Micro ISV The Book

I just finished quickly reading through the book "Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality" by Bob Walsh. Although there were many parts of the book that I skimmed and/or skipped over, I learned a bunch of things. So now I want to share some thoughts I took with me from the book. I plan to implement some of these ideas with my own software business.

Don't expect overnight success with your new ISV. But given enough time, you can potentially double your revenues every 18 months or so. The definition of an ISV includes the business being self-funded and small. You should talk with people in the market to gain perspective. And before developing a product, you should see if another company has solved the same problem you are planning to solve in a similar way. If so, there is no use proceeding with that technique.

Be ready for a lot of long hours to get your ISV up and running. And you should also get your significant other prepared for the long road ahead. The author believes that open source is not a good way to make money as an ISV. However to get sales you need to have a very pretty user interface. Build up paper prototypes to flush out the UI design. Use a big pad for this, and make lots and lot of notes.

Know ahead of time that customers take bugs very seriously. So get a lot of beta testers together to hammer on your app. To publicize your product, announce the app in forums, blog about it, and email other bloggers. Realize that your product encompasses many things such as your web site, blog, the graphics, and payment processing system. Above all make sure you have great icons.

Show happy people being happy on your web site. Display a lot of screen shots which are big but do not have huge file sizes. Use of templates is recommended to produce a professional looking web site. A good way to register domains is Go Daddy. Put key points in bold text on your web site. Emphasize links with two words per link which are surrounded by white space.

You should offer a 30 day free trial and 30 day money back guarantee. Lessen the steps in the purchasing process to increase the number of people who make it through. Paypal and 2Checkout are good payment processors. Get objective feedback about your site. Do not include a EULA that you copied from another company. Consult the EFF and Wikipedia for good ideas to generate your EULA.

Set up a new private email address to deal with business correspondence. Discussion boards can be a strategic advantage to your ISV if used correctly. Tucows and CNet (download.com) are popular places to upload your apps. Update your listings on these sites frequently to move them to the first page of the listings.

The Cable Guy

I scheduled a visit from my cable provider to install cable in another room of my house. They gave me a window of 8:00am to 11:00am. So I woke up extra early that day to make sure I got the phone call they make before they come out. And I also had to take the day off from work.

Things were looking good early on. I got a phone call at 9:00am asking whether I was going to be at home for the visit. I said yes. Then I waited, and waited, and waited. At 11:00am I still had not given up hope. In fact I have gotten to the point where I almost expect these guys to be late. A truck pulled up around 11:20am.

I started to get concerned when the cable guy was wandering around the neighborhood a bit. He was looking for the cable junction box. And things started looking worse when, after finally finding the junction box, the cable guy could not remove the cover on the box. Eventually he came in. I showed him where I wanted the cable. In fact, I pointed out that there was already a physical cable in the room. I went outside to show where that existing cable led to. The cable guy said he thought he know how to hook that cable up.

Then the cable guy asked me for a ladder. I have heard this story before. They cable guys do not come equipped with ladders. WTF? Don't you need a certain tool set to qualify as a cable guy in the first place. However I did not sweat this too much since I have a couple ladders myself. But something still did not feel right about me paying for a guy to come use my tools. Cable guy proceeded to hook up the cable to the room. I got a receipt from him and he took off. Before filing the receipt I took a closer look at it. Apparently my cable company had an "on time guarantee". If the cable guy does not show up within the scheduled window of time, I can either get a free install or a $20 credit.

Based on the days experience, there was no way I was going to schedule another install for the heck of it. So I called up the cable company and they gave me a $20 discount on my bill. Now there was a lot of pain from this cable service visit. However I was pleased that the company had a policy which penalized them and rewarded me when some agreed upon terms are not met.

P.S. Not all is well. My Internet service through the cable company broke down after the visit. And one of my e-mail addresses has been deleted by the cable company. Such is life.

Multiple Video Marketing

I was reading a forum about Google AdSense. One of the posts had a signature line with the poster's web page. So I visited it. It has some interesting ads on the page. I clicked through one of the ads to get to a marketing page. And I found it to be a very interesting technique to get users to sign up.

Now I am sure you have seen slick Internet marketing pages before. Lots of nice colors and professional looking text. Many times the owner comes out with a message for you, which is often communicated in a video. However this site was a little different. There were about 5 or 6 videos throughout the page. Each video told you a little more about the opportunity.

