Finding a Thirsty Crowd for Your Software

Why do so many independent software developers develop a great product, with great features, and watch it quietly fade into oblivion due to total lack of interest?

The cliche is to say "Well, I just don't understand marketing."

I've got a simple formula for anyone who doesn't understand marketing:

1. Create an amazing offer for your product or service
2. Offer it to a thirsty crowd, desperate for it
3. Follow up with that crowd for repeat business

That's it. Now, let's tackle each of those points in a little more detail.

Create an amazing offer

Notice I didn't say "create an amazing product." It's a given that your product or service should be top quality, but this isn't what sells it initially. It's the expectation of amazing value that sells it.

It's about more than identifying a need or pain in a market. It's targeting that crowd with a great offer that compells them to purchase and feel like they are getting a great deal.

Imagine you're in the market for a car. You NEED that transportation, and you will buy one, but from who? You know you should get a dependable, good gas mileage Toyota or Honda, but they just don't excite you.

You see a Mercedes with all the trimmings, and that's nice, but it's substantially more than your budget. But now the dealer offers free lifetime service, an integrated iPod, a free loaner car even for an oil change, and a massage while you wait. Suddenly it feels more like a great deal. Now imagine they cut the price by 50%. You'd feel foolish not to take advantage, even if it costs twice as much as you wanted to spend.

That's an amazing offer.

Offer Your Product To A Thirsty Crowd

Should Mercedes show their ads exclusively to the wealthiest 5% of the country? Well, they could, but that's not the crowd that's thirstiest for their product. Companies like Ferrari, Bentley, and Rolls Royce can target that market much more effectively.

So who is their market? Well, I'm not on their marketing team, but I suspect it's people who can almost, but not quite afford their cars. And as a result are desperate for a rationalization for purchasing them (like "free service").

In your own business, you'll need to figure out who these people are. It's definitely not "anyone and everyone." Maybe it's small Wall Street financial firms without extensive IT support. Or small independent veterinarian's offices. Or MicroISVs with 3 or fewer developers without their own ecommerce solution.

If you can find them, and make them a great offer, they'll thank you for it.

Follow Up For Repeat Sales

Once you've purchased your Mercedes, gotten great service, free massages, and admiring glances from passers-by, what are the chances that in 3 or 4 years, you might be in the market for another one?

The same applies for your software. In fact, the most targeted, thirsty crowd you'll ever find is your own customer base. Treat them right, and follow up with them, and they'll keep buying your products and services.

Thanks For The Theory, But What About My Business?

Yeah, sorry about that. There is no magic here, and you will have to figure out who your truly thirsty customers are. A few ways to do this would be:

1. Research your competitors to see if you can find out who THEY are marketing to effectively.

2. ASK THEM. Find places where your target market hangs out - trade shows, online forums, user groups, and ask them what problems they are having. You can even make them a great offer for their information - a free T-shirt, Star Wars DVD set, or even an iPod.

3. Field Research. Volunteer or work part time in the domain you are trying to serve. Got a friend or relative in the business? See if they could use a set of hands for free while understanding the business domain. You'll see a lot more of what is really bothering people simply by being in their environment than asking endless questions.

Well, that's it for now, I've got some thirsty customers to find and serve.