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Andy Brice
Successful Software

Doug Nebeker ("Doug")

Jonathan Matthews
Creator of DeepTrawl, CloudTrawl, and LeapDoc

Nicholas Hebb
BreezeTree Software

Bob Walsh
host, Startup Success Podcast author of The Web Startup Success Guide and Micro-ISV: From Vision To Reality

Patrick McKenzie
Bingo Card Creator

Month #3 - 200 downloads and no sales


I've had NeverOverwrite on sale for a few months now and so far no sales. I'm puzzled with this as I'd thought (or hoped) the uptake would be pretty good for a nifty tool. Using Adwords I've had just over 100 downloads which have by now gone over the 30 day trial period. And another 100 downloads in August which will still be inside the trial period.

There are a raft of things i plan to add, but I'd put any further work on hold until it i could see there was definitely some sales. Plus i needed to get back to some real paid work.

The next 2 new features were:
- control over size of the repository
- browsing deleted files

Perhaps NeverOverwrite is presently too simplistic and  will not sell unless more features are present? (Would you buy it?).

I've been looking for forums discussing document management/file utils in which to recruit a small user base who would be interested in using the product and could give me some clues as to why people aren't buying past the trial period. I've goggled it to death but there doesn't seem to be much in the way of it out there. (Anyone know of any?).

I extend this offer to anyone here too. There's a free lifetime license on offer in exchange of some useful user feedback :)

All the best.
Martin Currie Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Aren't you selling something that Word already has? I thought you could keep track
Rui Pacheco Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Have you made it frighteningly easy for your users to give you feedback?

If so, what are they telling you? What's missing that they really want?

Add the things they want. Release 1.01.

Repeat whole procedure.
Steve McLeod Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I think that's the problem Steve, I'm not getting any feedback, it's all gone very quiet. I have a forum which is linked to from the site. Perhaps there should be a link directly from the software - a "Feeback" button? Or perhaps a form to fill in when they uninstall? I personally don't bother filling those out myself though.

Do you yourself find people are more likely to give you feedback via a private email or public forum?
Martin Currie Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Rui, yes there's track changes in Word. It's helpful to a point but not quite as protective as NeverOverwrite which also works on just about any file and can be "forgotten about" until you really need it (rather than adding/accepting changes via Word menus). Its basically real version control aimed at the home user market.
Martin Currie Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
From some research by our Andy Brice:

"The average ratio of sales:downloads across all products is 4.5%. 50% of products are in the range 1.3% to 6.4%."

Taken from: http://successfulsoftware.net/2009/04/23/the-truth-about-conversion-ratios-for-software/

With 200 downloads I'd say it isn't time to panic because you haven't seen any sales... you just need to increase the downloads & be better at encouraging users to buy.

It seems to me that your trial may be the wrong way round... I doubt too many people overwrite an important file within 30 days of installing so they don't get to feel the joy of saving a file revision they thought they'd lost. How about making the trial length unlimited & always allowing the user to see which version of every file are saved ... BUT ... only alowing to propperly retrieve a file a limited number of times. This would make for a long sales cycle but would make sure you're trial users are dependant on your ap & see its true benefits before they need to buy.

Another couple of other points:

- I'd sign your installer... it makes me a little uneasy when installing unsigned stuff & in a corporate environment which I guess you're aiming for this may be more important.

- I'm not so sure about the content of your blog (or at least it being linked from your main site) ... as a prospective purchaser I don't want to hear that you're struggling to sell.

- After the install completed nothing happened... I know from seeing the video that to use the software I need to use explorer & start monitoring some folders but anyone who didn't watch the video might assume that either nothing useful was installed or their whole hard drive was protected. How about offering to launch the demo video in a browser after install?

- After install I decided to track changes on a large directory (& it's subdirs), when I clicked ok the explorer window froze for a while with no indication of what activity was doing on... I assume my files were being backed up. A progress bar would be nice.

- After a bit of searching I found where the previous versions were being stored... I really wanted to put them on a different partition (my c drive is nearly full).

- I think some control over repository size is also essential, one day my drive is going to run out of space... & since explorer doesn't let me see the old versions you're storing (I had to use the DOS prompt) if I were an average Joe I'd have no idea where that space was going.

- Possibly an issue with GIMP.... when I saved over a .png image with a new version NeverOverwrite actually showed several old versions, the middle ones were corrupted. Possibly GIMP is doing multiple writes? I'm not sure whose fault that one is.

This may all sound negative but I think if you fix those things you'll get a lot more sales.

