Hobby Income Versus Serious Money

There is a huge income disparity between companies that offer similar software. With applications as straightforward as PopUp Blockers and BackUp programs, some companies are making hobby income, while others are making a lot of money.
Published: Dec 31, 1997
Author: Al Harberg

There is a huge income disparity between companies that offer similar software. With applications as straightforward as pop-up blockers and back-up programs, some companies are making hobby income, while others are making a lot of money.

A lot of the difference in income lies in the quality of the software, the nature of the registration incentives and the effectiveness of the advertising and marketing campaigns. But there are some fairly small changes that developers could make that would add dramatically to their incomes:

(1) Offer site licenses.Many successful companies make their serious income from selling multi-user and site licenses. Whether you're marketing Windows utilities, business applications, educational programs or specialty software, site licenses can add substantially to your bottom line.The successful companies don't just mention site licenses as an afterthought. Their Web sites are designed to attract the people who buy site licenses. The company and software descriptions are geared to the multi-user license buyer. Successful software developers have their postal address and phone number on every Web page, giving the impression that their companies are established and in business for the long haul. Site license buyers look for professionalism, and some companies deliver it.

(2) Rethink your product positioning.Companies selling really neat technical solutions can generate hobby income. The companies who are making big bucks selling similar software are packaging their software as business solutions. Business and home users won't take the time to try to figure out how your technical toy will improve their lives. You need to paint them into a word picture in which they're enjoying the benefits of your software. Give them a solution, not a tech tool.

(3) Rework your approach to features versus benefits.Successful companies' Web sites stress their software's features and benefits. But the emphasis is on benefits. People who visit your Web site don't read. They scan your words and glance at your bullet points. You need to talk to them about saving time, saving money, doing things tomorrow that they can't do today, taking control of their lives and besting their competition. If you talk to them about your program's features, they'll yawn, click the "back" button, and find a competitor's site that talks to them about benefits. People simply don't buy features. They buy benefits.

(4) Switch from techie talk to English.Highly successful English-speaking companies use English as their language of choice. Unless they're selling tech products to developers, they simply won't use hideous words like "scalable" or "extensible." They won't expect their prospects to know what "Runs on all 32-bit Windows Systems" means. They won't mention things like DirectX unless they explain how a user can tell what version of DirectX they have on their computer, and how to find a newer version. They realize that their users don't have a clue about servers and clients and permissions and three-character file-extensions. They avoid talk about radio dials and grids and forms.

(5) Move from "English is my second language" to English.One of the differences between European buyers and American buyers is that Europeans are used to dealing with multiple languages. If a French developer creates a German-language version of their Web site that's 90 percent well-written and 10 percent awkward, the German-speaking Web site visitor is impressed by the effort and by the result. If that French developer creates an English-language Web site that's 90 percent correct, Americans focus on the 10 percent that's awkward. Then, they look for a Web site that's written in native-English, even if that Web site is selling software with fewer benefits and a GUI that isn't as slick. Successful software developers have learned that if you're selling to Americans, you have to eliminate all "English is my second language" errors.

The bottom line:If you turn 20 pounds of steel into a boat anchor, you can sell it for $20. If you turn the same steel into surgical needles, you can sell them for $20,000. Turn the raw material on your Web site into a top-notch sales machine. Turn your hobby income into serious money.

About Al Harberg

Since 1984, Al Harberg has been president of DP Directory, Inc., a public relations firm that helps software developers use press releases to get publicity and sales.

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