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Marketing is tricky stuff!

February 19, 2008

Most software developers like me couldn’t market ourselves out of a paper bag. That makes being an independent developer quite tricky, as it’s hard to find new projects. It also, funnily enough, means that it’s hard to find consultants. In the Plone world we are lucky to have the Plone Foundation, which helps market Plone, and therefore drives work to Plone developers. But of course that’s not enough, you can’t just sit back and relax and see the work coming in.

So the marketing talks at the Plone Summit was very useful for me. Of course, they were about marketing Plone, not marketing Lennarts, but some of it was still useful. For example, I had never heard of elevator speeches before. An elevator speech is a short explanation of what X is (X in this case being Plone, or me, or you, or whatever is the product) that is short enough to be done while you are sharing an elevator with somebody. Writing them is not easy, but having them is useful. How often have you not talked to somebody at a party that asks what you do, and you do some lame “I’m in computers” excuse, and then it turns out so is the guy you are talking to. Well, with an elevator speech you can tell him what you do before his wife steals him away. Of course, most of the time it doesn’t matter. But sometimes, just sometimes, that guy might need, or know somebody who needs you.

So, I’m working on my elevator speech. Here is an early draft:

My name is Lennart Regebro. I’m an independent software developer and I create web applications and web sites for small and medium sized companies using Python, Zope and Plone. It’s all open source software, which is great for the customer, as it always leaves the customer in control.

Whatta you say? Does that work? I hear from my customers (or rather the customers customers, as I mostly do subcontracting) that it can be hard to find developers that aren’t booked for any months in advance. I want to be booked many months in advance too. That would be nice.๐Ÿ™‚

Oh, and I know that Python, Zope and Plone is not known to the general public, but if people want to know more about that, I’ll need to do elevator speeches for them too. Hopefully some example elevator speeches for Plone will come up on plone.org in the future.

From → plone, python, zope

8 Comments
  1. Lennart,
    Yeah, the marketing stuff was great at the PSPS, and I too always had in the back of my mind how the relationship between marketing Plone and marketing Netsight work.

    This has changed over time with us. 8 years ago it was ‘We are Netsight, we do cool and clever websites, oh, and we happen to use this software called Zope, but that isn’t important to you’. Nowadays more and more customers come to us *because* we are knowledgeable in Zope and Plone. So over the years we have been shifting more towards ‘We are Netsight, we use Zope and Plone……’.

    However this still comes back to looking at exactly who you are marketing to. In the PSPS this was interesting as we did about half a dozen different elevator pitches to different markets, hence we could assume they each knew something different. ie. for the Enterprise one we didn’t need to explain *what* Plone was, we just said it compared (replaced, to be exact) systems such as MS Sharepoint, etc, etc.

    I think your elevator pitch is a great start, but again, *who* are you pitching it too? Remember Mark Corum’s advice about pitching to your grandmother. If you said your pitch to her, she would probably reply ‘What is Plone/Python?’. Now that may be a *good* thing, as you have then got their attention and can then explain it to them. If your target is small and medium sized companies do they know what Plone is? Do they care? Do you care if they care?๐Ÿ˜‰

    For about two years I used to belong to a networking group called BNI. One of the main features of this was that *every* friday morning for two years (ie approx 100 times!) I had to stand up and have exactly 60 seconds to sell Netsight’s services. And that was to a room of plumbers, florists, bankers, caterers… so it made me really aware of what I was saying and how. ie. How would you explain what you do, in 60 seconds, to a bank manager such that when the next startup company comes to him saying ‘we need X thousand euros to start a company, but we need a website’, he knows how to explain your services to them?

    I really should start my own blog๐Ÿ˜‰

    -Matt

  2. Hi Lennart,

    nice idea to bring this up.

    I experience that customers want references: So I would perhaps add: “… it’s all open source, …, which is also used by famous organizations like Google, CIA and NASA, …”

    Best
    Kai

  3. Good feedback, thanks!

    Matt: My target for this talk is people I meet socially. I assume they work for small and mediam-sized companies.๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t think they know what Plone is, and I hope that they ask.๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Cool๐Ÿ™‚ Well make sure you know what to say then when they ask ‘What is Plone?’. Don’t forget you have only used about 10-15 seconds of your 60 seconds so far๐Ÿ˜‰

    -Matt

  5. Yeah, I’m hoping that plone.org will help me with that. But based on what we did at the summit I would probably say something like:

    “Plone is a system that lets the people at a company update a website or intranet themselves, without knowing anything about web or HTML. It is one of the leading open source systems in it’s field.”

    That leaves out “who is it for” but I mentioned small and medium sized companies already.๐Ÿ™‚ Again it’s a very short speech, but in this case it’s probably a good idea to let the other get a word in.

    Zope is both easier and harder to explain, as it’s very difficult to not get technical, but very easy if you *do* get technical:

    “Zope is a framework for creating web applications, such as Plone”.
    ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Hi,
    By way of introduction, I’m a business-to-business marketing consultant–who had never heard of Plone. I read through the post and the comments and here’s my two cents.

    1. It just so happens that I’m looking for an application that will let me update my own website–without knowing about the web or HTML

    2. It’s not clear from the little you wrote whether one can just install Plone and start editing–without hurting your current design. I’m guessing not or there would be no need for software developers. It sounds like your site needs to be built with Plone in the first place.

    3. If I were you, I’d be clearer about what’s “in it” for your target audience. My guess is that many small businesses don’t realize when they buy a website how many times they’ll need to update it (to add content on existing products/services, add content about new products/services, or modify content to be more attractive to new audiences or spiders). Therefore, the “updatability” of the site is not the buying criteria that perhaps it should be.

    4. Assuming that 3 is true, I’d suggest you say something like:
    Did you know that most companies spend far more money maintaining their website–in just one year–than they did building it in the first place? That’s because even small changes cost $x–since they can only be done by someone who knows HTML. Yet to attract new business and search engines you need to keep refreshing your content. My name is Lennart Regebro and I develop websites that anyone who knows how to type can edit quickly and easily. Given that the average company modifies their website y many times per year, that translates into $z savings in the first year alone.

  7. 2. Right.
    3. Yeah, that’s probably a good point, it could very well be that companies think thy can just “have” a website and it just sits there. That’s definitely something that needs to go into the Plone elevator speech.
    4. Sounds like a radio advert, since it starts with the sell and not the introduction.๐Ÿ™‚ But otherwise it’s good.

    Great stuff, thanks!

  8. Mark Corum permalink

    Lennart,

    I think this is excellent as a starting point. Clear, to the point, and easy to understand. The two points I would make are –
    1) Open Source is still black magic to many folks – if you use the term, make sure you explain it in layman’s terms. There are a lot of companies out there using “Open Source” as though it was a dirty word – it isn’t. Explain HOW it leaves the customer in control.
    2) You second sentence is VERY long. Good elevator pitches are a series of short, punchy sentences – which you can easily split the long sentence into. Long sentences tend to sound scripted and canned. Read this pitch and if at any point you feel like you need to pause or take a breath, its time for a break. One of my mentors used to have me run through elevator pitches while climbing stairs – a good exercise since you will seldom do one in a quiet room while sitting with the person you are pitching.

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