21. Viral marketing
Viral marketing is where you use the software to promote itself. For example an anti-virus product could append to each outgoing email “this email scanned for viruses by <product URL>”.
Paying customers might get annoyed at the free promotion, so you should give them the option to disable viral marketing elements. You probably don’t have to worry about this for customers using a free trial or ‘lite’ version.
Pros: Free. Requires little or no effort once set up.
Cons: Not all applications lend themselves well to this.
Data point: If you email a table plan from within PerfectTablePlan it appends a URL for downloading the free trial so you can view the plan. I have no idea whether this has resulted in any extra sales.
22. Cover CDs
Many computer magazines come with a CD or DVD full of software attached. These seem less and less relevant with the increasing availability of broadband connections.
Pros: Could be useful if your trial download is very large.
Cons: I am guessing that the conversion rate is very low, especially when there are lots of other products competing for attention on the same CD.
Data point: I haven’t tried this myself.
23. Online directories
A listing in an online directory, such as dmoz.org or Yahoo, can increase the visibility of your product. There are also specialist directories for different markets. Directories used to be considered important, but they seem to be becoming less important as search engines improve.
Pros: A directory listing can bring you additional traffic directly (from clickthroughs) and indirectly (by improving your search engine page rank).
Cons: dmoz is free, but who gets in depends on the whims of the editor in charge of that section. Yahoo costs $299 dollars and doesn’t guarantee that you will get included (maintaining the entry costs a further $299 per year).
Data point: I have applied to be added to dmoz.org every 6 months or so for 2 years, but to no avail. I’m not convinced that a Yahoo entry is worth the cost. A listing I paid for in a business entertainment directory was a total waste of money (and time, due to the incompetance of their accounts department).
24. Word of mouth
If your product is good customers will often recommend it to other people, face-to-face, by email and on forums.
Pros: A happy customer is the best possible form of promotion.
Cons: You need to get everything right (website, installer, software, documentation, support etc) and that isn’t easy.
Data point: Customers email me to tell me that they have recommended my table planning software to others and I see quite a few favourable comments in forums.
You need to try different forms of promotion to find out which ones work best for your product. But in general you should prefer forms of promotion that keep working day after day with a minimum of effort and where you can easily measure the results.
Which forms of promotion are most effective in terms of time and cost vs sales will obviously depend on your market and budget. If your ticket price is $100,000 then expensive print ads in are more likely to be effective than if your ticket price is $30.
Obviously I haven’t listed every possible method of promotion. Perhaps the one I haven’t listed is the one that will work best for your product. Feel free to comment if you think I have missed any important ones or if your experiences are different from mine.