Marketing secrets of Accounting Software

I was reading commentary on the failure of a database company and a certain comment caught my attention:

A product can be easy to market but a challenge to build, or it can be the other way around. You can build a strategy around either. If it’s hard in both ways, you’re in trouble. Frankly, it sounds a bit like that’s the trap RethinkDB fell into. They were doing things that were technically hard and hard to explain to users. That’s how you get three years behind.

This was a comment on a postmortem the founder of RethinkDB published. Commentary on commentary. Nonetheless it prompted me to think about the idea of market vs. technical risk in the work of accounting software.

To start let me be clear, building robust double entry accounting software is a challenge. Whether it’s a “simpler” feature set or a more complex feature set — it’s hard. So taking the market vs. technical risk concept you MUST market the product simply. You MUST make sure you don’t need to pause for 10 seconds before explaining the product or you have already lost your users.

Very few players realised this 10 years ago however now the trend in the accounting industry is simplification of marketing. Simplification to key core pain points and lots of negative space on websites/marketing material to not cognitively overload the user. Simple messaging. Simple views of the product. Simple simple simple.

In fact the players doing well realised this early and reaped the rewards. Others fought this lesson, some still are but if you view their websites as a gauge it’s leaps and bounds from where the industry was 10 years ago, even 5 years ago.

Of course this isn’t the sole reason certain players have done better than others. Big $$ marketing, great PR, going strong on key distribution channels and more all played a role however like in any zero sum game, the more nails you drive home the bigger your size of the pie.