OnStartups

Making Money With Software: Usability vs. Buyability

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Many software startups have gotten religion when it comes to creating “usable” software.  This is for good reason.  If your software is usable, people will use it, tell their friends, family and hair stylist about it and you end up making more money.  Life is good.  If it’s not usable, it makes people want to hit their computer or hurt small animals.  No referral sales.  Life is bad.
 
So, create usable software.  That’s an obviously right thing to do.
 
But, in addition to worrying about the usability of your product, you should spend some amount of time thinking about its buyability.  Buyability is exactly what you think it means (I’m a simple-minded guy).  It measures the degree to which you’ve made it easy for customers to give you money in exchange for your product.
 
Most of the things that make software buyable are blindingly obvious.  But, regular readers of this blog know that obviousness is not a deterrent for my writing – I have an uncanny knack for the obvious.
 
So, here goes:
 
Things That Increase The Buyability Of Your Software
 
  1. Transparent Pricing:  I’ve talked about this one before, but it is critical that you provide clear pricing about your product right on your website – somewhere prominent.  Maybe even a page called “Pricing” that has a link from the home page.  The reason for this is really, really simple.  If a customer has to call you just to find out what your product costs, then they can’t buy it right now, can they?  So, without clear pricing, you can’t sell easily.  There are probably some good reasons why certain companies don’t want to put pricing on their website (for example, the solution is custom, the price tag is embarrassingly high, etc.).  In this case, your software is likely not very buyable, and this article is probably not for you.

 
  1. Immediacy:  Face it, we live in a “now” world.  Even if you’re selling astronomical software for star-gazers in Australia and its high noon in Australia and there’s no possible way the user can use the software immediately – your customer still wants it NOW.   If a potential customer signs on, they expect to be able to purchase the software and use it.  Now.  If you provide a trial version, then the trial should work immediately.  If they pay for the software, they want to use it immediately.  Nobody wants to see a:  “Thank you for your order.  We will process it as soon as possible and send you your unlock code.”  If you take an order, then fulfill the order.  Period.  If the software can somehow “call the mothership” and activate itself, even better.  Otherwise, the unlock code (or registration code, or activation code, or whatever the cool kids are calling it these days) should be BOTH shown on the order confirmation page and emailed to the customer.  The issue with just emailing it is that about 14.2% of the time the customer doesn’t get the code.  The problem could be your mail server.  Could be a spam filter.  There are few things more frustrating than having just paid you for your software and then waiting for the “magical” email that will unlock the immeasurable happiness and joy that your software will bring to my life.  I don’t want to wait.

 
  1. Minimal Steps:  You need to figure out what the chances are that the customer that’s about to place an order has a high likelihood of purchasing something from you again.  If the chances are low (possibly because you have a single product), then don’t make them “register” for your site.  Don’t make them add an item to a shopping cart and then “check out”.  There should be two steps to purchase:  User clicks on the “Buy Now” button (even better, call it “Use Now” or “Enjoy Now”).  Form shows up with credit card info, user enters stuff clicks a button and magic happens (money trades hands).  Congratulations, your visitor is now a customer.  Once that is done, feel free to provide a link asking the customer if they want to register so they can receive information about updates, participate in your support forums, etc.

 
  1. Payment Methods:  In most cases, you’re probably going to use credit card processing for your orders.  If it makes sense for your customers, and you also want to provide the PayPal option, that’s great too.  Also, it may suck that Amex charges higher fees than other cards.  Get over it.  Some customers want to use Amex for no other reason that they like their rewards program.  You should be making enough margin on your software that you’d still rather have an Amex sale than no sale at all.  So, get over the higher fees.  Besides, many companies exclusively use Amex for their corporate cards, and it’s not likely you want to miss these sales.

 
If you were waiting for something particularly insightful or non-obvious, you’re going to have to wait for the next article.  This one has no such thing. 
 
Summary Of My Point:  If you spent half as much time on making your product more buyable as you do making it more usable, chances are you’d make more money.