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June 03, 2005

My Booth is bigger than your Social Software

Ektron Logo
Over at Bill's place, he's musing about the size of booths (known as stands in our local lingo, Strine) at the AIIM show in Philadelphia. Oh, Oh, you're thinking, Marius is going to have another post about trade shows too, boring...

Well... yes and no. I still wanted to get a few things off my chest regarding CMS Vendors at CeBIT last week, but also look at some CMS competitors which don't appear at trade shows.

At CeBIT Sydney, I spent a few minutes on the stands of two companies selling Australian made Content Management Systems:

Komodo CMS logo
Komodo is a gorgeous looking CMS, the kind of CMS a designer would design. Their marketing materials and demonstrations focused on the process of design and features of the tools rather than the benefits to the customers (other than being able to easily update your site, just like the other 20,000 CMS's on the market). It looked like it was aimed at Web Designers rather than their customers.

Weblogics logo
On the other hand, Weblogics had a sparse stand and focussed on the features and benefits of their system. Their system is more your swiss army knife kind of CMS (ignoring for the moment that they call it a Knowledge Management System). Their selling point is all the things it does "right out of the box". It is clearly aimed at the business manager who is looking for a way to deliver lots of goodies with a minimum of deployment hassles.

Those systems reflect the perspective of their developers and the expectations of their customers, and they are as different as chalk and cheese. I suspect Weblogics found business managers interested in their product amongst the CeBIT crowd. I didn't see a lot of the Web Designers, which I would expect Komodo to appeal to, at the show. I still think both companies would have been better off investing in trade shows aligned with their target market.

But anyway, what about the "elephant in the room" at IT tradeshows, Open Source Software? That is a whole category of software which is largely unrepresented at shows like CeBit and AIIM. Bill's point about the size of a booth not necessarily reflecting the quality or benefits of a product extends to those without a marketing budget at all. I've recently been working with a variety of Open Source software, including a Content Management System.

Let's leave aside the usual pro and con discussions about open source software. Commercial vendors might well look closely at how communities form around Open Source projects, spawning enthusiastic supporters who spread the word. And it is interesting to see the emergence of grass roots commercial ventures around a product like Mambo, a CMS which (with over a million downloads)is gaining traction at the entry level market. I wouldn't want to suggest that Ektron, Weblogics and Komodo should entirely abandon live events like trade shows. But they might consider spending more energy in leveraging "Social Software" like weblogs, forums and mailing lists, which seem to be working well for those who have no marketing budget at all.

Posted by Marius at June 3, 2005 01:49 PM

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