Wednesday, May 29, 2013 - 11:50
Written by
One of the interesting conversations started at CiviCON was about marketing. Great energy and good ideas came out of small groups that met to brainstorm ways to amplify our voice. We broadly agreed that it's time for CiviCRM to be unleashed, time for a campaign to reel in more users.
A number of people have put their hands up to volunteer to take marketing forward after the conference, including John Derry, CiviCRM integrator and marketing consultant. He listened closely, took notes, and has since given a lot of thought to how we might bring many more organizations into the the fold.
A few days ago, a CiviCRM marketing strategy arrived in my inbox from John which addresses a range of initiatives from public relations to grassroots marketing tactics and branding. The approach is exciting and it promises to empower our community.  My hope is that this plan will be a first step in catalyzing folks in the community to pool their skills and passion towards the initiatives outlined in the plan.
Take a few minutes to review the draft plan on the wiki - I think you'll be as excited as I am by the possiblities! (... and of course comments are welcome).
Can you join the marketing team to transform our communications? If you put your hand up to help previously, your involvement is needed now. In fact, the plan will only work if a dedicated group of people step forward to become part of our marketing team. It doesn't matter if you are a marketing expert or not - there are lots of ways to participate. Take a minute to fill out this form and we'll get things rolling.


Just my two cents worth.

I feel like the greatest barrier for people to get going is often the first steps.  In the Drupal Community there area number of starter packages available to people based on their use cases.  For instance one of the best spots that CiviCRM fits in is within Drupal Commons distro.  To package just the basic Drupal modules and CiviCRM I don't think is necessarily enough for those who are new to either.  Might the community look to distros within the CMS side of things to help facilitate these things.  Drupal Commons has some over lap but at the same time approaching those distro teams to help facilitate an alternative distro might prove to be hugely successful.  Just some prelim thoughts.


Might you share the marketing ideas with those not at the conference?


Check the various starter kits maintained by Kevin Reynen from

In specific, this is a good one for most initial civi/drupal installs:



Hi Lobo,

I find this to be a very basic starting point.  Look at Drupal Commons and see the starting functionality and ease of setup that provides over something like the starter kit. Most orgs are looking for a bit more from a starting point.  Eliminating the techincal overhead is the barrier I am referring to.  But thanks for responding.


yes, there has been some talk in the past for various things like:

- Civi for religious groups

- Civi for political campaigns

- Civi for school

- Civi for country XYZ

- Civi for association management


which packages various modules / extensions / settings in a coherent manner. Wanna help lead the charge on one (or more) of the above?



Maybe the better response here is not prepackaged but rather suggested modules and extensions based on the community experience and generalized goals.  Let me think on this a bit and see what I might come up with.  Maybe this is better done as an open discussion in one of those Google Hangouts where people can openly suggest solutions.  I figure that most orgs would use the majority of the features seen in a distro like commons but there are also other use cases such as mapping specialities like the one I use OpenLayers.  Maybe we could use a table/matrix to categorize them for best fit based on use case such ecommerce or data collection.  Just some thoughts.

My solution to the common problem - how do I show organisations what CiviCRM can do? - was to build a front end demo with a glossy theme.

However, I think the focus of marketing is to attract more people to the project as it is. We can't hold back until the 'product'  develops X or Y feature.

As is, it is an incredible web application but more people, deeper comitments and more resources are required before it can invest in easier setup options, in my view.

Our Melbourne MeetUp group was right when they said, the best marketing plan for CiviCRM is product refinement. However, that will be a lot more achievable if we expand the pool of organisations and developers that sustain it.

John  - love your demo, this is really nicely done and so much more powerful than a plain CiviCRM install. The text for each feature needs to be developped, but I'm sure there is plenty to reuse for that.

Isn't it time to have e a alongside the What you've done would be a great starting point.

Thank you to everyone who completed the marketing volunteer form above - the response has been excellent.

If you haven't yet expressed your interest in helping market CiviCRM better,  there's still time.

We'll contact everyone to get started on the plan in a few weeks time.

I think the idea of starter kits and distros here is a bit of a distraction and something that the more technical members of the community are drawn to because it involves doing something technical, but actually what's needed is what's in the plan: more stories, more channels for those stories into niche and even more mainstream press, more supporting material to influence decision makers because at the end of the day, they're the ones who count and after they make those decisions, they'll hopefully contribute case studies and other resources.

So while making the on-ramp easier to navigate for the small orgs with some limited tech skills is important, I think it should be considered in a slightly different conversation from marketing and we could do well to focus some minds on making Civi super slick, with a glossier demo site as John has set up, more help videos as we're trying to develop, a web site that looks more streamlined and open. This version of the site is a great improvement on the last one, but there is work to do, improving layouts, streamlining content for landing pages, search terms and so on. So let's bring the designers, UX and accessibilty people and SEO folks on board.


One of the things that always bugged me with CiviCRM is that we do not know who our users are.

I would love to be able to say: there are XX,000 organizations using CiviCRM worldwide, and here are the organizations similar to yours within the same region. And btw here are the contacts in these organizations that have agreed to be references / evangelists / mentors. This would be the most incredible marketing tool for CiviCRM.

I woud therefore advocate to collect this data somehow, either during software install (optional registration screen), and/or through the consultants / hosting / service providers and/or with a form on the website.

... to create a public view of registered CiviCRM sites. Kasia from Freeform is working with Michael McAndrew to get this going, and I'm sure they would appreciate help :-) ...

