If you are a software developer, you probably are not developing software for the pure joy of the exercise. You likely have a vision of marketing and selling the software product or solution you are building. Bridging the gap between software development and software sales can be daunting.
Are you a developer struggling to sell software online?
You are not alone. Most developers have more talent and experience developing software than building effective marketing and sales processes.
Let’s face the facts; we can’t be experts in everything.
This article provides some basic marketing methods that can help you build awareness for your solution and increase your chances of having sales. It begins with strategic elements, identifies some on-line must-haves, and ends with actions that will get your ideal customer getting their eyes and their hands on your software.
This list isn’t meant to define your marketing strategy or be a project plan where every action needs to be completed in sequential order. It is meant to give you a basic overview of the actions and areas you can use to make progress in your marketing efforts.
Know Your Ideal Customer
Your software has a purpose. How else could you build it? Ignoring that fact and trying to market your product to everyone will only lead to generic marketing attempts, poor results, and frustration.
Understanding the ideal customer for your solution is the first step in building a successful marketing program. Identifying the target audience will help you tailor your marketing message and identify the places where you can find your audience.
Create a strong ideal customer description by compiling everything you know about the potential customer. That could include education, occupation, industry, job position or role, location, influences, and media consumption. The more you know about your ideal customer, the better.
Get The Message Right
Once you understand the ideal customer for your software product, you’ll need a way to communicate its value to them. What need or want does your product help the ideal customer solve? How do they perceive the solution, as a life changer or a nice to have? What messages will get their attention and help them understand the value your product brings to their lives?
The right message is critical to your success. Without a clear and meaningful message, your marketing efforts will be inconsistent and confusing to your prospects. Your message will provide the basis for all of your marketing efforts.
Establish a Calendar and Budget
When it comes to marketing systems, online software marketing and sales are no different from other businesses. You need to establish a plan, calendar, and a budget, or you will likely waste your time and money. You don’t have to have a three or five year plan, but you should develop a plan for the next six to twelve months. When you know what you are going to do for the next 30 to 90 days, you are less likely to steer off course or make on-the-fly marketing decisions that typically don’t work.
Create Content and Publish Articles
There is a multitude of online publications and sites where you can publish software related articles. It’s a credible way to get free exposure while building your reputation as an expert in your field.
Your articles need to be well written and professional. Your audience is your ideal customer, and you should write your content with them in mind. Your focus should be to produce content that is informative, relevant, and engaging. Use a professional tone and stay away from self-promotion.
Remember to sign your articles, and add contact information as well as a copyright note at the end of the piece. It’s a good idea to include a line with your web address for those who would like to find out more about your software and services.
Get Involved in Blogs and Online Forums
Blogs and forums are a great way to engage your audience and build your reputation as an authority. Invest a good portion of your initial marketing effort participating in forums and discussion groups that deal with your market-related themes and have members that closely resemble your ideal customer.
A lot of forum and blog users visit sites in search of information. A blog post that deals with your software’s purpose should contain relevant information and be presented in a professional way to be of genuine interest to participants. Always provide value.
Instead of a nickname, use a brand related signature and give your website’s address and your product’s name. But do be cautious – there are administrators who could ban you for explicitly marketing your product. So get creative and always look to add value to the discussion.
Use Press Releases to Build Credibility
Consider press releases as a means to demonstrate credibility and stability of your company. Invest in quality release services such as PR Web and stay away from most of the free services that promise to catapult your business to media stardom. Press releases can be used for product launches, growth or expansion, opening a new office, update and version releases or other news that demonstrates your business legitimacy and focus.
Newsletters Keeps Your Audience Informed
A monthly or weekly newsletter is an easy, engaging way to stay in touch with your affiliates, prospects, and clients. However, the success of an email newsletter campaign will depend on your list. It is critical that you keep your list of contacts, prospects and customers accurate and up to date to provide your audience with relevant and informative content.
Your newsletter should provide your prospect and customers with information that makes a difference in their lives, not just contain promotional material about your product.
Email is Still the Best Engagement Tool
Email remains the single best way to engage your prospects and customers. As much as we dislike getting volumes of emails the truth is that we still open and respond to the ones that are important to us.
