Marketing CiviCRM

2011-09-02 03:33
Written by

I’ve just come out of the Code and Book Sprint in Lincolnshire where we made good progress on lots of fronts and had a really good time. It was great to put faces to names and share food as well as ideas. A major breakthrough means D6 support should continue, while the main CiviCRM manual got a thorough overhaul and spawned a new Developer Manual, and some good thinking made serious improvements in CiviCase scalability. All good stuff and it all drives the project forward on one level or another. However, for me one of the most important things that happened was a much smaller conversation in the kitchen - missed by many - about Marketing.

We reviewed the marketing output of the last year, which didn’t take very long, and set to thinking what we can do to move things forward. Filled with the excitement of the moment (or perhaps with my workload radar impaired by the long days) I volunteered to get things going with a blog post, some ideas and organising a regular irc meeting for anyone interested in this aspect of the project.
One of the issues seems to be that the wonderful CiviCRM community provides an easy way for its more technical members to start contributing in simple stages:
  • take part in a forum discussion
  • answer a how to question on the forum
  • find a bug and report it
  • find your next bug and provide a patch
  • before you know it folks will be hassling you to write unit tests
However, for those folks with less technical skills, there isn’t such a clear structure and some may feel daunted by all the discussions of hooks, API calls, and Ajax. So this post is partly aimed at those potential members of the community: people who would like to contribute but are probably end users rather than programmers. It’s also aimed at commercial operations like ours who do have some in-house design and marketing resources. The message here is that if you’re making money out of consulting on and implementing Civi, then please contribute back with some input on this kind of initiative.
First of all I should point out that there is actually stuff happening. The website and indeed CiviCRM’s logo and identity are being reviewed. Rayogram has been working with the core team on a new ID and site architecture in a pretty major redesign project In the last few months a couple of us at Circle Interactive  have also produced an updated version of the Introduction to CiviCRM pdf. We printed this and gave it out at CiviCon and I think it’s a useful document but it could almost certainly be better. Michael McAndrew and I also put together a ppt for an event we did with LASA earlier in the year. This was a useful starting point but definitely needs loads more work. On the book sprint we started work on a booklet aimed at human rights organisations which is conceived as the first in a series aimed at specific sectors. For CiviCon we also produced banners, t-shirts and bags. In fact we spent several hundred pounds of sponsorship money on this kind of thing and it felt pretty good. I think the conference looked professional and made the community feel positive about itself. Pats on the back to all involved in the above.
But let’s just put this in perspective for a minute. The most recent figure I could find with a really cursory google was that SalesForce spent over $250m on marketing in 2007… Now that’s a lot of chocolate but then some further investigation dug up the last published annual report which revealed that this had increased to $534m in 2009…
Wow - that’s quite a lot of catching up to do!
So if you think you can contribute to improving our marketing in any way whatsoever, please step up now – your community needs you! If you’re bit of a PR or marketing expert or a copywriter or a graphic designer and you’ve somehow got involved in CiviCRM, now is the time to comment on a blog and start the conversation. Of course you don’t have to be an expert to have an opinion and you don’t have to be a designer or a copywriter – you might just have access to one who would be prepared to help out.
CiviCRM is a wonderful tool – in the recent CRM Idol contest it has attracted high praise in the first round of comparisons: they called CiviCRM "an excellent, well thought out product" and say the interface is "one of the best we’ve seen for non-profit CRM applications anywhere". It also has an incredible community and I think we can take on the likes of Salesforce, Blackbaud and Convio because we have a great product and better model for non-profits that involves sharing, openness and collaboration. That’s not to say that there’s no room for people to make money from consultancy and other services: CiviCRM needs the commercial ecosystem as well.
But realistically we don’t have a marketing budget. So we have to act smart rather than spend money. Our conversation in the kitchen identified a few things that would help:
  • Case studies for the new website
  • More, better, sector-specific documentation
  • More webinars
  • Videos – how to’s and why to’s on YouTube and Vimeo
  • Presentations uploaded on the site and Slideshare
  • Blogs on and elsewhere
  • Tweets (use the #civicrm hashtag but also try #drupal #nptech etc.)
  • People promoting Civi on mailing lists and forums
  • Presence at conferences and exhibitions
  • Press coverage
Some of this is stuff that any of you can do - some needs more specialist skills. All of it needs some coordination and that’s why we need to identify a few people who can help oversee activity with a couple of hours here and there and a regular monthly online meetup.
We now have videos of CiviCon, a site template for next time, presentations and more. There are also some resources now available on this site. Lets use this stuff, add to it and point more people to it. Businesses that are going to be attending exhibitions or conferences can take the banner graphics and get these made up for under a hundred dollars.
I think CiviCon was a great boost to everyone and it was inspiring to see close to a hundred people from 15 countries on 5 continents making the journey to London to meet up and share stories. It was also inspiring to see someone who is an end user/administrator making the keynote speech and encouraging the community to be more active (thanks again Dominik). We should take this energy and channel it into more visibility and more awareness of CiviCRM.
We have an advantage over the big proprietary systems that we don’t want to take over the world and make a billion dollars: just supply better more appropriate solutions to organisations that are helping other people do good stuff.
If you’d rather offer your services in a less public way, send mail to but ideally start the discussion here. I think a monthly meeting on irc would help coordinate action and maintain some focus so it would be useful to know what kind of schedule would make sense for those who can help. The list above is not exhaustive and we need more input on some of these ideas as well as others. We also need to know what kind of resources we have as a group. Who knows, we might even be able to offer some chocolate at the next meetup…


Lindsey M (not verified)
2011-09-05 - 10:16
alejandro (not verified)
2011-09-06 - 03:46