I say a lot more because I really, really like this. It solves a genuine problem for me so I just purchased. Thanks for the offer of the free license but your product deserved this sale, it's very useful & I'm very much looking forward to the next version.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Looks like a decent program, simple to use. I had an idea for the same thing years ago, but didn't do much about (I think I had some problems with the filemonitoring event in .net) so congrats for getting it finished up.

One idea could be to change the trial period expiration. Instead of monitoring expiring, continue to work, except you have to pay to restore your file.

Maybe add some use cases to the website, how NeverOverwrite could save the day.

It's very generic maybe you could target a niche

1) super-simple version control for developers
2) monitor and revert config files for sysadmins
3) Architects, Lawyers etc presumably use some sort of version control for their documents. (Maybe Word)
4) Excel users?
Colin Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I think there are *very* few people who would pay $30 for a feature that's already built into the OS's you support. Right click on a file, select Properties and click the Previous Versions tab. Unlocker is a similar solution to a more vexing problem (show me what application has a lock on this file), but it's free. You could consider giving your app away for free and showing ads on your download page.

Assuming you haven't just built an alternate UI for shadow copies, let your prospects know what's different about your solution. Consider giving it away free initially in order to get more feedback. There may be an opportunity to do a "free" version and a "premium" version with a couple of additional features.
Jim Lamb Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
One good idea for figuring this stuff out is something Mozilla have started doing with Firefox -- adding a hook in the uninstaller that prompts users to tell them *why* they're uninstalling FF after the uninstall is complete.

More info here:


Obviously the results would be skewed towards people with severe complaints (since they're the most likely to be motivated to answer the question), but in this case that's not necessarily bad -- the severe complaints are probably the ones that are disproportionately preventing conversion anyway.

If you're collecting people's email addresses when they download, you could do an even simpler version of this just by emailing a random sample of downloaders and asking them if they're still using your software, and if not, why not.
Jason Lefkowitz Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Jonathan, some excellent feedback and just what I've been craving. Many thanks. Of course I'm not going to force a refund on you ;) and i appreciate the support.

Can i ask, after installing, a Quick Start page should have popped up in your web browser. Did this not happen? It was intended to give the user a pointer as to what to do next.

Re the delay when monitoring large folders. I've this week added an update to reduce the time to zero, the adding of files is effectively done in the background. It's not quite perfect yet so it won't be available for download until right, but it's imminent.

Got your suggestion about moving the repository location. It's a good one.

I'll look into this problem when using GIMP. Could be something strange is going on.

Cheers again.
Martin Currie Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Jim, this is probably not made clear enough via the site but the fundamental difference between this and shadow copy (built into Vista Business/Ultimate) is that NeverOverwrite is not a time-based backup tool. It saves every version, whenever you click save, the old version is saved. Shadow copy takes snapshots once a day, if your change was in between snapshots you will lose the change. You can shorten the snapshot times, but it's still not perfect. But then it was never intended to be version control, where as NeverOverwrite is.

I guess this needs to be more clear. Although that will probably stop people downloading it, as opposed to downloading and not buying, which is what I'm trying to find the root cause of.
Martin Currie Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Isn't 'previous version' only available in the business versions of Vista?  So it isn't a built in feature for most home users.
Martin Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I think the people telling you that you don't have enough data are wrong. 200 downloads in 3 months (assuming they are equally distributed) and no sales is bad in my opinion.
Anonymoose Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I wasn't too impressed with the 200:0 ratio myself either.

Yes Previous Versions is the same thing as Shadow Copy. Its in Vista Business/Ultimate (+ Windows 7 same versions). This is the time based backup i mentioned.
Martin Currie Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I don't collect email addresses when users download the trial as i personally find this irritating. I guess i could make it clear it’s an optional field and hope for the best. For the same reason i haven't provided a "reason for uninstall" form. I almost always ignore these too.

Perhaps a re-think is in order.
Martin Currie Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
It's possible the quick start page was launched in my browser, I'm not sure... if it did I didn't notice it. (Chrome is my default browser).
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I'll look into it with Chrome.

It could probably do with a pretty picture or two also, to grab the attention a bit more. And perhaps a link to the video...
Martin Currie Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The targetting is a great idea. I hadn't thought of it as anything other than a home user tool. But this has proved extremely difficult to market. Perhaps focus is more appropriate after all.

Thanks for the input.
Martin Currie Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Hi Martin,

I've had the same "no feedback problem". And I agree that forcing to enter your email to get the trial upsets most of us.

What I did is ask to register the email after the trial download:

"Please register so we can keep you informed of new versions and features of PC Desktop Cleaner. We give away 5 licenses monthly (randomly) to people who register."

It has helped a lot, I've collected lots of email and have asked those people for feedback (and given each one of them a free license after they give me the feedback).

