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Registration forms: Breaking down the barriers between your Web visitor and your product

May 6, 2009 5 comments

Jonathan Cogley: Registration forms: Breaking down the barriers between your Web visitor and your product

May 6th 2009 | Jonathan Cogley

Registration forms: Breaking down the barriers between your Web visitor and your product

You’ve just found a really neat utility you’d like to download. So…you click ‘download’, and bam! You find yourself gazing at a mile-long ‘registration’ form coupled with email verification:

On one hand, you really want to try out this neat new utility.

On the other hand, you really don’t want to have to part with a load of personal information; fill in a dozen ‘required’ fields; dream up a user name, a display name, and a unique password; and type your email address twice.

Jonathan Cogley: Registration forms: Breaking down the barriers between your Web visitor and your product

What is the value of this additional information anyway? Is this company going to display your real name to anyone? Why do they need your address if you’re not mailing anything to you? Why do they need your phone number if they have no reason to call you? What are they going to use your ‘prefix’ for? This information is of no real use to them and it represents a series of barriers between you and the product you desire.

What information should be required in order to complete a simple download?

Every ‘required’ field on your form is one more barrier between your Web visitor and your product. Request only the information you need in order to perform the action for the user. While it’s tempting to use the opportunity to capture other useful information about your target market, online audiences have become more protective of their personal data and may decide that their privacy is worth more than your download.

Also reconsider the email validation – does it really matter to force a valid email address by sending an email to it and delaying the process? A customer who is genuinely interested is likely to give their real email address anyway.

Thycotic’s Web site registration form requires only an email address, full name, and password. We don’t verify your email address since that isn’t foolproof (most people have a free webmail junk account for such things). In the past we rejected email from free Web mail providers (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, etc) but now we ask for a phone number instead. If a customer is genuinely interested in our product, then they actually appreciate a call to discuss their problem and receive an appropriate solution.

So take the time to consider your audience, then reduce barriers by requesting only information you genuinely need to successfully process the transaction.

Jonathan Cogley is the CEO of Thycotic Software, an agile software consulting and product development company based in Washington DC. Secret Server is our flagship enterprise password management product.Are you on Twitter? Follow Jonathan

Thoughts on Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm

April 17, 2009 Leave a comment

Josh Frankel: Review of Crossing the Chasm

April 17th 2009 | Josh Frankel

Thoughts on Geoffrey Moore’s Crossing the Chasm

In the world of software the success of one product and the failure of another can sometimes seem arbitrary and random. Crossing the Chasm is an attempt to explain how a sound marketing strategy can make the difference between success and failure.

Transitioning from a few visionary users to numerous, pragmatic mainstream users—crossing the chasm—is the central concern of a carefully-planned long term marketing strategy. Using anecdotal examples in the loosely-defined “high tech” market, Geoffrey Moore presents a compelling model for how everything from electric cars to killer apps is embraced by mainstream and niche consumers.

Moore explains how software goes from being used by a handful of users to the mainstream market. He identifies five specific segments in this “adoption life cycle” and places them on a bell curve model:

•    Innovators and early adopters are the first to pick up new technology, and represent a small yet vocal portion of the market.
•    Early and later majority-users represent the main portion of the marketplace and are driven by the perceived practicality of a product.
•    Lastly, there are the laggards who resist new technology until it becomes overwhelmingly pervasive.

As an example of innovators and laggards, consider when the movie Wall Street came out (1987), and Gordon Gecko wowed audiences by talking on a cellphone. Fast forward to the present with my cellphone-less grandparents, and you have a pretty good idea of the spectrum.

Establish a Beachhead, then Divide and Conquer

To bridge the chasm between early and mainstream markets, Moore proposes a strategy he likens to establishing a beachhead: claim a place from which to expand your market share by first positioning your product in a niche market.

Continuing with the military metaphor, he endorses a divide and conquer mentality as the primary way to segment and dominate the market. Support, documentation, and other user resources are recommended to reassure customers of a strong and permanent presence. Moore uses real-life examples to demonstrate that the viability of a niche is directly related to the pain caused by its core problem. One can imagine how the attempts to resolve a point-of-pain can result in the creation of a new product.

