by Steve Pavlina, founder of Dexterity Software. Reproduced with permission.
One of the best ways to increase your shareware sales is obvious: release a new product. Of course, this is much easier said than done. But what if there were a way to develop and release a new product in just a small fraction of your normal development time, perhaps just a couple weeks or maybe only a few days? And what if you could launch this new product simply by listing it on your existing order form without having to create a shareware version or doing any uploading at all? You can do all of this simply by releasing an add-on for one of your existing products.
An add-on is a product that piggybacks onto one of your existing products. Typically, it requires installation of the original product to function. Examples include new levels for a game, new images for a screen saver, a set of templates for an HTML editor, and new filters for an image editing program. There are three main ways to increase your shareware sales: acquire more customers, get customers to spend more money, or get customers to buy more frequently. Releasing an add-on can actually help you achieve all three of these simultaneously.
First, add-ons can help you acquire more customers. Listing add-ons on your order form sets you apart from other developers by showing a strong commitment to supporting the original product. Potential customers may also figure that your original product must be a winner if you’ve decided to release an add-on for it. Add-ons can also increase the amount of time a customer spends using your product, thus increasing the chance for word-of-mouth sales.
Secondly, add-ons can get customers to spend more money when they buy from you. Many customers will buy an add-on when they purchase the original product, especially if the add-on has an attractive impulse price, so you gain an immediate and permanent sales increase just by listing it on your order form. Some customers who think the price of your original product is a steal will purchase the add-on simply because they expected to spend more. Other customers will purchase the add-on with the original product because they don’t want to have to come back and buy it later. If you don’t sell add-ons, you are probably leaving extra money on the table that your customers are willing to give you.
Thirdly, add-ons can get your existing customers to buy from you more frequently. Add-ons allow you to offer something new between major releases. People who have already bought from you in the past are likely to be comfortable buying from you again. For a quick boost in sales, announce a new add-on prominently on your web site, in your newsletter, and through any other mediums you may have to reach previous customers.
An add-on can be very quick and easy to develop and requires no shareware version or distribution. Designing an add-on is simpler than creating a whole new product because you are building on an existing framework, and often little programming is required. Best of all, you can release an add-on with little risk, and if it succeeds, you can release additional add-ons for the same product. It is possible to eventually be earning more income from add-ons than from the original product.
Even if you sell upgrades to your existing products, there are compelling reasons to release add-ons as well. First, with minor modifications, you may be able to sell the same add-on for every version, especially if it’s just a data file. Also, it gives you a whole separate product to sell in addition to upgrades. Since an add-on doesn’t require a separate shareware version or uploading to shareware sites, you can release many add-ons in the time it takes to develop a full version upgrade.
Additionally, you can release multiple add-ons to target specific segments of your market. Split your market into pros vs. beginners, male vs. female, seniors vs. youth, etc., and target specific add-ons at those groups. If you find that one of your products is being used heavily by a certain demographic, consider releasing an add-on for their specific needs. For instance, for a game, you can release an add-on of insanely difficult levels for experts plus another one of super easy levels for young children. You may also find that many parents will impulse buy a child-oriented add-on for their kids.
Take some time to think of creative ways you could develop a simple add-on for your best product. If you can think of something that might only take a week to create, but you imagine that only one in ten previous customers would likely buy it, would it be worthwhile? I released an add-on for my best-selling product earlier this year. The add-on took only 5% of the time it took to develop the original product, but it is earning 25% as much money as the original and is outselling all of my older products by itself. Sales of the original product increased significantly after releasing the add-on. Because of this I plan to release several more add-ons for the same product, and I’m designing future products with expandability in mind. So if you’re looking for a fast and easy way to increase your sales without taking the time to develop a whole new product, consider expanding one of your existing products. The risk is minimal, but the payoff can be significant.