Tag Archives: promotion

sales sites and bundles

Promoting your software through 1-day sales and bundles

Hyper Plan, my visual planning software for Windows and Mac, has now been for sale for a bit less than 2 years. Given that I am (by choice) doing all the development, marketing and support for both Hyper Plan and my other product, PerfectTablePlan, I have had a limited amount of time to promote Hyper Plan. But Hyper Plan is in a  competitive market, where it is hard to get noticed using traditional promotional techniques such as SEO and PPC. So I have been experimenting with promotion via 1-day sales sites and bundles.

I did several promotions through both bitsdujour.com and macupdate.com promo. These were 50%-off sales for 1 day (sometimes extended for another day). The site takes 50% commission on the sale, so I only got $10 of my normal $40 ticket price. But I also got exposure to a whole new audience I wouldn’t normally reach.

I also included Hyper Plan in bundlehunt.com and macupdate.com software bundles. In these bundles customers purchased some 10 items of software at a big discount. The promotions lasted for a few weeks each. I am not at liberty to divulge how much I got for each licence, but a quick calculation based on the price of the bundles and the number of items in the bundle tells you that it was a lot less than $10!

My hopes related to sales sites and bundles were:

  1. A worthwhile amount additional sales revenue.
  2. Increased feedback, giving me more insight for improving the product.
  3. Making money further down the line from major upgrades (e.g. v1 to v2).
  4. That I wouldn’t be swamped in support emails from people who were paying me a lot less than the standard price.
  5. More word-of-mouth sales after the discount has finished.

On analysing the results, the first 4 turned out to be true.

I had previously tried promoting my PerfectTablePlan table planning software on bitsdujour.com, but the results were disappointing. It just wasn’t a good match for their audience. However Hyper Plan is a more general tool and it did a lot better. The bundles also sold in impressive volumes. The source of Hyper Plan sales revenues to date after commission (but not including upgrades) is show below.

sales-revenue-source

So the extra sales were certainly significant from a revenue point of view, bearing in mind that Hyper Plan is a relatively young and unknown product.

I also got some very useful feedback from the bitsdujour comments section.

I released v2 of Hyper Plan in March 2016. I have crunched the numbers to see how many v1 customers to date have paid for upgrades to v2.

percentage upgrades

I expected that the 1-day sale customers who had paid $20 for the initial licence would be less likely to pay $16 to upgrade to v2 than those who had hadn’t purchased at a heavy discount. I was surprised that the opposite turned out to be true. I don’t have a good theory why.

I don’t have any figures for bundle customer upgrades, as the bundles happened after v2 was released. Given that bundle purchasers probably only wanted a subset of the software in the bundle, I expect the upgrade percentages to be a lot lower than above.

I wasn’t swamped in support emails. In fact things were surprisingly quiet during the bundles, which makes me wonder how many people who purchased the bundle were interested in Hyper Plan.

There were no sustained jumps in traffic or sales after the 1-day sales or bundles ended.

Best of all, the 1-day sales and bundles don’t cost anything, apart from a modest amount of time to set-up.

I know some vendors promote these 1-day sales and bundles to existing customers. But I don’t understand why you would do that. The whole point of these channels is to reach new audiences. Also you risk annoying customers who have paid list price. If you already have an audience you can promote a sale to, then you don’t need 1-day sales sites or bundles. Just email them a discount voucher.

I had one complaint from an existing customer on a forum who had paid full price and then saw Hyper Plan in a 1-day sale. I offered to refund the difference back to them, but they didn’t take me up on it.

In conclusion, the sales and bundle sites brought in useful spikes of additional sales (especially when you include upgrades later on) and feedback, without a big jump in support burden. But they didn’t lead to a noticeable long-term increase in traffic or sales. Obviously every product is different. But if you have a product that needs exposure, isn’t too niche and doesn’t require a lot of support, it may be worth giving 1-day sales and bundles a try.

Twitter Demographics Are Bullshit

twitter demographicsI have been experimenting a bit with promoting my software using promoted tweets. You can target people based on their interests or the Twitter handles they follow. I have chosen the latter approach with the aim of getting people to a) click through to my website and b) retweet (in the hope of more click throughs).

The results haven’t been great, with only 25% of the ‘engagements’ I paid for resulting in clicks through to my website. Here is a direct comparison between traffic from AdWords and Twitter ads to my seating planner software website (data from Google Analytics).

AdWords search
campaign
Twitter sponsored
tweet
Bounce rate 43% 78%
Av. pages visited 3.10 1.48
Av. time on site 1:51 0:40

Ouch. Then factor in that the Twitter traffic cost me 2.5 times as much per click through as the AdWords traffic. Double ouch. But that’s fine. You have do lots of experiments to find out what works. Most of them won’t be successful. This experiment only cost me £150.

However I was a bit puzzled by the ‘interests’ report from Twitter. Here are the top 10 ‘interests’ of the people that were shown my sponsored tweet, as reported by Twitter ads.

twitter demographicsBear in mind that I was targeting various Twitter handles related to the events and wedding industry for Twitter users in the UK, USA and Canada. According to the report:

  • 72% of them are interested in ‘Politics’.
  • 69% of them are interested in ‘Hip hop and rap’.
  • 62% of them are interested in  ‘NFL football’.
  • ‘Weddings’ is way down the list at number 55 with 15%, between ‘Leadership’ and ‘Dogs’.

Hmm, something is a bit fishy here.