Once the problem has been identified one can consider different scenarios, akin to the concept of goal-oriented design within agile processes. A difference here is the underlying basis of Moore’s model which focuses on building whole products—products that pose a complete solution to the problem identified in the niche market. Without all the pieces in place, the customer has not been presented with a compelling reason to buy and may consider other products instead. The trick at this stage is to make the product the only “reasonable” one to purchase. A fundamental consideration for software development is the need for marketing to consider the scenarios that necessitate software, while building software necessitates considering the personas of those involved in those scenarios. Unless marketing and development are integrated in this respect the concept of a whole product is likely to drift into the realm of a Dilbert parody.

Lastly, Moore identifies product-centric concerns prior to gaining hold of the mainstream market. Speed, ease-of-use, elegant construction, price, and functionality shift to market-centric concerns when competing in the mainstream. At this point values such as largest base, third party support, de facto standard, and quality of support become primary reasons to buy. During this shift into market considerations Moore recommends clear understanding of the competition in the form of software alternative and product alternative.

Some Takeaways and Thoughts on Our Business

In reference to software created in Thycotic’s environment, product alternatives are the obvious competitors—our Secret Server password software finds some product alternatives in Cyberark and PMP. In terms of market alternatives to Secret Server, the closest parallel in terms of major engrained tools are antiquated methods of passing sensitive data through non-secure means, like spreadsheets. This is not a true market alternative but it is as close as we can apply Moore’s product/market alternative concepts.

At very least, the value of Crossing the Chasm comes from instituting a formalized structure and vocabulary for a constellation of common sense. The use of anecdotal companies helps bring these pieces together, with the caveat being that many of these companies are not recognizable names or have since ceased to exist. Moore’s implementation method for crossing the chasm seems to reflect its age, with only two paragraphs devoted to the use of the Internet as a medium for sales and marketing. Contemporary marketing and sales demands participation with Google. This does not change the overall structure for crossing the chasm but it does change the speed at which competition and niche markets arise.

Josh Frankel is the junior graphic designer and marketing team member at Thycotic Software Ltd, an agile software consulting and product development company based in Washington DC.  Secret Server is our flagship enterprise password management product.
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Widgets vs. Return on Investment; Which reigns supreme in online marketing?

January 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Dan Parker: Gigabytes vs. Return on Investment; Which reigns supreme in online marketing?

January 29th 2008 | Dan Parker

Which reigns supreme in online marketing?  The feature or the benefit?

Marketing professionals tell you that stressing the benefits of a product/service is incredibly more effective than describing the features.  “Benefits make people feel.”  “Benefits make people act.” Yet many experts agree that both features and benefits are critical, and the proper approach is to emphasize the benefits while using the features as supporting facts.

The truth is, many online marketers rely on space-limited Cost-Per-Click advertising and don’t have the room to push both features and benefits.  If you’re experienced with landing pages and Google ads (those little snippets of text on the right and top of Google’s results pages), you know that describing a benefit is challenging enough without trying to cram in the feature as well.

So what should you do? Should you use your two lines to scream about how “proactive” your software is?

In my experience, when you’re competing with several companies in the Cost-Per-Click arena, mentioning features can be an advantage. Imagine your ad is in the top spot in Google with two of your competitors directly below you.  There’s a good chance that if you claim to have the most proactive enterprise data management software in the world, your competitors will eventually state the same – or at least allude to it. However, if you are the only company that offers a super-efficient add-on that syncs with every known database, you will most likely gain the edge.  Even though your competitors may also claim to be proactive, only you can prove – in your limited space – that you truly have the most proactive data management software.

The question in the end is… Who wins?

Banner ads and CPC campaigns are a different beast than website content.   In the world of Google AdWords, features can make people both feel and act.   Let the software speak for itself.  If you have a killer feature that your competitors don’t, make sure searchers know.


Dan Parker is the marketing manager and sales representative for Thycotic software Ltd.