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Product Marketing Handbook for Software

The April 16 column mentions a software marketing book.  Looks interesting, but I can't find it at powells.com, nor amazon.com, which seems odd.  Anyone know why it's not available through those channels?  Seems a bit dubious to me.

David N. Welton
Wednesday, April 21, 2004

As the author, I can answer that question.

The Handbook is extremely niche-oriented and I see no value in using Amazon or other resellers.  I rely on direct marketing and reviews to generate sales.

Several publishers over the years have approached me about taking the Handbook onto their lists, but my experience with publishing leads me to believe I would make less money than selling it directly.

Strictly a matter of economics.

rick

Rick Chapman
Wednesday, April 21, 2004

Speaking of this book:

Rick - I'm a bit upset that I spent $85 on this book ($70+shipping) and page 59 was not printed/bound when this edition was published.  Adding a loose-leaf copy of page 59 to the shipment really isn't acceptable.  Simply because your editors goofed doesn't mean customers are willing to accept an incomplete product. 

Yes the book has good content, but in general the quality of the physical book seems amateurish.  The faded typewriter typeface for headings and page numbers don't help - it looks like the pages were photocopied.

GiorgioG
Wednesday, April 21, 2004

"I'm a bit upset "

Rick,

Does any part of your book deal with how to turn dissatisfied customers around?

Mr. Analogy
Wednesday, April 21, 2004

I got the book, used it and its advice helped me generating sales - it's really a good one.

I don't care if the pages are superneat or not.

I've got stack of "nice books" without much content... so, this book is in the "golden nuggets" section of my shelf (and I've a lot of books).

Philippe Back
Thursday, April 22, 2004

"I'm a bit upset "

Rick,

Does any part of your book deal with how to turn dissatisfied customers around?"

Yes!  Dissatisfied customers should be treated with the greatest delicacy and understanding.  I recommend the use of physical force ONLY as a last resort.  Usually a death threat or allusion to  kidnapping an unhappy customer's child is enough to put the matter to rest.

On a more serious note, yes, via a printing glitch which I to this date don't understand (and neither, apparently, does my printer) a page in the book that was in the proofs dropped out of part of the print run.  It seemed a pity to destroy a bunch of perfectly good books over one page so I had the printer prepare a small kit with the missing page and it was shipped with the book.

As for the design, well, as I've frequently noted, no one likes anyone else's designs.  I asked the person who did the layout/design to give me a very plain, almost retro look.  The book looks OK to me, but the Handbook is all about content.  I expect you to use it to help you sell stuff, not stick it on a coffee table.  That is its purpose.  As someone in this thread has noted, it seems to be doing that (at least for him).

Also, unhappy customers may be assuaged by the fact that I'm preparing a promotion that will include a free video on obtaining financing for high-tech startups.  Current readers of the book will be able to download the video gratis as a thank you for their purchase.  I hope that will soothe any wounded feelings!

rick

Rick Chapman
Thursday, April 22, 2004

> I'm preparing a promotion...

Sad. Fix what's broken first. 

I hope Joel was working with an electronic copy and did not know about the printing issues when he included it in his article... makes him look bad imo.  I almost bought the whole kit based on his article until I saw these posts.  Now I will be a bit more skeptical reading his column.

Joe Hendricks
Thursday, April 22, 2004

>I'm preparing a promotion that will include a free video on obtaining financing for high-tech startups

What does that mean?  Does that mean that the video itself is free with no strings attached (to those having purchased the "misprinted" book? , without having to purchase anything else?)

The word "promotion" makes the entire thing smell a little fishy.

You might be a good marketer, but you seem to be lacking in the "existing customer relationship management" dept... Cater to our problems/complaints. 

If I order a cheeseburger and get a hamburger - giving me a free hotdog isn't going to make me happy.

...
Thursday, April 22, 2004

Better yet, how about a PDF version of the book for these folks!

/
Thursday, April 22, 2004

+++What does that mean?  Does that mean that the video itself is free with no strings attached (to those having purchased the "misprinted" book? , without having to purchase anything else?)+++

Yup.  Free.  Gratis.  Costs nothing.  Zero cost.  No money down.  No money upfront.  Charge=null.  Will be available as a download.  (People who buy the book after X date get a CD, but it's not ready yet).

+++The word "promotion" makes the entire thing smell a little fishy.+++

Uh, well, whatever you think.

+++You might be a good marketer, but you seem to be lacking in the "existing customer relationship management" dept... Cater to our problems/complaints.+++

I'm sorry, but I don't think a single missing page in 690 is that big a deal, especially when the page IS included.

