It’s a common problem, being unsure how to market software products. The attitude towards software has changed a lot over the years, and every few years, it still continues to change, though in different ways than before. Once, software was an obscure thing, most people weren’t entirely sure what it was, just as the concept of computers themselves were somewhat mystifying. Believe it or not, this was the easiest time to market software, because there were some very narrow, specific demographics for which this marketing needed to target. Businesses, gamers and hobbyists were about the end of it, as casual use of computers was some time from really taking off.
But, around the mid 1990s, how to market software products became a muddy business, because of the influx of casual, often uninitiated users who took to the internet, casual gaming, and the use of once-business-oriented software to manage their daily lives. Just as designers had to contend with a vast and diverse populace for which they had to make the software useable, marketers found themselves facing the same challenge.
Now, the changes, which are endless, are all about trends and attitudes of the public at a given time, rather than the induction of new demographics, but the difficulty remains pretty intact, after all this time. Fortunately, while there’s no bible to tell us exactly how to guarantee success, there are some good practices that are a strong investment towards success. Today, I’ll talk about three such strategies that I have used myself, and have seen garner pretty solid success for others as well.
#1 – Traditional Media
I debated for a bit on whether this would be in my first list of marketing strategies for software, but … it is as they say, a purple elephant in the room I can’t ignore, so best to be done with it now.
Traditional media, by which I mean television and radio advertising, is an old go to for almost any marketing of any niche, and so … of course software has jumped on this bandwagon since the early days of personal computing. The thing is … it has mixed success.
The problem is, you have to know the right kind of software to market on this kind of medium, and some of them aren’t the right ones. Business software, design software and other utilitarian powerhouse products generally won’t get a lot of success out of this marketing approach. However, social network systems, operating systems, games and casual applications often will. However, this is not a strategy to choose as a single, one and only approach, especially now. The television and radio systems that these exist within are starting to become obsolete, and many people will channel surf during commercials, or walk away from the television or radio to avoid being annoyed by them. Nonetheless, if it’s a casual product, you will see an ROI on marketing through this avenue.
#2 – PPC Marketing
PPC marketing is a bit more effective and considerably less dependent on the software type. PPC or pay-per-click is a powerful way to spread the word through the biggest information and communications system we have – the internet itself.
This isn’t new, and we’re all familiar with being on the receiving end of PPC marketing. This is basically a system where sites will host ad space on their pages, where they are paid a percentage per view and more per click, of a given ad. This gives the site owners an incentive to provide ads (to profit, or at least cover site overhead), and provides software creators with context-logical placement of their ads on sites which attract their demographics.
This isn’t perfect, as some ads will annoy users into blocking ads entirely (popups and interstitials are infamously bad implementations of PPC). However, more people allow ads than block them, meaning this is probably the most effective marketing strategy for software today. But, there’s another one you should try alongside it.
#3 – Social Marketing
Social marketing is a bit more unconventional, and it’s more or less free, beyond the man hours to operate it, and the wages to fuel this. Social marketing involves creating a company Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr etc. set of accounts, through which updates and innovations within your product may be announced.
It goes beyond this though, allowing users to communicate with your company on a personal, accessible and friendly level, and you can be proactive by responding congenially to positive things overheard being said about your product, and providing consolation when someone is displeased. This paints your company very positively in the eye of both potential and existing customers, and is very passive-aggressive in how it works.
So, these are three solutions for how to market software products that work, but there are a lot more out there. I plan to discuss more strategies, and even get into hybridizing these in the future, so stick around; this is going to be interesting to say the least.