Normally I give the video a click, but then stop the video and leave the page. But the site I was viewing had a number of short and interesting videos. I was surprised that I found myself clicking each of the videos to see what the guy was going to say next. Now I did not sign up for anything on this site. But the message was heard at least. Yes it may be a gimmick. But in this case it worked. Currently I don't do any video on my web sites. But if I did, I would want to take this technique under consideration.

Learning From an Icon

I just finished reading the book "iCon, Steve Jobs, The Greatest Second Act in the History of Business". The part I really liked was the stories on the start of Apple Corporation. Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak are apparently brilliant people in their own way. Jobs is the marketing genius. And Woz is the consummate electronics hacker. Both these guys had jobs early on for good companies (Atari and Hewlett Packard). And they had a kickin idea for a product in the Apple I Computer. However they still had a lot of problems during start up.

For one thing, Jobs and Woz had problems financing their hardware production. Nobody seemed to be interested in them, at least not enough to fund them. They had trouble buying parts to put their computers together to resell. Now if these guys had it that hard, I am starting to fear that I may be in for a lot of pain in my own business. The other thing that strikes me is that even after Apple had encountered a lot of success, it seemed to be on the brink of doom after a string of unfortunate events.

I guess the bottom line is that running a successful business is hard, and it is even harder starting one up. Luckily I have never been one to run from a challenge due to the level of difficulty encountered. Next up I plan to read the book Micro ISV by Bob Walsh. In fact I already zoomed through the first chapter. So far so good.

Software Popularity

Now that it has been a couple months since I released a couple free applications, I thought I would do a little analysis on them. To tell the truth I have not closely tracked who was downloading which of my application. Instead I am relying on a popular download site which does track the downloads (and has all of my first couple applications).

Here are the metrics on my 3 applications from download.com:

(1) LindsayL, released 01/15/2008, downloaded 26 times
(2) ParisVu, released 01/23/2008, downloaded 72 times
(3) Britview, released 01/15/2008, downloaded 208 times

So the question I want to know is "Why did Britview get the most downloads?" All 3 applications were released around the same time. Each has very similar descriptions and screen shots. I decided to use download.com to analyze the market and competition for each of these applications. Here are the metrics from download.com:

(1) Lindsay Lohan, 9 other applications, top competitor has 13000 downloads
(2) Paris Hilton, 12 other applications, top competitor has 155000 downloads
(3) Britney Spears, 31 other applications, top competitor has 117000 downloads

Well it appears that Lindsay Lohan is not a popular software download topic. Judging by the sheer number of other apps, Britney may be the most popular topic for a software app. However another Paris Hilton application had mega-downloads.

At this point, I am willing to concede that topic popularity may have a great deal of influence over the number of downloads you get for your software. My next homework assignment is to study the Paris Hilton application which got numerous downloads, even though the topic does not seem to have a lot of competitors or downloads for my own application.

Until next time, peace.

Cost Per Click

I finally started earning some revenue from my AdEngage ads. However I was disappointed with an average cost per click of 4 cents. Actually this is the average profit per click that I make as an advertiser. It is truly dismal. However I have not had many clicks yet. So this may be an anomaly. Only time will tell.

My ADster ads earn me an average of 19 cents per click. This by itself is not a great rate. However I seem to make out due to the higher volume of clicks I get on my ADster ads. I cannot recall the exact details, but I think my Google AdSense click profit was even a little higher than ADster.

One thing is for sure. I have entirely gotten rid of my Bidvertiser network ads. I don't know what kind of cost per click those ads would have earned for me. But that was the problem. I wasn't getting any click revenue at all from Bidvertiser. Time to officially cancel my Bidvertiser account.

Out with Bidvertiser

I have completed the process of replacing all the Bidvertiser ads on my site with AdEngage ads. In the end, I made no money at all with Bidvertiser. Not sure if it was the placement of the ads. Or perhaps the ads were not targeted well enough. Whatever the reason, no revenue means no space on my site for you.

So far AdEngage has not provided me with any revenue either. But it is early in the game. I will give AdEngage some time to prove itself. The gold standard these ad networks need to live up to is ADster. I currently get click through on a daily basis for my ADster ads. Therefore I put their ads on the best locations of my web sites.

In the end, I might just put ADster ads on multiple locations of each of my web pages. I hope this will result in high gains from traffic that comes to my sites. I eagerly away my first check from ADster. At the current rate, it might be a pretty good payday.

