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.

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