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how to sell a web app?

Let's say I have a web based application. For an example, lets say it is a BUG TRACKER. Like fogBugz. only, it is written in PHP. Or Java. Or Perl. Or, anything that isn't IIS + VB.

Is there any way to sell such an application? I want to sell it as something people pay $x dollars for and download. (I.e. not a "managed hosted app")

How do people sell stuff like this? The same way you sell any type of software? Do people _buy_ web software that isn't microsoft-based? 

(while I'm at it, I guess I could ask: does anyone buy fogBugz?)

choppy
Monday, April 14, 2003


Joel had given (sp?) hints that Fog Creek runs on money generated by Fog Bugz.

Leonardo Herrera
Monday, April 14, 2003

https://shop.fogcreek.com/?sCategory=FogBUGZ

pb
Monday, April 14, 2003

Key thing for me would be the installer and the configuration manager.
I preferably would not have to know the tech behind the app, just as I do not care what language XML Spy was developed in. For server apps this transparancy is much  more difficult to attain, but this should mean in the first place more difficult for you, the developer, not me, the customer.

Just me (Sir to you)
Monday, April 14, 2003

Yes, people buy this sort of software.  On the other hand, people buy everything.

The question is, how to sell it?  Advertisements -- on the web, in trade magazines, etc.

Brent P. Newhall
Monday, April 14, 2003

Well, since no one has actually answered the question you put forth (yet), I'll take a stab at it. :)

The way to sell it is to get the word out (ie, advertise), just as you would for anything else.  Advertise as much as you can afford to, either through websites, friends, radio, TV, or whatever.  Perhaps you could give away a free version with reduced functionality and have people pay for full functionality.  That's the shareware model.  There are many different routes you can take.  Bottom line is being creative in getting the word out.

Crimson
Monday, April 14, 2003

Two questions:

Why not IIS and VBScript?

and

What is a "managed hosted app?"  Is it something like I host the server and you pay me per month for the disk space and client?

... ok three questions?

Are you asking how do you distribute these without revealing the source code?

JJ
Monday, April 14, 2003

The best way to sell it, in my opinion, as someone who sells his own self built products, is through seach engines.

Figure out what problem your application solves, who it solves it for, and how they are searching for the solution. Then, build a website that targets those keywords, and make it easy for people who are looking for what you are selling to find you.

This is the lowest cost way to test the viability of your product before spending significant money advertising in other ways. Especially if you want people to download the product, then they have to be online, so the best place to look for them is online.

You can find out how many people are looking for what you've got at Overture, and buy clicks from them to get started, while you wait for Google to find you and list you high enough to matter.

Good luck- it really can be a great way to keep yourself fed (and then some) if you have the right product.

Matt
Monday, April 14, 2003

What do you mean by "how do people sell" it? How do they deliver it? Install it? Market it? What?


Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Unless it's a *really, really* good bug tracking application you won't be able to sell several copies of it anytime soon.  That type of application is almost a commodity app since you can get one for free from several places. 

However, most of the free ones aren't really that great though.  And then on the other end of the spectrum, the sophisticated ones like RMTrack are just too rich for my blood.  While some companies/teams may need several of those features, the features there are just overkill for my needs.  FogBuz represents a pretty good middle ground.

Another reason Joel is selling copies is because he has almost a cult following that loves his ideas and writings on managing projects.  As a result they're going to buy his software which has some of his ideas implemented into it.

In short, your market is software developers/project managers.  So you've just got to figure out what you have to offer to them that will develop into a following of your company/products.  Joel does it by writing about the software industry, and giving access to his articles for free.

HeyMacarana
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

When I first co-founded the company I'm with, the CEO told me that he wanted to make certain people in the company famous as a sales and marketing tool. I thought he was a little crazy for suggesting it, but I definitely see it at work here. How many of those copies of FogBUGZ do you think they've sold because Joel's name recognition? 1%? 5%? 10%? I'm sure it's a lot larger than zero. :)

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

I recently purchases an off-the-shelf web app that I learned of through a friend who saw it on hotscripts.com.

I guess if you want to sell to people who are techie, then you have to advertise where the techie people go.

Another possible avenue that I think the developer of this software explored is to create a site with it - obviously it's not just for interal use like a bug tracking package. As his site grew, so did knowledge that he sold a similar package.

www.marktaw.com
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

I agree with marktaw

Advertise it on http://www.hotscript.com http://www.cgi-resources.com too.

One thing you should have is a good and full demo. BOTH normal user and admin.

A nice looking website with lots of screenshots for those who do not want to go through the demo would be good.

