Marketing Matters

This is a must read. Title is ‘The Luxury of Ignorance: An Open-Source Horror Story’

I tried to use CUPS from my Mac. Crikey! I don’t know HOW it happened but I can now print to my laser printer over ethernet. Of course, it has one of those [not supported on OS X] ethernet dongle thingies from NetGear.

But I can now print And it wasn’t CUPS either. I really don’t know if I’m printing through CUPS or over AppleTalk. Of course, I can’t print from ALL applications. Office-yes. PDF-yes(slow). Illustrator/Photoshop-no.

The fact that I can’t understand what the heck is going on means I can’t fix it.

What this guy didn’t say, and I mean this with all the conviction of Morpheus, the failure of Open Source to enter the mainstream (much less world domination) is a direct consequence of the movements anti-marketing mindset. Maybe I’ll bring this topic up at the local Linux User’s Group. ‘OSS sucks because it needs marketing’.

Better make sure I do that after free pizza. 🙂

But this anti-marketing bias (and subsequent chaos) is not limited to the OSS crowd.

Consider the response I got from Market Circle on the public mailing list.

I asked them to open up their marketing contact for customer feedback. Some months later, the issue came up again (on the list) and I commented that the only voice Market Circle had was technical support and doubted a marketing department existed.

It was in a thread in which I advised a Zen approach of lowering one’s expectations until the product did what you expected. OK. So, I was snarky. But I’ve paid my money. I bought the software. All I wanted was a marketing contact to hear my voice. This is their reply.

In terms of Marketing, even with the minimal
marketing that we do, people have built up
unrealistic expectations. What would happen
if we turned on the hyperbole?

Speaks Volumes.

Market Circle’s product (DayLite, available for OS X) is conceptually great. A contact manager built around relationships. The implementation is appalling.

Consider this (proud) solution proffered by tech support (de facto marketing).

Customer One: Another problem I have is the apparent inability to link a note from a contact to a related organization so it can be see there.

Tech Support: It is possible to link a note which is already linked to a Contact to a related Organization so it can be seen there.

  • Create a note for a Contact.
  • Type info in the subject and details.
  • Click on the gear pop-up button in the Notes tab.
  • Select Link Note from the list.
  • The Linking objects to Note sheet will appear.
  • Click on the Organizations radio button.
  • Search for an Organization you would like to link the Note to as well.
  • Select the Organization from the list.
  • Click on the ‘+’ button.
  • The Organization will now appear in the Link list.
  • Click on the Link button.
  • Close the Contact card.
  • Go to the Organization list and open the Organization card.
  • Look at the Organizations notes.. you will now see the note you linked viewable in the Organizations notes.

Customer Two: ….Which is 14 steps !!

This is not atypical. Fourteen non-obvious steps. The product, as defined and developed, is a real bear to use. Let me back up. It is easy to use as a simple replacement for Address Book. It is a bear to use as a customer relationship tool. I’ve been stopped cold on several occassions trying to use DayLite in a way consistent with the features/benefits presented in promotional material.

I will commend the support staff. They honestly respond with ‘DayLite doesn’t do that’.

It’s not that the support staff is bad. They are pretty good software guys. But they just don’t *get* it. Sometimes I get the feeling that Market Circle feels we [Mac OS X] customers are damn lucky to have them write software for us. And that is a MARKETING problem.

What bothers me is the increasingly defensive tone out of Market Circle. Here is the BIG argument for marketing.

Absence a marketing department, the usual tension that exists between development and marketing, now exists between development and customers.

Consider this little gem published to the customer mailing list:

For instance, we cannot add a feature because 5 or 6 vocal people ask for it. Some of these things take a lot of time to develop.

Because one of our features is not as deep as you like it, doesn’t mean that we aren’t listening or that we have no clue in terms of ‘product development’. (I’ve been doing software development for over 14 years – I know how to get stuff done within budget constraints)

Just two months earlier, I wrote that I’d like to see more marketing at Market Circle.

Good marketing (operative word, ‘good’) puts together a whole product beyond that of the application. Whereas the support team helps customers with the product, marketing helps customers with the product collateral (including dealing with the company).

Marketing manages customer expectations. I truly don’t expect I’ll get everything I’m wishing for in DayLite. I don’t need to as long as I can get my work done and no other better alternative emerges. In this regards, another ‘heavily technical’ company that gets good marks is OmniGroup. Marketcircle gets better marks in support. OmniGroup gets better marks in marketing. In my book.

The irony is, OmniGroup didn’t get higher support marks because I didn’t need support for their products (OmniWeb, OmniGraffle, OmniOutliner). I’ve had chance/need to contact OmniGroup since and they rate world class.

As Market Circle’s marketing image sinks lower in my eyes (as I continue to lower my expectations), so does their support image.

I’m hoping Microsoft’s upcoming Office 2004 for OS X can fill the gap. People gripe about Bill but, hey, Microsoft is a marketing machine. I’m starting to raise my expectations.