* The Business of Software

A former community discussing the business of software, from the smallest shareware operation to Microsoft. A part of Joel on Software.

We're closed, folks!

Links:

» Business of Software FAQ
» The Business of Software Conference (held every fall, usually in Boston)
» Forum guidelines (Please read before posting!)

Moderators:

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

Downloads vs sales

Sure it was discussed countless times before but here is a problem I'm facing.

I'm not running adds (tried, didn't work) but site is reasonably high ranking: first-second page for some keywords. Still  not getting ton of traffic  but I'm slowly getting there (SEO is improving). 

Since the start of the year my 3 products (one of them free) have been downloaded 1000+ times. Mostly (2/3 according to logs) from my web site but also  from download sites and places like googlecode and codeplex.

All good so far. However out of 1000+ downloads this year I got exactly 3 sales. Two of them from people I know.

I was ready for a slow start and I know that software for developers doesn't sell initially like hotcakes. But isn't conversion rate is a little bit low? What else can be done to improve it?
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Monday, February 25, 2013
 
 
Yes, your conversion rate does seem low. However, after having a quick look at your site I can see why.

You focus exclusively on the features of your products. without talking about the benefits they offer or the problems they solve.

People don't search for features. They search for solutions to problems. What you need to do is start writing lots of content providing case studies on the problems your software can solve.

This is a good method to get your site found by the people that need your software. This sort of qualified traffic will convert better than any other traffic you may be getting.
Andrew Gibson Send private email
Monday, February 25, 2013
 
 
> All good so far. However out of 1000+ downloads this year I got exactly 3 sales. Two of them from people I know.... I was ready for a slow start and I know that software for developers doesn't sell initially like hotcakes. But isn't conversion rate is a little bit low?

Well, if I take "this year" to mean "2013", and if I remove the two people you know as sales, that leaves 1 sale every ~60 days, @$99/sale = about ~$600/yr, not taking into account payment processor fees, taxes, etc., so say $480/yr.  Given that it looks like you put a lot of work into the product(s), yes, that sounds pretty weak indeed.  Another way to think about it is that 0.1% conversion.

> What else can be done to improve it?

Maybe you can provide something here about who would want to buy your software?  From the website, I don't have any sense for that.
Racky Send private email
Monday, February 25, 2013
 
 
I used to have "solutions" block on the front page (below products) but according to google analytics very few clicks  were coming from this part so I removed it. Also I do have dedicated pages for use cases, examples, etc.

But I'm getting the message. I hoped that my potential customers are educated enough in this particular area (ETL, data migration, data integration) and more or less looking for bullet points to compare with other products. Probably I was wrong.

Still cannot explain high number of downloads vs sales, though. I know products are good (for example they are used by fortune xx company with hundreds of developers on daily basis)  so quality should not be a problem.
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Monday, February 25, 2013
 
 
"Maybe you can provide something here about who would want to buy your software?  From the website, I don't have any sense for that."

Main landing page according to analytics:

http://www.toolsverse.com/products/data-explorer/

Racky, is this good, bad, not enough?
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Monday, February 25, 2013
 
 
Maksym, that page is better than nothing, sure.  You're saying Google Analytics is saying that is the page that is landed on more than any other in your set of pages?

First, you should get feedback from people who know this area well.  I don't.  However, I do develop software so I guess I am a software developer and yet when I see that the value add for your software for me would be to:  "Create and profile SQL queries, browse and search for database objects such as tables, indexes, etc.", I really don't know why I would use that. 

So, for example, creating SQL queries:  why would I use your tool instead of just writing the query myself? 

How does the SQL profiling work?

How do you browse and search for database objects?

I guess my point is, if one is not already familiar with the benefits of this *kind* of tool, then your tool will just go over their head.

I take you at your word that there is a population of pros who use these sorts of things all the time, so then I have to ask:  are you reaching them?  I guess so if 1000 downloads...or could it be that these 1000 are sort of frivolously downloaded by people who don't know what they're doing?

Finally:  could it be that your free version does so much that most of those 1000 don't need the $99 version?  (Is that kind of high?).  And how many of them are still within the 20 day trial period?

