Friday, April 10, 2009

Stormy Peters on Marketing Free and Open Source

Marketing Free and Open Source Software
Stormy Peters, Executive Director, GNOME Foundation
Open source software solutions are now very good technically - the remaining problem is how to get the word out. Marketing in an open source world, with a volunteer marketing team, small budgets and an open source development model, is often very different than the world of traditional marketing. In addition, projects are also advocating for "free and open source software" at the same time they are marketing their solution. Come share your best open source software marketing practices and discuss them with others.

Stormy has been busy talking a lot and is low on voice, so she generated a slide per sentence.

1) most people in open source are developers not marketers

2) marketing open source is different from proprietary products since the product is "not for sale"

Typically "not for sale" means that you are not collecting money and sometimes you are actually *asking* for money.  And, it tends to mean that you don't really know who your users are.

And, we still tend to need to explain what open source software (OSS) actually is.  And then, OSS doesn't really matter to many users.  So, for open source marketing, who is your audience?

Recruiting developers, users, distributors, partners, ... ?

That's why it is hard.

What types of marketing do we do today?  Looking at gnome, we have web pages (some good, some bad) and most of the best are wikis.  Events, such as GUADEC, ability to set up a table at an event.  Facebook, twitter, identica, linkedin, press releases, product materials such as sponsorship materials or application summaries.

So, what else do *you* have in your community?

Are there some best practices and how can we work together?

Question from the audience - is this true for all software communities?  Smaller communities really focus on growing community, but also may have dual licenses which allow proprietary distribution as well.  Response from the audience:  you clearly need to identify your audience and what you want to say to them.  Most open source projects don't have budget to develop materials, but the Linux Foundation video contest enabled guerilla marketing and viral marketing at very low cost.

What is our message?  Often we are marketing our values as opposed to selling our "products".

What are our goals?  Values don't always relate to our end product.  But open source projects often try to "sell" their values.  Some users really *do* buy based on the values.  But what percentage really purchase based on just the values?

It is about the applications for many audiences.  We had some discussion of brand development, association of concepts or values with brands and what actual mental associations are drawn by non-open source users when they hear "Open Source Software" or "Linux" or "Gnome".  What associations do we think people should have?  "Free Software" obviously implies Free - does it imply usability, applications, ability to do your job at home, etc.  Is there a way to collect input from new audiences to find out what their current associations are with those "brands"?  And, is there a way to focus marketing around some of those associations that we would like to see with the higher level brands?  And is there any agreement on what the higher level brands really are?

United Nations used "Transparent Technology" as opposed to Open Source and rarely is "Free Software" used in that context - which is important to understand when describing your audience.

Mozilla released a guide recently on how to do community marketing.

Lots of good discussion during the session, definitely some food for thought.


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