Marketing a Web Application
I'll be straight. This isn't a how-to on marketing your application. I don't have any answers. What I do hope to do is tell you what I am doing and what I plan to do. Over time, we can revisit this topic and see what worked and what didn't.
First off, is the domain registration and setting up the web site that describes what the project is all about. Back in September, I registered gaincms.com and left it parked. Who knows how far the project will go but I got to have the domain name. It's become less and less of an issue but I still think a .com is important (as opposed to .net, .biz, .org, etc). At least, I feel it's important for a global company, which is what I'm aiming for.
A number of open-source projects host their sites through SourceForge. It's important, however, to have a site seperate from SourceForge to really demonstrate what your application is all about. As great as SourceForge is, it's got an interface that is confusing.
Anyways, today I created a home page. It isn't much yet but it will be. You can expect to see more info and more design over time. (I'm hoping before Christmas!)
For any product, there should be certain information that should be available: pricing, screenshots, features, and a demo. What amazes me are companies who fail to present any of that and instead offer generic marketing hype with no real substance. How much harder do they have to work to make a sale?
Tony suddenly has three ways (and thus three approaches) to generate interest in his product. Likewise, with GainCMS, I hope to accomplish the same.
On here, my personal blog, I can talk about various topics that I run into day-to-day and, of course, talk about my ideas behind building a web application. I certainly have more free reign.
With the corporate site, I can present general information that's more polished. Not that it has to be marketing hype. Quite the opposite. The site should still be friendly and approachable but it presents a more structured view of what the product or project is about.
Finally, with the corporate blog, the information that is provided is developed over time (like any other blog) but is geared more towards ideas related to the project. Things like project status, application updates, or application ideas could be presented. It's probably best to stay away from the more generic personal banter on the corporate blog.
Beta programs were originally meant for one clear goal: fix any bugs before the product went into full release. It was quickly discovered to be a fantastic way of generating initial hype and word-of-mouth interest in a product. Now, it seems to be more popular to release something in beta than it is to release a full version of your product. (*cough*Gmail*cough*)
Once I reach a stage where I can beta-test the program, I will be offering a beta program. It will probably be more limited as I will be really focusing on bug-fixing before the final launch.
Referral and Reseller Programs
Referral and reseller programs can be a phenomenal way of attracting new customers. Essentially, you let somebody else do the hard work of getting the sale for you and reward them for their efforts.
With a referral (aka affiliate) program, a user creates a link to your site along with a bit of code that identifies that person. You can then reward that person per clickthrough and/or through each sale that is generated as a result of that clickthrough.
With a reseller program, the end customer does the transaction through the reseller. I will likely extend this such that a reseller will be able to attach their own branding to the GainCMS application. By doing this, the user does all the sales and support interaction through the reseller. I'll only have to deal with the reseller to resolve any issues they may be having. I get the advantage of only having a single point of contact for what could be dozens or hundreds (or thousands? I could only be so lucky!) of customers.
With any marketing program, it's always important to set goals. That way, you'll know if you've been successful.
My goal is to receive 10 e-mails from the GainCMS site by the end of January. I based this goal on the feedback and interest I've received so far. We'll have to wait and see how it goes!
Got any ideas?
One of the best ideas I've heard so far has been this great comment from Gary. Offer a limited number of "shares" to generate income and interest for the development of the project. While I haven't decided whether to offer something similar, I still think it's a fantastic idea. What ideas do you have to market a web application?