Pretty naive analysis, but take this as a "hallway test".
Racky Send private email
Monday, February 25, 2013
 
 
Racky, thanks for analysis. This is exactly kind of feedback  I need.

I'm trying  (as everybody else I guess) to "look around" and "steal" content ideas from competitors. It is a specific area so I don't (din't) count on someone without particular background (think Eclipse or VS for data migration and ETL) . 

Do you think video tutorials can attract target audience?  Is it something worth spending time on?
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Monday, February 25, 2013
 
 
Maksysm,

> Do you think video tutorials can attract target audience?  Is it something worth spending time on?

I myself like a *good* video, either tutorial or, probably better in your case, a *demo* that shows your product in its very best light.  But I've found that many developers are abysmal at making these.  That said, when it is done well it really allows the potential customer to see how they would use it, and why that would be a benefit to them. 

What is it about your tool that is better than other similar ones?  What's the "value add" here?  Is it the ease of UI?  Is it how information is organized?  Is it a Swiss Army knife that does many useful things in one app?  Does it do something no other tool in your space does?  Is it fast?  Thorough?  Clever?  Customizable?  Easy to learn?  What??? 

And is it priced comparably given what it does, given there is already (as you indicate) an extant marketplace and competitors.  You have to really take into account the business reality.
Racky Send private email
Monday, February 25, 2013
 
 
> Is it fast?  Thorough?  Clever?  Customizable?  Easy to learn?  > >What??? 

Well.. yeah. I have this:
http://www.toolsverse.com/products/why/

Maybe not good enough but there is a content on the site. There are clicks in all right places but mostly people stop in the landing page.
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Monday, February 25, 2013
 
 
Maksym,

>> Is it fast?  Thorough?  Clever?  Customizable?  Easy to learn?  > >What???

> Well.. yeah. I have this:
> http://www.toolsverse.com/products/why/

> Maybe not good enough but there is a content on the site. There
> are clicks in all right places but mostly people stop in the landing
> page.

I spent a good deal more time now going around your site.  I applaud what is clearly a great deal of care and effort--it's a big site.  But, in a way perhaps, that might be part of the problem.  Maybe it's a little overwhelming for the potential clients?  Or at least not "directing them" enough toward a buy?  That's my guess.

I did see that another ETL software site had a similarly uniform blue/grey site, so perhaps that's working for them, but I have to sometimes wonder if people are getting lost in your site, that it is not, as I said, funneling them to buy. 

Is there a way to know through what links your visitors are coming?
Racky Send private email
Monday, February 25, 2013
 
 
The site looks professional. But it is very text heavy. I think a few screenshots or videos might really help.

I have no idea what ETL means. Presumably your target market does.

I want to know what your site is for within 2 seconds of landing. A strapline at the top would really help. "Data migration tools for experts", "Power tools for SQL professionals" or something like that. What is better/different about your software than your competitors? Emphasize that. (Google for Eric Sink's article about 'positioning').

Given that your download->sale ratio is low, the first thing I would look at is the initial experience of the user. That first 5 golden minutes. Is the product hard to install? Does it start with a blank screen and no clue what to do? The best way to do this is to watch of couple of people try to install and use the product (without helping them!). Have you done this?

Are you getting any feedback from downloaders? Maybe force them to give you their email so you can follow them up? Put a phone number on every page (you can always remove it later). It doesn't cost much to get a skype in number. It goes to voicemail if you don't pick up.

The fact that you don't quote a price for support would put me off. Also the lack of a physical address would make me wonder how bona fide you are.
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
@Maksym

I am familiar with the data integration-ETL space. My reaction to your website after spending less than thirty seconds was that your price is so incredibly lower than your competition that I would not touch it with a ten foot pole. Do you really think you can convince your sophisticated market you offer something as effective as products with a base price in the $5K-$15K per cpu range.

Your product description and feature set is very comparable to your commercial competitors. DI/ETL tools are heavy duty software that is primarily from large companies, like IBM, Oracle, Progressive, Informatica, Talend and others, and requires a ton of development effort. No way one guy can produce a truly competive product. Just take a look at this product(base price $25k  for 4 users): http://www.destinationcrm.com/Articles/Columns-Departments/ReTooling/Tech-Solution-Data-Integration-Tools-42421.aspx

If you do not do everything your competitors do then be clear about that and show how you are different. If you do, then charge a lot, lot more.

