Tag Archives: ideas

3 practical tips for finding software product ideas

software product ideasToo many software products fail because no-one bothered to do basic market research. This is a guest post from Edmundo López B. with some useful advice on finding a viable market niche before you start creating your product.

The process of building software for a niche market is more or less well documented online. The basic workflow I found is (for example here or here):

  • choose some niche (with potential)
  • find out the problems that you can solve in that niche
  • create a product to solve the problem
  • sell it
  • enjoy life :-)

Here are three things you can look for when asking people about their problems.

Ask for the painful tasks that they do, not for the problem you can help with

The people I first talked to were persons that I already knew, so my pitch for them was: “Hello. As you know I’m a software engineer. I’m looking for problems to solve. I want to build software and sell it. And, if I solve a real problem, I’m sure people will pay for it. I was wondering if there is some problem in your business where you need some help. I could create some software, solve your problem and then sell it. I can help you with your problem and you will help me to find my problem.”

The first response was always positive however, everybody I talked to started to look at a problem they thought could be solved by a computer. The problem with that is that people’s vision of computers is very limited. First, some people limit the software I can build to desktop applications or some platform they know well. Second, they try to find problems to give you, and not the problems they really have. For example: one of my interviewees said to me that she needed some kind of tracking system for the expenses of her very small business (a small farm producing eggs). I told her: “Wow, that sounds like a problem I could solve, how are you solving that problem right now?.” She told me: “I’m not, I’m busy bootstrapping the whole business right now. But later I’d certainly like to have something for that.” Of course, if she is not solving that right now, then that is not a real problem. She sort of made that problem up to give an answer to my question.

People have real problems but sometimes they don’t even know they could tackle that problem with a computer. So, the lesson here is that you have to get them to tell you their real problems. Even the ones they don’t think that could be solved by a computer. You are the computer expert, not the people you interview, so you need to find out the real problem out there. Also it doesn’t have to be a problem from the future, it has to be an actual problem now. The question that I found works best is the following: Tell me about your day and what activities are the most tedious and boring to do, but do not add much value to your business. (I’m not the first to come up with this question, but I don’t remember the source, sorry.)

Look for their existing solution and ask what is wrong with it (the Excel spreadsheet)

From the people I interviewed, 2 of them had an Excel spreadsheet that solved their problem in a way that was not the best, but did the job. The third one had plans to solve her problem with an Excel spreadsheet in the future. Joel Spolsky talks about how Excel and other horizontal software are nothing more than glorified data structures. It is true, you can do almost anything involving simple mathematics and tables of data within Excel. Keeping track of costs, sales, etc. are a perfect match for it.

The common engineer will say: “If there is already a solution for that, why roll my own?” The entrepreneur will just ask what isn’t possible with the existing solution and think of ways of improving that. The existence of the Excel spreadsheet is a clear sign that there is a computing problem that can be solved in a better way. I can give you an example. Two of the persons I interviewed showed me their Excel spreadsheets (an architect and an event manager). A common problem was being able to slightly change some prices in a budget and immediately be able to show the old and the new price to the client.  This kind of information is gold to the person creating an application. This is something they use, and if you can save them time using it, you can add value to their businesses.

If there is no Excel spreadsheet, I just try to find software on the net that does what they need. If there is something really good on the market, I don’t want to compete with them. If you are wondering why didn’t I let them do the search, the answer is simple: they do the search using the traditional channels, colleagues and networks of peers; I focus on the Google search. I’m a developer, I can Google for software in a much better way than they do. It took me an hour to do a research on software for architects. Then you can explain to them the pros and cons of the solutions, help them to sign up for a free trial and tell them if their set-up is supported. The golden rule is to be really helpful. It is true that you might end up finding a customer for someone else. But if there is not a good solution, you are finding a niche for yourself.

Do some simple mathematics to see if the problem is worth solving

My last tip is about the financial aspect. Let us say that you finally found a problem that you can solve. It is painful and there is no solution in the market that can solve it in the way people in that niche want. The question to ask now is: “What are people willing to pay for something like this?” I cannot give you an exact answer but I can tell you that it depends on the value you add to your client’s business.

What you want to know is:

  • How much time does it take monthly to do the task you are solving?
  • How much money could be earned in the same amount of time?
  • How much faster would it be to do the same task with your solution?

