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How much marketing, sales and customer support?

Back in the days when I frequent Philip Greenspun's forums I remember he wrote in his little web development book the best software companies would consist of small cells of really really bright and knowledgible technologists.

They have to know how to self manage themselves so they don't need to pay for "waste" like marketing, sales and customer support.

The theory goes: great software sells itself, documentation and education is better than sales and marketing; and frankly--great software are so logical and easy to use and fit the customer perfectly you can't possibility need dedicated staff on call all the time, doing nothing more than gathering specs and whipping coders!

He said he never went as far as trying to create such a franchaise of geek complexs. And since the days of Ars Digita I have moved on to working for companies where a substatial amount of staff spend their day marketing, or doing sales, or supporting customers instead of coding (as much as ratio of 30:1)--and they are doing perfectly well.

So who's wrong?

Li-fan Chen
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

The trouble is with so much software out there it doesn't matter how good your product is if nobody is aware of it. If you don't market you won't sell anything.

Tony Edgecombe
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Philip Greenspun did not succeed in business. Ars Digita failed.

So, why do you take the advice of somebody who failed?

Instead, look for successful companies, and watch closely what they do.

MX
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

A software company can only grow so large without marketing sales and customer support.  It is foolish to place no value on this.  On the other hand it is foolish to believe the other, which is that software is irrelevant and that a good salesman can sell anything.  Both are required.

I would like to suggest something though, which programmers might find a bit hard to take.  Customer service may be slightly more important than the rest if only because it is so rarely done well.  Forget the common desktop applications.  When you are talking about apps for specific businesses, if you come up with the best version, it will only take a year or two for competitors to copy you.  New features to stay ahead of them you say?  Maybe that will keep you ahead for two or three versions.

The real key to keeping and holding business, as your software approaches commodity, is taking care of your customers.

name withheld out of cowardice
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Making the greatest mouse trap only goes so far.  I had a developer friend that raved about BeOS as being the greatest operating system, how solid it was, great support for this, how efficient it was for that, etc.

Did I switch to BeOS?  No.  Do you or anyone you know run BeOS on your machine?  My guess is probably not.  In my unscientific observations, companies that have so-so products but great marketing routinely live longer than companies with great products and so-so marketing.

Bea Arthur
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Philg is a great read but I would never take a smidge of his advice.

I work for a medium-size software co - and here are their priorities, in order of importance:

* Sales
* R&D
* Support
* Marketing
* Everything Else

Sassy
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

As a software dood who used to bitch about "suits", I
can say that a *skilled* enterprise sales guy is worth
his weight in any commodity you can name.  We finally
have one in my current company, and it's the first time I've
actually seen a product sell easily :)

OTOH, I've had to do a fair bit of marketing (writing
whitepapers, proofing brochures and spec sheets, etc)
and sales support lately, and haven't done much coding
outside of ports to new cpu's and RTOS's.  When you have
basically a two-man core engineering group and you
start moving product, ongoing development tends to
slow as you support customers and do "sales engineering"
stuff.

x
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Marketing has a bigger influence on revenue than quality (or uniqueness) of the product.

Just look no further than Bottled Water. That is a triumph of marketing over product if there ever was one. The irony is that bottled water is worse for you (potentially) than tap water b/c bottled water (at least 8 years ago) isn't regulated. Your tap water is.

Marketing an Product development.
You need both. Imagine that you have a square with one side being marketing effectiveness, the other product value.

The AREA of the square determines your revenue.  You need a bit of both, BALANCED, to make good revenue. 

The real kicker, of course, is that there's almost zero incremental cost to software, so at a certain point it makes sense to focus almost exclusively on marketing.

The real Entrepreneur
Tuesday, February 24, 2004

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