The software industry is an extremely saturated market. Some developers want to improve some facet of your offline life. Some want to organize your data. Some want to order your finances. But all of them face a crowded market that’s driving down prices and making it difficult to stand out.
Most software companies have been relying on word of mouth to spread their brand, which actually can be a pretty effective strategy sometimes. But it’s a bit of a crapshoot; maybe the right blogger takes an interest and likes you enough to promote, but absent that, you’re going to have a hard time breaking out.
But the thing is that your clients are all out there looking for you.
People are out there trying to find everything from a better scriptwriting program to a way to turn their iPad into a second monitor to an app that a suggests recipes based on a photo of the contents of their fridge. We live in an age where everyone wants a software solution for every problem. So it’s not about getting yourself out there. It’s about making yourself easy to find.
And traditional software marketing and word-of-mouth just aren’t going to get you there.
Content marketing is an absolutely vital tool for any software developer looking to sell a product that solves a problem. You already know who your audience is: the sorts of people with the problem your tool solves. So you have to position yourself – through your website and social media presence – as someone who understands those people. So how does that work?
Ya gotta know the territory!
Think about the people you want as your clients. What is it they want? What are they worried about? What keeps them up at night? Do some market research and learn the lay of the land – and then you’ll see what sort of content you should be posting. By putting up the material your ideal customers would be looking for to begin with – even when they aren’t actively searching for services like yours – you make it more likely that they’ll find you rather than someone else. And if the content you post is great (and by “great,” we mean helpful, informative, and not-at-all sales-y) they’ll keep coming back. Start offering your expertise free of charge. Build a relationship with them.
Because here’s the thing. You don’t sell your product. You sell yourself. You sell the idea that you’re the expert on all things concerning your area, the people best able to handle the problems for which you’re offering the best software solution.
We call it “pre-warming.” And just like heating up the oven, pre-warming your ideal customers makes for a better outcome. It makes it easier to sell to them down the road – and makes them more likely to buy from you again.
Imagine you’re a developer that makes a historical strategy game. It’s detailed, accurate, and beautiful to look at. And you could make a bunch of ads that highlight all of that – but you’re going to be wasting your efforts on gamers who aren’t after what you’re selling. But let’s think for a second. Who is after your game?
Well, for one, strategy gamers. For another, history buffs, and maybe even fans of alternate history fiction. What sort of content would appeal to them? What Google searches are they conducting? It’s not too hard to figure out; these people are looking for gaming news, book reviews, articles on historical topics. Basically, they want to read about stuff that’s tangentially related to the sort of thing you already make – which is all stuff you’re uniquely suited to talk about anyway. So leverage that!
And this applies across fields of interest. If you make a particularly awesome digital design app, you know your customers are digital artists. So talk about new techniques, new Photoshop brushes, news in the digital arts scene, post beautiful concept art, spotlight artists. No matter what the particular area you serve, your customers have some things in common that make them interested in what you do. Be they digital artists, strategy gamers, screenwriters, IT professionals, mechanics, or accountants – you need to take the time to think about who they are and what content serves them. Make yourself a channel that’s got exactly the content they’re already looking for, and they’ll come right to you. “Don’t be the commercial. Be the show.”
Support, Support, Support
Once you have the content, you have to support that content. How you do this, and what’s appropriate to do, will vary depending on your particular product and industry. You can use social media to re-appropriate and re-position existing content hosted elsewhere; you don’t need to drive people to your website with everything you post as much as you need to build a brand that your customers see is serving their interests. While social media is a great way to promote your own branded content, be sure to do it sparingly.
You can also turn to marketing automation processes to instantly begin to nurture your website visitors through your sales process, offering them valuable pieces of branded content – ebooks, white papers, webinars, or anything else you think your ideal customers would find valuable. Automated, personalized emails can keep them engaged with you and keep your brand front-of-mind as they go forward, keeping them on your team and interested in your offerings in the future.