24 February 2011

What's Happening at ESC

For ESC Radio's first broadcast, Rosemary West and Al Harberg talked about software marketing. The show can be heard here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/edu-soft. The plan is to do many more interviews with a variety of ESC members over time. We have the option of doing 15-minute or 30-minute shows, and it's possible to have up to five people call in during a show.

ESC is now on Twitter at http://twitter.com/edusoftesc. In addition to various announcements, every day we tweet a link to a different member's website. Members with
Twitter accounts are encouraged to help increase ESC's visibility by following.

We are also on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/educationalsoftware. Our Facebook posts and blog posts are now automatically sent to Twitter.

We've had a lot of interesting discussions in the newsgroups. Topics have included:
  • Being emotionally attached to things that hurt your business
  • Adding content to websites
  • Attracting visitors to online forums
  • Software conferences
  • Communication skills
  • Becoming a better writer
  • Better website design

The March book club selection will be "Never Wrestle with a Pig - and Ninety Other Ideas to Build Your Business and Career" by Mark H. McCormack (published 2000 by Penguin Books). You can read more about this book right here.

22 February 2011

ESC Software Marketing Book Club Selection - March, 2011

ESC's March 2011 Software Marketing Book Club selection is Never Wrestle with a Pig - and Ninety Other Ideas to Build Your Business and Career by Mark H. McCormack (published 2000 by Penguin Books).

Mark McCormack is best known as the author of "What They Don't Teach You at Harvard Business School".

Never Wrestle with a Pig is a collection of nearly 100 essays about developing the people skills that you need to make your business succeed. In today's fast-moving environment, McCormack tells us, successful firms have to be able to adapt. It's more important to be able to respond to change than to build a polished business plan.

But it all revolves around people.

McCormack urges us to keep interpersonal relationships at the center of our thinking. With less and less face-to-face time, and less time talking with real people on the telephone, we rely on email and instant messaging to communicate with stakeholders. And these new electronic methods of communicating are much less effective at conveying nuances and feeling than the traditional methods of building relationships.

There are a lot of good lessons here that microISVs can use to boost their software sales. Please join us in the Educational Software Cooperative Software Marketing Book Club discussion of "Never Wrestle with a Pig".

- Al Harberg, the press release guy from DP Directory, Inc.- we write and submit press releases for software developers.

10 February 2011

Laugh your way to higher software sales

It's difficult and risky to use humor to sell software. But if used thoughtfully, humor is another tool that you should try. Here are some things to think about.

Humor and software sales

For years, I've advised my clients not to use humor to sell their software.

On a good day, humor is subjective. What's funny to you may put me to sleep. Or offend me.

In today's global marketplace, it's even more complicated. English is a second (or third) language for many of your prospects. It's difficult enough to present the simplest description of your applications' features and benefits. Introducing humor into your sales presentation makes it much more complicated.

Repetition is one of the keys to effective selling. By saying the same thing over and over, in a slightly different way, you can strengthen a sales message.

Humor, on the other hand, is weakened by repetition. Saying the same joke - or the same clever tag line - over and over doesn't make it funnier. It destroys the humor.

I've come to realize, however, that humor is another tool that marketers can use to sell more software. If you use humor thoughtfully, you can manage the risks, and increase your software sales.

Tie your humor to your sales message

Another danger of using humor in a sales presentation is that your prospect will remember the joke, but not remember your product name, or your company name, or the benefits of using your software.

Jay Conrad Levinson talks about clever writing in his book "Guerrilla Marketing Excellence." He believes that people will tend to remember the most clever part of our marketing messages. Because of this, we need to be certain that the clever message is also the critical message that leads to the sale.

In the long-haired pony photo, I combined the notions of "comb-over" and "make-over." It's hard not to smile at the beautiful pony. And I think the picture is sufficiently compelling that my prospects will want to read its rather long captions. So, I'm using this humorous message to promote one of my most popular services, my Rent Al's Brain website sales makeover service.

Add your captions to stock reaction shots

In an earlier newsletter article about software registration incentives, I recommend that developers abandon traditional nag screens, and replace them with a series of sales messages. And I illustrated the concept with a humorous captioned photograph.

It's easy to find reaction shots on the stock photography websites. I buy my images from Fotolia for a dollar or two each. It's simple to create a caption, and having a captioned photograph makes the joke's punch-line difficult to miss.

