The world of software engineering is definitely a competitive field. With demand for virtually every type of product and service, one might think that there’d be more room for good ideas to dominate in an uncontested atmosphere. This simply isn’t true. However, that doesn’t mean that even the smallest of firms or the most novice of individuals can’t force their way into this industry, develop a great product, and dominate.

It can be very difficult to know where to begin when you’re new to designing, launching and marketing software. Fortunately, many others have done it before and there is a clear pathway forward if you’re willing to be patient and have a bit of dedication.

Today, we’ll review the main components and steps you’ll need to take and implement in order to successfully launch your first software program.

Search for an Opportunity

Some of the best software ideas in the world come from completely random moments where that light bulb goes off in someone’s head. Whether it’s somebody being outraged over a price increase or a sudden realization that a service doesn’t exist, the best ideas often come out of nowhere.

However, those in the world of software development who proactively want to generate their first piece of software may not have such an epiphany occur when needed. Because of this, initial brainstorming and opportunity hunts must occur.

Ultimately, you are going to need to do some market research. This will involve brainstorming for various ideas at first, followed by in-depth research into various markets and niches. What are the key selling points, features, prices and other variables of the competitors in a given market? Who are their target audiences? How well are they doing in general? These questions and many more will be asked during the initial stages of research. At the end of the process, you won’t always find a potential opening within a niche for your software. Nevertheless, with enough persistence, you will uncover an opportunity sooner or later.

Conceptualize Your Idea

After you’ve done copious amounts of market research and narrowed down your focus to one particular area, the process then turns to designing how your software will work. Some key questions you’ll need to answer relate to how the product will function, who will use it, how feature-laden it will be, how licensing will work, and what pricing tiers will exist.

Initially, you are creating the idea of a product rather than programming a piece of software. These two phases are fundamentally different – one involves creativity while the other involves concrete logic. For some developers, conceptualizing their software ideas can be the most difficult part. Once you’ve drafted your broader idea, however, you can then move on to actual creation.

Create Your Software

While perhaps the most time-consuming and difficult part of the process, software creation falls right in the middle of the software launching process. It is here that you’ll code, test, delete, revise and ultimately perhaps even pull your hair out a few times. Needless to say, this part of the process is what you’ve been waiting for: creating an actual product that functions, solves problems and fulfills demand.

During the creation process, you’ll want to not only engage in copious amounts of personal testing and tweaking, but you’ll want to invite others to use and test your product. Be careful about who you let use it, as good ideas can be stolen this way: we recommend a software escrow service for situations like these.

Once you’ve tested your heart out, obtained valuable feedback and made any necessary revisions, the work moves from cold, hard creation to a potentially even more difficult process.

Begin Marketing Your Product

Once all of the hard work that goes into actually creating your first piece of software is complete, the task then turns to achieving support in the court of public opinion. Hopefully you already scouted out potential target audiences for your software when doing market research; this will make future marketing efforts much easier.

You’ll also need to decide how you’re going to approach the sale of your software. Are you wishing to retain control of the software, licensing it to individuals on a case-by-case basis? Perhaps instead, you’re looking to sell the software to an interested buyer or firm for a lump sum payment. Usually, the former option is the more likely avenue for first-time software developers, but depending on the product, you may be able to do either/or.

Assuming you’re not transferring full ownership of the software to someone else, you’ll know need a sophisticated marketing campaign to attract potential customers. For as little as a few hundred dollars, you can implement an aggressive advertising campaign via Google AdWords and other social media networks. Depending on your target audience, you may wish to target Facebook, LinkedIn or Twitter (or all of the above!).

Some software developers offer free/limited trials of their product to individuals, collecting leads in the process and hopefully converting those leads and trials into sales at a later date. Whichever marketing approach you use is entirely up to you, but depending on your target audience, one or the other may be preferred. Business types may be more inclined to bite with a free trial, while young mobile users may be willing to purchase the product upfront if the price is right.

In terms of bringing in new customers, affiliate marketing is also an effective model. This works by bringing in affiliate’s that promote your software to people that would be interested in it. You would create an affiliate program and add it to popular affiliate networks so marketers can find you. You will need to pay the affiliate marketers a commission every time they bring customers to you. But you only pay when you bring in new customers so its a win-win.

Other Considerations

Depending on the scope and scale of your software project, there may be other considerations. Will you need to quit your current job in order to focus on the project full-time, and if so, can you afford to do so? If the project is massive, are you going to require start-up funding in order to make it happen? You’ll need clear answers to questions like these before any hard work begins.

The path toward launching your first software is time-consuming, potentially costly and quite frustrating. You’ll need a solid business plan, marketing strategies, experience in programming and a great idea on top of it all in order to be successful. While it can take time to produce the final product, every great piece of software imaginable first began in the mind of a lone dreamer.

By Kar

Dr. Kar works in the interface of digital transformation and data science. Professionally a professor in one of the top B-Schools of Asia and an alumni of XLRI, he has extensive experience in teaching, training, consultancy and research in reputed institutes. He is a regular contributor of Business Fundas and a frequent author in research platforms. He is widely cited as a researcher. Note: The articles authored in this blog are his personal views and does not reflect that of his affiliations.