Promoting your software (part 6)

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 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 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.

10 thoughts on “Promoting your software (part 6)

  1. oliver

    Hi Andy, great list!

    For the sake of completeness here is another way to do viral marketing. You can create something other than software that people willingly pass around that somehow promotes your business. In your case you could create a comical video showing the disasters that can happen when you don’t plan your wedding table properly and Crazy Uncle Bob ends up sitting next Sensitive Martha (or whatever).

    Video is probably ambitious for most small businesses (although film students are always looking for projects, FYI) but other things might work. Creativity is a must for this kind of thing.

    Pros: could be lots of fun

    Cons: ambitious, not necessarily going to work.

    Data point: nil

  2. Andy Brice Post author


    I did actually think about doing something like this as an animation. But I think its really tough to create something that is truly viral and also promotes your product. Talking to film students is an interesting idea though.

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  4. Jonathan

    Hi Andy,

    I’ve been reading this post page by page and agreeing completely until this page. I really don’t think that what you’re calling Viral Marketing is, well, viral marketing.

    I’ve worked in a few advertising agencies (always on the technical side of things) and the general idea of Viral Marketing is something that you start but that gains a life of its own. The best example I can think of with regards to this is the “Will It Blend” guys.

    They’ve successfully transitioned from advertising, to viral marketing and in fact secured themselves as an internet meme.

    Otherwise, great article!


  5. outback

    Have you considered teaming up with other wedding related companies in your are for referrals? Maybe your target market doesn’t do google searches or look at, but they all go to photographers, local caterers etc.. Maybe you can team up with these people for referrals. If you like, you can talk to you customers and only team up with “good” ones…

    Just a thought.

  6. Andy Brice Post author


    I do have some partnerships and wholesale agreements with other businesses. I haven’t been actively seeking them out though because I don’t have the resources. Also experience tells me that the effort to reward ratio is often low. It might be a different story if my software was $3,500 rather than $35.

  7. Nuclear Chester


    Very objective blog you have. I like it.

    Regarding your post. You didn’t mentioned vertical marketing. I guess in your case for PerfectTablePlan with specific target group you have a lot of benefits to promote your software to wedding agencies and places where the most weddings are taking places. It is quite easy and really VERTICAL for your target group I guess.

  8. MrAnalogy

    “If you email … within PerfectTablePlan it appends a URL for downloading …no idea whether this has resulted in any extra sales”

    Hmmm… you could put a tracking URL on that :

    /Download2 or whatever
    or ?Refferredby=EmailWithProgram

    I (like you, I suspect) love to meeasure things. I’d be curious to know.

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  10. Erica B

    I was just reading through this series of posts over lunch. You really have some great thoughts and data to share, so thanks for putting it out there so that we can all benefit.

    If I were you, I would reach out to wedding planners. Approach them as the experts that they (hopefully) are. You could offer to pay them $100 or something to take a quick look at your software and provide feedback for you. It would probably take them less than 30 minutes, so I’m guessing that would be enough to tempt them. If they end up liking it, which I’m assuming they will, I’ll bet you they refer all of their clients to you. A lot of wedding planners hand out lists of ‘preferred vendors’ and useful tools to brides. It would be worth giving this a trial run to get on those lists.

    Just a thought.


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