I am a stay-at-home mom who managed to develop a piece of software for Windows desktop PCs, laptops and netbooks.
The theoretical market is HUGE but the traffic to my website, where I offer my software for download (after payment) is extremely low. I get about 5-15 purchases a month.
I tried Google AdWords, Facebook ads and LinkedIn ads. They all turned out to be costing more than what they brought in.
One may conclude that my problem is the product, but all feedback I received so far from my customers shows 100% satisfaction.
I know that the product is useful, but I also know that there are FREE alternatives.
I am now in a catch-22 situation where I don't have money to gamble on a huge campaign (yes, gamble : No marketeer could promise an outcome) but on the other hand it seems that the only way to get the word out is by pouring money into ads, etc.
Posting comments in blogs and forums is considered spam.
So what do I do?
Is there really no way of being an independent micro ISV?)
There are so many possibilities that it is hard to answer your question.
Without a lot more information it's hard to be specific. If you think all the items above are correct, start with free ways to spread your product message. (By the way, never work on advertising and promoting your product if your web site isn't designed to sell and your payment system isn't up to the task- it's just a waste of your effort.) Try writing news articles, blogging, or commenting on questions that directly relate to your product. Work on getting inbound links to your product. Spend a little on Facebook, actively managing your account once a week. Carefully analyze your conversions and keywords.
It's really hard to answer this without knowing what your product does...but I hope this helps:
1) I would suggest getting involved in blogs, forums and other social media. Not to spam/advertise your product, but to become a part of the conversation and add value to it. Once you're trusted as someone who is providing value, people will be much more likely to check out your product when the time is right. This takes time, but not money :)
2) You could start searching for places that people are actively complaining about the problem that your software solves. If I go on quora, or on here, or on twitter and say "I wish dealing with [keyword] was easier", I'd appreciate a response from someone whose software helped solve my problem. Use search.twitter.com and google alerts and probably some other great free keyword-alerting tools.
3) Look into affiliate agreements. You'll have to search for an affiliate marketplace that works with your niche, but this can be a great way to get a lot of eyeballs on your product without spending much up-front money. Just remember to make it worth the affiliate's time by offering a competitive percentage and simple terms.
Summary: Get your hustle on, and keep it on!
Adwords and Facebook tend not to be great for targeting niche software updates that aren't high price. I would suggest trying the programming section of reddit.com if the software is developer oriented. There's also stumbleupon advertising where you can target specific users, like software, internet tools, etc.
A clue to what your software does would help.
I've been in your spot several times. It's a real challenge, but I think the best advice is to get yourself in a position to be in the game for the long haul.
Then, realize that you are going to have to OUTWORK and OUTLAST your competitors.
Then you need to work like crazy, and DO EVERYTHING THAT'S FREE and a some stuff that's cheap.
1) Constantly work to expand your network of family, friends and colleagues - optimize your social networking with LinkedIn and Facebook. Tell all your contacts what you are doing, then ask them all for their help and ask them to tell everyone they can. Thank them in advance and let them know how important this is to you. Do business related favors for others when you can to help them keep you in mind.
2) Do a little bit of Adwords and Facebook advertising - even if only $10 or $20 per month, and track the results. It helps you understand how your customers think, and the words they use to describe your product. Then use this wisdom to tweak the wording of your website to benefit your SEO.
3) Don't forget the traditional media like local newspapers, local TV stations. They're always looking for a new story. Even if you're not successful - yet!
4) Keep adding useful content onto your website like tips, tutorials, testimonials, competitive comparisons, etc...
5) Keep in contact with all your customers. Use things like Facebook, a blog, blind email lists, etc... Tell them when you have new features. Tell them why you built the product the way you did. Ask them for suggestions. If you keep the lines of communication open and you make a decent product, some customers will become advocates, and then the word of mouth marketing begins - and their is nothing better.
6) I'd say this is most important... Do something, anything, EVERY DAY to help your marketing.
If you're on a shoestring budget, try creating blog entries around the specific issues your product tries to solve. I have a friend who deals with very large web retail infrastructures, and he has some pretty specific expertise about data center-class web apps; he writes his own blog specifically about large-scale virtualization and other integration/optimization issues that those in his field would recognize. His blog pays for itself in the number of site visits it gets - and he's not selling anything.
Try showing your software's features in action, tailored to that consumer who's searching for "how do I uninstall/troubleshoot/whatever"
Also, It's hard but not impossible to compete with free. Have you considered examining how your software spreads? Is there a trial? etc.