The basic idea is to convert saved time to saved dollars. Of course, if your solution saves dollars monthly, it becomes an investment for the business. My limited experience showed me that saving people money and pain gets them really excited.

I can give you an example from my interview with the architect. Once again, the problem was something he was solving with an Excel spreadsheet. I asked him how much time did it take and he told me at least three days. Three days of architect’s time means a lot of money. So, if you can help him solve the problem in one day, you are not only saving his money but avoiding pain (because the problem was painful to solve, but  it needed to be done).


Now it’s up to you. Try to put these in practice, and find a niche to build your first product. Please share your thoughts and remarks in the comments.

Edmundo López B. is a PhD student in computer science at the University of Geneva and an entrepreneur in the making. He loves building things, learning new stuff, and  playing classical guitar. He decided to make the jump directly from school to entrepreneurship. He blogs at edmundo.lopezbobeda.net.

Product ideas wanted

Joannes Vermorel’s guest post ‘3 Low-Competition Niches In Retail Software’ got quite a lot of interest. I also have various ideas for software-based products and services that I am never likely to develop due to a lack of time, money, skills or interest. I’m sure many of you reading this do as well. It seems a shame to leave all these ideas gathering dust when there is someone out there just about to waste a huge amount of energy writing the 2,133th Twitter app (and counting) due to lack of a better idea.

So I am inviting you to email in promising but neglected software-based product and service ideas so that I can publish the best ones here. Maybe it is a tool you would like to use or something that you think might be a good business but, either way, you are never going to implement it. They can be ideas for: enterprise SAAS, Windows programming libraries, iPad games, development tools  – anything with a significant software component. It doesn’t have to be a radically new idea, it could be just a significantly different take on an existing idea. Hopefully some budding entrepreneurs will pick up some of these ideas and run with them. Note: By sending me your idea you are giving me permission to put it into the public domain for anyone to see.

Please email them to me at andy at oryxdigital at com with the subject line “product idea” by 12-Sep-11. They should be in plain text and conform to the following basic template:


A one sentence description of product.

A longer description of the product. Ideally 1 or 2 paragraphs.

Who you think the typical customer would be.

Price point:
What you think the software would sell for.

Windows, Mac, iPad, iPhone, web etc.

Closest competitors (URLs ideally).

How your idea is different to the competitors.

Any particular challenges in creating or marketing this product.

Commercial potential:
What commercial potential does this product have? How many people do you think it could sustain full time?

Why not you?:
If it is such as great idea, why haven’t you created it?

Market research:
How much market research you have done. ‘None’ is an acceptable answer.

(optional) Your contact details, if anyone wants to discuss the idea further. Can be an email, hyperlink, twitter account etc. It is also fine if you want to use a pseudonym or be anonymous.


For example:

Qt GUI checker.

Every time I create a new Windows using the Qt application framework I have to manually check all the controls have:

  • tooltips
  • non-conflicting keyboard shortcuts
  • the correct left-right and top-to-bottom tab order
  • correctly capitalised text
  • etc

It is quite tedious when you do a lot of GUI development.

Qt developers.

Price point:
I’d pay $30.

Windows, Mac, Linux and other Qt platforms.

None that I know of.

QtDesigner lets you do these tasks manually, but I don’t know of any software that can do this automatically.

I don’t think it would be that difficult. You just need to parse the XML in a .ui file and present the results in a legible form.

Commercial potential:
Limited. Only of interest to Qt developers. Many people are using Qt for free, and people using free tools generally don’t like to pay for add-ons. It might make a good student or open source project though.

Why not you?:
I’ve got too much else on my plate! Also I am not convinced about the commercial potential.

Market research:
No formal research, but I’ve been using Qt for over 10 years.

http://www.successfulsoftware.net .

3 Low-Competition Niches In Retail Software

This is a guest post by Joannes Vermorel, founder of the Lokad Forecasting Service.

Software developers seem to be herd animals. They like to stay very close to each other. As a result, the marketplace ends up riddled with hundreds of ToDo lists while other segments are deserted, despite high financial stakes. During my routine browsing of software business forums, I have noticed that the most common answer to Why the heck are you producing yet another ToDo list? is the desperately annoying Because I can’t find a better idea.

This is desperately annoying because the world is full (saturated even) with problems so painful that people or companies would be very willing to pay to relieve the pain, even if only a little. A tiny fraction of these problems are addressed by the software industry (such as the need for ToDo lists), but most are just lacking any decent solution.

