Andy Brice: “Notes from the Trenches: 8 years of Software Marketing Experiments” – MicroConf Europe 2013

The MicroConf Europe 2013 Hub Page with all the information can be found here

Speaker: Andy Brice (@successfulsw)

The Challenge

  • How do you get a potential customer’s attention in a cost effective way when countless other vendors are trying the same thing?
  • 5.3 trillion display ad impressions delivered in the US in 2012
  • Even Perfect Table Planer has >100 competitors

Organic Search / SEO

  • Good content
  • On-page SEO is not rocket science
  • But:
    • It is a game where none of the players know the rules
    • Results are not guaranteed
    • It takes time
    • Blackhat tricks can get you banned
    • Everything relies on Google


PPC / Google Adwords (search)

  • Can be highly targeted
  • very cost effective
  • Huge reach
  • Quick results
  • Lots of feedback
  • But:
    • Complex
    • Requires significant tuning
    • Bid price inflation
    • Easy to waste money

PPC / Adwords (Display Networks)

  • Potentially huge reach
  • CPC can be cheaper than search
  • Can use image / video ads
  • Andy could never make it work

PPC / Microsoft Adcenter

  • Less competition – may be able to get cheaper clicks than Adwords
  • But:
    • Much less traffic
    • Painful UI
    • Minimum bid of 0.05 pounds

PPC / Facebook ads

  • Demographic Targeting
  • Huge reach (#2 on the internet)
  • But:
    • People aren’t on Facebook to buy stuff, clicks may not convert well
    • No conversion Tracking
    • No downloadable products allowed

PPC / LinkedIn ads

  • Can target by:
    • Job function
    • company
    • gender
    • age group
    • country
    • LinkedIn group membership (this is awesome!)
  • Easy to set-up
  • But:
    • Expensive (Minimum CPC $2, Minimum CPM $3)

Facebook Page

  • Only need 25 ‘likes’ to get a vanity URL (
  • Potential to reach out to friends of customers
  • Free
  • But:
    • A low ‘like’ doesn’t look great
    • Less control than own site
    • They show ads for other products
    • Clunky UI


  • Allows engagement with customers
  • Useful for promoting ‘viral’ content
  • Free
  • But:
    • Hard to build up followers if you aren’t a celebrity
    • A low follower count doesn’t look great
    • Time consuming
    • 1:1 interactions don’t scale


  • Builds a relationship
  • Can bring in a lot of organic search
  • Free
  • But:
    • Major time commitment
    • Some products easier to promote through blogs than others
    • Hard to do if you don’t like writing
    • Useless if not targeted

Bloggers (a.k.a. other people’s blogs)

  • Mention on high traffic blog can drive significant traffic
  • Helps with SEO
  • Great if you can get a free mention
  • But:
    • Hit and miss
    • Many bloggers expect to be paid
    • Getting a mention is unlikely to have long-term effects

Download Sites

  • Can provide useful amounts of free targeted traffic for some types of products
  • May still be important for some platforms (e.g. Mac)
  • Free
  • But:
    • Increasingly irrelevant
    • Engaged in race to the bottom (toolbar installers, Dubious PPC ads, Fake awards)

Posting on Forums

  • Free
  • But:
    • Time consuming
    • Most forums have ‘no follow’ links
    • Ethical issues (pose as a woman, etc)

Magazine Ads

  • Buying a magazine shows commitment
  • Repeatable
  • But:
    • Expensive
    • Hard to track results
    • ‘Impedance mismatch’
    • Ads may become less effective over time

Press Releases

  • Review and editorials have more credibility than ads
  • Great if you can get it for free
  • Online services, e.g.:
  • But:
    • Hit and miss
    • Press releases are only worthwhile if they are newsworthy/creative, e.g. not “ACME Corp is delighted to announce v1.23 of their revolutionary new…”

Partner Programs

  • Sometimes free
  • Well worth trying if available and free
  • Examples:
    • Microsoft Office Partner Program


  • >2 billion LBP of affiliates sales in the UK in 2006
  • ‘Super affiliates’ can drive serious traffic
  • Can be largely automated
  • Performance based
  • But:
    • May compete directly against you
    • Some affiliates expect 75% commission
    • Very few people seem to manage more than a few percent additional sales
    • A lot of spam going on

Email Marketing

  • Potentially low cost and large reach
  • But:
    • Hard to know how good the quality of the list is
    • CTR likely to be very low if no relationship
    • Spamming is bad for your reputation

1 Day Discount Sites

  • Can give exposure to a new audience
  • But:
    • One-off
    • Heavily discounted
    • Price anchoring issues
    • May attract wrong sort of customer
    • Volumes probably not worthwhile for most niche products

Snail Mail

  • Can include physical items
  • Measurable, A/B-testing
  • But:
    • Difficult to assess quality of mailing list
    • Expensive
    • Kills trees
    • Low response rates

App Stores

  • Increasingly a feature of selling software
  • Store owner is providing (some) marketing and infrastructure for you
  • But:
    • Rejection is a real possibility
    • Big cuts for store owner (30% for Apple)
    • Interaction with the customer is restricted
    • Downward pressure on prices
    • Median sales for paid apps in the iPhone is $682/year

Make Product Promote Itself (Viral Marketing)

  • Potentially exponential growth
  • But:
    • Hard to pull off
    • needs right product

Word of Mouth

  • Best marketing is done by your customers
    • Massive reach
    • Maximum credibility
    • Free
  • But:
    • Requires customers first

Choosing the right method

  • Best choice depends on
    • Type of product
    • value of sale
    • Your personality/skills
  • In general prefer:
    • Targeted over un-targeted
    • Measurable over un-measurable
    • Scalable over one-to-one
    • Continuing over one-off
    • Performance based over flat fee
    • Cheap experiments over expensive ones
  • Run the numbers
    • At %1 conversion rate and profit per sale is $20 –> CPC needs to be below 0.20
  • Be creative (How to advertise on porn sites)
  • Don’t neglect existing customers (Version upgrades, more expensive plans, optional extras)
  • Try a lot of things!

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About Christoph

Christoph lives in Munich, Germany and is bootstrapping his own SaaS application as a part-time entrepreneur.

He likes to write on this blog about anything of relevance to single-founder bootstrapped software startups.


  1. […] Andy Brice: “Notes from the Trenches: 8 years of Software Marketing Experiments“ […]

  2. […] Následoval jediný řečník, kterého jsem předem neznal – Andy Brice (, @successfulsw). Andy ve své přednášce 8 years of Software Marketing Experiments popsal rozličné marketingové metody, které během let zkoušel. Osobně mě tato přednáška zaujala ze všech nejméně a nezapsal jsem si žádné věci, které bych chtěl osobně uvést do praxe. Takže vás odkážu na poznámky. […]

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