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Appealing to the US market - opinions wanted


#1

I would be really interested in the opinions of people here - especially non-Europeans on something that has been revealed as we dug into some of the data around who buys licenses of our CMS product, Perch.

A bit of back story. Perch was launched May 2009. It now is profitable enough that by January of this year we stopped doing consultancy work and Perch is all we do. So we’re doing reasonably well. When we launched we priced the product in GBP per license. In July 2012 we added pricing (and taking of multicurrency payments) in USD and EUR. The received wisdom being that a US audience are put off by pricing in GBP.

So we now have a fair bit of data in terms of our growth, and where customers come from. It looks as if adding USD has had essentially no effect at all on increasing the proportion of US customers, we’re still as UK-centric as we were. What I initially thought was an increase in US customers was just an increase in people using dollars, which is of interest but not the same thing. We do have American customers, currently at around a third of our customer base, however it is relatively flat and the disparity between growth of our UK and European and the US base is marked and the gap is growing.

There is more digging to do in the data but we’re now wondering if there are obvious things about our site and how we market Perch that is making it appeal much more to a European audience. We’re Brits but our personal reach (in terms of the people we have following us on Twitter and so on) is well spread across the world. The traffic to the Perch site is a similar split to our license sales but a lot of visitors are already customers as they update license information on the site. I’d need to do a bit more work on the data to look at where new traffic is coming from.

I’ve got a few ideas on possible reasons we do so much better in the comparatively small market that is the UK, but I’ll not post them as it is likely to skew the responses and I’d love just quick opinions really.

The site is at http://grabaperch.com and I’d love any thoughts - at the moment we very rarely do specific landing pages, so most traffic comes to that homepage.

We’re currently doing a bunch of behind the scenes work, and one of the aims is to make it easier to gather data about things we are trying in terms of converting traffic, so anything we try I will try and gather information to share in terms of the success or otherwise.


#2

I have no idea whether it’s anything to do with my “Americanness”, but my first impression, with the light colors, chirpy bird, and so on is “toy” or something for children. I hope you don’t take that the wrong way, it’s just what really jumps into my head as a first impression.

Also, among other things, in the US a Perch is a kind of fish.

I’ve heard people say - and I don’t think it’s unfounded - that people in the US are not as given to modesty as some Europeans:

http://joearms.github.io/2013/03/27/promoting-erlang.html

And all the ‘small’ and ‘light’ adjectives might work against you in some circumstances, but that of course depends a lot on your target market.

Hope that helps some


#3

The styling is very much deliberate and has been massively successful within our home market - we tried to stay away from the very masculine and technical look of competing products because our target market is web designers (rather than developers). So there is a very deliberate choice not to look technical or difficult to use. We also wanted to stay away from the whole “Simple CMS”, “CMS made Simple” type naming that a lot of these things tend to use. This has worked quite well in that we get several inbound queries a day from search engines with people searching for “the CMS with the bird”!

That said it is perfectly possibly that the quirkyness works better for a British/European market.


#4

I’d be interested to know if your # of US sales is related to the amount of US traffic you get to your sales site. ie. is it actually a conversion problem, or a traffic problem.

My feeling is that quirkiness is ok. After all, our product is called Honeybadger, and we’re doing fine. :slight_smile:

I wouldn’t be surprised if your word of mouth just isn’t making the jump across the atlantic. If that’s the case, then going to smaller regional meetups in the US may be a solution. (though an expensive one)


#5

Hi, Rachel - I’m a developer, but know a number of designers/small agency types that sound like your target market. Unfortunately, they are all reasonably dedicated to Wordpress and the customized ecosystem around it (e.g. Thesis). Drupal is also big, but Wordpress just seems to have the following because its vanilla form is free and many of its users have spent a number of years familiarizing themselves with its inner workings. I’ll have to ask around, but my guess is that 1) an up-front pricing model is not as intrinsically appealing as free when 2) they would have to learn an entirely new system which is a time investment many of them would rather not make. Also, Wordpress and Drupal have name recognition outside of the web community - I’ve personally talked to lay-people who understand (at least theoretically) Wordpress and are aware of how they can use it which may be creating a barrier to a new “unknown” commodity.

Some general stream-of-thought observations:

  • The color scheme of the site is not what I would wager most Americans expect from the website of a technical product. I understand what you are trying to accomplish concerning your target market, but with the various other barriers that I’ve mentioned not having a crisp, “normalized” design that is intrinsically understood as a technical site may be a hindrance.
  • The contrast between the text and background colors and the choice of a bubble script font for headings make it difficult to read the home page
  • The internal page navigation tabs and synopsis headlines are hard to read because Josefin is used at an extremely thin weight and renders with broken lines (at least on Windows).
  • The call-to-action buttons on the home page do not stand out very well against the tree graphic.
  • As @davidw mentioned, I thought of the fish when I first heard of Perch (about a year ago). I can’t speculate on whether this is an image problem or not, but mentally it took me a moment to understand why a cute bird was staring at me instead of Pisces;
  • Offering local currency options is fantastic - I almost never buy products priced in a foreign currency because of all the fees that my banks charge on top of the poor conversion rate to pounds or euros.
  • Only linking to the documentation in the footer is a put-off to a developer looking for immediate technical information. I’d put this up in the header links as well.