I've looked at John Derry's draft marketing strategy, and have been mulling it over through the last week or so, as despite the fact that this seems to me to be a really useful piece of work (and many thanks to John for putting it together), it felt to me that there was something missing. I now think that there are two additional aspects that need to be brought together with this, and that if it is possible to do so, it will provide a far more useful and holistic approach to this whole initiative.

The first is that John's document is essentially about marketing communications: how to put together a focussed communications campaign that gets positive messages about CiviCRM out into the world. Almost by definition it does not address the product itself, and to my mind if we aspire as a community to improve the marketing of CiviCRM we must as a fundamental part of that aspiration address the product itself.

Looking at the G2 grid for CRM ( CiviCRM is doing well, but scores just 86 out of a presumed 100 on the satisfaction rating. This is from reviews presumably written by strong advocates of the product (I was one). Why is it not scoring higher? (On the same grid Salesforce CRM scores 98 on satisfaction).

So my questions are: what is the product development strategy? How are the ideas, opinions and needs of existing users and target users assessed and taken into account when product development plans are being made? Is any analysis of the competition being carried out? Does anyone have a strategic overview of the marketplace in which CiviCRM is seeking to survive and thrive?

This plays into the second 'missing piece' - the issues raised in Jessica Kirsner's blog post (Expanding the CiviCRM End-user Community) and the points I raised in response to Michael McAndrews post (Sustainable CiviCRM Part 1: A service provider association) that talk about developing a much more effective relationship between the people at the centre of things (the core team and others) and those of us further out on the periphery. Indeed the very notion of core and periphery, the idea of concentric circles with ever decreasing levels of importance and influence, needs to be replaced with a network-centric approach (a model that is enabled by this technology) whereby we are all at the centre and the needs of end users are at least asimportant as the ideas of developers and the dollars of key funders.

By bringing together these strands I think we can make huge progress and harvest some major benefits:

  • We create the "sustainable ecosystem" that Michael stated as a key aim in his post.
  • We learn a huge amount about the market, about the needs of various stakeholders in the CiviCRM community and the wider marketplace.
  • We are enabled to feed this learning into the product development process and thereby create a product that better fits the need.
  • We have a far more engaged community of stakeholders (of all types) who are willing and able to be powerful advocates for the product, and implement some of the ideas in John Derry's strategy.
  • More money comes into the collective pot to fund the ongoing virtuous circle.

I'm going to post this in the marketing forum and on the marketing wiki page, so apologies for the repetition, but I'm not currently clear as to where the most approapriate point of focus is for this discussion.

I'm excited about this opportunity, and very keen to be involved in developing it further, if others feel that this is something worth pursuing.


All the best



Very true, the 'product' is crucially important in marketing. I hope to coopt you and a few other volunteers to develop a product strategy that addresses this point. I haven't been able to cover these questions:

1. What would realistically make CiviCRM a better product? 

2. How do you get the disparate CiviCRM developer community on board?

Ideally, we would have research on:

1. What do users want?

3. Examples of more user-centric structures to compare CiviCRM's structure with.

Many thanks for your great analysis.


Hi John

A brief response to the questions you ask:

A "better product" in this context is defined by the various stakeholders: primarily by end-users, but also all other stakeholder groups involved ranging from decision-makers in user organisations to the core team. It is also in part defined by competing products and the organisations behond those products. Hence the need for some research, to enable us to get a handle on this.

Getting the CiviCRM developer community on board. Whilst I'm certain that we can't please all the people all of the time, I'm also sure that through effective consultation we can learn about what the developer community want, and include that in the development strategy. To be clear, by 'product' I'm not just referring to the downloadable software, but also the services and processes that fit around that software (including the online books, the wiki, the forums, the conferences, etc.). An effective product stategy will aim to add value to all stakeholder groups, and that very much includes developers.

It is probably also fair to say that most CiviCRM developers will be making some of all of their living through CiviCRM, so a more successful product (and the product strategy should aim to define what success is) should directly lead to more business for developers.

A research program should enable us to learn what users want, and also how those needs change over time. CiviCRM is a product in a fairly fast changing market environment, so I would imagine that the features and benefits that users will be looking for a year from now will be different from what they need nright now. Studying the market and competing products will also let us understand something of how they are seeking to set themselves apart, and maybe gain some insights into market trends.

The debate around the proposed service provider association raised a raft of issues relating to structures. I'm of the view that if CiviCRM is to become the successful product that I believe we all aspire to, then the structures and processes need to be more user-focussed.

Graham - I agree that CiviCRM (the product and the community) could benefit from ongoing competitive market research.

Currently the vast majority of available resources, including core team and integrator/user community, are focused on meeting specific inbound requests from the community (bug needs fixing, search needs to be more scalable, client X needs better control over event badges and optimized event check-in, this new feature needs to be documented, and so on). I do see these as user-focused activities - but with a different 'data collection model' :-). Note that in recent years many of these requests come with some funding from users.

Having another set of inputs gathered systematically from existing users who 'need to be asked' (as to opposed to those we are already hearing from) would be quite helpul. In parallel some analysis of strengths and weaknesses relative to the competition would help with marketing and might 'bias' some decisions about where to put existing resources (both core team and integrators). Depending on the findings from the research, there will be some challenges figuring out how to 'fund' the suggested improvements - but I'm comfortable with crossing that bridge once we see where the gaps and opportunities are.

I think there are several other folks who signed up for the marketing team who have experience / skills in this area. If you're up for organizing a task team to get this going, John or I can make the connections.