How to build online software with broad appeal


Building a marketing and sales software platform that appealed to both tech-savvy young people and experienced journeymen was a huge challenge for our company. The journeymen, who typically owned their own insurance agencies, had been in the industry for a long time but used outdated marketing and sales tactics. Meanwhile, our tech-savvy users had recently entered the industry; they knew how to connect with people but lacked industry-specific knowledge.

Our challenge was to develop software that met the needs of both groups. We wanted a functional program that was intuitive enough for low-tech users but still worked well for more advanced users.

It was a lot of work, but the payoff was huge. Our insurance marketing and sales program works well, and our clients love it.

We’re not the only group that has risen to this challenge. Websites like Mint, TurboTax, Dropbox, and Spotify provide complex information with software that’s easy to use for people who are comfortable with technology, as well as those who aren’t. This approach holds a lot of potential value for companies that are willing to try it.


The Benefits of Putting in the Effort

Although it may seem more difficult to create this type of program, combining high-level industry knowledge with intuitive, high-quality technology that appeals to a wide range of users is worth it. Here’s what you gain from putting in the extra effort:

  1. More shots on the goal: Expanding the potential market for your product or service has obvious benefits. Targeting individual purchaser demographics can be just as difficult and even more expensive. Furthermore, if one buying sector slows, growth in other sectors is likely to compensate.
  2. Easy expansion: Designing software with mass appeal makes it possible to move into verticals adjacent to your industry. For example, even though our product is built for insurance agents who sell personal line policies, careful planning has made it possible to support other product lines, including commercial and group benefits.
  3. Maximizing resources: Software with mass appeal makes it much easier to focus your energy on testing which groups are reacting to which of your messages and mediums. From there, you can target your resources toward those audiences and save time and money.



Five Steps to Developing Effective Programs

In my company, we started using a step-by-step process with focus groups to learn what knowledge needed to be built into the system. Those groups led us to develop features like a task management function that places incomplete activities in a prioritized list. This process may seem daunting, so here are some steps to follow when developing a program with similar goals:

  1.    Find or create a need. Identify a need in your industry for specific products or services. Keep your ideas lean and scalable.
  2.    Screen ideas before production. Be clear in establishing the criteria determining which ideas should be continued. Stick to your criteria to avoid wasting resources.
  3.    Test your market. Knowing whether your idea will work for customers is the most important part of testing your concept. Do your potential customers understand, need, or want your product?
  4.    Beta test. Arrange private test groups with different levels of users for beta versions of your software. Use group feedback to make tweaks, then form test panels with diverse groups. You’ll get to test your minor improvements and generate buzz for your product.
  5.    Adjust your product post-launch. Once your product has launched and early adopters have bought in, pricing should be adjusted to attract more pensive customers. You may need to differentiate your product as your competition adjusts and the market changes.


Widening Your Appeal

Whatever your industry, developing a program requires precision. You’ll need to broaden the appeal of your offerings while making your purpose and selling point as clear and simple as possible. Here are a few tips for making your product appeal to a broad audience:

  1.    Create the need. If your product is built for mass appeal, you’ll need to start by educating your clients about why they need your product. On your website, have educational materials segmented by industry and demographic to meet different levels of knowledge.
  2.    Make it searchable. Even though your product has mass appeal, you still need a targeted message. Be clear about your purpose. A specific message will help your potential clients find you on search engines.
  3.    Give it away. Set up introductory pricing to get people in the door. Mint, Dropbox, and Spotify all use this model effectively. Once customers have seen the value of your product, they’ll pay for more functions.
  4.    Be intuitive. The best way to please both tech-savvy youngsters and mature industry professionals is to make your program as natural to use as possible. TurboTax guides you through the tax preparation process screen-by-screen, allowing a variety of customers to navigate the complicated tax system. The less your users need to use your customer support, the better your program is working.

Once you’ve taken the time to clearly develop your product, you’re ready for launch. Be sure to make the technical aspect of your software as user-friendly as possible, and keep the long-term goal in mind. If you follow these tips, you’ll see a payoff across a broad spectrum of users.

Software” image courtesy of Shutterstock.

Written by John Boudreau

John Boudreau is the CEO and co-founder of Astonish, an insurance marketing and sales platform for local insurance agencies. Astonish collaborates with insurance agencies to provide an optimized online Marketing presence, automate tasks with technology, and create an effective sales culture through hands-on coaching. Their platform drives growth in round-outs, retention, referrals, new opportunities, lead conversion, and team performance.

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