Almost every software market today has free alternatives competing with paid versions. One prominent item in this list would be the $60-billion market for small business accounting and tax software platforms which have seen their share of packages over the recent years. The allure of automating a few bookkeeping chores and being able to take financial snapshots about their business at will have drawn some potential accounting software leads away from the grasp of commercial providers, but this doesn’t mean the latter is out of the game.
For some small businesses and startups operating on a tight budget, the idea of being able to manage their books through some application with a price tag of zero is almost heaven-sent. Free accounting software and platforms empower small businesses to experience a few vital features of commercial packages that would have otherwise been available to them only after making some serious commitments.
But, as with elsewhere in the IT world, free doesn’t always mean costless. Users of free accounting platforms may be able to take advantage of features like invoicing, cash monitoring, inventory management, financial reporting, etc. but at a cost of limited functionality, incompatibility, lack of flexibility, and usage difficulty. That’s why if you think your product can address the needs of your target market better than freeware versions, then you stand a strong chance of beating the competition through smarter marketing, and here’s how you do it:
1. Improve visibility & awareness. If you really want to compete with free software providers, then you have to face them head on in marketing channels where they thrive. Typically, free versions are promoted online as it’s relatively cheaper, and a great deal of freeware accounting applications are web-based. You also should rely on other channels where you can hold the greater advantage such as telemarketing for accounting software prospects.
2. Tout real benefits & costs. Among the major marketing blunders that software developers and sellers commit is focusing too much on features and functions. You should avoid making this error and instead point out what real benefits your product can bring to your targeted sales leads. You should also consider costs associated with and without your accounting solution.
3. Offer training & support. Although some free accounting platform developers do offer training and support packages, these are two areas where they typically can’t compete with commercial players. You should include educational materials such as “getting started” guides and other tutorials. Furthermore, don’t skimp on excellent customer service and technical support in contacting software leads.
4. Provide a shareware version. By promoting watered-down, free (low-cost), or trial versions of your main accounting software package to your software leads, you’re actually hitting your freeware competitors where it hurts. Shareware isn’t the same as freeware as the former is often done to promote full versions of the product.
5. Stay true to your brand. Having a consistent message and delivering what you’ve promised are two additional ways you can beat your freeware counterparts anytime. If your product really delivers value and your marketing message really lets your audience and your business leads see this, then customers certainly won’t mind making the purchase.
6. Revisit the old drawing board. Another effective hedge against free accounting software solutions provider is continuous research and innovation. This doesn’t mean that you have to come up with newer versions or updates every now and then; you need to make sure that your product remains relevant in meeting the changing needs of your customers and sales leads.