Services versus Products and Stuff in between

For software entrepreneurs, there is an epic struggle as to whether software is a service or a product. To the untrained user eye, it’s a product with the expectation of service.

I have a theory. Software applications are for all intents and purposes automated processes. They perform information “work” in much the same way a power saw simplifies cutting. That said, information changes, so the machinery has to change with it. Well, until software writes itself, you need a human to change the applications. If the application comes from a vendor, this is the service part.

So this introduces several challenges. You now have a software lifecycle that churns out bug fixes, patches, and feature updates. You may also face implementation needs such as integration, data migration, etc. that are unique to every customer.

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Marketing Is Sales En Masse

Most companies separate the sales team from marketing. Operationally, it is okay to do so, particularly since most salespeople have big, big egos and most marketing people would rather not deal with both the individual minutiae of a customer relationship or the hounding pressure of sales quotas.

But today’s web-based world is changing this dynamic and it’s a good thing. For one, it makes the marketer pay less attention to stupid marketing tactics that don’t bear fruit. It makes the marketing effort accountable to some level. There really is no room in an organization for under-performance. It’s not fair to those who work hard or find creative solutions.

For software, depending on the customer, you may need salespeople, who can consult from a one-to-one perspective. They take the middleware marketing materials and convey them to every unique enterprise they encounter. They are also required for negotiations, or “the deal,” if your product can be priced as such or involves additional services.

Marketing can also learn a lot from the sales effort. What pitches work well? What stories resonate? Who are qualified buyers? These questions give a marketer information to hone the marketing toolset and do what they do best: refine/craft messages, identify the channels to communicate those messages, and repeat, repeat, repeat.

This effort increases the propensity of someone finding out about you, hopefully cutting through all the noise, and identifying a person in need.

Signal-to-Noise: TMI Can Screw You and the Pooch

In marketing directly to engineers, I’ve learned that data is key. The more data, the better. Engineers want to know the specifications, not the manifestations. In fact, most skip the marketing blurbs and go right to the datasheets where tables of features can be quickly skimmed and scrutinized.

For everyone else, however, less information is actually better.

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Using Web Meetings for Usability Testing

Football coaches and players pour over game and practice film to learn how their plays are working. Software developers can do the same and with the magic of the interweb, you can do so without having to sit onsite with your customer.

First, identify a good customer candidate. Someone who is friendly and trusts you and who uses your software fairly religiously is a good choice. This is your “ideal user.”

Second, get web conferencing account. The one you demo with is fine, but there are plenty (WebEx, GotoMeeting) including some free options (DimDim).

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