Sunday, December 05, 2004

Should you join the ASP?

For some time I was wondering if joining the ASP (Association of Shareware Professionals) is a good idea. I knew it will be helpful to me but was hesitant to part with $100.

Well I had finally decided to join and have done this on 1st Dec, just 5 days ago. Let me share my impressions with you.


The Forums

I had heard that the private newsgroups are the biggest benefit you get when joining. Nevertheless I was impressed with the number of posts.

Take a look at the screen shot from my newsreader:





These are the counts of unread posts for the last 3 years. Impressive, huh? Not only there is plenty of relevant information but the average poster is very experienced in the software/shareware field. I was pleasantly surprised.

Now you can get a competent answer to your questions that were roaming your head for so long!


ASPects


ASPects is a monthly newsletter sent to the ASP members. It’s really nice and contains information written exclusively for it that you can’t find anywhere else.

And if you are in a research mood; there are a hundred issues to read from the 90s. Take a look at the first issue dating back from 1988!


Other benefits?

Furthermore you can get numerous discounts on software sold by ASP members. They range from 30% to getting the software free.


The Community


One of the unexpected benefits to me was the feeling to be a part of a great community and being able to have contacts with the successful people of the industry.



So should you join the ASP?
The answer seems obvious: Yeah, definitely!

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Download-To-Buy Ratio: The Myth

There is one thing everyone starting in shareware business knows. In order to get a sale he should get a hundred downloads. In other words the typical download-to-buy ratio is 100 to 1.

I remember the time before starting with shareware. I was browsing Download.com and was looking at the download counts. If an app had 50 000 downloads I knew it had sold about 500 copies.

I couldn’t be more wrong. There was a simple fact that I haven’t realized yet.


Einstein knew it!

You know about relativity?

In reality this ratio varies. And it varies a lot. You can have a sale on every 30 downloads or you may have one on every 1000 downloads. There are a lot of factors which come into play.

Actually the ‘industry standard’ 100 to 1 is not a standard at all. No one can really measure the average download-to-buy ratio for the industry in a matter of fact. And the value is typically worse than the well known value. It is more likely somewhere between 150 and 200 to 1.


Why, oh why?

There are plenty of reasons why the ratio is different throughout different products.

One simple reason why people don’t buy is that they don’t need your application. They may have been initially interested in it. Then they have downloaded it. And then they found that it wasn’t what they expected. Or that they don’t need it. Or they didn’t like it. Or it was so similar to other apps that they forgot about yours. The list can go on forever.

And what do you think about the price? It is even possible that they liked the app; but was too expensive. But don’t count much on that. It’s more likely that your app hasn’t brought enough value for its price. So the answer may be improving the product rather than lowering the price.


Is it really that important?

You bet it is! Imagine you have a product with a download-to-buy ratio of 1000-to-1. Now that is a pretty bad ratio but it’s not that uncommon as we would like it to be. And now imagine you have found a way to increase it to 100-to-1. That will be a tenfold increase of your sales!

Even if we put aside that simple, obvious fact there are other things that are affected. If we decide to use Pay-Per-Click advertising this ratio will be extremely important.

If we pay the minimum of 5c to Google for a click but we have a download-to-buy ratio of 1000-to-1 we will have to earn at least $50 from every visitor. And keep in mind that not every visitor will download your application. Actually we have another ratio here :) Add some other costs like the payment processing company commission and the things are getting pretty nasty. You will be loosing money.

Let’s look at the other case. We have a download-to-buy ratio of 100-to-1. If we consider that only one in thee visitors actually downloads our app we are still standing pretty well. We paid only $15 (0.05 * 100 * 3) for a sale.


You know nothing yet!

If you think my calculations are correct then think again. You haven’t learned the most important lesson. A ratio is nothing taken out of context. Why do I say that?

If we have done the ads well we had a more targeted traffic than the average one you would get. So we can expect that we get a better download-to-buy ratio from these customers coming from our Google ads. But that’s only if we have targeted our ads correctly.


The Conclusion

There are no magic formulas that you can use. But you can use common sense and your brain. It helps.

Friday, August 20, 2004

The download sites

The most used way to popularize shareware applications is using download sites. These are web sites oriented only towards providing applications downloads. Surprisingly for a lot of the shareware authors this is far from the optimal way to promote software.


Why download sites are not that good?

There is a pretty good reason, which many prefer to ignore. People are using search engines much more than going to download sites. Search engines are really the best way to get visitors to your site.

Major download sites still can help you with popularizing your application. But if they are your main advertising method you are in trouble. Nevertheless I did some research on download sites. And I am sharing some tips with you here.


Submit to 300+ download sites NOW! Or do something smart.

If you are a newbie you can do a quick math. 10 downloads sites will bring you some traffic. 200 download sites should bring you 20x traffic. Forget the get-rich-quick type of advices and way of calculating profits. They are absolutely wrong.

If you have heard the 80/20 principle you would know why. It is sometimes called the 90/10 principle. In our case this will mean: 90% of your downloads will come from 10% of the download sites. And this is definitely true. So do yourself a favor and concentrate only on a small part of the web sites.

You may think that 10% downloads are still not that bad. But download sites should not be your primary way to get traffic in the first place. 10% already don’t look that good. Especially if you consider that it will take you 90% of the time for submitting. And no, don’t buy one of these apps that help you to submit automatically to hundreds of sites. I think you know why not already.


