Marketing of software products

Posted by Joerg G. Beyer on April 10, 2012

Did you ever notice that big software companies don't promote their products by showing screen shots?

We have checked many traditional software companies and their marketing efforts to promote software products. I don't tell you which companies but you would find all the usual suspects on the list.

We were really astonished when we figured out that the description of functionality is much more important than usability. In contradiction to this you can find also the other extreme - companies just market the user interface rather than functionality.

Functionality drives Marketing

We see that functionality drives marketing. The less functionality you can offer you focus on user interface design and how easy to use your application is. And by the way, it is available on the iPhone as well. The other way round is when your functionality exceeds a certain limit which is difficult to explain you focus on benefit and the explanation of major concepts, sometimes supported by a single screen shot.

This seem to be a dilemma a software company offering their own products always has. It is difficult to find the right level between functionality and user interface design.

Value and joy must come together. Value needs functionality and benefits.

Our proposal is to focus on functionality that is necessary for the user achieving benefits. This means that software provider needs a method to prioritize functionalities with a focus on user benefits. It is necessary to avoid featuritis. And, very often it is easy to implement what can be implemented rather than thinking first. Furthermore, if a product evolves over time and the legacy functionality is never checked against user value the product ends in an exhaustive functional list. This leads to a high number of functions but the value is not increasing.

In contrast to this, if the functional scope is rather thin users will find out very soon that the value is quite limited. Even if the user interface is designed in the best possible way.

Joy supports a positive user experience.

A well designed user interface is one important element for a positive user experience, but this effort is not enough. User experience incorporates an easy-to-use and intuitive user interface, guided by the software. The software should encapsulate any complexity from the user interface. A good example is Google. They could have built a really complicated form where the user could have many options to limit the search somehow - by language, by date, and so on. But they only offer one field and do an intelligent relevancy check in the background. After showing the result list the user gets the chance to limit all results any further by using a faceted search. Great solution, isn't it? No fancy user interface but a positive user experience.

Stay critical!

Sometimes you can find selected screen shots even for traditional ERP software products. Very often these are reporting or analytical screens. Assuming that these are already the "best" ones you could find, you should not be dazzled by these screens. Be always cautious if a product is marketed primarily by functions or by the user interface design. If you find good examples where a product combines value and joy in their marketing we would love to hear from you.

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