Tips For Distributors in the USA

 

All shareware distributors share the common problem of how to distinguish themselves from their competition. Producing an Internet search and download database is an inherently simple task; just about anyone can do it, given the time to gather and organize the information. Customers will repeatedly use your service if they can find what they want, so your task is see to it that they can do just that.

 
 
There are a number of different ways to be seen and succeed:
 
  1. Have the biggest library with the most programs. At any moment, there are half a dozen web sites that seem to have this market sewn up, but the list is always changing. Last year's winners are this year's minor sites; the market changes quickly, and the site that can index, present, and maintain a file list in an easily-searchable format will be the winner.

  2. Have a focused library. Just as some sites specialize in Internet software, there are libraries that handle only games, only educational software, only Macintosh software, only networking software, and so on. Niches like this abound--such as programming tools, audio utilities, video editing, home and hobby, religious software, and so on.

  3. Be up-to-date. Accept PAD files from authors, and use them to grab pre-written descriptions, file sizes, icons, screen shots, and just about anything you need for your online catalogs, all at once. Authors spend time first at the three or four sites that are important at that moment, and at the sites that make the task of adding their software fast, so make it fast for the authors by using their PAD files.

  4. Remember that big doesn't mean sloppy. If a search results in six versions of the same program, originally released over a five-year span, most visitors will recognize that as bad maintenance, and go search elsewhere. Establish a reliable method of keeping your lists up-to-date and free of duplicate listings, but do it yourself--sending a monthly begging letter to all the authors who have products on your site won't magically fix your duplicates problem. Authors don't have the time to clean up 300 web sites that aren't working properly.

  5. Do your own reviews and ratings. Public Brand Software was purchased by ZiffNet, which became ZDNet's "hotfiles.com" on this principle. It's expensive and time consuming, but there's no better way to make loyal customers than to present them with the best tool for the job. Keep them from needing to spend time looking at multiple packages and they'll look to you for software first.

  6. Tell your customers how to use the software, how to download, and give detailed instructions for the use of WinZip. Explain about shareware so they don't feel confused by registration demands. Give them information about how to install programs.
  7. Customer service is always important. Give customers an easy way to get in contact with you. Let them ask questions and give them prompt answers. You'll get lots of people asking what program they should use--if you investigate and direct them you'll have a loyal customer.

  8. Even if you don't review or rate software you can still spotlight exceptional programs that your customers will like. To do this, you need to know your customers and know their buying patterns. Survey them, talk to them, or track their purchases or downloads so you'll know what they want and what kind of customers you have. This way, you can go find software that fits their needs. It's not hard but not many people do it. the end

Tips for Distributors Outside of the USA

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