Which download sites worth the effort?

Let’s start with The Site. Yeah, there is no other site like Download.com. It is so good that they were the only download site to be able to persuade almost everyone to pay for their services. And the smallest fee for inclusion of your software is $79. The reason is that it is worth it.

But why pay for something you can get free other place? Remember the 80/20 rule? It is sometimes interpreted as a 70/5 rule. For us it means that you get 70% of your traffic from 5% of the web sites. Please note that I am not giving real numbers here. I haven’t done research on this but these figures are probably quite close to the reality. And for Download.com this means that half of your downloads can come from this single site.

One other sites is Tucows. They are one of the oldest and still popular download sites. Because of this they are trying to charge you for everything they can. Although the inclusion of your software is free there are some problems. They will make you wait for long. They will nag you often to pay for their services. And if your application is not popular enough they will threaten you to exclude it from their site. I really don’t like this attitude. So I suggest this: Get for free what you can from Tucows, but don’t pay for anything more!

Simtel.net is the other popular web site. I recommend using them
because their site has a lot of visitors and they have behaved quite honestly in contrast to Tucows. They are not forcing you to pay for anything.


Rating web sites according to their Google PR

I hope you know what Google PR is. PR means Page Rank and is the Google’s way to tell you how good a specific web page is. A PR is assigned to every web page. A PR of 5 is good. If your web site has 6 or 7 PR congratulations! Only web sites like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft get 10 PR.

I did a research on 150 web sites about their page rank. This is a good way to measure which of them are popular and which are not. But I would suggest that you don’t rely solely on this measure.

Download.com and Tucows.com have PR 9. That is much better than I thought. This is a great proof for their popularity. No other site ranked that high.

No download sites were ranked with 8 PR. And few were ranked 7.

A list of web sites with 7 PR:

filehungry.com
paulspicks.com
shareme.com
pcworld.com/downloads
32bit.com

Surprisingly for me Simtel.net had 6 PR. Some other download sites with lower Page Rank but which I had good experience with:

sofotex.com
snapfiles.com
superdownloads.ubbi.com.br
jumbo.com
versiontracker.com
freedownloadscenter.com
sharewarejunction.com
download32.com

softwareseeker.com


Conclusion

What I am suggesting you is that you use only these download sites. And abandon the less popular ones. This way you are getting 80% to 90% of the traffic and you are not wasting your time which will be better spent on other marketing incentives.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Selling your software


Create a great product and it will sell itself.
Right? No, it’s not; unfortunately.


What’s wrong?

Let’s suppose you have already developed a great software product and you are just waiting to make a fortune. It’s not going to be easy no matter how good your product is. And there is the problem: most software developers have no idea of marketing. And marketing is what is selling your product.

I am presenting here some concepts that will help you walk the way from total clueless ness to better understanding your customers.

So the product’s website is ready and is welcoming your first clients. And surprisingly they don’t seem to buy your application. What? It is a great product. What’s wrong with everyone? Well, probably the problem is in you. Probably you don’t understand how your customers mind works.

The first time a person looks at the description of your product he is being flooded with information about it. He is looking at a very long list of features. If that does not impress him what else will do?

Here is what is wrong. People are not looking for great products; they are looking for solution to their problems. And that is what your application should be: the solution to their problems. People are selfish. They don’t care about your product. But they do care about their problems. And they would like to hear how you can help.


Features vs. Benefits

Many software authors fail to express the way their product will help the visitors of their web sites if they buy it.

Let’s take for example a backup application. It can have these features announced:


  • employ 128bit encrypting

  • integrated ZIP compression

  • support FTP upload

  • have scheduler


And so on…

But these are features. These are not merely a reason for anyone to buy your backup application. Remember the customer had problem which he was trying to solve? Then let’s concentrate on the problem not on the product (which should be solving the problem).

The prospect needs to keep his valuable data safe. The ability to achieve that with your application is the reason for him to buy. Not because of the lots of great features your product has. Everything should be centered on helping the user to cope with his problems.

Think of your application in terms of benefits, not of features.

  • The 128bit encryption is actually a way to ‘keep the customers valuable data away from others’.

  • The integrated ZIP compression is helping him to ‘keep the backup file size small’.

  • The FTP upload is providing the user with ‘a way to keep the data far and in a safe place’.

  • The scheduler feature is ‘automating the backup process thus removing the possibility of forgetting to backup’.



See the difference? Your customers will definitely notice it. Now they clearly see the reason to give your product a try.


Keep the list short

Don’t do your long list again; this time full with benefits. It will still be boring to read if it is 10 pages long. Keep the list short and you will increase your chances that your visitors will read it all.

Concentrate on aspects that are unique to your product. This is called positioning. If you don’t have anything unique in your problem that is a serious problem. I will discuss the importance of positioning and differentiation in a later article.


And then help them more

And while we are concentrated on helping the customers; you can try helping them in another way. In case you are selling backup software, you can offer articles/whitepapers on how they can protect their important data better. Offer a newsletter. And don’t make this information very specific to your product.

But why should you do that? First, by giving useful information on the subject you are showing you are really an expert in this field. Second you show you are not a greedy bastard who only wants to get the customer’s money; you really want to help. And third, a visitor will remember your site and the help he received. He may visit again to seek out more on the subject. Even if he doesn’t buy or even download your software you are keeping the chance that he may do that on a next visit.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

It's official!
I am starting my blog today.