Hence, I detail below 3 low-competition software niches in retail. Indeed, after half a decade of running sales forecasting software company Lokad, I believe, despite the potential survivor bias, that I have acquired insights on a few B2B markets close to my own. Firstly I will address a few inevitable questions:

Q: If you have uncovered such profitable niches, why don’t you take over them yourself?
A: Mostly because running a growing business already takes about 100% of my management bandwidth.

Q: If these niches have little competition, entry barriers must be high?
A: Herding problems aside, I believe not.

Q: Now these niches have been disclosed, they will be swarmed over by competitors, right?
A: Odds are extremely low on that one. The herd instinct is just too strong.

Q. Do I have to pay you if I use one of your ideas?
A. No, I am releasing this into the public domain. I expect no payment if you get rich (unless you want to!) and accept no liability if you fail miserably. Execution is everything.  And don’t trust a random stranger on the Internet – do your own market research.

Before digging into the specifics of those niches, here are a couple of signs that I have noticed to be indicators of desperate lack of competition:

  • No one bothers about doing even basic SEO.
  • No prices on display.
  • No one offers self-signup – you have to go through a sales rep.
  • Little in the way of online documentation or screenshots are available.

However, lack of competition does not mean lack of competitors. It’s just not the sort of competition that keeps you up at night. Through private one-to-one discussions with clients of those solutions, here is the typical feedback I get:

  • Licenses are hideously expensive.
  • Setup takes months.
  • Upgrade takes months (and is hideously expensive).
  • Every single feature feels half-baked.

By way of anecdotal evidence – during a manufacturer integration with our forecasting technology a few months ago at Lokad, we discovered that the client had been charged $2,000 by its primary software provider in order to activate Remote Desktop on the Windows Server where the software was installed. Apparently, this was well within the norm of their usual fees for the inventory management system in place.

Granted, just being cheaper is usually not a good place to be in the market. Yet, when a competitor’s software is designed in such a way that it takes a small army of consultants to get it up and running, they can’t just lower their license fees to match yours – assuming that your design is not half-baked too. The competition would have to redesign their solution from scratch, and give up on their consultingware revenues. So you are in a great position to drive competition crazy.

With a market managing over two-thirds of the US gross domestic product, one would expected retail be saturated by fantastic software products. It turns out this is not the case. Not by a long shot – except eCommerce (e.g. online shopping carts) which attracts a zillion developers for no good reason.

Some salient aspects of the retail software market:

  1. Most retailers are already equipped in basic stuff such as point-of-sale, inventory management and order management systems. So you don’t have to deliver that yourself. On the contrary, you should rely on the assumption that such software is already in place.
  2. As far the Lokad experience goes with its online sales forecasting service, retailers are not unwilling to disclose their data to a 3rd party over the Internet. It takes trust and trust takes time. Interestingly enough, at Lokad we do sign NDAs, but rather infrequently. We are not unwilling, but most retailers (even top 100 worldwide ones) simply don’t even bother.
  3. Retailers have a LOT of data, and yet unlike banks, they have little talented manpower to deal with it. Many retail businesses are highly profitable though and could afford to pay for this kind of manpower, but as far I can tell, it’s just not part of the usual Western retail culture. Talents go to management, not to the trenches.

Niche 1: EOQ (Economic Order Quantity) calculator

Retailers know they need to keep their stocks as low as possible, while preserving their service levels (aka rate of non stock-outs), see this safety stock tutorial for more details. If the marginal ordering cost for replenishment was zero, then retailers would produce myriads of incremental replenishment orders, precisely matching their own sales. This is not the case. One century ago, F. W. Harris introduced the economic order quantity (EOQ) which represents the optimal quantity to be ordered at once by the retailer, when friction factors such as the shipping cost are taken into account. Obviously, the Wilson Formula (see Wikipedia for details) is an extremely early attempt at addressing the question. It’s not too hard to see that many factors are not accounted for, such as non-flat shipping costs, volume discounts, obsolescence risks …etc.

Picking the right quantity to order is obviously a fundamental question for each retailer performing an inventory replenishment operation. Yet, AFAIK, there is no satisfying solution available on the market. ERP systems just graciously let the retailer manually enter the EOQ along with other product settings. Naturally, this process is extremely tedious, firstly because of the sheer number of products, secondly because whenever a supply parameter is changing, the retailer has to go through all the relevant products all over again.

