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Something vs. Something
an article by
Al Harberg

When I was a kid, I could never figure out why most automobile dealerships carried two different brands of cars. Carrying two car lines required twice the capital, twice the space, twice the parts, twice the training, and twice the tools. Okay, when I was a kid, you only needed a wrench and a hammer to fix any car. But the other duplication is real. Why carry two product lines instead of one?

        As I started my own business, and began to think more and more about sales, I realized an important principle: You can sell a lot more if you give people a choice between something and something, than if you give people a choice between something and nothing.

        When people visited a car dealership, they weren't given a take-it-or-leave-it proposition. They had a choice. And, from the dealer's perspective, it was win-win.

        Over the years, hundreds of studies have been conducted to see how choice affects people's buying habits. At fast food restaurants, two window clerks are given different instructions. One clerk asks each customer, "Would you like to try our cherry pie, or don't you like cherry pie?" The other clerk asks, "Would you like to try our cherry pie, or would you prefer apple pie?" The second clerk consistently sells more pie than the first clerk. Something vs. something beats something vs. nothing.

        At the Post Office, one clerk asks, "Would you like some of the Elvis stamps, or don't you like Elvis?" The other clerk asks, "Would you like some of the Elvis stamps, or would you prefer the flower stamps?" The bottom line: The second clerk sells more stamps. You might argue that, over the course of the next 12 months, neither customer uses more stamps than they would have otherwise, and that the study was a total waste of time. But selling software isn't like that. People can always use an additional software program. Especially yours!

        How does offering a choice affect the way that your prospects buy your software? And what kind of a choice do you give people who visit your site?

        If you're a business person and you visit Mike Raustad's M&R Technologies site (www.mrtec.com), you'll have a lot of choices. If you're looking for a billing program that includes email support and repeat billings, you can buy Billing Manager Pro DELUXE. Need a little less? Mike offers Billing Manager Pro STANDARD. Need a little more? There's Inventory Pro that handles both billing and inventory. There's even a neat table on the M&R Technologies site that compares the three programs. They all sound great, and the web site visitor can choose among them.

        From Mike's perspective, it's win-win-win. "I have found that my high-end products outsell my entry-level products," Mike explains. "Having a high-end product to complement your basic products gives your customers an upgrade path. It also allows them to take their time in upgrading. They're comfortable knowing that more features are there if they want them. Offering these versions has helped me to provide my customers with exactly what they want, business-wise and budget-wise. That helps my business in the long run. It has worked very well for me."

        Dan Veaner of EmmaSoft Software (www.emmasoft.com) has a program called Catalog-On-A-Disk. Actually, Dan has two programs: Basic Catalog-On-A-Disk and Catalog-On-A-Disk Pro. How many people buy the Pro version? Most.

        "I've been amazed," Dan says. "For products where I offer a basic version and an advanced version, almost nobody buys the basic version. Even though the software version is basic, most people want "Plus" or "Pro" if it is available. There seems to be some psychological thing: If it costs more, it must be better." For a lot of customers - especially business customers - power is more important than price.

        Many times, people develop and market a basic program. When they're adding enhancements for their next release, they realize that they're now offering a lot of functionality for a diminutive price. Maybe that's the time to split the program into two products: Standard and Pro. Or Light and Standard.

        Because of his success with two versions of Catalog-On-A-Disk, Dan decided to offer two versions of Darn! Don't Forget! from the initial product launch. Darn! Don't Forget! Basic is Dan's $19.95(US) full featured calendar and reminder program, and Darn! Don't Forget! Plus! (at $29.95) includes custom sounds and images, an appointment watcher, a database manager, and a lot of other neat bells and whistles.

        Feature comparison charts can help sell your software. But don't call them "feature comparison charts." The title on the chart on Dan's web site is "Two Great Versions, Packed With Fun Features To Help you Remember!"

        Offering people choices can increase your sales. But be sure people understand your choices. When you ask people to choose between things that they don't understand, they'll usually choose neither. Choosing to buy none of your products is a very safe choice; it's much safer than buying the wrong product.

        If you're selling programmers' tools, it's okay to offer a choice between a 16-bit version and a 32-bit version. Programmers understand the difference between them, and the terms "16-bit" and "32-bit" are a good shorthand way of differentiating them. But if you're marketing a business program, and you offer a 16-bit version and a 32-bit version, you're going to confuse people, and lose sales.

        I hear your prospects saying, "The nice people on the other web site - on your competitor's web site - they didn't confuse me with how many bits they had. Their program runs on Windows 95, 98, NT4, and 2000, so I know it will run on my computer. I'm not so sure about your software, though. I'd better be safe and buy the other program."

        If you're selling software for webmasters, it's okay to let them choose between downloading it from mirror site one or mirror site two. Webmasters understand what mirror sites are. But if you're selling a program for the home and hobby market, and you're asking people to choose between mirror sites, you're going to confuse people, and lose sales. Prospects for your home and hobby software don't have a clue what a mirror site is. Confused people won't buy your software.

        You work hard to get people to visit your web site. Make it easy for them to choose to buy something while they're there.


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