In his book "Ogilvy on Advertising," David Ogilvy mentions the many factor analyses that his advertising firm had commissioned from companies like Gallup.

Gallup data says that captions below the illustration are read by ten percent more people than headlines above the illustration. In fact, more people read the captions below your picture than will read the body copy. Always include a caption under every picture. Include your product name and a promise, Ogilvy tells us.

Funny captions can enhance your sales message

Of course, Ogilvy wrote long before the Internet existed, and he was referring to newspaper and magazine advertising.

On the Internet, however, few websites put captions on their pictures. I'm beginning to use more and more picture captions - especially when I introduce humor into my sales presentations.

Here's a photograph of people wrestling with a hot-air balloon that I used to illustrate a newsletter article about the effectiveness of word-of-mouth advertising, or "buzz". It was easy to add a caption to the bottom of the image. And I think the notion of "hot air" will work across many cultures.

One mistake that a lot of software developers make on their websites is letting the text crowd the images. This can be a problem when you have an image on the left side of a page, if that image has a well-defined right vertical border. By adding an hspace parameter to your HTML - start with hspace="10" and adjust it to fit your taste - you can add some elbow-room to your images. This technique makes your sales message more readable, and more effective.

Sarcasm is even riskier than humor

If using humor is a little risky, then using sarcasm is downright dangerous. Sarcasm is more difficult to understand. And it's easier to offend people when you're sarcastic. Here's one way to deal with this challenge -

In my newsletter articles, I often encourage mISVs to write clearly. Use short, common words to form short, simple sentences. Avoid slang. Write in the active voice.

To summarize my feelings, I created a captioned image. Here is my captioned image, along with the original photo:

Creating a stylish border does two good things for your sales presentation. First, it allows you to differentiate between foreground and background. In this example, it separates the two thoughts, by placing the straightforward one against the white background, and the more pointed, sarcastic one against the blue background.

Second, it adds a modern look, especially if your border doesn't surround the entire image. If you watch The Daily Show with Jon Stewart or The Colbert Report on The Comedy Channel, you may have noticed that almost all of their photographs of people use a technique similar to what I've done with this portrait. Part of the image - usually the person's head - escapes out of the framework.

Does humor - or sarcasm - work for this concept? We can never be sure. But I thought it was worth the risk.

Light-hearted humor is nearly risk-free

Sometimes humor just works.

To illustrate a newsletter article about the ideal length of software developers' web pages, I included a picture of a particularly long dachshund. I'm not sure if the photo is funny or silly. Or just fun.

My hope is that it will help people remember that it's silly for so-called marketing experts to tell us how long our web pages should be.

The bottom line about humor on your website -

Experiment with humor on your website.

Be sure your humor is directly tied to the point that you're trying to make.

I'll leave you with another Jay Conrad Levinson quotation from his book "Guerrilla Marketing Excellence" -

"Marketing is supposed to create a desire to buy. Humor creates a desire to giggle. There's an enormous gap between spending and giggling."

Now, that's funny. And that's something that I'll remember.

- Al Harberg, the press release guy from DP Directory, Inc.- we write and submit press releases for software developers.

02 February 2011

ESC Software Marketing Book Club Selection - February, 2011

In February the Educational Software Cooperative will begin year three of its Software Marketing Book Club. The February 2011 selection will be "Guts - The seven laws of business that made Chrysler the world's hottest car company" by Robert A. Lutz (Published 1998 by John Wiley & Sons).

Robert Lutz was the former President and Vice Chairman of Chrysler Corporation.The first story about Chrysler's financial problems - the story about Lee Iacocca and the $1.2 billion US federal loan guarantee - is well known.

A lot less well known is the story of Chrysler's second crisis and recovery in the early 1990s. Guts is Bob Lutz's story of how he dealt with Chrysler's second crisis, and the business principles that Lutz developed during the crisis.

It's an interesting story, with a lot of implications for the software development industry.

Please join us in the ESC's Software Marketing Book Club, and learn more about software marketing.

- Al Harberg, the press release guy from DP Directory, Inc.- we write and submit press releases for software developers.

01 February 2011

Member of the Month Feb '11

Congratulations to our Member of the Month for February, Ryan Fontana. Visit the Member of the Month page to learn more.