16 Feb 2011
Someone (Jason) had a great comment on my last blog post, about the confusion between the "end user" and the "developer". It is such an important distinction, I thought I would write something else about it. Understanding my theory here will certainly help the community understand what will be happening with the new marketing initiatives we are working on.
If you look at the surface of the current LassoSoft marketing initiatives (from the old guard), you will see that it follows the same model as all other development languages - aiming at the developer. The websites speak directly to developers about what is good about the language for developers. The assumption is simple: as the developers are the ones using the language, they clearly must be the ones who must be convinced of the languages' importance.
Ironically, however, we can group our developers into several categories;
1) The Entrepreneur Developer: Developers working exclusively on their own products, where the back end is meaningless to their client (i.e. website visitors).
2) The Professional Developer: Developers working for an organization directly or indirectly to build them an application or website.
The stats show us that most of the developers in the community are tied to #2 - they are professionals of some sort who work as developers. In fact, most developers in general are part of category #2.
In category #1, the end user is truly the developer. What matters to them in this case is stability, scaleability, speed, etc. At the top might be speed of development. Having said this, where in the early days of the web, many entrepreneurs couldn't find developers to build them applications and thus had to go learn a language themselves (*guilty as charged), and thus were the ones making the decisions on which language to pick.
Although there are still Entrepreneurial developers who a) decide to do it themselves or b) just got out of school and have decided to strike out on their own, my belief is that as the web "cooled" after the first .com boom, most entrepreneurs interested in starting their own products from scratch will be merely hiring developers to do so. At the very least, there are certainly significantly more skilled developers in the marketplace who have experience and are willing to work (in some cases) for a bowl of peanuts. And thus, the trend is towards category #2 as well (although I have no statistical basis to prove this with, only intuition based on watching businesses come in my other business' door).
And so, we are left with a simple focus: the professional developer.
Now, the professional developer should have a simple role: make code. And when code is finished? Make more code. But instead, the professional developer has a secondary role: language preference salesperson and protector.
How many times have you had to defend Lasso to a new client, your existing clients, or your boss?
The fact is, most of the developers who are left in the Lasso community have self-equiped themselves with a myriad of rationalizations and justifications. They can convince the client (usually/most-of-the-time) that Lasso is "the answer". They set aside time for this rationalization with every new client.
It is true, once you have "crossed the chasm" and have a good resume, you are much less likely to be asked to defend your programming choice. However, new developers, without this knowledge or equipment, need crutches. When I go to the current Lasso site, and look through the lens of the true "end user" (the client or the boss), I'm not convinced that Lasso is really a good idea. I don't care about Traits and Native Compilation. I care about what happens if my developer gets hit by a bus, or whether LassoSoft is going to go out of business.
And finally, I get to my point: the focus of Lasso marketing in the future is not on convincing developers that they should use Lasso. It is on convincing businesses and clients that Lasso will give them a return on investment, and that the whole world is already using Lasso, so they can "follow the leaders" instead of "being on the bleeding edge".
We have identified 4 key groups for whom we wish to market towards, in this order;
1) "End Client" - non-developers who make decisions for developers or are paying for the development
2) "New Users" - newbie programmers, occasional programmers and students
3) "Other Languages" (focused on PHP for now) - developers who are disenfranchised and looking for better tools
4) Old Developers - regaining trust with the people who know Lasso and have forgotten
Quite honestly, if you are currently using Lasso and reading this blog, you are the most important group, the group who will be foundational to the inevitable growth and resurgence of Lasso. But we don't need to market to you, we need to support you. If you are still here after the last few years of hell, you are either crazy or already completely convinced.
The value proposition stated by marketing will be indirectly focused on the values of the end client, not the end values of the developer. A subtle, but massive change.
Also, interestingly enough, I believe this will make Lasso one of the first websites with this marketing focus, as most of the other programming sites (especially the open-source ones) are exclusively focused on navel-gazing, as we have been as well.
So the basic strategy is to mimic pharmaceutical companies. "Ask your developer if Lasso 9 is right for you. Side effects may include..."
Finally! The support I need as one of the "crazy" people who still use Lasso is to help convince my potential clients that Lasso is the best platform to use. You nailed it with the "under the bus" and the "going out of business" considerations.