+++If I order a cheeseburger and get a hamburger - giving me a free hotdog isn't going to make me happy. +++

I wouldn't worry about it!  I'd do what the other guy did; read the book and start using the content to help generate sales!

Selling lots of your software will be the best revenge.

rick

Rick Chapman
Thursday, April 22, 2004

+++Better yet, how about a PDF version of the book for these folks! +++

No.  I included a PDF with the third edition.  I decided not to do it with the fourth when someone from Singapore ordered the third, then complained about the cost.  It was MUCH cheaper on the local bookshelves!

I wonder how THAT happened?

rick

Rick Chapman
Thursday, April 22, 2004

+++Sad. Fix what's broken first. +++

Oh, please.  Nothing is 'broken"; this isn't a car or an automobile.  It's a book; books sometimes have printing glitches.  Once I found out about it I  had a new page printed and shipped.  Content is all there.  Put the page where it should be and you're "whole."

Look at this way.  You have a collectors edition!

God, some of you should be on the Soaps!  The Days of Our Coders!

+++I hope Joel was working with an electronic copy+++

Joel was working with a paper version.  As I said, the page dropped during the run and I didn't find out what had happened until the book was in the warehouse.  Very annoying,  but I think I've done right by everyone.

+++ Now I will be a bit more skeptical reading his column. +++

No, you won't.  You'll keep coming, kvetching, and do whatever you did before.  Nothing will change in the least.

rick

Rick Chapman
Thursday, April 22, 2004

Respond to current and potential buyers' concerns with sarcasm. Nice technique.  It'll be a cold day in h*ll before I order your kit now, pal.
Good riddance, eh ?

Joe Hendricks
Thursday, April 22, 2004

Rick -

I also bought the book based on Joel's recommendation.  I haven't read it yet, but it looks useful.

I do have to say the missing page was mighty annoying.  I've never bought a book that wasn't bound properly.  If it were me publishing, I would have offered two versions - the properly bound book and the defective book for ten dollars less.  Even if the defective book came out to the same price that I just paid, my first impression would not have been so negative.

Ironically, the same level of defect is somewhat acceptable in software.  Who is surprised to get README.TXT with their software?

bankstrong
Thursday, April 22, 2004

>Ironically, the same level of defect is somewhat acceptable in software.  Who is surprised to get README.TXT with their software?

Would you accept software with a missing dialog box? ;-)

Hmm.
Thursday, April 22, 2004

> Would you accept software with a missing dialog box? ;-)

We all use Windows, don't we? ;-)

grunt
Thursday, April 22, 2004

+++Respond to current and potential buyers' concerns with sarcasm. Nice technique.  It'll be a cold day in h*ll before I order your kit now, pal.
Good riddance, eh ? +++

Nose, cut, spite, face.

Are you interested in successfully marketing and selling your software or obsessing about slipping a page into a book?

If the latter, buy the book!

If the former, do as you see fit.

rick

Rick Chapman
Thursday, April 22, 2004

I also bought the book based on Joel's recommendation.  I haven't read it yet, but it looks useful.

+++I do have to say the missing page was mighty annoying. +++

Hey, you think YOU were annoyed.

However, the page is not missing!  The page is "outbound."

+++If it were me publishing, I would have offered two versions - the properly bound book and the defective book for ten dollars less.  +++

Handbook publishing is a small operation.  The agony of setting up SKUs, attempting to discern which boxes in the warehouse had the dropped pages, setting up the cart for all this, et etc is too awful to contemplate.  Instead, I simply give everyone the dropped page!  If your book has the page, no problem.  If it doesn't, you are covered.

Seems sensible.

rick

Rick Chapman
Thursday, April 22, 2004

Boy, do you know your audience?  Call it a 'patch.'  Emphasize the negative!

Just ask us to creatively apply "Never judge a book by its cover" to this situation.  It doesn't get much clearer than this.

Tayssir John Gabbour
Thursday, April 22, 2004

+++Boy, do you know your audience? +++

Yes.  There's two here, actually.

The first consists of people who are business- oriented and want to sell their stuff.  They are the people who will buy the book.  They will not care about a missing page if the page is provided.  They'll slip it in, start reading, and worry about moving their software along and growing sales and their company.  They'll use the book to help them do that; that is what it's for!

The second consists of the people who are interested in coming here and fighting, joking, flaming, obsessing over the "g" and stuff like that.  And nothing wrong with that!  However, they are not my audience and will never buy the book.

And that's fine too.

rick

Rick Chapman
Thursday, April 22, 2004

>However, they are not my audience and will never buy the book.

Except those of us that did.

Right...
Thursday, April 22, 2004

+++Except those of us that did+++

Congratulations!

