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14 Tips for Selling Software and Services Online

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | Feb. 15, 2013
Software--whether sold as a service (SaaS) or via CD or DVD--is a multibillion-dollar business, with new vendors and solutions popping up all the time. In a recent Market Trends forecast, Gartner predicted SaaS and cloud-based business application services alone would reach $32.2 billion in sales by 2016.

10. Include a phone number, in addition to an email address, on your Website. "By adding our phone number to our Website, we increased sales and not calls," says John Hurley, the cofounder of the business class file sharing service SmartFile. "Sure an email is easier to administer, but showing people you have a phone number gives potential customers a sense of comfort knowing that you are a real business."

11. Offer 24/7 customer support. "We will never talk to 99 percent of our customers, but letting them know they can contact us any time of day or night goes a long away in developing trust with your potential customers," says Hurley. "If you're not large enough to provide 24/7 support, consider hiring an outside firm to do it."

12. Market across channels. "Effective multi-channel marketing programs can accelerate adoption of digital services," states Singu Srinivas, partner, Waterstone Management Group, a strategic advisory firm.

"For example," Srinivas says, "Netflix has used a mix of marketing strategies--advertising (online, affiliate, TV/radio/print), co-op programs with content developers, consumer electronics partnerships and freemium/trial promotions--to grow its customer base. And over the past decade, Netflix has grown from approximately 850,000 subscribers to over 29 million streaming members, while gradually reducing its customer acquisition cost."

13. Search forums to find prospective customers. "There are a lot of popular, industry-specific forums on the Web," explains Ted Galdi, the cofounder of StadiumRoar activity management software. "To find ones in your industry, do a simple Google search for '[your type of industry] forums.' Then sign up for any forums that seem legitimate and widely read." (Membership is usually free, he says.)

Why search forums for prospective customers? "Forums are great because people looking to buy products often go there to ask questions. You can use the search box to locate prospects that have asked questions about your type of product," he says. "Type in phrases about your kind of offering, and see in the results who has asked questions about it. Respond back to people with advice on how to solve their problems, along with a link for them to check out your product. This technique is effective because of the following:

You are locating people who are looking to buy a product like yours, as opposed to dealing with marketing guess work

You are building trust by responding back to them with honest, personalized feedback."

14. Use metrics--and adjust your marketing accordingly. "When you're selling online software you cannot set your [marketing] campaigns and forget them," says Caroline Cummings, vice president of Marketing, Palo Alto Software.

"It's important to always be testing--headlines, images, videos, links, length of page, calls to action, colors, etc. We have weekly analytics meetings where we're constantly looking at what is performing well and what is not," Cummings says.

By regularly checking metrics, you know what's working and what's not and can adjust your campaigns and minimize losses.


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