Hope it helps, good luck!
Javier Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Hi Javier,

Do you ask for the email address as part of the installation program or on a web page which appears after the download?

Sounds like it's working for you.
Martin Currie Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
200 downloads with 0 sales? There must be something wrong :)
I think it's either:
1. Trial version is too "relaxed". Can you try limiting the functionality instead of time-trial?
2. Problem on buying right from the software it self.

Btw, who's your target market?
1. If it's techie people, i think they can find another way to do it. For example: backup, or any other stuff provided by the OS.
2. If it's home user, you may need to really emphasize why they need your software.

Note for home users: i notice many good software that provide the same thing a default OS can do but still produce a very good sales. It's a matter of how you pack the functionlaity into something very important to your market.

For example: iPod backup software. You surely can copy all files inside iPod to local drive. But this particular softwares do have a very good sales.
Rizal Firmansyah Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009

On a web page which appears after the download.

Javier Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
This is a really good idea! Version control for regular people. One selling point that people may be missing is the last section on the screenshots page, "See the revisions of your files," which doesn't have a screenshot.

I would suggest making that feature much more prominent, with a screenshot. Also consider how you can add "diff for regular people" to a future version. Or even "merge for regular people" or "branches for regular people." Everyone would love version control if it was usable. Downplay the rescue aspect and play up the useful day-to-day aspect.

Great job!  Don't let yourself get discouraged.
Joel Anair Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I loved your explanation you just gave on why this is better than what Vista provides, maybe you could have a "Why do I need this?" section somewhere on your site with that information?

Keep on keepin' on, and good luck! 

Eric Muntz Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I think this application is very useful.

Even in businesses there are so many people who have no idea what version control is. The most version control I have seen in ordinary (non IT) companies is a date and a version number in the file name.

Why don't you try selling your application on BitsDuJour? I have sold quite a number of Simidude licenses there. That way you have a chance to get real user feedback.

Hope that helps.
Torsten Uhlmann Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I'm willing to bet your failure to make sales is one or more of:

1. People don't know/remind they are supposed to buy.  Are there any pop-ups or reminders or anything that they need to pay? If your software sits on a right-click menu, I bet a substantial portion of your users don't even know they've installed it

2. Your sales process is to complex. what you want is a sales process that is:
(a) Remind them
(b) They click a button to open a browser on your sales form

3. People are downloading for the wrong reason.  It's possible for example, people who have already overwritten key data files, and and are hoping to get their lost data back, are downloading - rather than say people who are concerned about the future.
S. Tanna Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
100 downloads per month seems little. I wouldn't worry too much about "no sales", but I would try to gain more visibility. Publishing some detailed story on how you "rescued some work", may get well indexed, and begin to give you more visibility. At least in my experience, gaining visibility through articulated contents takes time, but works.
Pietro Polsinelli Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Haven't downloaded your software, but from the previous comments I would suggest you to start a Wizard after the install that will help to setup the first folder. That way the user would get an idea that actually installed something.

BTW, congrats on the first sale :)
Goran Burcevski Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Thank you all.

I can't tell you how useful you've been!
Martin Currie Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Just a + for popping up a webpage and asking for feedback in the uninstaller.  I do it in all my apps.  Very rarely I'll get an irrate response, but usually it's extremely valuable feedback.  Sometimes people are uninstalling because they can't find a feature (good feedback in and of itself) -- I write back and tell them how to do it and they often buy.

One hint: make an email address optional, so that you can also receive the good anonymous comments too
Doug Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I agree, uninstall feedback has been such a huge help, it is completely different than providing a forum. Also agree about making email optional here is mine http://www.windowtabs.com/uninstall
Mo Flanagan Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
ah, uninstall and unsubscribe feedbacks; they work because the user is forced to say something. you just don't go around and uninstall things without reasons. and you don't unsubscribe from a newsletter if it's worthy.

sometimes though, you feel the other party might get hurt ("i found a better deal" or "you suck"), so including suggestion boxes is a good idea.
victor a.k.a. python for ever Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Hi Martin,

Two quick things:

1) Re: trial length, I agree with Jonathan Matthews that 30 days is probably based on assumed user need/behavior with your app.  A rethink based on that behavior may be in order.

2) Re: positioning, it seems like a good analog for your product is Time Machine for the Mac.  If you can explain this as "Time Machine for Windows" that may be an easy way to a) explain and b) tap into pre-existing demand.

A search for "Time Machine for Windows" turns up all sorts of folks looking for it (as well as a couple of other competitive products you might want to look at :-).

Patrick Smith Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
"30 days is probably based on"
should have been
"30 days is probably too short based on"
Patrick Smith Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Hi Martin,

Here are my 2 cents:

1) I would put on the website some examples of:
        - who can use the apps;
        - and to do what;

For example:
 - Are you an account and share employee data with your colleges in a shared folder? What about tracking changes made to this data? That,  for example, would save you if the data gets corrupted at any stage. Ever been there? :-)

- Are you a software developer and want to keep track of what's deployed to the production server without going through the pain of SVN? Give it a try!

You really need to put examples and case studies of how this thing can save your ass - because this is what we're talking about - recovering files because the newer versions are no good.

2) Your website is nice, but it does not convince me 100%. Get a logo done for a start. People are more likely to spend money on what they know someone cares about. Doesn't matter if it's just you who care about it. You know what I mean?
I also feel the website looks too much like a blog. Specially the header. Pump it up. Improve it. Work on it. Have a look at the home page of the 37 signals guys.

As already suggested by the guys here, I would avoid blogging about "not giving up". You've got to blog about the good features of your app, and the various improvements you do.

I personally think that if you present your app in a better way, you could do very well. I have tens of scenarios in my head where your app could help.

Hope it helps.
Giammarco Schisani Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Thinking about the marketing a little more... "home users" or similar is a big amorphous blob where you can't do targeted (cheaper, more effective) advertising.

How about thinking about the niche groups of people who could benefit most from this & having links off your front page to pages selling the benefits specifically to them.

Some niches off the top of my head:

- Web developers (Keep their html files versioned for when the client liked the old design better)

- Secretaries / PA's (Keep their spreadsheets versioned in case they get audited / need to see old figures they thought they wouldn't need)

- Graphic designers

- ....

This way you can target the specific adwords keywords these guys might search on ... for example "find old html file" or "keep records for audit" etc.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Wow - I think Giammarco / I must have been thinking & typing the same thing at the same time.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I just thought of something.

What if backing up is free but restoring is when they have to pay?

That way they will happily pay $30 to restore an earlier version. Your sales cycle will be really fucking long but you are pretty much guaranteed a 50% conversion over time, I think.

And make sure that when they right-click any file, they know to go to your app.

I was wrong before, the 200 dl's/0 purchases is not bad. It's just that no one who downloaded has needed it yet.

Make sure they can do every single operation besides restoring (after 30 days).
Anonymoose Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Sorry if this isn't relevant, but it's not clear what happens when your trial period runs out. With a product like this it's possible to imagine people not even noticing - until they have a reason to try getting a previous version. If you're not doing so, you could show them a nice detailed account of all the backups you've created for them, ask if they want to delete them. Remind them that the backups are going to stop happening...
Paul Johnson Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Ehy Jonathan,

Yeah, looks like we were thinking the same. We must be right then :-)
Giammarco Schisani Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I can't access your site.  Is your server down?
psant Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I'd second Giammarco / Jonathan's point about targetting specific segments. Lawyers would be an obvious example for me, all those gazillion versions of the contract that appear as negotiations proceed, all painstakingly saved as 20090901 Share Purchase agt, 20090902 Share Purchase agt, etc.). For developers, version control is obvious and easy; for many professions who still need good version control, they don't have an automated way of doing this (I don't think).

There will be lots of other examples - pick a couple of verticals where you already have some contacts within your personal network, and go from there, I'd say.
Bruce Greig Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
>You could consider giving your app away for free and showing ads on your download page.

Don't do that. The returns will be pitiful. Jeff Atwood stated that stackoverflow.com couldn't make decent income from adsense with approx a million page impression per day (IIRC).

I suggest you stop any further development for now and concentrate all your efforts on getting more (targetted) traffic and getting more feedback.

Don't give up yet. 200 downloads is too small a sample to make any major decision on. Good luck!
Andy Brice Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
I second the 'put ads on the download page'.  That is suggested by someone without experience in the matter.  You would only have to sell a couple of copies a month to outdo ad-supported pages.

I also think that targetting a version towards a particular vertical is the best idea.  Lawyers and Accountants are prime examples : both  have offices filled with busy staff with little actual skills in the product they are using, and even less skills in version control.  I would create a whole separate domain, version and documentation specifically for that vertical.  You could still use the same code base, just have different build processes.  The other benefit is that you could up the price for these professional based versions.  I've billed accountancy companies for thousands for software without them even blinking.  They are more likely to reject a $30 app as a 'toy', whereas a $300 app would be considered.

