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Interviewing Software & IT Leaders

"The biggest mistake on an ongoing basis is a failure to focus on marketing"

Dave Collins, SharewarePromotions
Dave Collins

Summer is gone and we are back in business with a new and hot interview. This month guest is Dave Collins from Dave is specialised in Google AdWords Management, Search Engine Optimisation, Server Log Analysis and General Online Marketing and he had the pleasure of sharing some of his job little secrets. As usual, enjoy reading!

Adriana Iordan: Please tell us about your background. How did you get involved with software marketing? What are your areas of focus today?

The biggest mistake that I see on an ongoing basis is a failure to focus on marketing. Merely having a website doesn't qualify as marketing.

Dave Collins: The nutshell version is that I studied Business and Marketing at University, worked for a children's charity for a one year contract, then worked in computerised irrigation for five years.

During this time I discovered the internet, and, among other things, found an amazing variety of excellent software, all using the "try before you buy" marketing method. I set up a software website, made some good money from selling advertising (the good old days), and started to realise that there were a lot of good applications that needed marketing.

We launched our Promotional Services as an experiment, and have never looked back. Since then we've had the pleasure of working with more than 350 companies in over 30 different countries. Today we specialise in Google AdWords Management, Search Engine Optimisation, Server Log Analysis and General Online Marketing.

Adriana Iordan: What have you learned over the years related to promoting a software product? Can you name the three marketing outlets you found most useful in leading to conversions for software vendors?

Every small software company should be outsourcing graphic and website design, press releases, SEO, AdWords, accounting and more.

Dave Collins: The biggest mistake that I see on an ongoing basis is a failure to focus on marketing. Merely having a website doesn't qualify as marketing.

And while we're on the subject of mistakes, there are too many companies making decisions based solely on the experiences of a limited number of people. "I tried X and it didn't work for me" doesn't mean it won't work for you. There are too many self-proclaimed experts and "gurus" out there for comfort. Most are more interested in their egos than helping others.

Take some of the newsgroups and forums for examples. Many of the most prolific posters offering advice and suggestions would be a lot better off working on their own businesses. I'm not saying this to put anyone down; it just worries me how many people can't separate bad advice from facts.

As for outlets, I wish I had a dazzling answer for you, but it's impossible to say. Too much depends on what you're selling, where and who to. I suppose that adopting the try-before-you-buy marketing method is more or less universally successful.

Adriana Iordan: From your experience, what are the common problems the software vendors face today towards their web marketing efforts?

Dave Collins: Competition. Everyone has caught onto the web and all that it offers, and chances are that no matter what you're selling, you'll have a large number of competitors lining up to follow in your footsteps, trying to grab your customers. And many of them, to be blunt, are selling rubbish.

The result is that merely having an online presence and spending $50 a month on AdWords isn't enough anymore. The good news is that every competitor offers a potential opportunity. In a sense their deficiencies are your opportunities.

The other problem we all face is time. There just isn't enough of it. Too many companies don't understand the concept of opportunity cost. If you insist on trying to do everything yourself, you're limiting yourself right from the start.

Another problem that we come across is a reluctance to pay - for anything! Every small software company should be outsourcing graphic and website design, press releases, SEO, AdWords, accounting and more. Do what you do best, make money from it, then spend it so you can make far more.

Software developers also need to be prepared to take risks. If you're always going to set your budgets according to income, you're never going to outgrow the smallest of small businesses. There are very few instances of people making good money without taking risks.

I believe that actively participating within the industry and community and sharing information is the way to go.

Adriana Iordan: You speak at conferences quite often about AdWords, website design mistakes and log analysis. Can you share 5 of your most valuable tips for software vendors out there that want to increase their software sales online?

Dave Collins:

  1. The main purpose of a software company's website should be to sell the product. Make sure that your website looks good and does a good job of selling.
  2. Make your demo sell. Make sure the trial user realises what your software can do for them, but don't overwhelm them.
  3. Never stop marketing. Marketing equals sales. Press releases, SEO, Google AdWords, website optimisation, mailing lists, specials, partnering, bundles and more. Proactively reaching new users is vital.
  4. Analyse your web logs. Not spending reasonable amounts of time on this activity is insane, and I truly don't understand anyone not digging through their web logs on an ongoing basis.
  5. Business skills aren't just for people wearing suits at work. Polishing up on marketing, pricing strategy, market principles, basic accountancy, planning, analysis and more are all extremely useful skills. There are plenty of books, courses and online courses out there to ensure you have a basic level of understanding. Stop looking for answers in newsgroups!

Note that I'm not suggesting that you handle all of these things. But in order to make good decisions, you need a basic grasp of all of these areas.

