I was a guest on episode 21 of Bootstrapped.fm, the podcast of Andrey Butov and Ian Landsman. The discussion was very wide-ranging, touching on SAAS vs web, the Qt development environment, the royal wedding, A/B testing, capoeira, Adwords, the history of shareware, my new training course and lots more besides. I really enjoyed it. Boostrapped.fm also has a thriving discussion forum at discuss.bootstrapped.fm.
I recently did a day of consulting for Thomas Holz looking at his file synchronization software, Easy2Sync. We covered a lot of issues, including: Adwords, website design, product ‘look & feel’, usability, positioning, pricing, logos and why his software is still at v1 after 10 years! He was kind enough to write me this testimonial:
I’ve been running a software company for over 10 years now and thought that I knew most of the tricks and had fixed most of the usual issues. Still, I hired Andy to check my file sync software to see what I’ve been missing. And that were quite a few things. Actually I was surprised at the wide range of angles that Andy checked. Not only the software and website (as it was to be expected), but also Adwords, business, sales and marketing tactics. I’m still working on implementing the changes, but I’m already sure that this was a very good investment which will easily pay off – not only for my file sync product, but also for my other products.
Thomas Holz, http://www.easy2sync.com
If you are looking for Windows file sync software that doesn’t store your data on a third party server, check out Easy2Sync.
I recently did some consulting for Paul Roberts on his print estimation software, as usual concentrating on improving marketing and usability. He sent me some feedback at the end of the consulting and was kind enough to let me reproduce it here.
I got Andy to check out why my software was not selling as well as I expected. His approach was very thorough and covered the entire downloading experience, from Google to first impressions of the software. Some of the findings were very unexpected, and he found a considerable amount of room for improvement in various areas. Many suggestions were things I had never considered. I needed a brutally honest opinion with plenty of recommendations, and Andy (The Gordon Ramsay of the Software Development World – in a nice way) exceeded my expectations in his approach, his professional knowledge, and his knowledge on where I’m missing out on sales. Even though we were 13 hours apart in time zones, we covered a staggering amount of ground.
I’m still working on the changes he recommended (there were quite a few), but I am confident that I will recoup the consultation fee paid to Andy very quickly once these changes are in place. I would definitely recommend Andy’s services, as this was value for money, particularly for those who find their software is not doing as well as it should do and need to look at it from a completely different perspective.
Paul Roberts, www.roboprintjobmanager.com
I am quite tickled at being compared to talented chef and TV bad boy Gordon Ramsey (warning, lots of swearing). However, while I aspire to his level of passion, knowledge and commitment, I would like to point out that I don’t use the F word during consulting (unless perhaps I find out that you are paying Google $0.50 each time someone in China clicks on your ad for a $20 product).
A while back I did a day of consulting for James Wang on his SQL Pretty Printer software. One of my many recommendations was that he displayed the name of the licensed user prominently in the software, to discourage casual license key sharing. He recently reported back to me that he had made this change and it had significantly increased the number of orders for multiple licenses. The average number of licenses per sale increased from 1.34 to 2.65 since he made the change in February 2011. That is a 98% increase in sales! And it only took a week to change the licensing system.
Each time I have had an increase in sales, I found that it was mostly due to marketing related issues like changing the licensing system or paying for a link from a site which has a highly targeted audience for my software, not due to a new version release.
Of course it helps that James had a good product in the first place.
The guys at Gurock Software were kind enough to send me this testimonial after I did some consulting on TestRail, their web based test management software.
After launching our new test management software TestRail early last year, we recently contacted Andy to help us increase the visibility of our product. Based on customer feedback and reviews, we knew that many software development teams prefer TestRail over legacy solutions that are difficult to use. But we also knew that most teams weren’t aware of our new product, so we wanted to improve this situation.
The first thing Andy did was to try and test the application as a normal user would use it. While he walked through the application and briefly tested its major features, he recorded a video of this experience and narrated the video with comments and suggestions. Seeing how a first-time user uses your application can be very useful and it definitely showed us a few things that we could improve.
Learning more about the application was also important for the next step: Andy interviewed us to learn more about our goals, marketing methods and many other things. He then prepared a detailed and thorough report with many suggestions, comments and recommendations. Implementing all those suggestions will take time but we are already seeing first positive results of the short-term improvements that we’ve implemented. If you want to bring your product (or product marketing) to the next level, Andy’s consulting service is highly recommended.
Dennis Gurock, http://www.gurock.com
Although only launched last year, TestRail is already a polished product with an impressive customer list. If you have a suite of test cases you need to manage, I suggest you take a look.
I did some consulting a few months back for James Wang of SQL Pretty Printer, concentrating mainly on marketing and usability. James was kind enough to send me an update on his progress and allow me to reproduce it here:
I launched my product SQL Pretty Printer several years ago, but I wasn’t satisfied with sales. So I contacted Andy to do some consulting about my product and website.
After several rounds of questions, Andy looked at my product and website and did some research. Andy’s final report is easy to read and understand, and lists about 100 actionable points about my product and website. After that, it took me about 3-4 weeks to apply this advice with the help of Andy. 3 months later, I’m really satisfied with the result: the downloads have increased 36%, and the sales increased 25%.
So my conclusion is if you have a product, and want to sell more, Andy is the person you need to approach.
SQL Pretty Printer is a good example of focussing on a single, well-defined problem and really nailing it, allowing you to turn this:
SQL Pretty Printer has a wide range of formatting options and comes as a standalone Windows app, Visual Studio add-in, SSMS add-in and even an API for integration into your own app. If you have to work with less than beautiful SQL I recommend you try it.
