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Tuesday, March 8, 2005

microISV did a profile on a company called Vivid Software. That seems to be a popular name. There's another software company with the same name. I even considered it myself once, but I didn't really like the fact that the most logical domain name ( leads to a major porn company. Maybe that's just me. But that's not what I wanted to talk about.

The profile itself is pretty run-of-the-mill, but one piece of it caught my attention.

How do you plan to differentiate yourself from your competitors?

I have spent a lot of time researching usability. The functionality of my product is roughly the same as the ACT, Goldmine and the others. But, the UI looks a lot better and the usability I believe is far greater than any CRM on the market but, hey I’m bias!

That seems to be a recurring theme. My product has greater usability. My product has better features that will increase productivity. My product is developed with the user in mind. Nothing wrong with that, of course, but I think independent software developers have a far more valuable way to differentiate themselves from larger companies.

The major difference between a small company and a large company is that the small company can get a lot closer to the individual user. Making a product with great usability is good customer-centric thinking and you should absolutely do it, but it doesn't get you closer to the individual user. To do that, you need to provide fast, personal customer support, you need to send newsletters, create a community, let your users know they are dealing with a person.

In my opinion, communication with the individual customer is your greatest advantage as an independent developer. Use it! Build your strategy around it. The suggestions I did above are pretty standard, but there are lots of possibilities. For example, Thomas Warfield recently named one. So, get personal!

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