Adriana Iordan: Talking about AdWords, can you share a quick list of AdWords mistakes others have made that a software business owner should be aware of when starting a campaign?

Dave Collins:

  1. Not understanding the system. We've seen a large number of accounts where people have been wasting a lot of money on an ongoing basis.
  2. Not understanding how broad match works. You have to use it, but caution (and negative keywords) are critical.
  3. Poor landing pages. Contrary to what some AdWords "gurus" preach, you don't always need a dedicated landing page. But if there's a mismatch between the ad and the landing page then make one fast!
  4. Not understanding basic principles. CTR is little more than a gauge; and not the be-all and end-all.
  5. Not tracking individual ads.
  6. Too much tracking and/or over-reliance on this data!

Adriana Iordan: What kinds of tools for paid search would you recommend? Keyword research, bid management, analytics, conversion tracking, any others?

Dave Collins:

  • Keyword research is easy - WordTracker and KeywordDiscovery. Both very cheap and very effective.
  • Bid Management - nothing is out there that I can recommend. Effective bid management isn't just about numbers. AI hasn't reached the point where the job can be carried out by software. If you can find software to run your business then I want a copy!
  • Analytics - where to begin! Google Analytics is easy to implement, but don't make the mistake of thinking that it's free! ClickTracks and WebLogStorming are both good desktop applications.
  • Conversion tracking - Google's own system plus tweaks plus common sense.

A blog can work well, but striking the balance between pictures of your cats and the technical details of your latest release can be tricky.

Adriana Iordan: As I said, you're very active with software / shareware industry conferences and forums. How has that played into your overall marketing strategy for your company?

Dave Collins: We try to be as active within the industry as possible. I believe that actively participating within the industry and community and sharing information (as opposed to pushing your services) is the way to go. The strategy has paid off, and helped us not only develop a good reputation, but also pick up a huge number of useful contacts, clients and friends along the way! Aside from sponsoring conferences, we no longer spend on advertising of any sort - not even Google AdWords!

Adriana Iordan: What are some of the resources you rely on for information on search marketing? News, articles, forums, industry information.

Dave Collins: I wouldn't know where to begin with answering this question. I subscribe to several hundred blogs and RSS feeds, and have developed high-speed-reading into a fine art. I typically only spend a few minutes each day skimming through them, and if there's anything interesting I usually dig later on in the day. I do consider this as vital, but wish there was more time to read them.

I can tell you where I don't go for information though. Newsgroups. The useful information is massively drowned out by "what application will make me rich", "is this legal" and "can you look at my website" types of threads. They're sometimes interesting but rarely useful. You can make better use of your time.

Adriana Iordan: Has your blog been an effective tool for promoting the brand of your firm / of your name? Would you recommend to software vendors to create blogs as part of their marketing strategy?

Dave Collins: Actually we no longer run our software marketing news blog . We wrote very regular content for two years, five months and 26 days (roughly), but decided to move on. It served its purpose well at the time, but nowadays we concentrate on providing more in-depth commentaries through our Competitive Edge newsletter .

I wouldn't necessarily recommend blogs to all vendors though. Prerequisites include the ability to write well, having something relevant to say and having the time to keep it going. A blog can work well, but striking the balance between pictures of your cats and the technical details of your latest release can be tricky. Too many blogs make interesting reading but add no value to the business. I suspect too many business blog writers aren't tracking what they're doing.

Adriana Iordan: Any other interesting observations you'd like to pass on?

Dave Collins: The three most common mistakes that I see all involve money.

  1. You have to spend money on your business.
  2. You have to have the courage to charge more.
  3. Never forget that time is money.
  4. Too many software developers agonise over spending a few hundred dollars on a service that may increase their sales, but don't think twice about spending a whole week on an obscure feature that no-one wants or uses.

Adriana Iordan: When was the first time you heard about Avangate and where? Can you give us an advice for the future to succeed as an e-commerce provider.

Dave Collins: I really can't remember when I first heard about you. I know you haven't been around for that long, but you've certainly done a good job of becoming part of the landscape quickly. Adriana's articles are all over the web, and you've become regulars at the various conferences.

As explained, this is a strategy that worked very well for us in the past, so I commend you for your approach! As for the future, who knows? The industry has developed at a breakneck pace, and is more or less unrecognisable from only a few years ago. But I do believe that there are still great opportunities out there. In your shows, I wouldn't provide bolt-on services that developers don't want from their ecommerce provider, but I'd listen to what people are looking for. Opportunities are in abundance!

Adriana Iordan: Thank you very much for your time.

Published date: September 19, 2007

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