Your new software startup is ready to go, but you need customers.
This point is often frustrating because if you don’t have an audience and if you’re not extremely well known with your target customers it’s going to be a struggle to get attention.
Because it’s difficult, many software startup founders resort to discounting as a way to drum up business.
This is dangerous for a couple reasons.
First, you’re giving off the wrong impression of your brand. If you want to position yourself as a strong brand that has one of the best solutions in your space you don’t want to discount that by discounting your prices.
Second, discounting attracts the wrong kind of customer. If you acquire someone with a discount that person will be looking for discounts from you for the rest of your relationship. And it’s really hard to go back once you’ve been offering discounts.
You can adjust your price over time. It’s common for people to have a somewhat lower price (but call it a regular price) early on to gauge interest. Then over time they increase the price based on demand. If possible, set your price where it’s appropriate and stick to it.
Here are some ways you can promote your software startup without discounts.
1. Create A Free Industry Tool
I was going to say that you could create a huge industry guide with lots of great content. I think that’s a good strategy and it’s probably worth its own point here, but I think creating a free industry tool would be even better.
You have two audiences for your tool or tools if you want to approach each audience differently.
A tool is something that can help your potential customers and the influencers in your industry with a simple task. An example is the HubSpot website grader. This is hugely popular. People check their websites with it all the time. It’s a fraction of the software capability that HubSpot has, but people love free tools like this.
Find something that your customers or the influencers in your industry would love. Keep it simple. It could even be a small part of your new software launch.
2. Strong Affiliate Program
Affiliate programs have been around for a long time and they’ve been around a long time on the Internet. They aren’t as sexy as they used to be, but they’re still as effective as anything.
Be aggressive with your first affiliates. Reach out to affiliates in your industry. Find the ones that are successful promoting and selling other software. Give them a really good affiliate rate. You could even offer a special rate to the first 10 or 50 affiliates for your product.
It’s kind of like discounting, but you’re using that margin to pay your affiliates instead of attracting the wrong kind of customers.
Affiliates have audiences of potential customers. Give the affiliates a good rate and they’ll feel the incentive to push your software and it can help get you off the ground.
3. Charity Events
Charity events generally get a lot of press. You can do yourself a favor while helping out others. Maybe you could offer to create a simple website or help with another need that a charity has. Giving this type of effort doesn’t cost you money (it costs you time and effort), but you’ll be associated with the charity and with their audience.
Find a charity your potential customers care about and get involved. You can feel good about what you’re doing and you’ll get exposure for your brand.
4. Business Partnerships
We’ve talked about this a few times before on different posts on promotion. Salesforce is a good example. Software companies are always attaching themselves to Salesforce. They’re add-on software applications and when they’re good, Salesforce will help promote them.
Partnerships are often overlooked, but they can really work in the software world. See if there is a complementary software company out there and create something that can tie-in with their product. It can add value to their customers and you can tap into the existing customer base.
5. Hire A PR Agency With Connections
These last two require money, but they’re good options if you want to get early sales.
I think of music industry often and how it really works. I think that music labels or record labels are really marketing or PR agencies. They establish contacts throughout the music world and when a new artist comes on board they need the label’s connections in order to get radio play, music video play, etc. An example is David Geffen with Guns N Roses and later with Nirvana. Those bands couldn’t get any kind of play until Geffen used his connections at MTV to get their videos played. With Geffen’s connections those bands might not be what we see them as today.
It’s worth it to get a good PR agency on your side. And if you can’t afford one that’s big try to hook up with a budding PR star that is aggressive in building his or her connections. You want someone that’s shameless in their pursuit of getting exposure.
6. Paid Advertising
This one is pretty straight forward. If you want exposure sometimes you just have to pay cold hard cash for it. Paid advertising can do that. Google and Facebook are the big platforms online right now, but don’t overlook other options including traditional options.
The Cabela’s empire started with a simple ad in a newspaper for fishing lures. LL Bean started the same way with an ad for boots.
Ads can help if you find the right publication with the right audience for the right price.
Launching a new software product is exciting. A lot of work goes into launching software. We’ve worked with a few software startups and there is always a lot of excitement along with a lot of stress. We always try to steer things away from discounting because we see the positive results from keeping a steady price. Hopefully the tips above can help you with your software startup promotional strategy.
And one quick note on blogging – it’s more of a long-term strategy. We’ve had startups ask us about drumming up buzz for their company and it can work, but blogging is really not the place for it because you need an audience. The strategies above work better to create more immediate buzz.