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Alpha Software goes to the dogs to promote its products

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What do dogs have to do with building business applications? More than you'd think, at least according to the executives at Alpha Software.

Alpha Software, which sells applications and tools to software developers, and its PR firm, Gregory FCA, Philadelphia, last month announced in a press release a new addition to the Alpha Software ranks: Clifton Rabins, a dog that belongs to Richard Rabins, the company's co-chairman, as director of Sniff Testing. Several other recent hires, including a VP-technology and education and a chief security evangelist, were also highlighted in the statement. The release was put out over PRNewswire, posted to the company's blog and was tweeted.

Of course, the announcement was tongue-in-cheek. In reality, the dog is simply a frequent visitor to the company's offices. While it might seem strange for a technology provider to be putting out such an irreverent press release, it was carefully considered, said Richard Rabins, who has been posting about dog ownership on the company's website since last year. (There are 25 posts about dogs on the Alpha Software blog.) “We live in a world where people take themselves insanely seriously,” he said. “When you can talk about something like a dog, all of a sudden it creates a common bond and warms everything up.”

The stunt was really good for the company's brand image and reach, said Rich Levin, Gregory FCA's senior VP and editor in chief. “[It was] the broadest wire pickup that we've seen on any release in the past year,” he said. “And [we received] a fun influx of e-mails from the press telling us how much they enjoyed the release.” The release got pickup, too, from financial, computer, quality control and investment-related sites, which helps the company's search engine rankings, he said. “When you get good wire service pickup that includes major domain names like Businessweek.com, it has a profound effect on your search rankings down the road,” he said.

The release also helped increase traffic to the Alpha Software site. The blog post about Clifton was the top post in January, responsible for about 10% of 11,000 page views and 6,200 unique visits. In addition, site visitors have logged 122 searches on the blog for the term “Clifton” since it was launched, Levin said. Overall, the Alpha Software blog comprises 70% of all Alpha Software site traffic, Rabins said, adding that since putting out the press release, he's also gotten e-mails and phone calls about his dog. Some customers and prospects have even reached out and e-mailed photos of their own dogs, he said.

Today, Alpha is getting ready to extend Clifton's reach. Gregory FCA is in the process of creating a LinkedIn page for the dog, which will debut this week. It's just another way of humanizing the company and providing a little levity about a serious topic, Rabins said. “Most tech companies and employees are viewed as colorless and geeky people—and deep down I am a geek—but our software is serious,” he said. “I would argue that it's been really good for business.”

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