Lately, I have been thinking about the different ways that an open source business model can benefit the companies that base their businesses on an open source product. Although there are many benefits, one of these benefits is that open source can be used as a marketing strategy. I blogged about this idea in some detail on the new Compiere Blog, and here is an excerpt:
Since Compiere is freely available for download, anyone can install the software, try it, and see if they want to use it in their environment. Many of these people will never generate any revenue for Compiere, but maybe they tell a few other people about Compiere, and maybe those people tell a few more people ... This viral marketing helps to promote and market open source products with little involvement from companies like Compiere. Having an open source business model can generate a level of awareness that might otherwise cost a substantial amount of money to achieve through trade shows, advertising, etc.
Using open source as a marketing strategy requires a shift in thinking for anyone coming from a proprietary background. As open source companies, we need to encourage people to download our software for free – the more, the better! It does not matter to me that someone gets our software for free without paying Compiere a dime. Yes, they are benefiting from our hard work without giving anything in return, but all I need is for them to tell someone who will eventually want to attend training or purchase some type of support or other services from Compiere.
Open source companies also need to be a bit careful not to be too heavy handed with pushing people into revenue generation. We cannot (and do not want to) force people into purchasing support agreements or other services, because this would severely limit our ability to benefit from open source as a marketing strategy. Instead, we need to provide compelling services (support and others) that benefit our customers. Those customers who need and want our help will pay for it. (Quote from the Compiere Blog)