I recently did a day of consulting for Ruben Bakker of Mailplane. I looked in depth at his marketing and did a screencast of myself downloading, using and buying Mailplane. We also discussed some ideas for a new product. At the end of the process he was kind enough to write me this testimonial:
How can I improve my sales? How can I make my application more profitable? Which of my ideas could be the next software product? With these questions in mind I hired Andy. He evaluated my small business, tested the product, checked the product website/store, and we discussed my strategy. Andy knows the Micro-ISV life and business with all its specialities and constraints. As a result of his work, I’ve now a clear plan and even tools on how to improve my sales. I was already able to put some ideas to work, and they already yielded measurable improvements. And Andy helped me choose my next project, I am now very much looking forward to it.
Ruben Bakker, www.mailplaneapp.com
Mailplane is a Mac desktop app that embeds and extends Gmail. For example, Mailplane allows you to drag and drop attachments, something that isn’t possible with Gmail running in a standard browser. This web/desktop hybrid approach potentially gives the best of both world – the richness of a desktop client, with the ability to fall back on the bare web app if required (e.g. from an Internet cafe). I expect to see more web/desktop hybrids in future.
Mailplane is a very polished app and I recommend downloading the free trial if you use Gmail on Mac OS X.
I did some consulting for Zed builds and bugs a few months back and made some suggestions on how they could improve their marketing and product. In particular I focussed on their marketing message/positioning, website, Adwords campaign and set-up usability issues. They have now been kind enough to write-up their experiences working with me on their blog. Best of all, they have included some hard data on improvements since they implemented the recommendations:
|Website Visitors||10% Increase|
|Trial Downloads||200% Increase|
|Google Organic Search Hits||320% Increase|
|Visitor Time Spent on Website||250% Increase|
Obviously I can’t claim too much credit, as they did all the hard work. But it certainly looks like things are heading in the right direction and I think the changes to their website are a huge improvement.
Zed is an interesting product, integrating a continuous integration server with a bug tracker, wiki and forums, all behind a slick web interface. Obviously there are plenty of products that do these things individually, but Zed’s power comes from the integration of them all. For example, a build failure can automatically generate a bug report and bug fix can trigger an automatic build.
If you are interested in continuous integration and/or a more integrated approach to developer collaboration I recommend you try Zed. If you have less than 5 users you can take advantage of their free community edition.
I have been an enthusiastic user of Deeptrawl since the first beta was announced on the BOS forum. I run DeepTrawl on http://www.perfecttableplan.com every time I make major changes to ensure that there are no broken links, missing images or other website bugs. It has saved me quite a few potentially embarassing mistakes and helped me sleep a bit sounder at night. So I was very pleased when the author, Jonathan Matthews, asked me to do a day of consulting to assist in his efforts to move DeepTrawl sales to the next level.
The consultation ran to two long phone calls, lots of emails, some research and testing and a report with 21 pages of recommendations covering areas including: licensing, pricing, SEO, website, promotion, Adwords and usability. Here is what Jonathan had to say about the process:
I approached Andy Brice to do some consulting specifically because I wanted to increase sales largely through improving my marketing efforts.
Andy’s approach is one which I think those from a coding background will appreciate. From the first phone call it was clear his process was refined and methodical: not concentrating on fluffy marketing fads but rather on solid proven methods.
Throughout the consulting process it was clear that Andy was taking all the positive and negative marketing knowledge he gained making his own product successful & applying it to create unique recommendations for my own product.
The final report was delivered before the due date & on budget. Reading the report I was stunned by the wealth of information it contained. The report doesn’t just contain dry facts & statistics, the emphasis is clearly on actionable points. Reading Andy’s justifications for making his recommendations it’s clear that implementing them will ratchet up the effectiveness of my marketing efforts one step at a time.
My conclusion is that Andy’s consulting is probably the most cost effective investment I will ever make in my business; I fully expect the expenditure to be repaid many, many times over.
Jonathan Matthews, www.deeptrawl.com
If you have a website that runs to tens or hundreds of pages that you need to QA, I would definitely recommend giving DeepTrawl a try. To sweeten the deal Jonathan is offering readers of this blog 20% off until the end of July (go to the buy page, click a ‘buy now’ button, then click ‘the checkout’ button, then enter the coupon code: successfulsw01 ).
Working as a micro-ISV needs lots of different skills, but no-one can have all of them. When you’re developing a software product for your independent venture, it’s easy to lose sight of some issues, just because there are so many of them to cover, and so few hours in a day. I realised that to help me re-focus and prioritise the key tasks after the code was complete needed the catalyst of a fresh pair of eyes, to verify or change the plans I had. Simply chatting to a knowledgeable professional made all the difference to perspective and priorities. I was expecting that from Andy Brice, as I’d read about his work with other micro-ISVs. What I wasn’t expecting was his breadth of business knowledge as well as his technical knowledge. Being able to discuss business objectives, markets, pricing, promotion as well as SEO and coding was a great punctuation point in the development of the Reserviz online service, and it helped me develop a much more focussed set of priorities to complete the initial launch period. Don’t expect from Andy a glib confirmation that everything you’ve done is fine – he’ll give you an honest assessment, and then help you work out a plan. Think of Andy as the Swiss Army Knife you need in your toolbox!
Mike Gorman, www.Reserviz.com
I have been doing some consulting for Mike Gorman of Quartile Software on Reserviz. Reserviz is an online service for booking rooms, people and other resources. I have primarily been helping Mike with positioning (deciding which vertical markets to focus on), online marketing (including SEO and Google Adwords) and testing the usability of the website. It was a slight departure for me, as most of my experience is with desktop apps. But it just proved that the vast majority of what is true for the marketing and usability of desktop apps also applies to web apps.
I think Reserviz has a very attractive website with a nice balance between simplicity and flexibility. If you know anyone who is still using a tatty old appointment book? Tell them to checkout Reserviz for simple online appointment and resource booking (first month free!).