Think about how email can be used to engage your ideal customer prospects and current customers. An automated email DRIP campaign can be used to introduce contacts to your business and your software products.
What’s nice about email campaigns is that you can target them to the affiliates, clients, or prospects – whichever is appropriate for your business. Aim to create different approaches for the groups you want to target. Also remember to ask permission to keep in touch with your affiliates and clients; tell them what they can expect from your newsletters with regards to content and frequency, and keep in line with the standards that you establish.
It’s also important to remain focused on the substance of the email. Make it appealing and fresh. Always offer the chance to unsubscribe, too, and place that offer in a visible section.
Continuous SEO Effort
Maintaining a high search result ranking through Search Engine Optimization (SEO) can be a struggle. There are certain rules to follow, and you need to optimize and update your website and content continuously to improve your ranking.
Here are a few very high-level areas to focus on:
• Use industry-related keywords to build your content
• Obtain backlinks from authority sites to build credibility
• Add fresh content to your website regularly
• Improve the usability and design of your website
• Ensure your website is SEO optimized
• Monitor your web traffic and engagement results
SEO is a wide area of discussion and requires constant attention. You may be better off to hire credible help to create a plan for success. By credible help I mean someone who is organized, transparent and does not promise to propel you to the number one spot on Google in a few short weeks. Choose an SEO consult wisely.
Website Design and Function is Important
Your website is a representation of your business. It will be hard to convince a prospect that your software is valuable and easy to use if your web presence is poor. It does little good to send prospects to your website if they leave after a few seconds or view a single page. A well-designed website will help convert prospects into customers by providing the information they want, how they want it, and easily.
Your prospect to customer conversion process requires planning. Your website should help prospects make the right buying decision with informative and educational content.
If your software is sold online, your purchase process should be professional and trustworthy.
Design Your Software For Trial or Freemium Use
Offering trials and freemium versions of your software is an approach for making the prospect-to-customer conversion smoother. What better way for a prospect making the decision that there is value to be gained from the software than actually using the software?
Offering trials and freemium products can be a great call to action for traffic coming to your website. This technique can help you get the software in interested parties’ hands and also help you build a list of prospects that are interested in your software and have taken action to demonstrate their interest.
If you know what websites your ideal customer frequently visits you can benefit by having those sites send you traffic. Many sites have established affiliate programs and seek this type of arrangement with software and service providers. If your product provides value to their audience, they’ll feel good about sending them to your site.
Affiliate marketing can be very beneficial for your business growth. But you should approach this area with realistic expectations and discretion. The winning play here is to find affiliate relations on sites where your ideal customers will likely visit, not every site that will let your registrar in their affiliate program.
Pay Per Click Campaigns
Search engines (read Google) place ads near search results, in return for a fee. You bid for relevant keywords and present ads that route interested parties to your website when they click on your ad. You pay per click of the ad, leading the obvious name: Pay Per Click (PPC).
If you are in a niche industry or solve a very specific problem with your software PPC may have great potential. Before jumping off into PPC, you should understand how to research keywords, the bid process, and how to construct ads that convert traffic into clicks. A vital prerequisite that must be completed before investing dollars into this type of advertisement is to ensure your website can convert traffic into prospects. Landing pages, supporting content, and follow-up processes will help you get a return on your marketing investment.
Measure, Refine, and Measure Again
Reporting and testing should be an ongoing task where you analyze the results of your efforts and thoughtfully refine your tactics. It will do you little good to determine to use a marketing tactic, execute something one time, and then abandon that approach. You could repeat that cycle over and over and never find success.
Establish a plan, set expectations, execute, and measure your results. Refine your plan and repeat the cycle.
Wow, That’s a Long List
As you can see, there are many areas of marketing that will require your attention to be successful. To successfully market software, you need to find the right combination of strategies that connect your ideal customer to your business. Every business and product is different, so you need to be patient and creative to find the best formula for yours.
If you feel a bit overwhelmed after reading this list, don’t despair. You have friends in the business. Valens Point has helped many small and growing software companies identify their winning software marketing formula. The process begins with discovering what you do and where you want to go. We begin with our marketing check-up, a process that will give you at least three things to do today to make your marketing better and won’t cost you a dime. Click here to get started.