Everything you’ve ever heard about selling software is true

Web apps  |  March 23, 2013  |  1 response  

Everything you’ve ever heard about selling software is true. In this post I’ll outline my experience with two things I’ve always heard about selling software and have been experiencing lately.

Your worst case scenario isn’t that your software won’t work or won’t scale, it’s that no one will care

I performed a small launch (or as I called it, a public beta) a few days ago. I emailed about 10 to 15 developers I’ve interacted with in some way inviting them to try ThankBee. Of these, about 3 actually signed up. Of those 3, only 1 actually entered their Google Checkout key (this is needed to actually use the service). This 1 user however didn’t bother to create an email template (also needed to use the service). So, even though I’ve just finished testing and uploading the code that handles billing, I have no one to bill. This is the worst case scenario, not that I’ve messed up some code and emails won’t be sent. I’m not claiming defeat (after all, I’ve only emailed a very small number of developers), but it was kind of tough to see absolutely no interest in my shiny new software product.

Marketing actually is the hardest part of the endevour

I started ThankBee because it’s something I would use myself (I currently am using it, and I love it). I believe it benefits developers and customers, however it’s really hard to convince people of this benefit. Is my landing page copy good? Do people understand what it does? Should I make a video? Should I include a help section or tutorial?

After all, how do I explain the benefits of ThankBee, convince then to click a link to the site, then convince them to sign-up, enter their Checkout info, create a template, and give me their money, with just one marketing email? Technically speaking I have only 1 shot to talk to each potential customer. I guess that’s the difference of selling via Internet, compared to being able to talk to your customers directly. Sure, a larger market, but it becomes increasingly more difficult.

I have a lot of experience making Android apps, and never have I felt this way with them. For each and every app (with 1 exception), as soon as I published it the downloads would start rolling in all by themselves, regardless of the niche, regardless of the price point. It’s like magic. Are web apps inherently different? Is it an issue of discoverability? If I converted ThankBee from a web app to a subscription based mobile app, would users come in by themselves?

One thing I’ve done correctly

I’m just starting the marketing phase, so the previous points are just my feelings now that I have such a big task ahead. Startups are a marathon, not a sprint (which is probably a third thing you’ve heard about selling software). In spite of the current challenges, I do believe I’ve done some things right, one of which is having a quick MVP. I started ThankBee January 2013, and I’ve finished the minimum viable product in just 2-3 months. I consider this a success in and of itself because in case of a worst case scenario, I have only invested a small amount of my time. Sure, it needs tweaking and small updates, but the bulk of the work is behind me and I didn’t spend months and months building something I wasn’t sure would work out.

According to the Web App Challenge schedule this leaves me another 3 months for marketing. So in just 6 months I will hopefully have gone from idea to MVP and marketed enough to give myself an idea if this will take off or not.