Monday, 9 June 2008

Strategy for Selling Software

If you are setting up a software development company and want to sell your own products, one route for selling software is to package your products as shareware. Shareware is a form of software distribution whereby customers can use your software for free for a trial period - it's a kind of try-before-you-buy means of selling software. Historically, shareware has quite often been associated with low-quality or simple software but this picture is changing.

If you want to sell software as shareware, make sure your software products have a sizeable market. It is essential to ensure that your software product will has a value in your chosen market - either because the software has unique features or is better than competitor offerings. Don't rely on a selling strategy of simply being cheaper than your competitors. These days, a lot of people realise that if they want to buy software they will possibly use for a number of years then cost isn’t a key factor when deciding to make a purchase.

Your sales and product development strategies must be based on writing a non-trivial, valuable program. There is a lot of cheap software - even free software - available. There are lots of big companies with large development resources allowing people to use software either for free or for a trial period. The distinction between fully-fledged commerical software and shareware is becoming increasingly blurred. Make sure your software has features that people are willing to pay for.

When selling shareware try to fill a niche and make a quality offering. One example of a niche is an “easy-to-use” version of a larger, more complicated software package. Note the key phrase here is “easy-to-use”, not trivial or cheap. People will pay to have complication taken away from them if the software offering still does an effective job. There is a risk here that some people will provide feedback indicating that your product is too simple and too inflexible. You must be careful in deciding which new features to add - are you willing to sacrifice simplicity and ease of use?

Many people will have made purchases they later regret simply because the product was cheap, e.g. a cheap power tool. Often, sooner rather than later you will have regretted the purchase, either because the product turns out not to be up to the job or breaks easily. People soon learn to spend a bit more money and get a product they know they can live with and continue to use for more than a couple of days. Selling software as shareware is a good way of reducing the risk of this happening with your software products - people can try out and live with your products for a period before deciding to purchase.

Small software companies can add value by offering good pre and post-sales support. A small software development company can often offer better support than a larger software company. Large companies can be unresponsive to support calls or can’t hold a meaningful discussion with a potential customer. With small companies there are few barriers between the company owner and the customer. Both sides can benefit from this - the customer can make his case and get a decision quickly and the company owner has a chance to build a relationship with the customer. Building a relationship with a customer may lead to future sales, for example if you release a major upgrade of your software.

When setting a price for your software product, don’t charge so little that you are literally working for peanuts. If a business’s products are too cheap, some customers may believe that the since the company does not value their own products why should the customer.

Read Selling Online for tips on software promotion via a website.

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