Slow Week

This week was a slow week for ad click through on my web sites. The normal weak ad networks (Bidvertiser, AdBrite, and AdEngage) earned me nothing. But the thing that worried me a bit was that even the tried and true ADster was not earning me any money. I had thought maybe something had gone wrong.

Like all cycles, this slowdown ended. Good old ADster came through and showed me some revenue for yesterday. I am going to give the other ad networks a week or so to produce any tangible results. After that I am either going to find new networks, or go exclusively with ADster. If putting one set of ADster ads on my blogs make me good money, putting multiple ones on my sites should make me even more bank.

Denied Advertising

I was recently informed that some of my sites were denied by the AdEngage network. Apparently my Britney Spears Image Gallery did not have enough content. This is understandable. The site consists of one page with tons of images. There is a little text inserted to help contextual ad programs determine what is there. But I admit this site may be lite on verbiage.

Another message came from AdEngage stating that my Hannah Montana Letters blog did not have enough traffic. I found this strange. Currently I use Bidvertiser to count page impressions. It said I got 100 page impressions this week. So this may not be a massive audience. But AdEngage accepted my Software Maintenance blog which only got 150 page impressions this week. This seems like a random traffic requirement.

Hey. If AdEngage does not want to make money by putting ads on my site, I am fine with that. We shall see if they generate profits for me on the sites that they did accept. If not, then I say "next" to this advertiser.

In closing I thought I would share some feedback I got from AdBrite for some sites which did not meet their criteria. Both my Britney Spears Image Gallery and Chick Stories blog contained adult material in the eyes of AdBrite. I do not agree with this classification. However I appreciate that AdBrite moved those ad campaigns to their adult affiliate network. At least they have a plan to help me continue to make money, instead of outright rejecting me. We shall see how profitable AdBrite advertising is for me.

Bidvertiser versus AdEngage

I have been disappointed with my nonexistent Bidvertiser earnings. The reports are showing that I am getting page views on my web sites. However the reports show that nobody is clicking on my ads. This does not make sense. ADster is showing that I am getting a steady clicks on a daily basis. I have noticed that most of the time when I bring up my web pages, the Bidvertiser ad section is entirely empty. However the ads show up when I refresh my browser pages. Perhaps this is some kind of bug with the ads. Or maybe the ads are incompatible with my blogger templates. Whatever the reason, I am unhappy because I am not earning money.

When I was analyzing my ad color scheme on one page, I clicked on a Bidvertiser ad by mistake. This took me to the advertiser's landing page. I told myself that I needed to be a lot more careful. I had been putting ads on my web pages for about 6 months. But this is the first time I clicked an ad on my own site by mistake. I figured there was no reason to cry over spilled milk. And I could always contact Bidvertiser and tell them to cancel that click because it was done in error. However this gave me an opportunity to check if Bidvertiser was correctly logging the clicks and crediting me. Sure enough I saw one click in the zone for that particular web site of mine.

Unfortunately I have concluded that I cannot afford to rent out ad space on my sites to Bidvertiser if I am not making any money at all. So for now I have been slowly replacing all my Bidvertiser ads with new ones from AdEngage. I just signed up with this service. And I will put the earnings from them through the same scrutiny that I applied to Bidvertiser. I will say that I like the deep ad format customization that AdEngage provides me. And so far the ads come up when I first load my web pages. Wish me luck


I have a separate free e-mail account that I use to sign up for interesting newsletters and such. This account has gotten a bit out of control. So I started cancelling my subscription to some newsletters. Most e-mails I get have a link at the bottom that you can click to unsubscribe.

One such unsubscribe link came from Technology Ladder. However when I clicked the link, I got to a form which tried to get me to fill out a questionnaire explaining why I was requesting a cancellation. I tried to just submit the form and ask for a cancel. But the validation did not let me proceed. I had to fill out a number of required fields on the form. This pissed me off. I can understand the desire to get this type of feedback. But don't make me go through your time wasting form to unsubscribe. Poor form Technology Ladder. No pun intended.

This experience is in stark contrast to that of my NewsMax subscription. I clicked an unsubscribe link on one of my NewsMax emails. It took me to a page where I could just check "unsubscribe all" and click the submit button. Easy as pie. Now I may not want to read the NewsMax newsletter. But I will tell my friends that my NewMax experience was pleasant. Bravo NewsMax. You get a link from me.