lost or forgotten passwords.

On a typical PC, it can take a half hour to recover a three-digit password that contains only lower-case letters. A five-digit password made up of a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, on the other hand, can take two weeks to recover. A 7-digit password that weaves upper- and lower-case letters with numbers and symbols can take an incredibly long time to recover.

If the software that you sell asks users to choose a password, then help them select their password wisely. Start by building a list of ineffective passwords into your software, and don’t let your users select these lightweight choices. Have your software examine the passwords that they’ve created, and encourage them to use longer passwords, with a richer mix of characters.

“Remind your users of the flip-side of using a complex password,” Andrei tells us. “If you forget your password, it will be extremely difficult to recover it.”

Make your helpful password protection information part of your software marketing presentation. By creating keyword-rich web pages that feature your thoughts about privacy, security, encryption, and passwords, you may even get more Google traffic from prospects who include these words when they search for software like yours. Your application’s help file could provide your customers and prospects with an explanation of why passwords are crucial.

Your users will appreciate the guidance, and they’ll be much more inclined to purchase your software. Helping customers choose powerful passwords can be good software marketing.

– by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Blog guy

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Software Marketing and Adversity

June 10th, 2012
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adversity and software marketingBill Russell believes that adversity does not necessarily bring out the best in people. This is true in the software development industry, and in all parts of our lives. Some microISVs respond well to adversity, and some react poorly.

Russell led the Boston Celtics to 11 championships in 13 years. And he was the only basketball player to win an NCAA Championship, an Olympic Gold Medal, and an NBA Championship in a single year. In his book “Russell Rules,” he offers a wealth of advice that can help business people of all types, including those of us who spend our days immersed in software marketing..

Russell disagrees with the popular wisdom that we should regard adversity as an opportunity. He believes that this leads to creating a victim mentality – a mindset in which people who have been mistreated believe that they are powerless. He tells us to take control of every situation, regardless of how it was caused. Russell sees this as a positive action on our part, and not simply a reaction to the things that are going on around us.

We need to be resilient, Russell says, and respond to the problems that affect our business. Problems happen. What’s important is how we respond to them.

Our businesses will have highs and lows. We need to have resilience, and not become distracted by the ups and downs that will always be part of business – and of life. That’s good advice for people who deal every day with the stresses of software marketing.

– by Al Harberg, the Software Marketing Glossary guy

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