The EOQ calculator would typically come as multi-tenant web app. Main features being:

  • Product and supplier data import from any remotely reachable SQL database[1].
  • Web UI for entering / editing EOQ settings.
  • EOQ calculation engine.
  • Optional EOQ export back to the ERP.

Pricing guestimate: Charge by the number of products rather than by the number of users. I would suggest to start around $50/month for small shops and go up to $10k/month for large retail networks.

Gut feeling: EOQ seemingly involves a lot of expert knowledge (my take: acquiring this knowledge is a matter of months, not years). So there is an opportunity to position yourself as an expert here, which is a good place to be as it facilitates inbound marketing and PR with specialized press. Also, EOQ can be narrowed down to sub-verticals in retail (e.g. textiles) in case competition grows stronger.

Niche 2: Supplier scorecard manager

For a retailer, there are about 3 qualities that define a good supplier: lowest prices, shortest shipment delays, best availability levels (aka no items out-of-stock delaying the shipments). Better, sometime exclusive, suppliers give a strong competitive edge to a retailer. Setting aside payment terms and complicated discounts, comparing supplier prices is simple, yet, this is only the tip of the iceberg. If the cheapest supplier doesn’t deliver half of the time, “savings” will turn into very expensive lost sales. As far I can observe, beyond pricing, assessing quality of the suppliers is hard, and most retailers suffer an ongoing struggle with this issue.

An idea that frequently comes to the mind of retailers is to establish contracts with suppliers that involve financial penalties if delays or availability levels are not enforced. In practice, the idea is often impractical. Firstly, you need to be Walmart-strong to inflict any punitive damage on your suppliers without simply losing them. Secondly, shipping delays and availabilities needs to be accurately monitored, which is typically not the case.

A much better alternative, yet infrequently implemented outside the large retail networks, consists of establishing a supplier scorecard based on the precise measuring of both lead times (i.e. the duration between the initial order and the final delivery) and of the item availability. The scorecard is a synthetic, typically 1-page, document refreshed every week or every month that provides the overall performance of each supplier. The scorecard includes a synthetic score like A (10% best performing suppliers), B and C (10% worst performing suppliers). Scorecards are shared with the suppliers themselves.

Instead of punishing bad suppliers, the scorecard helps them in realizing there is a problem in the first place. Then, if the situation doesn’t improve after a couple of months, it helps the retailer itself to realize the need for switching to another supplier…

The scorecard manager web app would feature:

  • Import of both purchase orders and delivery receipts (this might be 2 distinct systems). [2]
  • Consolidation of per-supplier lead time and availability statistics.
  • One-page scorecard reports with 3rd party access offered to the suppliers.

Pricing guestimate: Charge based on the number of suppliers and the numbers of orders to be processed. Again, the number of users having access to the system might not be a reliable indicator. Starting at $50/month for small shops up to $10k/month for large retail networks.

Gut feeling: By positioning your company as intermediate between retailers and their suppliers, you benefit from a built-in viral marketing effect, which is rather unusual in B2B. On the other hand, there isn’t that much expert knowledge (real or assumed) in the software itself.

Niche 3: Dead simple sales analytics

Retail is a fast-paced business, and a retailer needs to keep a really close eye on its sales figures in order to stay clear of bankruptcy. Globally, the software market is swarming with hundreds of sales analytics tools, most of them being distant competitors of Business Objects acquired by SAP years ago. However, the business model of most retailers is extremely simple and straightforward, making all those Business Intelligence tools vast overkill for small and medium retail networks.

Concepts that matter in retail are: sales per product, product categories and points of sale. That’s about it. Hence, all it should take to have a powerful sales visualization tool setup for a retailer should be access to the 2 or 3 SQL tables of the ERP defining products and transactions; and the rest being hard-coded defaults.

Google Analytics would be an inspiring model. Indeed, Google does not offer to webmasters any flexibility whatsoever in the way the web traffic is reported; but in exchange, setting-up Google Analytics requires no more than merely cutting-and-pasting a block of JavaScript into your web page footer.