Bill
Bill Anonomist Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
> Is there a way to know through what links your visitors are coming?

Landing page (one of the three products, usually from organic search)->downloads->examples.

50% of visitors who came from home page click on big download button on the top.
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
I didn't read all of the responses above, but I'm going to disagree with much of what I read.  IMHO, your website's job is to get people to download and try your software.  If you got 1000 downloads in 2 months (and assuming they are quality downloads, not just software hoarders), it's doing a pretty good job.

Once the person installs and tries the software, the software has to sell itself.  Such low sales might indicate bad downloads to start with, though I doubt that with such a technical offering.  Or it is too hard to use, too hard to understand, doesn't have enough polish, priced too high for what it does, hard to integrate into work flow, etc.

I would highly recommend making your uninstaller pop open a browser to a "Thanks for trying -- please give us feedback" page on your site.  Or find some other way to get constructive feedback (maybe something in the app itself?  Request an email address before download so you can send a follow-up email??).
Doug Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
Andy, thanks for advise. Simple things like these can make a difference. Following your blog by the way.

What do you think about support? I hoped  that  free support on forums is a way to go (building community and all that). However what I see is the majority are not happy about two-step registration process (have to use it to prevent spam) so currently support done mostly by email (not convenient at all). Is there a better way?
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
Bill, I'm well aware about typical ETL prices (one of the reasons I developed my own many years ago). My direct competitors are priced much lower (in-line with what I have / user) and I'm trying to differentiate myself as a "database development +data migration+ETL" tool for guys who are not ready to pay thousands. Mostly individual developers and  small companies.
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
Hard to say what the best approach to support is - it varies so much between different products and markets. Often B2B tools include 1 year of free email support and upgrades and you have to pay ~20% to renew after that. That would seem a reasonable approach.

I would avoid forums until you have a decent user base. Nothing says 'don't buy this product' like a dead forum.

Bill makes a good point. There is such as thing as being *too* cheap. Perhaps your product is too cheap to be credible?
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
Doug, you are right, I'm getting enough downloads, not all from my site but still, just not .enough sales Unfortunately users have to invest time. I always compare my tool with Eclipse or any other IDE, if you are not familiar with concept and don't know basic stuff there is probably nothing to do for you here. On the other hand you should be right at home if you have ever used something like that.

That said, I have a  grad students in the University of Pittsburgh doing group projects using my tool (the prof is a friend of mine). ETL, data migration, all this. I was surprised by the level of questions I'm getting.  Not in a good way. Simple stuff, obvious stuff. The real customers are different but there's not that much of them and some have been using my tools for years (I opened for business in July 2012 but tools are much older).
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
@Maksym: Is "individual developers and  small companies" the only market you want to sell to? Not interested in enterprise customers at all? You know, multi-seat licenses, support renewals, and such. And even if you are not, there are many well-established and highly profitable small companies that can afford a quality tool that helps them make or save money.

Take us, for instance, Our product is priced in the four-figure range, but we offer discounts to startups, independent professionals, and other small businesses, plus free licenses for non-commercial use. Our downloads-to-purchases ratio has always been reasonably healthy, we have customers of all types and sizes, and a good chuck of our revenue comes from support contract renewals.

Now consider that our main competitor is not just free, but is a de-facto industry standard oroginally created by Sun Microsystems and now being further developed by Oracle...
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
>I was surprised by the level of questions I'm getting.  Not in a good way. Simple stuff, obvious stuff.

Sounds like usability testing should be top priority. Its not difficult to do (painful yes, difficult no). I guarantee it will be time well spent.
Andy Brice Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
> I was surprised by the level of questions I'm getting.  Not in a good way. Simple stuff, obvious stuff.

Now that's a problem that we have almost eliminated a few years ago by creating a 5-minute Getting Started video tutorial and prominently linking to it from the download page and the product itself.

