Our products are prescriptive software, more than just tools, because they instruct and empower the user with know-how as well as tools. Our best-selling flagship, Product X, is the key. We are also shipping Product Y™ for Windows.
People don't buy these products for the software itself. They buy them for the benefit they provide, the step-by-step solution to a problem. They buy them for the reassurance that they've covered all the bases, that the job is done right, that they won't be embarrassed when they show the plan to banker, boss, or partner. They don't want the software, they want the task completed. They want it done and done well.
The company name is well known and its products are respected. We have sold more than 70,000 units through distribution, and we have names and address of more than 40,000 direct buyers and registered users. Our products are sold through several major mail order houses, several computer retail chains, and listed in most available product databases. We are now distributed through the major distributors who reach the most important retail channels. Throughout, Supple Software has maintained a high professional standard and a reputation as the quality provider.
In the broader sense, our competition is books, magazines, courses, seminars, consultants, and assorted experts -- anything that helps our target market get through the tasks on which we focus. The bulk of the target market wants an easy way to successfully complete a difficult task, along with assurance that the end result will look competent. Our part of the market is the software component, Windows-based software to develop [omitted], sold through retail at £XX per unit.
At present we compete mainly against three other task X packages sold through retail: The traditional leader is Product A, by Competitor A. Third place is held by Competitor B, with a product called Product B The fourth competitor is Product C, by Company C. The appendix include charts illustrating complete data on market share, in units and dollars, for the past year.
Company A is a formidable competitor. They are also privately owned, but they are apparently well financed. A started just a few months after we did, with similar but inferior product, and better marketing. AAA has consistently been more aggressive with sales and marketing expenses, and plain better at marketing than we were. They imitated our early template products, and since then built a line of template-based products including not just AAA and Marketing Builder, but also Employee Manual Maker, Safety Plan, Publicity Builder, Loan Builder, Living Trust Builder, and Agreement Builder. Despite the broad product line, however, they still depend as much on AAA as we do on Product X. Their other products add bulk to their ads, but only the business plan, marketing plan, and occasionally the employee handbook appear on the retail shelves.
AAA's AAA has been the market leader, with 45% unit share as measured by PC Data, the leading source of retail market data. AAA was first into retail, and is advertised aggressively in some small business magazines and in Skymall catalogs in airlines. In 1995 Product X appeared on the market as the first stand-alone product (meaning that it included everything needed in an all-in-one application) when AAA was still just templates (meaning data files to work with other applications such as word processors or spreadsheets). Our product won warm praise from reviewers everywhere, and a lot of shelf space, so Product X rose quickly to a brief stay as the top seller, before AAA mustered its marketing skills and fought back with new packaging, aggressive advertising, and a lot of spending on in-store programs. Last November AAA finally introduced what they call "interactive" AAA, which is finally better than a template. However, it is very hard to work with and doesn't appear to pose a serious threat to our superiority in terms of product quality and reviews.
Third in the market, behind us, BBB seems to be fading. Their product, BBB is clumsy and old fashioned, text-based, and weak on tables and has no charts. It has reasonably good-looking packaging and a lot of inertia from years in the market. Its 1996 market share was 22%, according to PC Data.
The fourth-place competitor last year had 3%, but could still become a serious competitor. Company C publishes CCC, which is a poor imitation of our first version of Product X. CCC is well funded by a shipping magnate worth several hundred million dollars, and is not a public institution, despite the public-sounding name. CCC has embarked on an ambitious product plan to create not only Product X, but also Product Y, and a series of others. They are marketing these products in a way that hypes their bundled word processor and spreadsheet as general business productivity tools. This approach brings potentially huge problems in product development and support, and pits them against productivity giants including Microsoft, Lotus, and Corel. Supple Software, in contrast, includes similarly bundled word processing and spreadsheet software in its task-oriented applications, but sells only the benefit of the specific task solution.
The appendix also include data on sales of marketing products. AAA has a Task Y Product, which is reasonably successful. BBB had a Task Y, but dropped the product. CCC has announced a Task Y product, but has not released it.
Sales literature and collaterals are attached to this plan, as appendices. The literature shows how we have developed the Product X and Product Y packaging and advertising, with consistent look and "seven easy steps" theme.
This detailed discussion of vendors of packaging, programming, disk duplication and assembly has been omitted.
Both Product X and Product Y are enhancements of previous products, copyrighted since the 1980s by Ralph Smith and Supple Software.
We have a software development engine, that we own, that brings together guided text, spreadsheet tables, and charts in a user-friendly environment with wizards, help files, and on-line coaching. This is a powerful competitive edge.
The most important factor in developing future products is market need. Our understanding of the needs of our target market segment is one of our competitive advantages. It is critical to our effort to develop the right new products. We also have what we call a "core product engine" that we own (previous section) and should be the foundation of future products.