Sell lots of stuff!

rick

Rick Chapman
Thursday, April 22, 2004

Boy.. The tone of this thread is sure getting sour. And I haven't even opened my mouth this time.

As long as the content is good, I wouldn't care too much about the page missing or whatever. I've spent many dollars on books which were supposed to be good, but turned out to be nothing but a collection of stuff you can easily find online. Of course these books have been from Amazon.com where people do review them, but how much can you trust strangers? Especially after that glitch on Amazon.com's website and the true identity of the reviewers were revealed.... Shame! 

Because of getting burned so many times, nowadays I buy books by first browsing through them in a bookstore. Sections posted online on Amazon.com or some other site are OK too, but I think sometimes too much marketing goes into those things. They show you some juicy thing which never goes too far beyond. Of course in this case Joel actually reviewed it which is great, but than again nothing like seeing with your own eyes.

I know this is perhaps not feasible for this kind of a specialized book. Oh well...

By the way, Rick, you don't have to answer *everything* people say on here (including me I suppose). Especially if it's going to make your tone of voice (so to speak) bitter.
It doesn't come across too professional. No need to answer this one either. Just a friendly suggestion.  :)

I might get a copy after all. We'll see.. Maybe it'll make it to Amazon.com used or something. The price is a little steep for just browsing.

grunt
Thursday, April 22, 2004

+++By the way, Rick, you don't have to answer *everything* people say on here (including me I suppose). Especially if it's going to make your tone of voice (so to speak) bitter.+++

Actually, I get a tremendous kick out of all the screaming, whining, groaning and carrying on that goes on here.  I must admit that the recent "g" spot controversy on "Ask Joel" tickled my funnybone no end.  I'm hardly bitter!

+++I might get a copy after all. We'll see.. Maybe it'll make it to Amazon.com used or something. +++

I don't think that's likely.  Returns on the Hbook are literally about .001%; people find it very useful and there is nothing else quite like it. Software Success, for instance, does resell past issues in a compendium but they charge about $200 and I keep the Hbook very up to date.  (Miserable job writing the thing; I always swear THIS is the last time but then the E-mails come in asking when the next edition is due and I get the urge to keep my baby alive.)  Also, the checklists provide a nice framework for getting things done.

(I hear, however, that you can get a great deal on the 3rd edition in Singapore!)

Please remember that if you return the book in resalable condition I will return your money.

Best of luck.

rick

Rick Chapman
Thursday, April 22, 2004

>Actually, I get a tremendous kick out of all the screaming, whining, groaning and carrying on that goes on here.  I must admit that the recent "g" spot controversy on "Ask Joel" tickled my funnybone no end.  I'm hardly bitter!

Well, for anyone who's watched Mr. Chapman's interviews regarding In Search Of Stupidity, you can tell he's a bit eccentric.  Cut him some slack, he's a geek/dork like the rest of us, with our "gotta always be right/one up everyone" to make up for our lack of social savoir faire....

Right...
Friday, April 23, 2004

> +++Sad. Fix what's broken first. +++
>
> Oh, please.  Nothing is 'broken"; this isn't a car or an
> automobile.  It's a book; books sometimes have printing > glitches.  Once I found out about it I  had a new page
> printed and shipped.  Content is all there.  Put the page
> where it should be and you're "whole."
>
> Look at this way.  You have a collectors edition!

The following is with respect to your comment above.

I don't know much about marketing or sales, but I do know one thing: "Customer is always right!". I know you are not trying to close a sale by posting messages on here, but still I would consider this kind of a response (emphasis on "Oh, please!") unprofessional (sounds cocky) even though people on here might be getting on your nerves. That's what customers do!  :)

> God, some of you should be on the Soaps!  The Days of
> Our Coders!

This might be a true observation, but since you are in direct contact with some of your customers here (people who bought the book and were upset), I don't think this sarcastic remark is professional either. If you were in Borders or some other bookstore, and the manager over there had some sarcastic remark about one of your problems or concerns (you told him the book is missing a page, and the manager showed you it's attached to the back and called you a drama queen), how would you feel about that?

Don't forget that people can't tell your tone of voice on here. We don't know if you are serious or making a joke or whatever....

Besides you don't even know who is posting here, or who is reading the posts. You don't want your *potential* customers to get the wrong image, do you?

grunt
Friday, April 23, 2004

+++I don't know much about marketing or sales, but I do know one thing: "Customer is always right!".+++

Well, not always.  There are customers you do not want to have.  For instance, if a buyer of the book were to call me up and start complaining about the "outbound" page I'd certainly offer to swap the book out for a new one.  But, interestingly enough, no one has; it's really not that big a deal, you know.  Not one page; if there'd have been more than one I'd have just chucked the whole run in the landfill.

