So, you’ve come up with an amazing piece of software – a stellar app, an app that has unique features, amazing potential, and maybe (just maybe) the power to change the world. It’s bug-free, easy-to-install, and user-friendly. It’s like eye-candy for the coded soul. But now you’ve run into a problem. Your app is great, but no one knows about it! A few of your friends downloaded it, and your Aunt Alice in Southwest Australia, but that’s it. No one else. Not a soul.

What you need to do next is market your app. But you’re a developer, right? You know how to develop. What in the world do you know about marketing?

You might know nothing now, but that’s going to have to change if you want people to discover your software. Because marketing is the secret to getting your software out there. And just because it’s a nine-letter word, doesn’t mean you should be intimidated by it.

Back in the Day

In the olden days, marketing was pretty simple. You placed an ad in a newspaper or magazine. You sponsored a local race. You put up billboards and handed out flyers. If you had the means, you bought a sports stadium and named it after your company.

But in today’s saturated world of software development (there are more than 1 million apps on the Chrome Web Store), waiting for people to find your app and start using it could take a very long time. In fact, it might actually never happen.

If you want your app to get noticed, you’re going to have to do a bit more than list it on the Chrome Web Store. So roll up your cargo pants, take off your flip flops, and get ready to dip your toes in the sea of software marketing.

The Scoop on Software Marketing

There are many methods of software marketing today, and they can generally be grouped into two categories: inbound marketing and outbound marketing. If you’ve never heard of these terms before, don’t sweat it. Just because you’re not familiar with the terms doesn’t mean you’re not familiar with the techniques. You’ve definitely been exposed to forms of both inbound and outbound marketing, even if you didn’t know. (Hint, hint – you’re being exposed to one right now!)

Inbound Marketing – The IN Way to Market

Let’s start with inbound marketing, the trendier form of online marketing today. The term inbound marketing was coined by Brian Halligan of HubSpot less than a decade ago. Since then, it has turned the world of software marketing (and marketing in general) on its head.

Inbound marketing is marketing that aims at drawing customers to a product in a natural way by appealing to their genuine interests. Inbound marketing efforts are meant to be interesting and value-rich. They should offer something of real benefit, knowledge, or insight, so that people become fans, admirers, and eventually, paying customers.

Primary forms of inbound marketing include podcasts, tutorials, eBooks, newsletters, social media posts, and blogs (yes, even this one!). The goal? To bring in customers that are attracted by useful information.

Outbound Marketing – I shot an arrow in the air…

Outbound marketing is the term used to describe marketing activities that are not inbound marketing. These activities are the older, more traditional elements of the marketing equation.

Outbound marketing, albeit without the fancy name, has been around since the first vacuum ad appeared in a newspaper, the first Lost Cat poster appeared on a tree, the first pizza flyer was delivered to an empty apartment. It’s a promotional arrow shot into the air. Where it falls, the marketer knows not where.
In the world of software marketing, outbound marketing efforts include mass emails, online banners, text ads, and more.

They are marketing efforts delivered to potential customers who have not asked for them, and may not have any interest in them. From a marketer’s perspective, these potential clients have hopefully been targeted in some manner. Perhaps they signed up for a mailing list because they were really interested in taking a course on deep-sea diving. Maybe they are seeing ads for a trombone case because they actually have a trombone. Hopefully, but not necessarily.

On Your Mark, Get Set, Market!

Most software marketing campaigns include both inbound and outbound marketing techniques. The combination of techniques that works best for you is something you’ll have to figure out, probably through trial and error. As for how you can get started, Mike Taber and Rob Walling from Startups for the Rest of Us suggest starting every software marketing campaign with a list. Write down your ideas. Check them twice. Then choose a few and get started.