5. Press releases
A press release is where you announce something newsworthy related to your product in the hope that it will be mentioned in the media (online or print). Be warned that anything along the lines of “XYZ corporation is proud to announce version 1.23 of Widgetware” is not interesting to anyone apart from you, and will be filed straight in the bin. You need to come up with something interesting, original and/or newsworthy.
You can hire a PR company to do this for you, but these people are expensive and often have the cheek to expect a monthly retainer. But all they are going to do is call up or write to magazine editors, which you could do yourself. Furthermore they know nothing about your product and probably very little about your market. I have been deeply underwhelmed with some of the press releases I have seen written by professional PR people. A PR company working for a reseller of PerfectTablePlan even managed to get a valid licence key printed in a wedding magazine! The sooner we send all the PR people off on a B-Ark to Golgafrincham the better.
Don’t expect magazines to tell you they gave you a mention. They probably won’t.
Pros: Very cheap, if you are doing it yourself. Readers pay a lot more attention to reviews and editorials than they do to ads.
Cons: Quite hit and miss and it can be hard to come up with something newsworthy.
Data point: I have done 2 press releases through prweb.com (here and here). According to prweb stats these online releases have been accessed 110,000 and 70,000 times and were syndicated by quite a few news sites. I have no idea how accurate these stats are, but I have had a few sales from links on these press release pages.
I accompanied the online press releases with sending out CDs and press kits to relevant magazines and managed to get some mentions in event magazines and even a glowing review in PC Pro magazine. But it appears that nothing gets a free mention in wedding magazines – it’s a cutthroat business!
6. Trade shows
Even the most obscure markets appear to have tradeshows. Its hardly surprising when you get to charge exhibitors $1000+ per day for a few square metres of carpet and a trestle table. If there isn’t a tradeshow relevant to your market you had better start worrying if there really is a market.
Pros: A good chance to talk to a lot of prospective customers face-to-face and see what the competition is doing. Useful for establishing credibility.
Cons: Expensive and time consuming to prepare for and requires quite a bit of forward planning. If you try to hawk your wares at a tradeshow where you haven’t paid for floor space, you may get thrown out.
Data point: I have attended a few wedding and event planning shows as a punter to talk to people and find out what is happening. I didn’t feel I could justify the cost of a stall when I would have to sell over 100-200 additional licences just to break even on costs.
7. Email marketing
Only email people if they have given you permission to do so or you have got their addresses from a legitimate opted-in mailing list. Sending out unsolicited and untargeted email is spam and can get you on spam blacklists and in trouble with your ISP. It may also be illegal, depending on where you live. You will also pay for it by having demons shoving red hot pokers up your bottom for all eternity (if there is any justice).
Pros: Cheap if you don’t have to pay for the mailing list.
Cons: Conversion rates are generally very low.
Data point: I got a legitimate opt-in list of over a thousand prospective brides and sent them an email about PerfectTablePlan. As far as I can tell I didn’t make a single sale. Zip. Zero. Zilch. I did get a few rude emails back saying I had got their name wrong (the creator of the list had managed to get the name and email columns misaligned for some records).
8. Direct mail
Direct mail is sending stuff to people/businesses via the post/mail to entice them to buy your software. In other words, junk mail. There are list brokers who can sell you mailing lists and various online services that can mail out letters or post cards to prospects. I understand that a 1% conversion rate for direct mail is considered very good.
Pros: May allow you to reach people who can’t be easily reached by online means. Mailing lists are readily available for the right money.
Cons: Expensive. Kills trees. People who can’t be reached by online means probably aren’t great buyers of software.
Data point: My software is $35. To make money from direct mail I either have to get my conversion rate above 1% or my cost per recipient below $0.35. Neither seem likely, so I haven’t bothered.