Sharon Housley Interview
Written by Dave Collins, SoftwarePromotions Ltd.
Sharon Housley is a person well known for wearing more hats than most. Aside from her extensive marketing work for NotePage, Inc., she is the also the driving force behind FeedForAll, SoftwareMarketingResource, is an SIAF Board Member and much more.
Can you tell us a little about your background?
I have worked in the computer industry since 1989. Prior to NotePage, Inc. I owned a computer service and networking company. I was responsible for managing our technical staff, purchasing and customer service. My partners and I sold the service company in 1999 to focus on NotePage, Inc. We had started NotePage, Inc. in 1996, and really wanted to grow the business.
You are known for being extremely active in most things related to online marketing. Which areas do you think are most effective for the software developer?
That is actually a very difficult question. I think different things work well for different developers, and different types of software. There really is no one-size fits all when it comes to Internet marketing.
I do not know if you would consider upsells online marketing, but it works well for both consumer applications and business applications. If the products are related and you offer a discount on a related application during the actual purchase process, you can increase sales.
Which current technologies do you think are the most exciting right now? What’s on your radar?
Another difficult question. I am extremely biased here but I think that RSS feeds, podcasts and rich media (video) are fairly exciting. RSS feeds are so much more than just blogs, I think that as you see businesses adopting RSS as a communication medium, we are going to see some really exciting things. Class lectures and power point presentations for sales forces are just the beginning of what RSS will be used for.
I’m sure you’d agree that there are never enough hours in the working day, even though you somehow seem to squeeze in more than most! What tools, products and/or services do you find to be most effective in alleviating your workload?
(Laughs) While I do work a lot, I realized a long time ago that I could not do it all alone. As we have grown we have added appropriate staff. Additionally we outsource (as you well know from our use of SoftwarePromotions) a lot of the marketing. While I am the “face” of our marketing, really energy from a number of different individuals contribute to our marketing efforts. I think knowing strengths and weaknesses is extremely important. If graphic design is a weakness, do not spend hours attempting to master the skill, it’s a much better use of time and money to use someone who excels at graphic design.
As far as tools, I use quite a variety. One of my big time-savers is TypePilot which I use to coordinate common email replies. I can piece together replies to almost any question using a variety of clips. I also use ClipMate for expanding my clipboard.
We generally use Writely for collaborative documents like newsletters, this lets all of our staff from tech support to sales contribute content on a regular basis.
I use one of our scripts called FutureRSS to pre-publish RSS feeds, I can spend a few hours creating knowledgebase or blog entries and the script gradually releases the items as their dates pass.
I have also gotten much better at time management than I use to be, I have lists everywhere, and I make myself do the tedious items, prior to the fun things. Somehow it works and I have been able to increase my productivity.
What are your most commonly visited websites and why?
I think right now FeedForAll is our most popular website right now. I think this is because we have made a conscious effort to provide real quality content. We provide free scripts and tools that have helped with our ranking and boosted our traffic.
As much as many would like to ‘game’ the search engines, at the end of the day nothing beats good solid quality content for bringing web traffic.
What would be your top three tips for the software developer selling their product/s online?
1) Monitor and maximize your conversion. You can have all the traffic in the world but if it is not converting it is of little use.
2) Target, target, target. Cater your message to target a specific audience, the more targeted your message and audience the more likely they will be to purchase.
3) Listen to your customers. Find out how they are using your software, ask what features they value. Consider implementing feature requests that your customers want. Your customers are treasure troves of information, you just need to ask and listen.
What would you say are the three most commonly made mistakes by software companies?
1) Feature creep! A lot of software developers are perfectionists and they hold off releasing software because they want to implement everything all at once. As Sue Pichotta says, “sometimes good is good enough”. Release it and then listen to what your users want.
2) Copying. While it is possible to be successful when copying a concept, you have a far better chance of being successful if you do something new or different. Strive to do something new, market in a different way, be different and tell your customers how or why you are different.
3) Minimizing Marketing. So many developers have great applications and do not realize the value of marketing. While having a great application is important to succeed, in order for you succeed potential customers need to know about your software, and this will only happen if you market. Effort needs to be put into marketing, if its not an area that you excel at outsource, but you must invest either time or money in marketing in order to succeed.