October 19, 2009

Know Your Audience: Going Beyond “True Believers”

Article Source Dissociated Press
October 19, 2009, 6:48 am

In line with my post last week about how to market FOSS, and what to lead with, Seth Godin talks about listening to the true believers. In short, if you look at just about any topic area you’ll find “true believers” who are deeply involved with the issue at hand, but largely out of sync with the larger market.

Godin puts it pretty succinctly:

The truth of the market is that the market you sell to isn’t filled with true believers. It’s filled with human beings who make compromises, who tell stories, who have competing objectives. And as a result, the truth of the market is that the products and services that win (if win means you can make a good living and make positive change) are rarely the products and services that are beloved without reservation by the true believers.

We have a lot of “true believers” in the FOSS community, which is fine except that many seem to think that they’re talking to other “true believers” when they’re really talking to people who couldn’t possibly care less about software licensing.

We have a lot of people who look at software as an ethical issue who want to talk to the larger market as if they care (or could be persuaded to care) about software as an ethical issue.

A successful marketing strategy (and for that matter, a successful release) is going to address the interests and needs of the larger market. This is why I feel strongly that leading with the topic of Free Software when talking to the larger market is a recipe for failure. (Note that I have never said it shouldn’t be discussed at all, just that it shouldn’t be the primary topic.) Depending on Libre as the primary feature for FOSS is also a recipe for failure. If the quality is not comparable, it’s simply not going to succeed.

We need to move beyond the true believers.

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