For many years, ... have been regarded as the ... source of ... and ... yet so many people use them for other ... They are used as social and cultural forums, communi
For many years, libraries have been regarded as the 'ultimate source of information and knowledge', yet so many people use them for other purposes. They are used as social and cultural forums, community centres, meeting places, entertainment venues, and even for warmth and shelter. The same may be said of the internet - the fairly recent version of this ultimate resource for individuals and businesses alike. The internet is certainly used for entertainment and social purposes, and offers much in the way of social functions and communication. However there's so much more to it than that, and so much more that any individual or business, and especially software developers, can utilise. It's there for the taking.
When it comes to opportunity, the newsgroups would seem to be one of the more neglected areas of the internet, especially by software developers. First of all they're a superb source of current information and public opinion, but that's only the beginning. They offer the developer two opportunities - advertising and exposure. A great forum for announcing new software, new releases, upgrades and updates… the newsgroups also offer you the opportunity to be seen as an expert in your field. Not only do you get the chance to be seen, but to be seen as an authority in the areas of your choosing. Use this tool wisely, and its benefits may be immeasurable. There are a few dangers though - make sure that you follow the rules and etiquette of each newsgroup; you don't want to be labelled as a spammer, and irritating people is no way of improving your image. Going on from this, be careful what you say, and how you say it. Your comments and manner will reflect on your company and software; never forget this. My own opinion is that it's the wise man who sits and listens first, and only speaks when he has something to say. When he does so for long enough, people lean forward to hear him.
Joining a discussion list is another invaluable way of raising your profile and establishing a reputation as a knowledgeable source. Don't go in for blatantly selling your product as soon as you get a chance; the person that runs the list will not take kindly to having their work hijacked for your own free publicity, and neither will the readers. But it is a great way to establish yourself as a knowledge source, and depending on the list moderator and rules, you should be able to get your signature at the end of every posting. At the very least this should contain your website URL and email address. If you're lucky you might even get your slogan in there too. Your signature is another frequently overlooked tool - at the end of every single email and newsgroup posting you send, get your essential contact details in there. Don't waste any opportunity to be noticed. The same rules apply as to the newsgroups - be professional and courteous at all times, and if you don't have anything to say, don't say it!
Constantly the source of much debate as to their effectiveness, the general consensus is that banners are a dead or dying media. Nonsense! The banner lives - and can also be a vital part in your software marketing strategy. There are free and commercial options available in abundance; but the level of success will be mainly determined by how carefully targeted your exposure is. For example, let's say you had an image editing application, and decided to invest a little in some banner exposure. Having it at the very top of CNN's home page would increase your exposure almost as fast as it would empty your bank account. But how many click-throughs do you think it would get? If, however, you were at the top of the home page of a clipart site, the exposure rate would be both slower and infinitely more productive. You'd be sure to get more clicks and visitors at a far lower price. The common mistake is to think that having your banner up on a low-traffic site is a waste of time; rubbish! Targeted exposure is more effective and usually cheaper. A thousand exposures at $25 per thousand costs the same whether delivery takes an hour or a month.
With creativity, imagination and a little bit of boldness, there's very little that can't be achieved. Don't just think of what options are available - make them happen. Setting up a software give-away, where X copies of your software will be sent to X randomly chosen names is sure to create interest, and bring people to your site. People love winning things for free, and so many are hard to come by, expensive and illegal! If it's free, they want it. Make sure your site has more to offer than just information on your software. Would you buy a magazine that only had adverts in it? Probably not. But when the content of the magazine is good, people will buy it, and see the adverts. If your site only contains info about your software, it'll probably get a fairly-fixed number of visitors each month. But throw in some useful information, resources, software giveaways etc. and more will come. Don't go for links pages though - I can't stand them, and when's the last time you looked through one properly? Old and outdated - move on.
In a way the most neglected of all aspects - the internet is one big pile of information. And lots of it can be useful to you. Use it to see what's popular on the software and shareware sites, where your own products stand in the big picture, and what the competition are up to. Chances are you're not getting around to it - but it's useful and worthwhile. On the first day of every month I write a report on the previous month. Everything. Achievements, failures, wasted opportunities, site statistics, the whole thing. If I didn't do this I'd have already thrown away a few opportunities that have proved to be VERY worthwhile. Do you go through your site statistics in detail? If not, you might be missing some invaluable information. Referrer logs alone can be worth their weight in gold.
There's an awful lot of useful stuff out there - use it. Never be content where you are today; be ambitious. Think big. Expand. When you read the biography of the Bill Gates and Richard Bransons of the world they always speak of where they started… but they consistently expand, take risks, think big and move. Diversify, expand, and seek out new opportunities. Don't wait for them to come to you. Seize the opportunities that are out there, and start with what's under your nose. Seize the internet. Be seen, be sold.
Dave Collins is the CEO of SharewarePromotions Ltd., a well established UK-based company working with software and shareware marketing activities, utilising all aspects of the internet. http://www.sharewarepromotions.com and http://www.davetalks.com