I personally work in the land of enterprise consulting where monsters like Sitecore, Kentico and Sharepoint roam (and are generally mandated from high up the IT chain), so I admittedly only have second-hand information to report on. I’ll do some reconnaissance and if I learn anything new I’ll let you know.


#6

Thanks for your observations. As for WordPress - it is also very prevalent in the UK market too but we are able to compete there happily enough so I don’t think that is a likely issue in terms of one market or the other. There are also other successful commercial solutions, for example the very successful ExpressionEngine. There will always be people who refuse to pay for software, but those people ultimately are not our customers. Many of our customers have used WordPress before (when we launched our blog add-on we had huge demand for a WordPress importer) and many use Perch as one solution among a portfolio of solutions.

As mentioned it isn’t that we have no customers, we’re over four years in, this is all we do and our growth curve is very healthy with many customers buying multiple licenses once they start using Perch. What I’m interested in is the disparity between the growth of our UK and European customer base and the US one. Are there things that a UK audience like that leave a US audience cold, is there something about our marketing that is less attractive to non-Brits etc. If I can come up with a list of possibilities then we have enough traffic and sales to be able to do some A/B Testing which hopefully would be interesting in terms of results.


#7

Thanks @starr - I need to see if I can account for the traffic that is customers using their accounts to get a better take on where new visitors are coming from. Once we launch our rebuilt backend/account functionality that will be a lot easier.


#8

Serendipitously I had dinner tonight with a few people who work in digital marketing and we discussed Perch. I only gave the basic premise for why we were discussing the site (i.e. you are seeking a new CMS - how does this one compare?), and the following are the resulting discussion points. Unfortunately, none of the participants were designers, but they all work with and recommend CMSs in their day-to-day operations.

  • “The really little content management system” is catchy but it doesn’t explain why “little” is better. (They proceeded to haul up WordPress’ site and noted that “just write” is a more intuitively descriptive tag line of what to expect from the end product.)
  • How does this compare to my preferred CMS? / Why is this better than my preferred CMS? (The suggestion was made that perhaps a comparison table would be helpful. Perch has a lot of features, and it took a while to form a comparison based on what they were used to using.)
  • How does this change my process? (They were used to dealing with a canned set of features inside of a walled garden, as it were. Perch’s concept of “design first - add CMS later” was foreign.)
  • The marketing seemed muddled/scattered. (This was an interesting discussion, but the short of it is that instead of a clear features list the product description was scattered across different sections targeting different user segments and didn’t present a quick and obvious “Perch is easy to implement and use - and here’s why” message. I think this ties in to the “why is Perch better” point above.)
  • Perch doesn’t have name recognition and would be more difficult to sell to a client than something they have heard of and worked with before. (Nothing obviously actionable, just a sentiment.)
  • The “low cost” pricing image at http://grabaperch.com/features is in pounds. (Just an observation that there wasn’t internationalization here.)
  • A color-blind friend indicated that the “demo” callout was really hard for them to see on the homepage.

Understanding that these come from people who are not members of your target designer market, I still hope they offer some insight. I think what was most evident from the conversation was that they were expecting to be quickly told why Perch was better than what they were using, and weren’t willing to switch unless that difference were practically palpable.

Best of luck!


#9

Thanks @thegrandbonce it’s definitely interesting to hear people’s thoughts when coming to the site “cold” as it were.

Although this stuff is probably more general, rather than specific to the US versus the UK market it did make me think of something I noticed while in the US recently with advertising and marketing. Here in the UK we seem not to compare our competitors negatively in a direct manner and instead just focus on talking about our own product. In the US that seems fairly normal in advertising to directly point out the perceived flaws in a competing product. It’s quite a noticeable difference as a Brit.

We’ve been running with the homepage pretty much as is since we redesigned for the launch of Perch 2 over a year ago so while we are in the middle of this rebuild project I might play around with that and get back to our designer if we think there are things we could change - or potentially have the ability to swap out to do a bit of A/B Testing on messaging. I’m trying to avoid my tendency to change too many things at once because in doing that I lose the ability to know what made a difference!


#10

Just out of curiosity, when you say popular with Europeans, does that mean popular pretty much everywhere in Europe? France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Finland, etc… ?


#11

Yep - despite the fact that our marketing site is written in English. Our biggest groups are in The Netherlands and Germany but we get users from all over Europe.

We made an early decision to make the Perch UI (so the UI of the product itself) translatable by way of a simple language file. Most web designers can read English pretty well as so much of the information out there is only in English but their clients - the people editing the sites - may not have good English so they can translate the UI or download one of our files.

http://grabaperch.com/add-ons/translations

We have the translations on github so users update and submit them. I got some initial translation work done by people on http://www.peopleperhour.com/ but they were just working from the language files, actually in context some of those direct translations might be a bit odd and our customers are great at pointing out better options.

We’re also very careful to make Perch UTF-8 throughout so we’ve seen people using it for sites in a whole host of languages such as Russian, Hebrew and even Mandarin.

In addition to the UI being translatable, I think we have decent visibility in Europe as over the last few years I’ve spoken at quite a lot of conferences in mainland Europe, so we do see people coming to try Perch quoting seeing me at some conference or other as how they heard about us.