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Going solo. How?

Hi guys,

This is a question to all you guys who have your own company.

I've been wanting to start my own software development company. And I really want to ease into this by doing small projects first and then building from there. So, where do you get software customers from? Trade shows? Ads in the paper? Cold calls?

What are the more effective ways that you have used to get customers?

Thanks in advance.

-V
Tuesday, November 25, 2003

You need to create a "trust" in your company. That's the key to get customers and run profitable business.
Other ways are giving business cards, sending thankful letters, attending at shows and presentations, etc.

Evgeny Gesin /Javadesk/
Tuesday, November 25, 2003

What sort of product is it? If it's focused on building trades, then trade shows might be the way to go, but that will cost big.

Often people go the shareware route, especially if your product is oriented towards the home user.

Whatever it is, Google Adwords is a good place to start. Combining this with SEO (Search Engine Optimization) might be all you need. Many companies do very well using only this strategy.

NC
Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Some random thoughts:

1) Google adwords is excellent.

2) Trade shows are a great idea for drawing in more customers if you are already making income or have some investment backing. They are the number one source of new clients for vertical markets.

3) Shareware works, but it can be hard to tear away into a more proprietary model. If you are into packaged software this is the route you want to go if you can't find anyone to publish a put together product or can't put it together yourself. Trial periods work better.

4) If you are into consulting, publishing articles and making a name for yourself can work well, including giving lectures when you get enough prestige.

5) There are organizations that will handle marketing your products for a large chunk of your profits. These are good ways to start selling your first packaged product.

6) If you are consulting, it is about who you know. Depending on your type of consulting, local user groups, friends, and former employers are usually a great source of leads. You'd be surprised at how willing techies are to throw business your way if they like you in a social setting.

So, I guess this really depends on whether you want to consult or sell package software. There are a few ideas.

Dustin Alexander
Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Network, network, network.

Get friends, build trust, deliver working stuff.

Ask for a fair price.

Remember that your # 1 competency is to get paid for your work. Learn how to chase invoices.

Get a good accountant. It's 50% of your success.

Hire a salesman. Stop putting features for the sake of putting features in your products. Make brochures, equip the salesman and send him on the road.

Develop new streams of income by being a VAR to some successful products in your area.

Philippe Back
Tuesday, November 25, 2003

... and get the salesman to sell them too :-)

Philippe Back
Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Related:  WHERE/HOW to get ideas for a business.

ted
Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Actually, one of our best "customer generators" of late has been a MarketingConsultant(tm) that we hired to do our redesign for our letterhead/businesscards/ads/brochures etc.

The bummer is that we can trace no revenue to any ad campaign he has done for us. This alone would have caused us to fire him and not use him in the future -- But: As a MarketingConsultant(tm) he's put in face-to-face contact with the higher-up decision makers at a bazillion different companies on a day-to-day basis. Any time he hears of anyone needing computer assistance in any of the areas we specialize in, he's recommended us and we've gotten the job. He's generated significant business for us over the last year by his personal networking talent alone. If not for this, we would have fired him long ago as none of the $BIGNUM$ ad campaigns he's worked on for us have generated didley-squat!

A testament to the man's networking skills I guess.

Because of this, we keep him on and keep paying his fees. It's worked out to a net profit for us, even though his ads don't generate a thing as far as new business. We have bright shiney new ads that don't generate squat, but he still gives us enough referrals that it's worthwhile for us.

I'd suggest the same for anybody, however I fear that this has just been a fluke for us, and we've gotten lucky in his ability to generate new business. Any other MarketingConsultant(tm) would generate the same ads that generate no business, and probably would not help on the referral side either.

Ya pays your money and ya takes your chances. On this one, we got lucky.

Sgt. Sausage
Tuesday, November 25, 2003

So I would start out doing shareware and creating a website with related content? Is there any other way to get your foot into the door? Hmmm ...

Do you guys belong to any kind of forums or groups where you send customers to each other based on areas of expertise? Where / how do i find these kind of groups (if they exist)?

How do you _effectively_ cold call? Ie increase your percentages with cold calls? Any advice on whom to approach/ what to say?

When do you get choosy about the software that you write for customers? In the begining shouldnt you write anything that the customer requires so as to build your company?

Thanks for all answers that have been given so far!

-V
Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Not a direct answer to your questions, but there's a few shareware experts on the alt.comp.shareware.authors newsgroup.

If you choose to go in the shareware direction, it's a great way to avoid the common mistakes.

NC
Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Taking it slow is a very very good idea.

It took me 3 or 4 years to become profitable enough to support my family.

I went solo but I sell a software *product* not development service.


However, I've talked to a lot of independent developers.  None of them have any real suggestions of how to get the first few customers. And that's the hardest part.

Most of these developers get new customers thru referals from old customers. 

You probably need to BRAND yourself as something more concrete than just "Software developer".  Perhaps "Software developer for small credit unions". (I worked for someone who did that). 

If you "brand" (market) yourself as "I do everything" then your customer hears : " I do nothing especially well".

Entrepreneur
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Shareware... 1000s of new things everyday...

How to stand out there ?

I choose to work in the enterprise apps segment.
Networking works in there and there is more money.

Selling quite complex software packages can be a really good idea. You see what is possible with software and develop a great network. sample co: www.metastore.be

Philippe Back
Wednesday, November 26, 2003

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