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Web strategy for open-source businesses (Learning from JBoss)

What can we learn from JBoss? The critical importance of a strong web strategy.

Talk with John Roberts, CEO of SugarCRM, and he'll tell you that his website is one of his most valuable business tools. It's often the beginning point to a customer relationship and is also often the source of a deal closing. Few understand web strategy as well as SugarCRM.

JBoss/Red Hat

JBoss might well be among that few. I was reading through an internal presentation from JBoss and continually find myself impressed by how well Marc, Rob, Bob, and the others grok'd the importance of the web to their business. JBoss knew who was hitting its website, what they were doing there, and how to nurture that initial interest into a sale.

Take a look at the slide to the right. IBM is the master of selling to the CIO and pushing its technology down into an enterprise. Open source generally works in the opposite fashion. You start with the developer/architect and "bottom-up" adoption of technology until it's pervasive enough to catch the CIO's attention...and her wallet.

This means that open-source company websites need to be rich with information, not shallow marketing fluff. It also means that open-source companies need to "gate" this information with registration, so that the company has a way to get in touch with the prospective customer. The software may be free, but the documentation/webinars/white papers/etc. should not be. People "pay" with their contact information.

Once you know who is on your site, you can glean a lot of information about their possible buying behavior. JBoss would track web interactions:

  • By user (cookies)
  • By company (backward DNS lookups)
  • By page, section, etc?
  • Also track e-mail opens, click-throughs, etc?

This isn't so that the company can spam their site visitors with superficial sales presentations. It's so that they can offer real value to complement the developers' interests as revealed by their activity on the open-source company's website: training, support, consulting, etc. The software is free. Getting the most out of it need not be.

81% of JBoss' gross leads came from website registrations. 21% of its sales derived from qualified leads (with another 52% stemming from renewals and up-sell to existing customers). Everything that happens on its website was/is critical and valuable.

Open-source businesses must think of themselves as online businesses. They need to get sophisticated with use of marketing automation tools like Loopfuse. They need to leverage their websites far more than most do. The website is the salesperson that always hits and exceeds its quota, if done right.

Disclosure: I am an advisor to SugarCRM and Loopfuse.