However, if the customer continued ranting on about the missing page I'd simply tell them to return the book and not sell them another.  That's not a "customer"; that's a problem you don't want to deal with.

If you decide to venture into the business world you will soon discover this reality for yourself!  A successful software company learns it must sometimes "fire" customers.

+++ You don't want your *potential* customers to get the wrong image, do you?+++

As I pointed out, the people who are carrying on are not customers; they comprise that group that likes to come here and fight, argue, flame, etc.  They will not buy the book.

My potential customers will read the comment by the gentleman who is using the Hbook to increase his sales.  Once they read that, they won't care about anything else.  The sales process for the Hbook tends to be self qualifying one.

rick

Rick Chapman
Friday, April 23, 2004

++Well, not always.  There are customers you do not want to have.  For instance, if a buyer of the book were to call me up and start complaining about the "outbound" page I'd certainly offer to swap the book out for a new one. ++

Really? It seems to me at least 2 people mentioned that they were annoyed by the misprint.  You weren't really too sympathetic to their plight, nor did you offer to replace the books at the time.

++But, interestingly enough, no one has; it's really not that big a deal, you know.++

Maybe if I'd purchased a ripped off copy in singapore for $3 I wouldn't care about a missing page.  Spending $85, you expect simple things like having all of the pages in the binding.  Hell once I purchased a VB4 book (600+ pages) and the CD was defective (unreadable).  The publisher replaced the book (unneccesarily) and the CD for me no questions asked - that's customer service.

++However, if the customer continued ranting on about the missing page I'd simply tell them to return the book and not sell them another.++

You never made the offer.  Nor did you state the problem anywhere on your site. 

In the end, this is a simple pissing contest, it's over something simple, not of any great consequence, but you're behaving like a pompous business consultant and not a small business owner.  So go ahead, continue to make yourself look like you don't care about your customers.  In the end, you're losing potential customers over your clever arrogance and "it's no big deal" attitude.

GiorgioG
Friday, April 23, 2004

I forgot to mention that....

I'm keeping your book, but I'll be damned if I ever recommend or buy anything from you in the future...

GiorgioG
Friday, April 23, 2004

+++Really? It seems to me at least 2 people mentioned that they were annoyed by the misprint.  +++

And one person said they didn't really care since the book was helping them increase sales.

+++You weren't really too sympathetic to their plight, nor did you offer to replace the books at the time.+++

That's because I included the page!  And since the book is all "there" it doesn't really seem there's been any harm or foul!

++But, interestingly enough, no one has; it's really not that big a deal, you know.++

+++Spending $85, you expect simple things like having all of the pages in the binding. +++

Well, perhaps the free video will make you feel better?

How about the fact that I periodically post free articles on software marketing the expound and expand on the topics in the book?  Or that I update a directory of resources for people interested in software marketing?  Does THAT make you feel any better?

+++ The publisher replaced the book (unneccesarily) and the CD for me no questions asked - that's customer service.+++

Alas, the Hbook is a much smaller operation!  I can act like a big company that can afford to waste money like this and not publish the book, or do things like include a kit with the page so that you get all that you paid for.  (Though a tad "disconnected" I admit).

+++ Nor did you state the problem anywhere on your site.  +++

Well, I DID tell you what had happened and sent you a replacement page!  You have the whole book.

+++ In the end, you're losing potential customers over your clever arrogance and "it's no big deal" attitude. +++

Actually, I don't think so.  Again, what is your goal?  Increasing sales or obsessing over a page?

+++I'm keeping your book, but I'll be damned if I ever recommend or buy anything from you in the future... +++

That is the FUNNIEST Parthian shot I've ever read!

Sell lots of stuff.  Use the book to help you!

Best of luck.

rick

Rick Chapman
Friday, April 23, 2004

Rick,

You've lost sight of the problem.  My problem is not increasing sales today.  It's feeling that I spent good money on a book (not its content) that was not properly bound.  Focus for a minute here.  Still with me?  Good.  Customers want to feel good about buying things.  Would you be happy if you went back to a dealership of your brand new car, telling the salesman who sold your car that X 'minor' problem exists and having him tell you "oh come on, it's not a big deal!  Suck it up we'll make it almost-as-good-as-new."  Hell no you wouldn't be happy.  But if he said "Listen Rick, I'm really sorry, that shouldn't have left our lot in that condition.  I'll tell you what, I'll give you two options, I'll give you $200 off what you paid and put it in 'almost-as-good-as-new' condition OR we can take the car back, fix it in X days and you'll be all set."

