Building Great Software Companies
Joel Spolsky and Michael Pryor founded Fog Creek so that software developers would have a company they would want to work for. Over the years, we've learned through sometimes painful experience that writing software is only one part about running a software company. In the interest of giving back to the community, we're collecting guides, reports, videos, and presentations covering the nuts and bolts of running a software company. Stay tuned for more.
Engineers often treat marketing like it is black magic, but really, it comes down to making sure the people whose lives you are aiming to improve with your software actually hear about you. If they don't hear about you, they'll be stuck using whatever duct-taped together work-around they are forced to use in the absence of your software. That isn't good for them and it isn't good for your company. The solution: approaching marketing as if it is another challenging, rigorous, value-creating engineering discipline, just like software engineering is. We promise: these guides contain no unicorns and no touchy-feely nonsense, just tested, effective ways to make lives better.
- "Our Marketing Is Up Fog Creek" And What We Did About It: Lessons learned from six months of website optimization about page design, A/B testing, and the importance of continuous improvement. PDF version
- Video Tutorial For Google Website Optimizer: Ben Kamens walks you through using GWO to do A/B tests and early examples of using it at Fog Creek. We now extensively A/B test and get lots of value out of doing it.
We would like to believe that quality software sells itself. Sometimes it does, but sometimes you need to give it a little push. In any case, you are probably having conversations with your potential customers: every one of those conversations is an opportunity to influence their buying decision. Don’t neglect this. Learn how to make sales without being sleazy. Learn to respect your customer’s time. Learn how to be good at sales. Learn to take the fear out of selling.
Our software sales team is not a boiler room operation: they have the world's simplest brief. "Talk to the customer about the problems they are having. Listen attentively. Speak the truth."
How to price software is a complicated topic. Prior to the recent SaaS explosion, it was basically impossible to find software between $500 and $75,000, because the cost structure implicit in high-touch sales made it uneconomical to fly someone out for less than a $75,000 sale. These days, all the cool kids are selling SaaS for $9 a month or $0.99 a cow-flinging app. Those aren't the world's most sustainable models for real software businesses. We'll talk turkey about how you set prices which both capture value and make sense to your customers.
- Joel Spolsky on Software Pricing: Pricing to capture customer surplus in a monopoly market with arbitrary supply curves and other microeconomic miracles you probably didn't learn in college.
- Price as Signal: On how variable pricing communicates value of the underlying product.
Eventually, you won't be the best person to do day-to-day development of your products, because you'll have strategic priorities to worry about. When this
happy perhaps unwanted day arrives,
you'll have to hire developers to do the work for you. Your business might also need other professionals, from designers and marketers to office admins who keep things running smoothly. This is hard and
mistakes cannot be easily reverted using source control, so do it right the first time.