Blogging can be an effective way to let the world know about your software. Certainly it has been very effective for über bloggers such as Joel Spolsky of FogBugz. But it only makes sense if you can write (and keep writing) posts of interest to the sort of people who might buy your software – Joel writes very well on software development and his customers are software developers.
Pros: Free. Can be very effective if you are a talented writer.
Cons: Requires a lot of time and dedication. Blog posts tend to have a fairly short useful lifetime. Not all software products lend themselves to blogging.
Data point: There is only so much you can say about seating plans and I have already endeavoured to say it on my seating plan hints page.
Other people blogging about your software can also give you useful exposure. The ‘blogosphere’ tends to be fairly incestuous, so its easier to get written about if you have your own blog. But you can just approach bloggers who are influential in your market and ask them if they would like to review your software.
There are some services around that allow you to pay bloggers for writing reviews. Personally I wouldn’t trust any review if I knew it was paid for and I would consider it immoral to review a product without declaring any inducements received – so I am not going to dignify them with a link. Some attempts to bribe influential bloggers have misfired badly.
Pros: It doesn’t cost you anything to offer a blogger a complimentary licence (except a CD+postage perhaps).
Cons: Rather hit and miss, with no control over the end results. Blog posts tend to have a fairly short useful lifetime.
Data point: I have sent a few complimentary review copies of my software to people who blog about weddings and events and it has resulted in a small, but useful, amount of additional exposure.
My software was mentioned on a Danish blog in 2005 (I didn’t approach them). I still get an occasional sale from people clicking on the link in this post. I can’t read Danish so have no idea what the post says, but I assume that it is complimentary.
Affiliates are sites that send traffic to you and take a percentage of any resulting sales. You need to set up your payment processing so you can track affiliate commission. Many of the payment processing companies can do this for you, there are also third parties such as www.shareasale.com.
From discussion on various forums it seems that very few products do well enough at affiliate sales to justify the effort involved. If you do decide to have an affiliate program make it as automated as possible.
Pros: You only pay for visitors that purchase your software.
Cons: An affiliate program can be a lot of hassle to set-up and administer for little (if any) return. Less scrupulous affiliates might make inaccurate claims about your software or send out spam promoting your product. You may also end up bidding against your own affiliates on Google Adwords.
Data point: I have dabbled with affiliates The majority of affiliates have never sold a single copy. Those that have still haven’t made enough sales to justify the effort involved.
Resellers buy from you (usually at a discount) and then resell to their customers (usually at recommended retail price). Resellers will generally only be interested in software that is high price or high volume or can be sold with other services (e.g. consulting).
NB/ Under UK law you can’t tell a reseller what price to sell your product at – this is considered ‘price fixing’.
If you sell through resellers, make sure you have a solid agreement that defines who provides support and who gets any upgrade fees. Be extremely wary of any sort of exclusivity – if things don’t work out you could be left high and dry.
Some large companies will only buy software through approved resellers.
Pros: Good resellers can sell large volumes of software, give you good feedback, take some of the support burden and get you into markets that might be difficult to reach otherwise, e.g. foreign language markets.
Cons: For every good reseller you may encounter quite a few time-wasters. Unfortunately it isn’t always easy to tell which is which early on.
Data point: I have a few resellers that have sold useful amounts of licences. I have also spent quite a lot of time talking about resale deals that never amounted to anything.
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>Blog posts tend to have a fairly short useful lifetime
Patrick produces some data on his blog ( http://microisvjournal.wordpress.com/2007/05/14/increase-your-software-sales/#comments ) to show that this isn’t necessarily the case.
I enjoyed your article! It was a very thorough discussion of how to market software. I just wanted to bring one up that I didn’t see listed: portal sites. For our software, Service Hawk, I began making a portal site at http://www.windows-xp-services to appeal to people that were just looking up information regarding their Windows Services. Unfortunately, I never finished that website, but we did get some traffic from that site to our product page. Also, look at how well it works for Sharon Housley!
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