Another thing you probably want to stick rather prominantly is the pricing for the app. I hate these "contact us for pricing sites", because it just reeks of "we will turn you upside down, shake you for all you are worth, and then add support charges of $10k per month!"

tapiwa
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

that link was supposed to be http://www.hotscripts.com

tapiwa
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Hey, my original question was terrible. After reading, I'm not sure what I was asking.

My situation is this: I am a former consultant currently hiding out in a leisurely full time job. At my last 3 contracts, and at this job, in addition to my actual job, i would set up a little web app that I wrote. It isn't a bug tracker, but it is a standard web/DB thing that manages information in an organization. Everyone loves this app. So I'm thinking "hey, i should just sell this thing instead of giving it away for free." 

However, it is written using python and postgreSQL.  Thus, it works great on unix but postgres is not so hot on windows. And, I basically have never paid for any software that runs on unix...so i have a psychological artifact telling me "no one buys software that runs on unix. (aside from perhaps sucker big corporations paying for oracle licenses)"

I don't want to sell any more "consultant" style services if I don't have to. I want to make a "product" taht people download and set up and away it goes. I think this is possible ...however I'm wondering if it is pointless if my application is not a windows application.

This app targets technical people who ARE NOT software engineers. I.e. they are people who would pay a fair sum for a useful software product, but they aren't people who are going to want to install a bunch of unix dependencies...and in fact, i don't know if they are people who would want to install linux at all...usually i'm the one setting up linux for them.

choppy
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Ask your users.  Find out if you know of anyone who is willing and able to do what you described (buy it, download it, and install it).

Brent P. Newhall
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

I don't think this crosses the line into consultant applications, but why not make it a subscription based service? You integrate with paypal or clickbank to handle payments & set up some scripts that create accounts automatically.

I have several ideas like this cooking.

www.marktaw.com
Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Just give it a shot.  It can't hurt.  Just don't quite your day job though and do this part-time.  If you don't sell any copies then at least you've tried and now know.  If you do sell copies then that's even better.

HeyMacarana
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I have yet to meet the first person buying an app for Linux. The other problem you have identified correctly is the dependencies. Irrespective of the platform, this would be a big "do not go there" sign for me. Hide all these if you can, make the whole thing blackbox as far as it goes.

To be honest, it seems to me you just do not have a product that is sellable right now. If it is a simple DB/webclient thing, you might get away with rewriting it towards platforms that could attract wallets (yes, I mean Windows) and make very very sure this thing installs and maintains itself and plays nice. Even then it will not be an easy market IMHO.

Just me (Sir to you)
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

"I don't think this crosses the line into consultant applications, but why not make it a subscription based service? "

I would like to do this but I can't with this particular application. I have a lot of experience with that type of development and, in fact, I run a small subscription based service that pays for itself and my rent.

However this particular application deals with sensitive data and there are legal issues that make offsite hosting something no one in the field wants to touch.

In regards to what I'm doing now. Currently I have two other clients who are paying me to set this up. I am charging them $2000 (it takes about 15 min to set up) then pass on the cost of the linux server and charge $85/hr for hourly maintenance.

What I would like to do is not have to buy a linux server and set this thing up every time someone wants it. I would prefer to just sell it to people but as someone pointed out, it doesn't seem feasible at the moment; there is a bit of work to do to make it into a product. In my own defense, however, I'm a pretty good developer and have probably spent a total of a year's worth of work building this thing, AND it targets a specific user (i do contracting in a pretty specialized market)...it isn't just some hot php script you can download from sourceforge.

What I will probably do for the time being is to try to sell as many installations as I can ($2000 for about an hour's total worth of work isn't too bad. ;-)) and get as much user feedback as possible, and see if it is worth s

One idea I had is this: Everyone I sell this to ends up getting a new computer to act as a server. I have a good relationship with someone who distributes mini-itx systems so I usually order a custom build out of a small server for people, and it ends up costing about $500.  So, I thought maybe I should just bundle it up into a box and sell the whole thing as an "appliance." 

What are people's thoughts on the appliance idea?

choppy
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

The appliance server idea is actually a really good one, in my opinion, if you feel like you can't host it off site.

Brad Wilson (dotnetguy.techieswithcats.com)
Wednesday, April 16, 2003

If it doesn't run on Windows, and you want to sell it as a "product", and it has to be at the user's site, and the users don't like to set up Linux boxes, and the price is high enough to hide a cheap server, then selling an appliance sounds like a real possibility.  Hey, you get to control the hardware, and you can automate the installation process with a few scripts.

You could also look into making a custom version of Knoppix (a CD-based Linux distro that boots on a huge variety of hardware without configuration) and making it boot straight to your application.  You can store information on the host machine's hard drive.  I've never seen anyone do this, but apparently some companies have been fairly successful.

Eric
Friday, April 18, 2003

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