Naturally it would be a web app, with the main features being:

  • Product and sales data import from any remotely reachable SQL database.[2]
  • Aggregate sales per day/week/month.
  • Aggregate per product/product category/point-of-sales.
  • A Web UI ala Google Analytics, with a single time-series graph per page.

Pricing guestimate: Regular per-usage fee, a la Salesforce.com. Starting at $5/user/month basic features to $100/user/month for more fancy stuff.

Gut feeling: probably the weakest of the 3 niches, precisely because it has too much potential and is therefore doomed to attract significant attention later on. Also, achieving a wow effect on first contact with the product will probably be critical to turn prospects into clients.

Market entry points

Worldwide, there are plenty of competitors already for these niches. Yet, again, this does not mean much. Firstly because retail is so huge, secondly because it’s a heavily fragmented market anyway. First, there are big guys like SAP, JDA or RedPrairie, typically way too expensive for anything but large retail networks. Second, there are hundreds of mid-market ERPs, typically with a strong national (or even regional) focus. However, those ERPs don’t delve into fine-grained specifics of retail, as they are too busy already dealing with a myriad of feature requests for their +20 modules (accounting, billing, HR, payments, shipping … etc). Hence, there is a lot of space for razor-sharp web apps that focus on one, and only one, aspect of the retail business. Basically single-minded, uncompromising obsession with one thing, leaving aside all other stuff to either ERPs or other web apps.

In order to enter the market, the good news is that mid-size retailers are pretty much everywhere. So you can just use a tiny bit of networking to get in touch with a couple of neighbouring businesses, even if you don’t have that much of a network in the first place. Then, being razor-sharp in a market where very little online content is available, offers you a cheap opportunity at doing some basic SEO based on the very specific questions your software is addressing.

Q: I am interested, I have questions, can I ask you those questions?
A: Naturally, my rate is 200€/h (no just kidding). Yes, email me.

[1] Don’t even bother about providing a super-complicated setup wizard. Just offer a $2k to $5k setup package that includes the ad-hoc handful of SQL lines to match the existing data of the retailer. We are already using this approach at Lokad with Salescast. Alternatively, we also offer an intermediate SQL schema, if the retailer is willing to deal with the data formatting on its own.

[2] Again, I suggest an approach similar to the one of Salescast by Lokad: don’t even try to robotize data import, just design the software in such a way that adding a custom adapter is cheap.

Joannes Vermorel is the founder of Lokad, company motto “You send data, we return forecasts”. Lokad won the first Windows Azure award from Microsoft in 2010, out of 3000 companies applying worldwide. He has a personal blog that mostly deals with cloud computing matters.

15 criteria for evaluating software product ideas

Choosing the right product to develop is crucial. Great execution is also very important. But if you develop a product that no-one wants or no-one is prepared to pay for, then you are going to fail, no matter how well you execute it. You can often tweak a product or its marketing to make it more successful based on market feedback (‘pivot’) .  But the less pivoting you have to do, the better. Below I list some of the criteria I think are important for evaluating the potential of new commercial software products.

1. Are you solving a real problem?

Has your customer got a ‘bleeding neck’? Is your software solving a problem compelling enough that someone is going to download it, install it, evaluate it, buy it and then learn to use it, with the accompanying risks of credit card fraud and malware? It is hard to change people’s habits. They are going to keep doing what they are doing now (e.g. pen and paper or Excel) unless you can convince them your software offers them very significant advantages.

2. How much will people pay for this product?

This is a complex question and depends on many factors. You should be able to get a rough idea by looking at your closest potential competitors. But there are some types of software that people don’t expect to pay for, no matter how difficult or expensive it is to develop – for example web browsers and media players. There are some users who can’t pay – for example children and people in some developing countries. And there are some people who won’t pay – for example many Linux users. So good luck selling a media player aimed at teenage Linux users in China.

3. Is the market big enough?

Is the market big enough for you to make a living? How many people are looking for solutions to this sort of problem? This is less of a problem than most people think. Given the huge number of people with Internet access and credit cards it is possible for a small company to make a decent living from a market that appears very narrow. Narrowing your market also allows you to be much more focussed in your marketing.

4. Can you promote it cost effectively?

How are you going to reach customers: Adwords, SEO, partners, magazine ads, direct mail, social media, affiliates, resellers or other methods? Can you do it cost effectively? How much is each sale from Adwords going to cost you assuming a 1% conversion rate? If it costs you $31 in advertising for each sale of a $30 product, you aren’t going to be in business long. But if you can cross-sell it to customers you already have a relationship with, that is a huge plus.

