Tuesday, June 19, 2007

On Development: So You Want to Run a Software Promo?

On Software DesignSo you've got a cool software product for the Mac, and now you're looking for ways to either get exposure, or boost your sales. Well you could send out press releases, and send your news to Mac news sites, but this can be very hit or miss for a lot of us, especially when starting out. What do you do now?

Well lucky for you there are a bunch of options that you can take advantage of whether your app is new or already established. I've used 3 of them so far, MacZOT!, MacUpdate Promo and MacSanta, and this is information on what I've found.

Let me just say up front that all 3 work. They will all give you a bunch of discounted sales and a bunch of new users. Let me also say that I used all 3 in "discount" rather than "giveaway" capacities. I'm not really interested in giving away product so much, I don't really see that as a viable business model, but I like to run discounts of various percentages from time to time. I think sales are a good way to sell to the "window shopper" who may not be looking for your product necessarily, but with a discounted price, will pony up and take a chance. It's also a great way to grab those people who intend to buy your product, but never seem to get around to it. A nice discount is a great incentive.


I first tried MacZOT! not too long after it launched. MacZOT! runs a new deal every day. Sometimes the deals are discounted, but other times they are "mystery" packages that you buy without knowing what you are getting. The mystery bundles I think net you more users, but my understanding is that you don't make a lot per sale. I listed MacGourmet there as part of a one-day deal for $17 (about 30% off), and sales were decent, not gangbusters, but OK for a single day certainly.

Overall the experience was positive. Set up was probably the most difficult for them. At least at the time, they didn't have a fixed format you could drop your info into, so I think they grabbed (what used to be god-ugly Dreamweaver generated) html code directly from my site. The MacZOT! cut was reasonable (I don't recall exactly what it was at the time) and I was paid in a timely manner via a PayPal. Instead of distributing serial numbers, we essentially sold 100% off coupons to be used in the Advenio store. This worked well. It added people directly to my database, and serial number delivery took no special work.

MacUpdate Promo

Following on the heels of macZot! is MacUpdate Promo. Just like macZot! they run a new deal every day. I listed SQLGrinder there recently for about 50% off ($29.95 vs. $59). MacUpdate's cut was 40%, which is high, but you can get a lot of sales using them. A lot of people go there every day, and MacMinute currently covers each daily deal.

Setup was totally painless. Because SQLGrinder is already listed on the site, they already have all of the information on the product. The one glitch I had with them (because, I think, of some sort of vague communication) was with the distribution of serial numbers. I thought that I'd give them a chunk of pre-generated serial numbers at the end of the day, and they'd send them out, but actually you are required to distribute them. Both generating them and distributing them turned out to be a pain for me, because of the system I have in use (eSellerate), but your mileage will vary. With 3 options, I think this part of the promo will be a lot less trouble for some people.

Overall, for what I consider a "niche" product (Mac database developers), sales were quite good. Good enough so that I'd consider posting MacGourmet there at some point, if I could find an easy way around the serial number distribution bottleneck I mentioned. Finally, one drawback is that it took a week to get paid via a PayPal. Why that is, I'm not sure, but that seems to me to take longer than it needs to. Just something to be aware of.


While the two previous did work for me, MacSanta worked the best by far. Major props have to go out to Paul Kafasis of Rogue Amoeba for setting this up around Christmas last year. MacSanta was easy to do, Paul took care of the placement, and everything used a single 25% off coupon code (MACSANTA), redeemable though each developer's store. Because of this, developers got to keep the greatest amount from the promotion, rather than having to fork over a substantial percentage to a third party. Even now, the MacSanta page stands as a great index for some awesome Mac software. In addition, I thought it did a great job of promoting community spirit among Mac developers of all sizes. Please Paul, run MacSanta again this year, it was great.

So there you go, my personal experiences running promotions using some of those available to indie Mac developers. I've used all three of them, all 3 were positive for me, and all 3 are promotional vehicles I'd consider using again.

As one final note, it is also possible to run your own promotion. I ran one with a discount for the MacGourmet 1 year anniversary, and sold about as many copies as I did during the MacZOT! promotion. The problem with this of course is that unless you can get some news sites to cover the promotion, no one will know about it. 2 out of the 3 promotions I mentioned already have built-in audiences, which makes your job half as difficult.

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At June 19, 2007 10:52 PM, Anonymous Scott said...

Without asking for specifics, can you provide some % reflecting increase in sales volumes. Did you double, triple your sales, or increase by 30%?

At June 19, 2007 11:18 PM, Anonymous Jon W. said...

Promos work very well on me (too well, my wife might say). I'm one of those window shoppers for whom a 50% discount would have been compelling, but I don't visit MacUpdate every day.

MacSanta was great. I demoed a lot of software, and it was hard to decide what to get. With all of those nice product logos, it might be fun for someone to throw together a memory / concentration game.

At June 19, 2007 11:37 PM, Blogger Michael said...

@scott: I'll try and come up with rough numbers, I hadn't really thought about sales in those terms. I can say off the top of my head that both of the day sales were easily 4-6 times the normal average daily sales volume, though at 40-50% off minus the macZOT!/MU Promo cut of course. Still, you make out.

I recently started doing a better job tracking my sales numbers, but I wish I had numbers on how sales might have increased from the additional exposure as well. This is one thing also potentially gained by running promos, you might make full-priced sales later from people who missed the deal, but liked the product.


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