We have since added a few tutorials for more specific usage scenarios, but that first one is by far the most popular. About half of those who download a trial proceed to watch that tutorial, and I guess some part of the remaining half is not totally new to the product.
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
>Is "individual developers and  small companies" the only market >you want to sell to? Not interested in enterprise customers at all?

Hell, no! I'm working with Informatica to be listed in their marketplace and some other stuff. However I'm afraid if I'll price my products too high above direct competitors (db tools vendors) it will be a tough sell (not that I'm getting much at this point) .

But I think you are right and it is a good idea to have tiers of pricing: enterprise-start up-individual-free.
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
> Now that's a problem that we have almost eliminated a few years > > ago by creating a 5-minute Getting Started video tutorial

Sounds like this is what I should have done long time ago.
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
Maksym, and everyone who wants to sell to the enterprise: read this OnStartups answer NOW:

http://answers.onstartups.com/a/5859
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
> read this OnStartups answer NOW.

Good stuff.
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
Glad you liked it.

Just one more thing: when you write "free updates for life", what (enterprise) prospects read is "I do not have a sustainable business model and desperately need money". Fact is, they need you to stay in business longer than they will need your product. Let them support your business.
Dmitry Leskov Send private email
Tuesday, February 26, 2013
 
 
Maksym,

I agree with Doug.  Your website works. 1000 dowloads in 2 month is a good start.

To understand better why your conversion is so low you can:
1. Add uninstall form with options like.
- doesn't work
- program doesn't start
- too expensive
- too complicated to use
- need another features

2. Add "check updates" feature, to know how often your users use your software.
In case if your users stop using your program after the first day, then you need to improve the first 5 minutes of their user experience

In case if users stops using it at the end of the trial period, then probably your pricing is not that appealing to them.

After that you will need to increase your conversion rate:

Make it dumb easy to use your software.  Users are not dumb, they are busy. Quite often they are not well concentrated. And most of them have different logic schemes in their brains (read book called of Alan Cooper "The Inmates Are Running the Asylum". There is a  Russian translation of this book as well).
MatrixFailure Send private email
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
 
 
+1 MatrixFailure

Number of downloads is not very revealing metric.

Track basics of usage: how many times your app is launched, for how long, what features are being used etc.

Given data you have (low dl/buy ratio) the most likely hypothesis is that people just don't find value in your product. But at this point it's just a hypothesis. You can instrument your software and either confirm or disapprove that hypothesis.

If you confirm the hypothesis then you could go back to product design by trying to get as much feedback from people who download  but don't use the the product.

The advice of asking for feedback on uninstall is good but you should go much further - you should try to get as many people as you can to talk to you, in person (or phone) so that you can understand why they don't use the program. Most importantly: when they downloaded the program, what did they think they were getting and if the program was what they expected.

In short: interview as many of your users as possible until a clear pattern emerges.
Krzysztof Kowalczyk Send private email
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
 
 
>Given data you have (low dl/buy ratio) the most likely hypothesis is >that people just don't find value in your product. But at this point >it's just a hypothesis. You can instrument your software and either >confirm or disapprove that hypothesis.

Personally I hate when I'm getting asked "why" when I uninstall software so I'm trying to make this thing as unintrusive as possible.

Program has auto-update feature which (if configured) performed silently (Google Chrome style) . All downloads and updates are instrumented  in the back-end. Since January I had one major and one  service update. Out of 1000+ downloads there were 100+  automatic updates and ~50 manual (almost all updated to the current version). I think it's a good indication that software is actively used by at least 15% of folks who downloaded it. On top of that I know software is good and reasonably easy to understand if you come with a particular background.
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
 
 
That's great data. Knowing that, other hypothesis are:

1. As others said, your pricing might be wrong (either too high or too low).

2. You're not aggressive enough about encouraging paid upgrades.

It looks like you use a freemium approach: a basic, but capable version is free, a version with more advanced features is paid.

I think that in general, freemium works better at scale, when it becomes a numbers game (e.g. if only 1 out of a 1000 becomes a customer, it's still a lot of customers if there is 1.000.000 users).

Maybe your free version is too generous and you should limit its features.

Maybe you should switch to time-based tries and remove free version completely: offer full version but it stops working after a month.

