[Business] Mandates for Software Sales and Marketing

Over the past few days, several posts in the blogosphere have mentioned, directly or indirectly, about marketing. These are posts which showcase and sometimes blur the distinction between marketing in software versus marketing toothpaste. For example, twin blondes in underwear would impact toothpaste sales more than software, which requires viral marketing like the Scoblephone. However, both toothpaste and software could do with some transparency in their manufacturing/coding process. For example, Eric Sink talks about the tenets of transparency involved in being a Independent Software Vendor (ISV). Let me analyse some of his points :

  • Thou Shall Speak Out - I suppose this could be important in the viral marketing sense. I think this is going to work only now, when the power of the blogosphere is still in its nascent form. Once RSS/RDF/Blogs really explode, there will form a power clique or blog-o-cracy which will serve as a barrier for new blogs to break into the reader’s RSS horizon. What will always work is injecting oneself into this clique - a process which will always expect that the member of the clique is involved in the development process. Human Psychology 101.
  • Thou Shall Let Others Speak Out - This is something very important. Users have to know that there are other users who are using this product. Have your R & D team reply to posts (Take a look at Bryan Cantrill of Dtrace) . But then why stop at Discussion Forums? Wiki anyone?? But for all this to be really effective, one has to take a long look at the next point
  • Thou Shalt Not Lie - You are not God. Dont hide your flaws. Give the impression that you are listening to your users. Get your R&D to reply.
  • Thou Shall Make Thy Customers Lives Easier - It is important that the path to adoption be as smooth as possible, from medium of distribution (Bittorrent?) to demos, support, bug-tracking - especially your licensing schemes. It is relevan here to point to a post by Frozen North about usability and marketing. Take the IPod Shuffle for instance. Its competitors have blasted for having a limited feature set. Falling into the feature-set trap is easy. For me it is best illustrated by the GIMP image program. Its is overflowing with features, however it has a lot left to be desired from the usability standpoint. For Apple, usability is marketing. Throw away the features that do not flow together. Less is more. To give a top-notch user experience rather than feature-list, the Shuffle threw away compatibility with anything other than iTunes.
  • Thou Shall Tell Thy Company’s Story - The old management adage : underpromise and overdeliver. Very cliched, but works. Customers want to know about who you are and can they trust you to be around 10 years from now.

Selling software is increasingly becoming all about openness, because unlike toothpaste, software is not tangible (wow Morpheus!!). Selling something intangible takes more than a spreadsheet and a two-color ad. Ed Sim talks about a “repeatable sales model”, in one of his recent posts. In reply to my question about, what seemed to me, a management buzzword, he says

…building a product that solves the problem for one, two, or three customers is different from building a product for many customers in a market that is large enought to support your business and others who are already there or will show up. Think about whether or not the product as it exists today solves the problem for a number of different players or did if it required significant customization to the extent that the product needs and requirements were different for each customer.

The “repeatable” part means that you have nailed down the value proposition, know who in the organization you are selling to, can cost effectively reach that person, understand how to win deals against competing products, and can use this as a model or template for additonal sales headcount.

Another point made by Ed, can be fitted on to the software marketing setup - release early and often. This is the cathedral vs the bazaar model, popularised by the linux kernel release model. In conjunction with the point on (Thou Shall Let Others Speak Out), this would be a marketing mechanism directly interfacing with the R & D team. This is what I am used to doing.

Frequently it is OK, customers are people and are usually civil. It is just that one big customer who has the power to raise a big stink, be rude and in general make a nuisance of themself. That is when everything begins going downhill. It is then you realise what it takes to keep the customer on his throne. Tags: business software sales marketing


[Business] Mandates for Software Sales and Marketing


February 06, 2005

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