Small consultancy - first .NET software product out. Advice on release, marketing and selling?


3

About a year ago I set up a Ltd company to provide IT/Software consultancy to various firms in and around London, UK. This has been going very well and I just completed my first full years accounts with a nice profit. Recently I have had the desire to build some products and sell these as a side income. I am thinking of targeting small software components (C#, C++) for the scientific, medical and financial industries, as these are my main areas of expertise.

Product My first product is a high performance WPF/Silverlight chart control, which has a demo on my website. I've got it this far but I am struggling with how to get it over the finish line. After all, I've not done this before.

The product is unique in that it is the only WPF/Silverlight (soon Windows phone 7) chart control that can handle such high volumes of data. The performance demo on that site shows it can render 100,000 points at a high frame rate. Competitors struggle at a few thousand. The intended audience is the niche market of scientific, medical and trading software that requires high performance, low-frills charting.

Ecommerce With regard to sales, I have approached a third party eCommerce site, FastSpring, and set up an account with them to handle transactions. they seem pretty good and provide credit card, paypal, purchase order integration in multiple languages and currencies for an 8% per sale fee (no setup or recurring fees). This seems reasonable to me since I expect low volumes but high 1x sale cost and don't wish to develop my own store.

I have also approached ComponentSource however their fee is astronomical (40% + $500 setup + $100/month) and I am unsure of the value they are going to add, since they want you to pay for advertising and marketing on top.

Pricing I have researched the pricing of competitors (these are in the range $399 USD to $3000 USD) and wish to place myself around the 25th percentile at £500GBP or $750 USD.

Licensing I intend to have two licenses available for the product. The first will be a Linkware license, allowing it to be used in not-for-profit applications. it will have a small watermark button (visible on the demo ) which links back to my site.

The second license will be a commercial re-distributable license where the customer pays per developer using the product but is free to redistribute royalty free without a link / watermark.

The latter I may protect with serial key / unlock on the end-user PC.

Marketing With regard to marketing, so far I've done nothing except for to create LinkedIn accounts for the company, for myself and hook up google analytics so I can see the traffic. I've posted on a few forum Q&A about high performance charts. I am getting on average 10 unique visitors per day (don't laugh ;) who tend to look through around 6 pages. I have had a few contacts via email asking about this product but not much.

This area I could really appreciate some advice in. I am not a big budget shop but could allocate a small amount of cash for promoting this product. I would like to grow organically rather than go for the big bazooka so any marketing that keeps costs down is a bonus.

Releasing I've never released a piece of my own software and I am an ultra perfectionist. I am aiming to release end Jan or mid Feb and so far on target, but have lots of small tasks to complete such as ecommerce setup and licensing of the product.

What I intend to do is have an MSI downloadable from my site with Trial (linkware) version, commercial version is available after processing an order through fastspring.

Conclusion So, in conclusion, I would appreciate some advice or encouragement really. Sorry for being a sop ;-)

  • How many of you have done this before? How has it worked out?
  • Can you see any flaws in my gameplan or is there anything that I've
    missed?
  • How would you approach marketing in order to get traffic up and have
    a decent ratio of conversions?
  • How would you approach tech support and release updates given that
    this is a small operation?
  • Last question is technical - do you know of any licensing packages to
    assist with licensing a .NET assembly?

Many thanks,

Marketing Sales Software Ecommerce

asked Jan 2 '12 at 06:41
Blank
Top agency to build award-winning mobile apps: Utility NYC

1 Answer


4

Congratulations on building your first product. Unfortunately, this is where the good things end.

The market doesn't care what you think of pricing, unique features, or how your distribution channels are set up. The market cares about ROI, solutions to urgent needs, and being able to procure those solutions without any troubles.

What you need to do is talk to potential customers and find out:

  • whether they actually have such a problem as you are trying to solve
  • how vital the problem is to their business operations
  • how they buy software
  • how they deploy software
  • how they train employees on new software

Without this information, any advice will be highly generic & impractical. We can't suggest the appropriate distribution systems, licensing options, or marketing channels because we just don't know how your target customers operate.

answered Jan 2 '12 at 07:22
Blank
Dnbrv
1,963 points
  • Talking to customers is tricky for this type of work. In my own experience as a software consultant I have often needed this component hence decided to build it. For me the investment is low (mainly time, around 3 months of evenings & weekends) hence any payoff will be worthwhile. As you say the good things end. I will surely learn a lot in the coming months about really what drives a software business and learn some hard lessons. I know competitor products sell, and sell well. To talk to customers I really need to get the product out there at least on a beta or trial basis to get feedback. – Andrew Burnett Thompson 8 years ago
  • You don't need to have a product in the market in order to talk to customers because you don't know who your customer & user are exactly (who will paying the bill & who'll be using the software). In order to find that out, you need to approach potential customers with a request for research, "Hi, I'm so-and-so and I'm researching something that I believe is a major business problem in the industry. Can you spend 15/20/30/60 minutes discussing it with me?" At the end of the interview, ask for referrals. – Dnbrv 8 years ago
  • wise, I'll add market research to this and future endevours – Andrew Burnett Thompson 8 years ago
  • I'm thinking of creating a new question - Advice on market research for small startups :-) Thanks for the info as its been helpful – Andrew Burnett Thompson 8 years ago

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