Small software companies suffer as much at the hands of big business as do small publishing companies. In all likelihood, you haven’t seen any products by Working Software around recently. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if you hadn’t even heard of Working Software’s programs. Last I knew, they publish Spellswell, a stand-alone spelling checker that claims to be able to catch and correct more types of errors than any other spell checker (sounds like Working Software should add Apple Event support and license it all over the place), Findswell, a standard file dialog file find utility, Lookup, which spell checks on the fly in all programs, and QuickLetter, a small word processing desk accessory for producing letters, printing envelopes and keeping track of addresses.
All of the above utilities have at one time or another received either four and half or five mice from MacUser, but they all suffer from one significant problem – lack of marketing clout. As a small company, Working Software can’t afford ads in the magazines and has to resort to various guerilla marketing techniques, most notably direct mail. The deal that prompted this article is their most impressive yet – buy QuickLetter (the latest version, which is System 7-compatible) for $69.95 and get StuffIt Deluxe 2.01 (with a coupon for a free 3.0), MacMoney 3.5, and Rival 1.1.8 for free. Quite frankly, if you want either the excellent MacMoney or StuffIt Deluxe (I use both happily, although I’ve never used Rival and always recommend John Norstad’s free Disinfectant for virus protection), it’s worth the price. Not only that, but Working Software guarantees that you’ll like QuickLetter or they’ll refund your money within 90 days, letting you keep the other programs. Needless to say, the offer only stands for a limited time and will probably end sometime early next year.
I was impressed at the generosity of this deal so I asked Dave Johnson, president of Working Software, how he manages to do it. He responded, "We have no other choice. There are almost no Mac software dealers left. We make a profit on it because enough people order. We carefully test each list before we mail, and we only mail if it will be profitable to mail to the entire list." From what I’ve seen, Dave is right – he targets the mailing quite well and it does get your attention, although in some ways I’m sorry that a small company must resort to this type of marketing to survive.
I asked what Aladdin and Survivor and the Rival people got out of it as well, being the generally curious sort that I am. Working Software pays cash for each copy they sell, and while it’s a small amount, Working Software takes all the risk and provides a great deal of market awareness for free. So the deal does benefit everyone involved. I’m usually leery of direct mail marketing (shades of Lotus MarketPlace), but in this case I think it’s not only justified and well-handled, but necessary for the survival of Dave’s company. In this day and age of corporate mergers and mega-conglomerates, small companies have to carve themselves a niche, and Working Software is doing it by clever marketing and by paying attention to what Macintosh users want.
Working Software — 800/229-9675 — 408/423-5699 (fax)