Another idea: in the free version add unobtrusive, but visible, link to purchasing pro version. An elegant solution is an element in the titlebar (see https://www.evernote.com/shard/s1/sh/08c26281-e449-4a78-a1a5-e7f7f155c0ba/78cd54568a24d3d166d175985f6fc185 for an example from mac app coda).

Small comment about http://www.toolsverse.com/products/data-explorer/index.shtml: I would emphasize the benefits of paid product. Currently it's a lot of rows and it doesn't give me impression that I get so much more from paid version and it's more design than content problem.

Idea 1: highlight the features exclusive to paid version (e.g. give table cells slightly different background), to attract the attention to those rows, to make the scope of improvements easier to eyeball.

Idea 2: list paid-only features as a separate table. It would make them look bigger stand-alone (rather than as shown currently, as a subset of a bigger table).

A more high-level comment: I think you have too much information there. For the reference, a few comparative pricing pages that I think are good: http://www.pixelpaddock.com/2010/07/basecamp-plans-pricing-follow-leader.html

Key aspect: much less data, so that it's easier to compare the options, visually attracting the eye to paid option.
Krzysztof Kowalczyk Send private email
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
 
 
Wow! Thank you for very detail analysis and ideas.
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Wednesday, February 27, 2013
 
 
For most products, 0.75% is considered a low conversion rate 5%+ is high, I have seen things work as good as 15%.  You are at 0.1%.  So that is where you are now.  And you realize that there is a problem.

Your software looks fine.    If you want success with your online marketing, you should learn what the terms below mean, and become an expert in each of them.  There is tons of  information all over the web about this stuff:

1. CopyWriting
2. Landing Page Optimization
3. Squeeze Pages

When CopyWriting and the landing page is done the right way, you don't even realize you are being sold something.

I will give you one example of a killer landing page:
DropBox

There is a million other things you will need to do to get your numbers to 5% conversion.  That is more of a book than a forum post.  But a successful implementation of those 3 concepts should get you near the 1% range. 

And don't trust anyone else to do it for you.  Anyone who knows how to do this effectively will not be looking for work.

my $0.02
C. Stark Send private email
Friday, March 01, 2013
 
 
One other Example of a super converting site.
Senuke

IMHO - there product is a piece of garbage that will destroy your site, and costs $2,000 per year.  Most of the pros use a competing product which only costs $50 and works much better.

But guess who is more successful.  SeNuke with their crapware.  Why because everything about their page, trial, etc is designed to make you buy.  Where the competitor with the better product ignored marketing and just made a good product.

In a perfect world you build both.  Killer marketing and a killer product.  Get that right and you will be rich.
C. Stark Send private email
Friday, March 01, 2013
 
 
Quite an effective demonstration, I actually felt myself being sold Senuke quite effectively by their video until they said what it actually does.

btw, what's the $50 competitor you referred to?
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Saturday, March 02, 2013
 
 
Thanks everyone for great feedback! 

After reading all suggestions I've decided to concentrate my effort on:

1. Usability changes
2. Better balans between free and paid features
3. Online help/how-tos
4. Complete landing pages redesign
5. Demo video
Maksym Sherbinin Send private email
Saturday, March 02, 2013
 
 
@JonathanMathews

NOTE:  I DO NOT RECOMMEND USING SPAM TOOLS. 

The $50 product is called Scrapebox.  I just visited their site and see they raised the price to $100.  Don't become a spammer though.  Whatever benefit you may get today, turns into a penalty tomorrow when Google makes their next anti-spam countermeasures. 

Write great content, you will win in the end.  Or write a better spam tool, and sell that to the bad guys :-)
C. Stark Send private email
Saturday, March 02, 2013
 
 
Don't worry, although the marketing on the first site was extremely good my interest is purely academic - I agree that this stuff is very risky.
Jonathan Matthews Send private email
Sunday, March 03, 2013
 
 
> "Don't become a spammer though.  Whatever benefit you may get today, turns into a penalty tomorrow when Google makes their next anti-spam countermeasures. "

Not to mention the whole burning in Hell thing.
Racky Send private email
Sunday, March 03, 2013
 
 

This topic is archived. No further replies will be accepted.

Other recent topics Other recent topics
 
Powered by FogBugz