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Oct 02, 2001
Best Practice

6 Best eMarketing Practices for Software Product Launch Campaigns

SUMMARY: Are you launching a software product? When we heard that expert Merrill R. (Rick) Chapman is speaking on that topic at today's Software Marketing Conference in San Francisco, we called him on his cell phone to get emarketing tips for everyone who can't make it to the show.

Get Chapman's advice on swapping email lists with partners, and the most important elements to test in an email campaign for a software product plus an example of really lame software site copywriting.
Chapman, President of Aegis Resources, has been marketing and consulting for software firms since 1978. His clients have included IBM, Novell, Hewlett-Packard, Ashton-Tate and dozens more. Plus, he's the best-selling author of "The Product Marketing Handbook for Software" and its two companion workbooks.

1. Use Email as Your Primary Launch Marketing Tool

According to Chapman, over the past three years email marketing has taken over from direct mail marketing to dominate the software launch campaign budgets and efforts. He says, "Retail has totally abandoned direct mail. Enterprise sales sometimes back up electronic marketing campaigns with a very targeted direct mail campaign -- often expensive dimensional pieces to break through the clutter."

2. Swap Email Lists to Extend Beyond Your House File

Typical software launch email response rates vary between 3-9% to the best lists. But there still aren’t enough truly targeted lists on the market to fill need, and house lists will always outperform rentals.

That's why Chapman says, "If you're a company building a customer database, it's one of your greatest assets." He tells all his clients to make sure they not only ask their own customers and site visitors to opt-in to their list, but also to add an extra check box asking for permission to send opt-ins information about related third party services they might be interested in. (Note: in the US you can pre-check that box, but in Canada and Europe leave the box unchecked to comply with emerging data gathering regulations.)

Surprisingly up to 90% of your opt-ins will also check the second box -- the number gets higher the more targeted your own site and product is. Chapman notes that prospects in very tight B-to-B niches tend to see the offer as a benefit rather than junk mail.

Once you've gathered as few as 500 opt-in names for your exchange list, go ahead and contact complimentary companies that also serve your niche to see if they'd like to swap. Double check that these companies also asked for permission to send third party promotional email BEFORE you agree to the exchange. (Yes, some marketers, who are either duplicitous or just plain ignorant, will try to trade non-opt-in names with you -- those lists perform poorly and you run the risk of appearing to be a spammer.)

You won't actually ever receive your partner's list (and you should certainly never hand over your list.) Instead, you will both agree to send out emailed messages on behalf of one another. The message should be obviously from the company that originally gathered the name. So it might read, "Dear XYZ Customer, We thought you'd like to know about a new product from ABC."

3. Use Co-Registration to Build Your House File

In addition to swapping email list usage, you can also swap opt-in check boxes with complimentary companies' Web sites. This is called swapping co-registration. Your partner simply adds a check box with a free offer from you to their order form or any other online form, and you do the same for them. Your offer can be a newsletter, a free white paper, a discount coupon … whatever you've got that can be emailed. Then webmasters at both companies send each other their respective leads.

(Note: When you start co-registration, be sure to adjust your site's privacy policy wording to accommodate it.)

4. Test Multiple Email Creatives & Offers Prior to Major Launch

Don't by any means, Chapman cautions, just roll out a giant email marketing campaign for your launch without testing it first. He recommends you test six-seven different email subject lines. He says, "The subject line can make as much as a 100% difference - I have personal experience of that!"

Subject lines should never be longer than 40 characters. On the other hand, your message copy might work better at a longer length than you think. Chapman says, "For enterprise sales, get to the point quickly, and then you can give five-10 additional paragraphs, as long as it's real information and not marketing fluff. Your points must be cleanly written and use bullets extensively." If you can get a quote from an expert in the field -- such as a respected book author -- definitely add that in as well. This longer copy pre-qualifies leads and intrigues them before they get to your click through page.

5. Consider Experimenting With Telemarketing Backup

Chapman says he's noticed a trend of software marketers who are testing combining telemarketing with their email marketing campaigns for added impact. The nice thing is, this telemarketing doesn’t depend on the prospect picking up their phone. In fact, it works just as well when your reps reach voicemail as when they reach live humans. Your message would run something like this, "Hi this is Rick Chapman and I'm sending you an email about this subject. Looking forward to your response."

Naturally you'll need a great list -- most email lists don't include phone numbers -- and a great telemarketing team who can crank out the calls and not get flustered when the occasional live human answers.

6. Before Everything Else -- Get Your Positioning Figured Out

Chapman says software marketers often get so swept up into planning and conducting launch campaigns that they forget to take the single most critical step: getting positioning statements ironed out beforehand. He says he can always tell when this step is forgotten because the resulting copywriting is so confusing.

Pity the poor marketer at because today Chapman intends to show his audience their Web site as a demonstration of marketing copy that was written BEFORE anybody figured out positioning. He explains, "I should know within a paragraph what your company does, and within two how it's positioned. On this Web site after reading five paragraphs of dense text I'm still not clear on what it is this company does!"

According to Chapman, you'll need to define three elements before writing any email, Web site, packaging, PR, or collateral marketing copy:

a. What exactly does your product do?
b. What class of product are you within your category? (i.e. high end, economy, etc.)
c. What specific features and benefits support the two points above?
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