The Proven Secret to Selling Software

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By Lizette Louw - May 11, 2016

From Bill Gates, to Steve Wozniak, and Mark Zuckerberg, the evidence is beyond dispute and proves: The tech geeks of yesterday have become the power class of today. 

While it’s true that the software industry provides the potential for developers to go from startup to millionaire almost overnight, getting from code to customer is not exactly a walk in the park.

The Difficulties in Selling Software

Selling intangible products or services is never easy. In the case of software products, the difficulty is manifold:

  • The price: The intangible nature and lack of physical form makes it hard to attribute products with a monetary value.
  • The product: From seller to buyer, the transfer of software products is often entirely virtual, via an Internet download or a Cloud hosted services. If there’s no physical product, what are you selling?
  • The lingo: While software developers are highly versed in the lingo of all things tech, intended buyers specialise in fields such as business, marketing or finance. The challenge is to translate IT specs into a language that can be understood by those outside of the tech industry.

The Secret to Selling Software: Inbound Sales

While selling software is challenging for even the most skillful among the advertising geniuses, the secret to doing it successfully is the same for entrepreneurs in every field: answering the market’s most pressing pain points and most alluring opportunities with your products or services. 

Selling to Aleviate Pain

“Successful businesses are grown by entrepreneurs who recognised a need and provide a solution that solved a pain point for others,” writes James F. Grebey in The Determined Entrepreneur. Your buyers may not be able to see or touch your products, but they can feel the pain of the challenges, problems and needs that your software intends to solve. 

The beauty of pitching your marketing message to relate to specific pain points is that it attracts your ideal customers: buyers who are already online, searching for solutions such as yours.

Selling with the Aim to Delight

The avoidance of pain is one of the great driving forces in consumer behaviour. The other side of the coin is our inherent drive as humans to seek pleasure. While the Vitamins VS Painkillers argument maintains that pain is a stronger driving force than pleasure (“some of us take vitamins, but all of us take pain killers”), the success of the luxury goods industry proves otherwise. 

Does your software provide buyers with the tools to attain pleasurable goals such as business opportunities? Make it easy for your buyers to recognise the value of your sales proposition by pitching your software as a means to a gratifying outcome.

A Methdology for Selling Software

The secret to selling software boils down to this:

Break away from trying to explain the technical specs of your software to buyers, and pitch your software as a solution to their pain points and an instrument to achieving success.

Inbound Marketing for Software Entrepreneurs

It’s easier said than done. But how do you wow in the marketing arena if your native language is C++, JAVA or PHP? 

The inbound marketing methodology covers all the bases to selling your software:

The Challenges of Selling Software in a Niche Industry

If you are developing software for a niche industry, the challenge of creating a go-to-market strategy for your software business and reaching your target market is even more problematic.

Some of the challenges you will encounter if you are selling software to a niche market are:

  • Conversion rate challenge: while your software might be perfect for solving the specific pain points of your ideal buyers, the number of potential buyers will always be small. Running a profitable business in a niche market requires a much higher conversion rate than what is necessary when competing in a broad market, where hit-or-miss sale pitches could be adequate.
  • The risk of market crashes: earning your livelihood from selling to a single niche market means that there’s no alternative income when that market goes into a dip or a tumble.
  • Big Competition with Big Budgets: where a niche market falls within the scope of larger companies with bigger marketing budgets, small marketers may find it hard to compete.

Some of these challenges might best be solved by opting to Differentiate your Tech Company. There are of course additional steps you can implement.

5 Tips for Selling Software in a Niche Industry

While you will encounter various challenges in selling to a niche audience, niche marketing campaigning is not without its benefits. Here are some tips for turning the challenges of niche marketing into opportunities:

Tip 1. Don’t Try to Win Over the Haters

Instead of focussing your marketing on trying to convince unwilling buyers of the value of your products, focus on those buyers who are already searching for a solution to the specific pains and opportunities that your software is out to solve.

Instead of trying to win over the haters, focus on:

  • getting to know your ideal personas and mapping out their buyers journey.
  • creating useful and educational content to guide them along every step of their decision-making journey

Tip 2: Outwit Your Competition 

While generalist software sellers might have access to generous marketing budgets, niche software businesses have an advantage that gives them a better chance of gaining a high return on investment from marketing:

The fact that your software is focussed on a smaller group of buyers means that you have the opportunity to get to understand your buyers’ needs better than firms that sell to a general audience.

Don’t try to compete with big software companies, who sell to big market segments by means of big budgets. Instead, outwit them by getting to know your buyers better than any of your competition.

Tip 3: Craft a Niche Content Strategy

Competing to rank in Google’s top search results can seem impossible if your website is new or sparse in content and inbound links.

Instead of trying to catch-up with established websites that rank for the keywords generating the biggest search volumes base your content marketing strategy on long-tail keywords that capture your niche market perfectly. Big search volumes might seem alluring, but remember: you are not marketing to everyone, you are marketing to your ideal buyers.

Tip 4: Create Budget Advertising Campaigns

Are you finding the Cost Per Click charged by Google AdWords and Facebook advertising to fall way beyond your budget? It’s time to reconsider your keyword approach!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: forget about reaching out to everyone who could possibly have an interest in your software and focus instead on the specific buyer personas who are most likely to buy. When you are creating paid advertising campaigns this means bidding on (affordable) unique long-tail keywords that resonate with your niche market instead of (expensive) popular keywords.

Tip 5: Keep your Marketing Personal

Marketing to a niche audience allows you the opportunity to tailor your marketing message to each of your buyer personas which results in a better online user experience and higher conversion rates.

Here’s how a personalised marketing strategy with the help of tools such as smart content gives you the edge: 

  • Nearly three-fourths (74%) of online consumers get frustrated with websites when content (e.g., offers, ads, promotions) appears that has nothing to do with their interests (JanRain)
  • Website visitors are much more likely to convert to leads and customers when your website presents them with relevant content. One HubSpot study managed to achieve a 20% higher conversion rate by making use of personalised marketing tools.

A strategy for differentiating your software business online

Are you looking for a marketing strategy to help you differentiate your B2B tech business in a competitive market? Download our free eBook for the Struto founders' full disclosure of how they've managed to take multiple business ventures from startup to sold.

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