Also I second the unlimited trial but require a licence purchase when you want to recover the file.  There are very few people who will stop at paying money to get back a file they just overwrote.  This is how file recovery apps all work : free to download, pay to get your file back.  Do this one change and you'll get a long tail of sales coming in as people screw up and desperately try and wind back the clock.
Bruce Chapman Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
My online version converts at something like 2.3% and there are still periods where 200 people will sign up without a single one converting.  Similarly, there are some times where three adjacent trials all convert.  I'd call your situation a combination of bad luck and small sample size issues.

Just redouble your focus on marketing.  You've been given many good suggestions above.

Just Say No to AdSense ads on your download page.  It amazes me that people still suggest this here.  AdSense ads mean that a COMPETITOR (someone who addresses the same problem you do, successfully, because who else wants to speak to your customers) has successfully monetized your customers even after paying half of the price of the ad to Google.  Rather than doing that, figure out how to sell to your own customers and collect 100% of the sale price, not half of your competitor's marginal cost of customer acquisition.
Patrick McKenzie (Bingo Card Creator) Send private email
Wednesday, September 16, 2009
Just to clarify, the idea of promoting to various target groups I noted actually came from Andy during the consulting he did for me. + here's the shameless plug from a happy customer:


I'd highly recommend you contact Andy about some consulting, I think his services will pay for themselves many times over.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Nothing about the product name and the tag line says that your software keeps different versions of the file.

Change the tag line bigger and better (which takes about versioning).
Gautam Jain Send private email
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Thanks chaps. I will get an (optional) email request page after the download and add an uninstall comment page too. Sounds like that works better than i thought it would.

I think a re-think on the trial model is in order. It sounds like having the app continue work past 30 days but require registration to retrieve old versions is the way forward. A "Time Machine" comparison also sounds like good marketing and nice Google fodder.

The site also needs a lot more info on exactly how the app helps people. Rather than assume they can figure it out, i guess spoon-feeding scenarios will have a much better effect. I'd gone for the "completely transparent blog" approach but maybe I'll reign that in a bit.

Some nice suggestions on groups of people to target too. And a bit more impact required with the logo / tagline etc.

Again, thank you all.
Martin Currie Send private email
Thursday, September 17, 2009

Very basic advice, but put some good text in your meta tags, that will help you with google...

"<meta name="description" content="Site Description Here" />
<meta name="keywords" content="keywords, here" />
Javier Send private email
Thursday, September 17, 2009
One idea that popped into my head: What if you teamed up with a site offering online storage, with an option for users to backup online? Some of these sites have free limited accounts. Or perhaps you could even let people backup to their hotmail or google mail accounts; I believe there are apps around already for saving files to these accounts.
Alan Colburn Send private email
Thursday, September 17, 2009
It seems to me that "pay after first real use" would work best for your app.

Have the trial period end, say, 24 hours or a week after the user first _restores_ a file, that is, after they get proof that your software can solve their problem. Those who will think they may have such a problem again, will pay.

After the first restore, display a prominent countdown (system tray balloon?) with a "Buy Now" link.
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Friday, September 18, 2009
Couple more thoughts:

- A name containing words like "not", "never", etc., sends a negative message.

- The name is not aligned with what the product actually does. I would think it does not let me save a file under the same name, i.e. enforce manual versioning.

How about something like "OverwriteReversal" or "SafeOverwrites" or "OverwriteRescue" or "OverwriteInsurance"?  (I am not a native English speaker, so these may sound silly, but I think you've got the idea.)
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Friday, September 18, 2009
I tried neveroverwrite a couple of months ago.

Train of thought:

1.) This is a nifty tool! I will no longer lose a version of an important file
2.) Will try.
3.) Download and install
4.) X days pass
5.) sort of forgot about it.

The problem with the application is not the application itself.
But rather how it fits in the try before you buy type of selling.
Users rarely see it and will only remember they really need it when they want to recover old version of a file. Not too often.

It's like selling an insurance. If insurance companies use try before you buy mechanism, they won't sell much insurance policy.

You could try reminding the users regularly after the trial expires. Not very nice though, you'll be hated.

I suggest removing the trial period. Replace it instead with a very good demo video. You'll lost the 'no harm in trying' feeling of downloaders. You could compensate this by lowering the price though, and rely on impulse buying instead. $5 app? no harm in trying.
heherson tan Send private email
Saturday, September 19, 2009
This is really useful feedback, thanks for that. It looks like the app needs to blend into the background a little less than it presently is.

And (Dmitry) yes you're right the trial model needs a bit of a tweak. The popular suggestion seems to be keep it working (versioning) without expiring but only allow full access to the previous versions for 30 days, after which users need to purchase. I think this will be the direction I head from this point.

I'll post an update soon chaps and let you know how the suggestions have helped the numbers (hopefully).
Martin Currie Send private email
Sunday, September 20, 2009

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