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14 Tips for Selling Software and Services Online

By Jennifer Lonoff Schiff, CIO
February 15, 2013 07:45 AM ET

CIO - Software--whether sold as a service (SaaS) or via CD or DVD--is a multibillion-dollar business, with new vendors and solutions popping up all the time. In a recent Market Trends forecast, Gartner predicted SaaS and cloud-based business application services alone would reach $32.2 billion in sales by 2016.

[ALSO: 12 hybrid cloud security products to watch]

But just because you have developed a great app or solution doesn't guarantee success. So how can you increase your chances of getting your software or digital offering purchased? CIO.com queried dozens of marketing and sales pros who know a thing or two about selling software and digital services online to find out. Following are their top 14 tips for how to sell software via the Web.

1. Use a reliable cloud hosting service instead of managing everything in-house. Why spend the time and money on building and maintaining your infrastructure when you can host in the cloud? "In just a few hours, a hosting provider can provision dedicated servers and cloud servers for you, and your business will be up and running with limited cost and risk," explains Emil Sayegh, the CEO and president of Codero Hosting, a provider of dedicated, managed and cloud hosting services.

[Related Slideshow: 10 Most Powerful SaaS Delivery Companies ]

Other benefits of hosting your software in the cloud: "You can do all your testing and development in their data center and then deploy into production," he says. "Once in production, if the load increases or decreases you can scale your infrastructure on demand without owning a single piece of equipment, or worrying about server maintenance and upkeep."

2. Beta test. "To sell software online it's important to get feedback before investing too many resources into the development of your site or product," says Phil Sharp, senior marketing manager, UserTesting.com. "Mock up the simplest version of what you're offering, get it in front of people and get their brutally honest feedback. This will help you improve your product early and save you thousands of dollars down the road."

3. Offer a free trial. Especially if you are "a small, unknown company, you need to provide something to help potential customers see that your product is not a scam, and it will work for them," says Kelly Wilkerson, cofounder, Decipher Media, which offers desktop solutions for managing iPhone data. "Slightly over half of the 'Buy' button presses on our Web page come through the 'Register' button within our trial software, rather than our regular product page on the site. Testimonials help. Software safety badges help. But nothing helps as much as a free trial."

4. Consider a freemium model. "Another option is to offer freemium versions of your software--free access to basic features with the option to access premium features for an upgrade cost," says Michelle Nerlinger, director of Marketing at SafeNet, a data protection provider. "It's a smart up-sell path that can encourage paid licenses." Adds Ryan Connors, the marketing manager at Apptegic, a customer engagement solution provider, "By breaking down the barriers to adoption, you'll find people more eager and willing to try out your software and service."

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