While AutoHotkey Experiences Excellent Acceptance and Growth, It Remains an Obscure Language for Many Windows Users. Free Software Usually Only Spreads by Word-of-Mouth.
Except within the clued-in user community, open source software generally suffers from a lack of marketing. After all, free software offers little incentive to run paid advertising. Programs such as AutoHotkey almost totally depend upon user referrals for growth. While the dedicated AutoHotkey community offers tremendous support to users through online documentation, dedicated sites, and specialized forums, as individuals personally recommend automating with AutoHotkey, the word spreads one Windows user as a time.
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Update: September 14, 2016, Join the ComputorEdge E-Books affiliate sales program and spread the word about automating PCs with AutoHotkey and earn extra income on Jack’s AutoHotkey books.
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The AutoHotkey community has developed a base of professionals who provide supporting consulting services, programming, and educational opportunities such as blogs and Webinars. Although I don’t know to what degree people are succeeding with their AutoHotkey endeavors, I’m pretty sure that most cannot afford the costs associated with general advertising. Problem is that AutoHotkey is not yet enough of a computer-household (or business) name for people to seek out AutoHotkey services on their own.
Achieving higher AutoHotkey consciousness requires marketing to the vast number of uninitiated Windows users. Windows computers continue to make up 90% of the desktop and laptops in use today—and there is no significant drop in sight. Even though the use of tablets and smartphones has grown rapidly, they can’t replace the core capabilities of the PC. (Fingers are too fat! Typing this blog on a smartphone turns into an exercise in futility.) There must be an effective approach to reach the AutoHotkey blind. That’s why I’ve decided to invest in marketing AutoHotkey in one way that seems to make sense.
In my new marketing plan, I have two primary goals:
- Make AutoHotkey much more visible for Windows users everywhere.
- Generate revenues which sustain the marketing while sharing earnings with both members of the AutoHotkey software community and those sites totally diverse from AutoHotkey.
Increasing General AutoHotkey Visibility
While many AutoHotkey sites and forums exist, new people usually visit them only after hearing about the language. Their initial introduction depends upon either learning of AutoHotkey from another user or chancing upon a blog or Web page which recommends AutoHotkey as a problem solver. Expanding AutoHotkey use requires reaching AutoHotkey-unaware people as a primary objective.
In the commercial world, companies advertise to create brand awareness. In the open source world, advertising usually proves too costly. What’s needed is a low-cost (or self-financing) solution which introduces AutoHotkey to the general population. That’s why I’m looking into affiliate marketing systems for presenting AutoHotkey to Windows users outside the community.
I’m currently reviewing commercial affiliate advertising programs for marketing my AutoHotkey books, but for greater reach, I need a way to sign up partner sites outside of the community. It’s not that I don’t want affiliates from within the community (e.g. AutoHotkey blogs and support sites), but they would advertise primarily to people who, at the very least, have already heard of AutoHotkey. That might help the sale of my books but wouldn’t help the overall market and AutoHotkey awareness grow. I plan to aggressively solicit non-AutoHotkey sites which reach a more general audience. My best shot at that is with the free AutoHotkey Tricks You Ought to Do with Windows e-book.
Marketing a Free Book
The question, “How do you motivate other Web sites to advertise a free book?” The first thought is pay-per-download, but that approach is fraught with danger. Too many pay-per-click schemes fall victim to the nefarious and end up costing a great deal while generating negligible benefits. No, even a free book warrants a different approach. Maybe, tie the free book to sales commission on the other books? Affiliate advertising programs might offer an answer.
The beauty of an affiliate program is that you can share earnings with the sites advertising your products—in this case, AutoHotkey books. However, people who have never heard of AutoHotkey are unlikely to make a purchase (or even respond) directly to AutoHotkey advertising. But they may be interested in a free Windows automation book. Since Windows machines make up 90% of the computers in use today (desktops and laptops), a free e-book helping to automate and add power to their PC might appeal to nine out of ten Web site visitors (unless of course, it’s a Mac site). However, free books don’t offer a commission. That’s where a good affiliate program comes in.
How Affiliate Programs Work
Affiliate programs track customer referrals with Web browser cookies. When someone clicks on one of the affiliate’s links or banners, the program Web server marks them as a referral by placing a cookie on the prospects computer. Even though no purchase may occur on this first visit, the program registers the client’s browser/computer via the cookie with the affiliate’s coding. When and if the client returns to buy more books the affiliate gets the credit and commission. The merchant determines the how long the cookie lasts (I’m looking at 90 days). That means that if the customer returns, making a purchase anytime during that 90-day period, the referral source gets paid the commissions.
By offering a free book for automating Windows computers, attracting non-AutoHotkey site as affiliates should get a little easier. While nothing guarantees that the prospect will download the book, at least the AutoHotkey name gets out there. With any luck, the Windows user will take a look at the book and actually give AutoHotkey a test drive. A percentage of those downloading the book will eventually buy more AutoHotkey books. However, many more people become aware of the Windows scripting language.
The Next Step
I’m currently doing my homework and investigating Web affiliate advertising programs. It’s generally free for Web sites to sign up with an affiliate program. These programs make their money off the merchant who pays the program host signup fees and commissions on the affiliate commissions. Once I’ve activated my merchant program, I plan to announce the information in this blog. If you have a Web presence and you feel could benefit from becoming an affiliate for my AutoHotkey books, then submit the form below, but first a few cautions.
Links and banners for any affiliate advertising are only allowed on Web sites controlled by the affiliate. No affiliate links including the ComputorEdge e-Books coding are allowed in the AutoHotkey forums or official primary AutoHotkey information sources. No spamming—although personal and private business e-mails containing an affiliate link are acceptable. No keyword bidding systems which include words such as “AutoHotkey” and/or “ComputorEdge E-Books” may contain ComputorEdge E-Books affiliate coded links (e.g. Google Adwords). This last condition prevents the poaching of other affiliate cookies. These conditions will be explained in more detail in future blogs.
I’ll let you know when I have things up and running.
Affiliate Program Contact Form: