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Fog Creek Marketing

"Repeat: The company's marketing budget for this year is $0. Zip. Zilch. Nada."

Why shouldn't Joel's salary for the proportion of time he's writing JOS be included as marketing?

phil jones
Friday, August 06, 2004

They probably mean the budget for contracted marketing services to outside companies.

Just me (Sir to you)
Friday, August 06, 2004

Just because you have 0 budget doesn't mean you can't still spend money doing it, it just means no money was earmarked for spending on that.  You could still spend a large percentage of the general budget (i.e. the gross income of fog creek) on marketing anyways... so it really doesn't mean anything that the budget is 0.  If they actually spent 0 dollars on marketing, that would be something.

sir_flexalot
Friday, August 06, 2004

The website is a finite real cost, and pure marketing. In addition, I believe Fog Creek employees spend time monitoring the boards - also a marketing cost.

These should have been budgeted.

Philo

Philo
Friday, August 06, 2004

I think we all knew what he meant. 

Aside from a website that could easily be accounted for as "sales" rather than marketing (but may well be budgeted for as "website") and developer time which may not  even be apportioned there were no *cash* items in the accounts marked as Marketing. 

Which may or may not be true but I don't care.  The argument he was trying to make was that the shiny adverts and bits of tat we're sent every day are not value for money.  So he doesn't use them. 

a cynic writes...
Friday, August 06, 2004

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference
by Malcolm Gladwell

http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/tg/detail/-/0316346624/ref=ase_r5un7ejl-20/102-8510512-2606565?v=glance&s=books

If you gave Britney Spears a pair of sunglasses, and she wore them one day when the paparazzi were following her around, would that be considered part of your marketing budget?

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, August 06, 2004

Firstly, I know nothing about accounting.

If I spend 2-3 hours a week online reading through various developer communities, is this supposed to be formally budgeted as Training?

I think it's pretty obvious that the reference was to money spent outside the company for the sole purpose of attracting customers.

Edward
Friday, August 06, 2004

(assuming you were the sunglasses manufacturer...)

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, August 06, 2004

i guess every time joel looks at television commercial, he should budget that as "market research", too, eh?

...where's that roll-eyes icon thingy...

Kenny
Friday, August 06, 2004

Sorry - I was being too absolutist and picky, and missed the point.

Philo

Philo
Friday, August 06, 2004

I just caught the quote again as I posted. I take it back:

"Repeat: The company's marketing budget for this year is $0. Zip. Zilch. Nada."

JOEL is being an absolutist. Saying this so very definitively gives the impression that *he* is being too simplistic. I'm willing to bet that if someone else in the same position said this then Joel would be writing an article about "hidden costs" pointing out (as I did) the cost of the website, forums, and writing.

What would be the general reaction if someone starting a business said "I don't need a marketing budget - I'll just run a website with a discussion forum"? I suspect most of us would start pointing out how that's not just a casual "I'll just..." but that it's real money and time that must be budgeted.

The quote should have been "Outside the time and money spent on maintaining Joel On Software, Fog Creek has no budget for marketing."

Pedantic, somewhat. But when you are trying to position yourself as a trusted advocate and your advice as valued business advice, then the bar's a little bit higher and you have to be a little bit more careful what you say.

For example, since I've started working for MS, I'm a lot more careful about what I say and comment on on here. I can't guess about stuff MS does, since there's a chance my words will be given slightly more weight due to where I work. (and I still screw this up more than I should...)

Philo

Philo
Friday, August 06, 2004

You guys haven't noticed before that Joel frequently makes absolutist statements to make his point? Cynic's got it right.

Ken McKinney
Friday, August 06, 2004

Yeah, Joel does have a tendency to be absolutist in his writings. 

But I bet *if* this forum appears on the books as anything other than "forums" it'll be "customer services" or "helpdesk" or "tech support".  Because as we all know it's not here to sell the software* and tech support isn't anything as grubby as marketing :-}

* "The business goal of the software that runs the forum was to provide tech support for Fog Creek's products."

a cynic writes...
Friday, August 06, 2004

Making a budget depends on whether you care about measuring the effectiveness of what you spend over what you receive.

Now in Fog Creek's case its likely that as people are around anyway, and Joel does what he does, splintering out the exact cost (regardless of budget), of this or that 'marketing' effort would likely cost more to do than it would make sense to know.

Its only when the company makes that quantum leap in size that you have to count beans on the counting of beans. 

Joel may follow the Ben and Jerry model of slow steady growth but he may also be thinking right now that small is very beautiful and getting any larger means that the inroads that MS is making into his area would be more hurtful.  So staying small may well be the best strategy.

All the above spouted with my usual lack of specific knowledge :-)

Simon Lucy
Friday, August 06, 2004

" think we all knew what he meant.  "

I disagree.

Many small business owners don't properly account for their time.  They count thier time as "free".

Joel is *implicitly* doing this (although I'm sure he knows better and only writes when he WANTS to, so it's "fun" not work).

I agree with Philo, above.

Mr.Analogy
Friday, August 06, 2004

I'd just like to add here, that I'm not dissing Joel for the quote. I think, bold, direct, simple statements are useful to get a debate going.

But the main reason I'm not dissing Joel, is that it *never occured to me* that Joel actually *wrote* the stuff in this article. Sure, it's derived from talking to him. But I'm assuming it's been phrased in their own particular style for their market.

And that's ironic. Because, while I'll remain a dedicated fan of Joel's insight and classy writing. NOTHING I've seen so-far makes me want to read or would induce me to pay for the Software SEO site.

The whole style of the thing, reduced to lumpy "contrarian insights" like "a blog is not a magic marketing bullet" exemplifies what Joel differentiates himself from.

(Aside : Oh God! Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there are people who can only handle two states : "Blogs who?" and "Blogs, now!" and therefore "a blog is not a magic marketing bullet" counts as an "insight"!!!)

But my real complaint against the article and it's insights is that there's no discussion or notion of "context". Why does this approach work for Joel? Because he's a genius, sure.

But it's also possible, given the whole power-law distribution of attention thing, that in-fact, Joel has sewn up the market for genius bloggers who run ultra developer friendly companies. You couldn't be a second Joel and get that much attention and therefore that many sales from your blog. That  niche is taken.

Maybe the next dozen or so companies need a different strategy, including sales-teams, adverts to reach the developers who aren't internet literate enough to have discovered Fog Creek.

The insights do get a bit more interesting after about number 13. But really, I doubt the audience for this magazine are likely to understand how to apply the insights for themselves. (Ducks as loyal SoftwareCEO readers start chucking things. :-)

phil jones
Friday, August 06, 2004

This thread is why everyone hates computer programers.  It's impossible to make generalizations or off the cuff comments.  Every geek will debate the stupidest little point just to prove how right they are.  It's one of the few things I hated about working at Microsoft (see Philo for textbook example).

chris
Friday, August 06, 2004

Budget for this web-site: I thought I remembered reading somewhere that this was being hosted for free in return for some other thing Joel was doing?

If Citydesk is used for context management it could be considered a development tool rather than marketing...

Jeff Kotula
Friday, August 06, 2004

Chris, you think someone who has positioned themselves as a small business expert should just wave his hands at the costs of maintaining a website?

The reason people pay advisors on complex issues (like running a business) is for help in identifying unplanned or unanticipated costs. We do this on here all the time - someone says "I have the perfect product; I'm going to quit my job and do [x]" - the response is "do you have a business phone line? How about the publishing costs for documentation? What about insurance? Contracts? Incorporation?" etc, etc, etc.

So IMHO I think it's somewhat irresponsible for someone running a succesful business based on a website that probably costs upwards of $20k/year to say "Hey, we've got no marketing costs!"

Philo

Philo
Friday, August 06, 2004

Mr Analogy - perhaps you're right.  I tend to take everything with a pinch of salt and rather assume everyone else does. 

I agree that Philo's revised quote is how things *should* be accounted & budgeted for, but I suspect it isn't how they actually are.  Seeing the forums as tech support rather than marketing is one perspective, shall we say ;-)

a cynic writes...
Friday, August 06, 2004

I think most bright folks reading the article (and it's on a CEO website so they are all bright folks reading it right? ;) )  will read the bit about his website and understand the fact that what he meant by the statement is he doesn't have any traditional marketing costs.  He doesn't use adds etc.  The fact that he allows himself to be interviewed at all is an indication that he's trying to get his company's name out there.  He's just not using the traditional marketing tools.

Do you want to see more Joel articles like "How Microsoft Lost the API War" which are about twice the length they need to be because Joel needs to satisfy every geek reading the article and go off on tangents to explain what he means when he generalizes or doesn't explicitly out the intent of his sentence?  I don't.

chris
Friday, August 06, 2004

Err.. my last sentence got mangled a bit... but you know what I mean right? ;)

chris
Friday, August 06, 2004

I don't.

Shorty
Friday, August 06, 2004

I think Fog Creek has no marketing budget because they're losing money. I just don't see or hear about his products outside this board, either on the net or word of mouth.  And with a NY rent and just a few employees he's got to be paying out over $30K per month, but I can't imagine him making more than a dozen or two sales of his products per month.

That's based on (1) no "marketing" other than word of mouth, and (2) the indirect marketing of his blogging and interviews or book forwards are targeted at developers, not necessarily people who purchase his products.

It's also based anectodally on my own site, where I sell a $20 shareware utility, also just based on word of mouth and google. I don't blog or anything, but I have a discussion/support board that gets 500 unique visitors and 3-5 new threads a day. Based on what Joel's said in various places this board gets around 2-3,000 unique visitors, and I'd say about 20 new threads typically, so it seems consistent. And my $20 app only sells 30-50 units a month.

That's just rough numbers, I know it could be different, but I just don't see it. I'd guess Joel's funding everything from his Microsoft options or similar, but I can't see how this business per se could be significantly profitable... thus not justified in spending anything on marketing, which would just get lost in the sea of other utilities on the market.

Ed
Friday, August 06, 2004

Philo:

JoelOnSoftware.com was registered in July of 2000 and is vaild until July of 2005.

Joel & Fog Creek get FREE hosting in a colo facility because it's free advertising for the colo company.

So, in truth, he spent no money this year on the website.

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, August 06, 2004

"The company's marketing budget for this year is $0. Zip. Er, except the price of the subway I took to visit the colo that freely hosts my website, and not taking into account the time we take to remove the few messages about salad cream from the board...". How boring it would be.

Pakter
Friday, August 06, 2004

"I think most bright folks reading the article (and it's on a CEO website so they are all bright folks reading it right? ;) )  will read the bit about his website and understand the fact that what he meant by the statement is he doesn't have any traditional marketing costs"

Never assume. ;-)

Chris - all it would take is a simple "except for my website..." I also think that's important because he's made such a point in the past about the website being his major marketing tool.

I'm sorry for those who feel I'm overly pedantic about this - I just felt that the statement was, in a word, wrong. Not inaccurate, or murky, or subject to misinterpretation - it was flat out false. Put it in a magazine for CEO's and it borders on being deliberately misleading.

Hey, it's just me. Sorry if I'm all about this silly "personal accountability" thing.  (and no, I'm not perfect either, but I try)

Philo

Philo
Friday, August 06, 2004

I wonder if Microsoft considers MSNBC to be marketing.

www.MarkTAW.com
Friday, August 06, 2004

Ed,

Actually according to a previous post costs at fog creek run about 40K a month.

I guess Joel must have been lying when he mentioned his accountant complaining that Fog Creek is ridcuously profitable.

I believe this was in the same Software CEO article.

Une Ternal
Saturday, August 07, 2004

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