Daniel Shefer writes "If you want to make money by selling your software, it has to be marketed, promoted and then sold to the customer. Doing this is not as easy as it may sound. The Product Marketing Handbook, 4th Edition details the ins and outs of the aspects of software product marketing needed to make this happen." According to Shefer, "this is a great book if you want to market your product and get it sold"; read on for the rest of his review. Even if your software is free (as in speech, or as in beer), this book may offer insights in persuading people to try it out.
Rick Chapman is also the author of In Search of Stupidity: Over Twenty Years of High-Tech Marketing Disasters (previously reviewed on Slashdot.) He is also the publisher and editor of Soft*Letter and the Software Success Newsletter. The Handbook presents today's best practices based on Chapman's extensive experience, and includes up-to-date information on everything from advertising to OEM agreements, pricing to visual identity.
The book offers practical insights into vexing product marketing-problems. Throughout the book, Chapman gives relevant, down-to-earth descriptions of how to (and how not to) plan and deliver product-marketing efforts. There are case studies from every aspect of the high-tech industry, as well as detailed lists of dos and don'ts.
This is a great, safe place to learn about marketing, distributing and selling software before putting your own time and money at risk; the Handbook includes comprehensive checklists to help manage the product-marketing process. (These lists are also provided on a CD that accompanies the book.)
The text starts with an overview of some changes the software market has seen since the book's first edition. Chapman focuses on one of the most significant changes since then and discusses the rise of open source computing and Linux. He then continues to the book's raison d'être with a brief discussion of why software companies fail.
The first chapter covers market research. Before spending resources on writing code, it is always best to know if there is a real need for the product, and what other companies are up to in the intended market space. The chapter starts with an overview of several research techniques such as conjoint analysis, focus groups and competitive intelligence.
The next chapter discusses some of the hardest issues in marketing software: positioning, pricing and naming. A great example, the OS/2 debacle is a classic study in how not to name or position a product.
These chapters detail how to position a product, how to brand it, and how to price it so both you and your sales channels can make money off of it.
Chapter 3 discusses channel distribution. Channels are the organizations that move a product to the customer. First, you have to decide if you will provide the product as an ASP or shrink wrapped. In the latter case, selling the software requires a logistics backbone that small independent software vendors (ISVs) may not be able to afford. While some software packages can be successfully sold using online channels exclusively, these are the exceptions. Other ISVs have to utilize distributors, VARs, store chains and catalogs to move their products. Getting these channels to distribute the product is not as easy as sending them a copy and expecting them to "see the light." It takes a good understanding of the channels' business models and capabilities (as well as hard work on your part) to get to the point where a customer sees your product in a CompUSA or a printed catalog. Channels have to be located, contacted, convinced, trained and constantly supported to make this happen. This chapter also covers OEM and international distribution issues.
The next chapters discuss collateral advertising (brochures, white papers etc.), PR, advertising and sales promotions respectively. While none of these are rocket science, getting them wrong is a costly proposition. In addition to the effort involved and their cost, there are legal implications as well. For example, not properly estimating the return rate of a rebate coupon or making an inaccurate claim in a piece of collateral can land a company in hot water. Most ISVs outsource these activities to experts, but even doing that successfully requires at least a general understanding of these topics.
Chapter 8 discusses direct marketing. Some of the topics covered in this chapter are direct mailings, infomercials, telemarketing, mailing lists and fulfillment.
Chapter 9 covers software bundling. Bundling is where companies offer two or more products as a bundle. You're almostly certainly familiar with this from the way companies like Amazon offer two related products for a slightly better price then their combined prices. How and why to bundle are explained in this chapter.
Chapter 10 discusses the topics Internet marketing. In theory, the easiest way to market a product these days is over the web. One creates a website, submits it to Google and Overture (Yahoo!), and presto, there are visitors who buy the product. It's not so simple,though: The problem is luring potential customers to the website, keeping them there, and leading them to purchase the product. This chapter covers designing and optimizing websites as well as managing discussion groups, list servers and online ad campaigns. Another important topic is search engine optimization (in simple English, getting your website to the top of the Google and Overture Results pages). The text includes many dos and don'ts on how this is done.
Chapter 11 discusses trade shows. I don't think highly of tradeshows (see the rightful demise of Comdex) but if you decide to go down this road, here's how to do it properly.
Chapter 12 discusses sales methodologies and strategies. It opens with the trick question that most people get wrong: What is the number one reason that software companies fail? The correct answer, of course, is "not enough sales."
There are inherent reasons that you are a developer writing code or a sales rep doing sales. There are the basic character traits that make each of you good at what you do. I'm not saying that as a developer you can't sell. You may be able to -- but probably not as well as a seasoned sales rep. As with other issues, you will need to understand the dynamics of the sales process so you can create a product that makes it easier to sell. This chapter will introduce you to basic concepts such as the pipeline, prospecting and, the software selling cycle. It will also take you through the multiple steps of complex sales cycles which are a painful part of selling large systems. But, as bank-robber Willie Sutton supposedly said, that's where the money is. No less important is the discussion of negotiation and presentation techniques.
The last chapter in the book gives a brief overview of product management and the processes involved. While relevant and accurate, I would defer to other texts on the subject for a more thorough discussion of product management. See, for instance, Software Product Management Essentials by Alyssa S. Dver, or The Product Manager's Handbook by Linda Gorchels.
The book includes three appendices: A product marketing cost matrix, a product marketing resource directory and a product marketing timeline, and ends with a glossary and index. Attached to the book is a CD which includes all the checklists that are dispersed throughout the book as well as several sample files.The Handbook's depth and breadth as well as the author's experience make it the best book on product marketing I've encountered.
Reviewer Daniel Shefer is a Software Product Management expert and has written numerous articles on this topic. The Product Marketing Handbook, 4th Edition is available only through the author's website. For more about product marketing see: www.ProductMarketing. com.