RTPA (Real-Time Program Audit) is a software tool that, working with your regular compiler, creates a new program that displays the source statements and variable values of a program. Its the tool I invented to automate the Harkins Trace, the manual audit described in Chapter 16; RTPA causes a program to create audit files, recording its source statements and variable values while the program executes. When I considered it ready to go into midrange shops everywhere, I went about marketing it in what seemed the sensible way.
I knew that selling was not my strong point. (A talent for pitching a product rarely lurks in pure programmers, who prefer to sit alone in front of a computer screen from morning till night.) But, since I couldnt afford to hire the experts I knew I needed, I took what seemed the logical marketing steps. In my innocence, I assumed they would bring results.
I rented a $3,000 booth at IBMs semiannual exhibition, COMMON. My wife, Gisela, and I had several banners printed touting RTPA as The IT Managers Master Key. I sent press releases out to the editors of the magazines then published for AS/400 (now called iSeries) programmers (Midrange Computing, NEWS/400, and other midrange magazines). These editors would be at COMMON. I invited them to a scheduled news conference.
Then I made a demonstration video for our booth. Because I knew Id rather stand in the booth and explain my product than buttonhole prospects, I persuaded my articulate and gregarious twin, Peter (he has marketing experience) to be the plucker . He flourishes on this kind of thinghed go into the passing (meaning not-stopping-atmybooth) crowd , walk up to someone, say, You program in RPG? Want to double your productivity? and lead the prospect back to the booth. Then Id talk my software up and show the video.
I held the news conference for magazine editors. Four editors showed up.
The news conference turned out to be productive. Brian Singleton, editor of Midrange Computing, wrote an upbeat hot new products review, and he also wrote a review online calling RTPA sort of a trace on steroids. We got similar raves in NEWS/400 (now iSeries NEWS) and iSeries magazines.
But no sales came directly out of all this. Not a single sale? my programming friends and I kept saying to each other. How could that be? From our appearance at a second COMMON, we got one sale and a promising prospect. Then we got anther big customer to license RTPA at an apparel industry trade show. It was becoming clear to me that people had to see and try my software product to understand how they could benefit from it. It was just too different from what they were used to.
I bought several of the marketing volumes called Top Computer Executives in the United States and highlighted 100 big AS/400 shops for marketing calls. Peter made 100 marketing phone calls to the targeted prospects. But he couldnt reach a single one of them live. All of his calls were stopped by an answering machine, and only one of the prospects for whom Pete left his brief pitch called back.
With the help my sister, Debbie, I made up a packet containing an impressive (we thought) four- color brochure, a demonstration CD, and a series of quotes from enthusiastic users at the three major apparel firms to which I had sold RTPA (through personal contacts). I mailed 400 of them out to executives targeted through the Top Computer Executives book. Only several of them responded.
I sought marketing assistance from the SCORE program of the U.S. Small Business Administration (free counseling for entrepreneurs). The marketing expert whom I met had no other suggestions for me. He thought Id made the right moves for a bootstrapping marketer.
When a $5,000 ad in a magazine aimed at AS/400 programmers yielded not a single sale, I knew I had to find some other way. Fortunately, thats when Jason Olim joined my one-programmer firm.
How his marketing savvy will play out I dont know, for, as I write this, our RTPA marketing campaign has barely begun and we have focused on strengthening the product and simplifying the programmer interface.