5. How much competition is there?

If there are lots of established competitors, you may have a hard time getting noticed. Personally I wouldn’t want to go into any market where I didn’t have a reasonable shot of getting to the first page on Google for at least some of the important search terms. For example, I think it would be incredibly tough to succeed with yet another Twitter, RSS, todo list or backup application. Conversely, if there are no competitors, that means that there may be no market. Creating a new market is tough, especially for a small company. Ideally you want a market where there are competitors making a decent living, but you think you can do a better job than them, or at least be different to them in some important way.

6. How is your product different?

Many vendors try very hard to reach feature parity with their competitors. But successful marketing means being different to your competitors. How is your product going to be different? What is your positioning? Note that just being cheaper than your competitors is not enough.

7. How high is the barrier to entry?

How long will it take you to create a minimum sellable product? If the barrier to entry is too high, you may never have the time, cashflow and energy to reach v1.0. As a self-funded microISV I wouldn’t want to work on any product where I couldn’t deliver something sellable (a minimum viable product) within 6 months. Conversely if the barrier to entry is too low, then it will be easy for others to copy your idea if it is successful.

8. Can you reach critical mass?

Some types of applications need a certain number of users before they can take off (network effect). For example, a massively multi-player game, dating site or auction site isn’t going to be very interesting until the number of users reaches a certain threshold. Do you have the contacts and financial resources to reach this threshold?

9. Do you have the technical skills and domain knowledge to create this product?

If not, how long will it take to learn them? Different technologies suit different types of problems. Using an inappropriate technology, just because it is one you have experience in, is unlikely to end well.

10. Are you scratching your own itch?

If you can be your own customer, then this can be very helpful in coming up with a good solution. But be wary about assuming that your needs are the same as everyone elses.

11. What is the lifetime of the product?

Is the technology is going to be obsolete or will the market disappear within a couple of years?  Are customers likely to buy upgrades to new versions? The longer you can sell a product for, the more profitable it is likely to be.

12. Is a good domain available?

Can you get a good domain for your product? Domains that contain keywords that people are likely to search on will help with SEO.

13. What are the risk factors?

Every dependency is a risk factor. If the platform your products runs on dies, then your product dies.  If you are writing an add-on for another product, then you can be put out of business pretty much overnight if the core product dies or if the functionality of your add-on is incorporated into the core product. Can you get source code for third party libraries?

14. Is the passion there?

Good software takes a lot of time and effort. Don’t believe the hype about 4 hour work weeks. Is it going to be interesting and fun? Do you have the passion and commitment to still be working on this product in 10 years time?

15. Will it make the world a better place?

Software products can be an enormous force for good in the world, increasing productivity and allowing people to do things they couldn’t do otherwise. You don’t have to be the next Google to be doing something worthwhile. But creating a “me too” clone of an existing software package or a product that encourages anti-social behaviour (e.g. spamming) isn’t going to make the world a better place.

Making a decision

You need to look at all these criteria before you make a decision. For example, a short lifespan or a small market might be compensated for by a high ticket price. If you are evaluating several products, create a simple table with a row for each criteria and a column for each product and compare them side by side.

Did I miss any important criteria?

100 ways to increase your software sales

Increase targeted traffic to your website:

  1. SEO your website.
  2. Write a blog or newsletter of interest to the sort of people who might buy your software.
  3. Get more links to your website.
  4. Try Google Adwords Pay Per Click (PPC) ads.
  5. Write a guest post on someone else’s blog.
  6. Try CNet Pay Per Download ads.
  7. Promote your software through download sites using the ASP PAD repository, a paid submission tool or free submission tool.
  8. Promote your software through platform sites e.g. Apple downloads or Office online.
  9. Start an affiliate program.
  10. Try Microsoft Adcentre PPC ads.
  11. Bid higher for your PPC phrases.
  12. Advertise on stumbleupon.
  13. Write additional content for your site.
  14. Give away a ‘lite’ version of your software.
  15. Offer discount coupons.
  16. Add a forum to your website.
  17. Offer free review copies of your software to bloggers.
  18. Do a press release.
  19. Run a competition.
  20. Write better ads for your PPC campaign.
  21. Direct (snail) mail.
  22. Run ads in print magazines.
  23. Include your URL when posting on relevant forums.
  24. Try Yahoo Search Marketing PPC ads.
  25. Buy banner ads on targeted blogs, forums and other websites.
  26. Add extra keywords to your PPC campaigns.
  27. Talk about your software on a podcast.
  28. Add a viral element to your software.
  29. Do a publicity stunt.
  30. Get word of mouth recommendations by giving great support.
  31. Get listed in online directories such as DMOZ.
  32. Post a screencast on YouTube.