When a customer says "I have a problem."  You cannot say "No you don't, we took care of it."  You might be hanging out in Europe too much, where customer is definitely not king.

As I said before, I don't care if you're giving away a free video to previous customers.  That isn't the issue.  In fact, maybe it's the way you addressed the issue that is the problem.  Hell, I don't even want a 'corrected' copy of your book now.  That isn't the problem.  You simply lack the soft-skills to deal with your customers.

First of all, I don't subscribe to your newsletter, nor should I have to in order for you to give away this promotion to apologize to customers.  Second of all, if you would have simply stated that A: You would take the book back and replace it or B) you could get this free video, most customers would feel better.  Why?  Because it would put the 'choice' or 'control' back into the customers hands.  As it stands you're saying "Yeah I screwed up, I'm not going to resolve it by giving you all new books because it's too expensive, but I'll give you all this video."  That's what you're coming off as.  I can sympthatize with the expense factor.  Maybe it costs you $25 to print a book.  So give us $10 back or offer us $25 credit for your other products.  I feel like I shouldn't have to tell a guy that wrote a marketing book how to spin an issue around...

So some friendly advice - treat your customers well and they will treat you well.  Treat them like crap and they won't be your customers for long. 

GiorgioG
Friday, April 23, 2004

It is interesting observing him.  One possibility that some overlook is that he is competent and knows what he's doing. ;)  I'm probably using marketing terms badly (like a Freudian amateur going on about phallic symbols) but it's nice to watch him repeat the value proposition and ignore the customer expectation that this should be judged like a mass-market book.

Plus I'm not sure his financial incentive to sell this particular Handbook is particularly strong.  Entirely possible this is something of an altruistic thing, considering opportunity costs.  But I don't know, especially in this economy.

Was there a nice conciliatory letter accompanying the "outbound page kit"?

Tayssir John Gabbour
Saturday, April 24, 2004

I'd enjoy reading a copy of this book, even with the "outbound" page.

If any of you readers who are so tweaked with rage over the loose page, or are so disenchanted with Rick that you no longer value the information that he provides in the book, feel free to pass it along to me. I need to learn something about marketing software so that I can earn a living.

Money is currently tight for me (so $85 is steep at the moment), but soon, I hope to be marketing my software and making lots of money. I could use a book that will help me focus on those things.

PS - While you've all been whining here, 200 more American developer jobs were offshored to India to developers who aren't whining here about a loose page. Get back to work for heaven's sake!  :-)  :-)

Starving Software Artist, Will work for Books
Monday, April 26, 2004

Veru funny discussion.

I completely understand Rick's position: his book is a business tool, and from that point, it does not matter if page is in or out-bound.

This is not a nicely bound LOTR trilogy with fascinating illustrations that is supposed to make you feel good. If you think this book should make you feel good, and you'll enjoy touching, holding and smelling it, you are not a target audience. You'll do yourself a favour by not buying this book. In the process you'll lower Rick's cost, as he does not need to comfort you, or/and fire you.

The only think I do not understand is why Rick is comming back again and again - he must be getting a tremendous kick out of it. For that matter, not sure why I jumped in, my note is not gonna enlighten anyone who did not get it already...

Zeljko Dimic
Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Jeez - get off this guy's back!  The economical, logistical, and environmental motivations behind Rick's decision are clear.  There was a goof up at the printer (not his fault) so instead of having them reprinted (and thus wasting the time, energy, ink, etc to do so) he just had the omitted page included.

And all of you guys giving him a hard time about not being Mr. Marketing 24/7 - do you do your job 24/7?  Supermodels don't always wear makeup.  Doctors don't try to heal every person they encounter.  Race car drivers aren't always driving fast.  I design/develop websites for a living - you think I've got all my IDEs and Photoshop open when I'm at home?

I swear, humanity is going to hell in a handbasket.  The sissification of the American consumer (and citizen, for that metter) is a very disappointing thing to see.

Peter
Thursday, May 20, 2004

"If I order a cheeseburger and get a hamburger - giving me a free hotdog isn't going to make me happy."

Actually, that sounds a rather good deal to me, but I haven't eaten for several hours.

Seriously though, I spend thousands of dollars on computing and business books every year, and if there's one thing that really turns me off, it's 'retro' typeface of the kind used in this book. Ever since I was a kid (with dozens of textbooks to read), I've found it difficult to appreciate the content of books with crappy type, as the lower regions of my brain just won't accept that the words will be of any value. Sorry....

Halbestram
Thursday, May 27, 2004

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CEO-Winfield Applications
Sunday, June 13, 2004

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