After the download – securing the sale

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.

How many programs would you say that you’ve downloaded over the last few years? How many of these did you then decide that you wanted or needed? And the big question – did you actually get round to registering or buying every single one of these? Chances are that the answer is no.

Getting the potential customers to download the software is only half the battle. You then have to make sure that they know what the software can do, how good it is, and just how much they need or want it. You want to hear a confession? I’m a software junkie. Show me an application that helps my work or saves me time, and I’ll buy it faster than you believe is possible. But if I don’t know or realise what it can do for me, forget it. I certainly will.

We can all list a fair number of applications that we’ve worked with for months or even years, before eventually stumbling across a really useful feature that we never even knew existed. If your software is a time-limited trial version, you can’t afford this luxury of time. You have to go out of your way to bring the features to the attention of the downloaders – and not wait for them to try and find it themselves.

Make It Easy
Without any doubt, there are some people who will download and install your software, then only run it once or twice before either registering it, forgetting all about it, or uninstalling it from their system. Guess which of the three options is the most likely? Exactly! So make it easy for them to discover just how good your software really is. Many users will only go to the help file if absolutely necessary, but won’t bother to look through the features of the software. A quick-start guide is often invaluable – whether in the form of a visual-guide, step-by-step instructions, a short video clip, or even just a section within the help file. But if you do have it, then you have to make sure they can find it. Having an option to view a “quick two minute guide” the first time the software runs can be a very good way to grab their attention. Use it.

A “how-to” or “how do I” section or document is a good idea, as is a tip of the day – but make sure you use them to the full. The tip of the day probably shouldn’t have details like keyboard shortcuts or command-line parameters (will these sell your software?) , but should be used as a rotating billboard for the product’s features. Imagine the user is going to look at the software one time only. Which features do you most want them to know about? Look at it through their eyes, and make sure that you’re always sending the right messages. Every single time they use the software is a sales opportunity.

If the software has many possible uses and applications, then why not include some sort of list of ideas? A graphics editor can be used for website graphics, graphics design, diagrams, charts, photo-editor, children’s applications, greeting-cards and so on – your job is to work out all the uses of your application, and make the downloader realise that they’re there.

The Help File As A Marketing Tool 
If you’re using your help-file merely as a basic instruction manual, then you’re throwing away more opportunities. It should in effect be a marketing tool, and not only show how the software works, but what it can do, and how well it can do it. Look at your work through sales-tinted glasses, and make sure that it reflects both the standards and scope of your software.

Assuming that you succeed with this, then you’ve cleared the first hurdle. The user now knows that your software is good, and that s/he could probably make good use of it. But as we all know, human beings have this peculiar habit of wanting to hold onto their money, and if they’re going to let go of some of it, you’re going to have to help them. The next task therefore is to convince them why they should register, or pay for the full version. In short, every single potential buyer of your software will want to know what they’re going to get for their money.

If the answer is simply a registration-code, then shouldn’t you at least consider spicing it up a little? People like to feel that they’re gaining something from registering their software, so even assuming that they’re not going to get a box, CD and manual, there are plenty of extras that you can throw-in to make the prospect of buying more appetising.

You might want to consider having a downloadable PDF guide for your software, a user forum, some form of “extra” support, some free samples, a page of ideas, tips and tricks, upgrades, special offers on other software, a user mailing-list and so on. The only limits here are your imagination. But if you are going to offer these benefits, make sure they know that before registering – the key here is to dangle as many forms of bait as possible. The more there are, the higher the chance of them nibbling at least one of them. Then you’ll reel them in faster than you can shout “another sale”.

Don’t Remain Stuck In Old Habits 
Whatever you do, don’t remain stuck in your ways, and don’t rule out anything as impossible. We all have a desire to have something tangible in our hands when we’ve parted with our cash, and many people vastly prefer a copy of the software on CD. A few years a go this was near-impossible, but things have now changed. Nowadays, aside from burning the CDs yourself, there are enough services out there that can even burn one CD at a time and mail it out for you – look into all the options. If by doing so you increase your sales, then isn’t it worth doing?

Let’s now assume that you’ve cleared this hurdle too, and the customer has not only realised that they could use the software, but they actually want to buy it. One final obstacle awaits – that of the registration process itself. The goal here should be to make the process as simple, friendly and flexible as possible.

Not everyone wants to use a credit-card over the web, so make sure that you offer as many different options as possible, including being able to order by phone, fax and mail, as well as online through a secure server. Also ensure that they can find this information quickly and easily. You should have the facts available online, within the software itself, and even through the start-menu; the last thing you want is a customer who wants to buy your software, but can’t find out how to do so.

Some developers like to use a reminder screen when you open or close the application, but be careful when using this technique. You can end-up treading a very fine line between reminding and annoying them – and you don’t want to step too far in either direction.

A Sale Vs Missed Opportunity
Make sure that if they have any questions before buying the software, they can find out how to contact you as easily as possible. Add this information to your help file, or even as a separate part of your help menu. If someone has a compatibility or technical question, being able to ask about it can make the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity. Don’t assume that they’ll be able to find the information for themselves.

The download may be done, and the software installed, the help file may contain all the information they need, but the user might still be undecided. Make them realise how much they need your software, why they should register and point-them in the right direction to do so. And never be afraid to remind them of any of these facts. Repetition might be a little annoying but it works. Repetition might be a little annoying but it works. Be seen, be sold.

Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.