Increase your visitor->download rate:

  1. Have an online demo movie.
  2. Offer a free trial.
  3. Offer a money back guarantee.
  4. Port your software to additional platforms e.g. iPhone.
  5. Have a clean and professional website.
  6. Add case studies to your website.
  7. Make sure your website functions with all the major browsers.
  8. Get someone else to proof read the copy on your website.
  9. Talk to visitors in a language they understand i.e. not technical jargon, unless they are techies.
  10. Reduce the number of barriers to downloading the trial (don’t require an email address).
  11. Add a product FAQ to your website.
  12. Show your price prominently.
  13. Improve the usability of your website.
  14. Include your contact details on the website.
  15. Make sure the people can understand what your software does within 2 seconds of arriving at your site.
  16. Make the ‘download’ button more prominent on your website.
  17. Fix any errors in your website.
  18. Include screenshots on your home page.
  19. Add a list of famous customers to your website.
  20. Use a digital certificate for your installer and executable.
  21. Add (genuine!) testimonials to your website.
  22. Create better landing pages for your PPC campaigns.
  23. Add a privacy policy to your website.
  24. Add live online support to your website.
  25. Check your web logs/analytics to find out why/where visitors are leaving your website.

Increase your download->sale rate:

  1. Offer more than one payment processor.
  2. Improve the usability of your software.
  3. Accept purchase orders.
  4. Offer Trialpay as an alternative payment method.
  5. Offer sensible prices in additional currencies.
  6. Require an email address to download your software and follow-up with marketing emails.
  7. Increase or reduce the price of your software.
  8. Fix bugs in your software.
  9. Lengthen or shorten the trial period.
  10. Offer bulk purchase discounts.
  11. Improve your installer.
  12. Make the ‘buy’ button more prominent on your website.
  13. Make your software more beautiful.
  14. Allow users to buy your product easily from within the software itself.
  15. Localize your software into another language.
  16. Offer organizational licences.
  17. Try limiting your trial by features instead of time (or vice versa).
  18. Improve the speed/memory performance of your software.
  19. Improve your product documentation.
  20. Offer alternative payment models (e.g. an annual subscription instead of a one-off fee).
  21. Offer alternative licensing models (e.g. per site instead of per user).
  22. Write an introductory tutorial.
  23. Reduce the number of clicks and key presses required to make a sale.
  24. Add that new feature that people keep asking for.

Increase the value of each sale:

  1. Increase the price of your software.
  2. Charge extra for optional modules.
  3. Upsell additional products and services of your own or as an affiliate.
  4. Charge for major upgrades.
  5. Offer multiple versions at different price points e.g. standard/business/enterprise.
  6. Offer an optional CD.
  7. Charge an annual maintenance fee.
  8. Charge for support.
  9. Offer a premium support plan.

Explore alternative sales channels:

  1. Sell through resellers.
  2. Exhibit at tradeshows.
  3. Cold call prospects.
  4. Allow other companies to sell white label versions of your software.
  5. Include your software on cover-mounted magazine CDs.
  6. Sell through retail stores.
  7. Sell on Ebay.
  8. Sell on Amazon.
  9. Promote your software on one day sale sites, such as BitsDuJour or GiveAwayOfTheDay.
  10. Create a new product.


  • Items are in no particular order in each category.
  • Some of the items are mutually exclusive.
  • I have tried about 80% of the above. Some worked, some didn’t. In fact, many of them were a total waste of time and money. But the ones that didn’t work for me might work great in a different market (and vice versa). I discuss my experiences with some of them in more detail here: Promoting your software part1, part2, part3, part4, part5, part6.
  • This is by no means an exhaustive list. Feel free to suggest more in the comments.
  • Don’t know where to start? Perhaps you need a fresh pair of eyes.

Thanks to Stuart Prestedge of Softalk for suggesting some of the above.