I ran some more campaigns to promote my UK training course for people who want to create commercial software products. The ticket price for my course is higher than for my seating planner software, so I thought it was worth persevering a bit more with Twitter ads. Here are the top 10 ‘interests’ for the 3 campaigns I ran.

twitter demographics twitter demographics twitter demographicsBear in mind that this time, I was targeting various Twitter handles related to software development, marketing and entrepreneurship for Twitter users in the UK. We love our comedy in the UK and most of us could stand to lose a few pounds. But I can confidently state that the vast majority of people in the UK know almost nothing about NFL (American) football and care even less. ‘Computer programming’ and ‘Startups’ were waaay down all 3 lists.

Twitters says:

We infer interest from a variety of signals, like the accounts users follow and the Tweets they engage with.

I emailed them to point out that the interests seemed to be highly suspect, but I didn’t get a substantive reply.

I can only conclude that either Twitter isn’t doing a very good job of the targeting or (more likely) it really doesn’t understand the interests of its customers and is doing a very poor job at guessing. Consequently I would urge you to be very wary of paying for promoted tweets on the basis of ‘interests’.

TestLab² offer

The blog is being sponsored this month by TestLab², a software testing and QA company based in the Ukraine. I have used TestLab² on a number of occasions for third party testing of PerfectTablePlan releases on both Windows and Mac OS X. They found a number of bugs that I hadn’t been able to find on my own (testing your own software is always problematic) and gave me additional confidence that I hadn’t let any embarrassing bugs make it through into the final binaries. Their prices are very reasonable (from $20/hour) and I have always found them to be very professional and responsive (see my previous write-up on outsourcing testing). They also have access to operating systems that I don’t have set-up, e.g. Windows 8 and Mac OS X 10.8.

Special offer

Quote “successful software” when you ask for an estimate and they will give you a 20% discount. This offer is valid for first-time customers, for the next 14 days only.

TestLab².com website

Promoting your software

This is a video of a “Promoting your software” talk I did at ESWC 2011. In it I discuss my experiences attempting to try every form of promotion known to man including: SEO, Google Adwords, magazine ads, affiliates, Facebook ads and hanging out in wedding forums using a female pseudonym. With real data! You can’t read the slide text in the video, but I have included the slides below.

A couple of people asked me afterwards whether anything I tried had worked. Yes! I wouldn’t have survived long as a microISV otherwise. But I didn’t really want to dwell on what had worked for me because it might not be relevant for different products with different price points in different markets. Also that isn’t the sort of information I want to give to my competitors.

Things were running a bit late due to problems with the projector, so I didn’t have time for the audience participation at the end. Projector problems are really not what you need when you are just about to do a talk to a room full of people! Many thanks to Alwin and Sytske of Collectorz for doing the video and to Dave and Aaron of Software Promotions for helping to sort out the unruly projector.

ESWC 2011

No proper post this week. I’m too busy finishing off my talk ‘Promoting your software’ for ESWC 2011 in London next weekend (19-20 Nov). I am going to talk about my experiences attempting to try every form of promotion known to man including: SEO, Google Adwords, magazine ads, affiliates, Facebook ads and hanging out in wedding forums using a female pseudonym. With audience participation! Plus real data!

There are also some other interesting looking talks. Chatting to other people in the business over coffee or beer is also invaluable. If you haven’t booked a ticket, it isn’t too late. Don’t worry if it is your first time – people are very friendly. Do come and say hello.

On the subject of conferences, the ASP is putting on ISVCon in Reno, Nevada, USA in July 2012. Being UK based it is probably further than I am prepared to fly for a conference. But I hope it is a huge success.

A small experiment with LinkedIn ads

LinkedIn.com (the B2B equivalent of Facebook) supports Google style pay per click ads. So I decided to run some ads for my seating planner software as an experiment. Here is a brief summary of my (very brief) experiences.

The good news

LinkedIn ads can be laser targeted. You can specify who you want to see your ad based on their job function, company, gender, age group, country and (best of all) the LinkedIn groups they belong to. I targeted 10,102 LinkedIn members who live in wealthy English speaking countries, belong to various LinkedIn groups related to event planning and have appropriate job titles. The campaign was quite painless to set up. It probably took me less than 10 minutes in total and I started getting impressions within an hour or so.

The bad news

The minimum allowed CPC (cost per click) was $2. Ouch. I know from extensive experience with Google Adwords that there is no way I can get a return on that.

The minimum allow CPM (cost per thousand impressions) was $3. If the CTR (click through rate) is around 1% (about what you might expect from Google search ads) this is $0.30 per click. Possibly profitable. If the CTR is around 0.1% (about what you might expect from Facebook ads) this is $3 per click. No better than the CPC bidding. Given that LinkedIn is more similar to Facebook than Google search, I expected the latter. I decided to spend a few dollars to find out. The results are below (click to enlarge):

So, with an average 0.17% CTR, I ended up spending $1.76 per click. Given my average transaction value and a realistic conversion rate I know that I can’t make any return on this. Also the CTR is likely to drop the more often people see the ad. So I stopped the experiment after less than 24 hours, before I wasted any more time or money. As far as I can tell (based on my own cookie tracking – LinkedIn ads don’t have their own conversion tracking) I didn’t make any sales. But that is hardly surprising given the small number of clicks.

Summary

Obviously $19.38 is a tiny amount to spend, but I think it told me what I needed to know about LinkedIn ads. Unless they reduce their CPC or CPM bid prices by an order of magnitude there is no way I can make a return. Of course, if you are selling a product where the average lifetime value of a customer is hundreds or thousands of dollars, the numbers might work out quite differently for you.

Related posts:

Advertising your software on Facebook (=Fail)