[Board] Marketing Costs/Budget in 2009

Christopher Schmidt crschmidt at metacarta.com
Sat Dec 6 21:50:46 PST 2008

To Whom it May Concern,

Recently, I was reviewing the Board's budget discussions for the Budget
in 2009 in the mailing list archives, especially as they relate to
possible expenditures for Marketing in 2009.

I'll admit that I feel slightly confused as to what the goal of the
marketing budget is. From what I'm reading, there is an expectation that
marketing funding would be a significant portion of the spending from
the foundation as a whole, and I'd like to understand how that money is
or might be spent.

Currently, I see evidence that some significant portion of the marketing
budget in previous years was used for "Event support" -- buying booth
space, primarily, or other similar events. Although I see the
importance, in some cases, of attending events, I wonder if there might
not be a more efficient way of marketing OSGeo with funds that may or
may not be available. To me, it's not clear that event support really
has the highest return on investment for OSGeo, even within the
marketing world. 

Specifically, I think that one of the areas that OSGeo is doing poorest
in marketing is in simply presenting a unified view targeted towards
potential sponsors. OSGeo -- as a community -- has grown organically in
a way that is both healthy and encouraging. However, OSGeo as a movement
towards a well-known name is not doing particularly well. The key
message/purpose of OSGeo -- "We support the software that supports your
geospatial operations" -- is one that we have not put nearly enought
effort into selling, in my opinion.

One example of an organization which has taken the lead -- especially
recently -- in rebranding itself, is the OpenGeo group (the Geospatial
division of the Open Planning Project). The web presence of OpenGeo --
http://opengeo.org/ -- is in a style that corporations feel immediatley
at home with, and has much more 'gut appeal' to the types of
organizations that OSGeo seems to be seeking as sponsors than the
current OSGeo website does.

This wasn't accomplished by creating a lot of booth materials --
OpenGeo's total booth materials cost for FOSS4G must have been very
minimal compared to even OSGeo's this year. 

The current OSGeo website is not a completely inadequate community site.
It has some success in that regard. But OSGeo -- as an entity seeking
sponsorship -- can't only be about building the community. It really
needs to be seen as an organization which is supporting these Open
Source projects to be truly successful.

With that in mind, I would like to propose for your consideration the

  In order to accomplish its goals of supporting the Open Source
  projects that make up OSGeo, OSGeo should take on the task of
  improving their brand by creating a strong web presence targeted
  towards potential sponsors. Specifically, this web presence should be
  seeking to identify other organizations with similar potential
  targets, and mimic the successes of those organizations in
  presentation of materials.

  The materials being presented should include:
    * A high level overview of OSGeo and what it is
    * A high level overview of the projects that are currently supported
      by OSGeo, targeted towards executive -- rather than
      developer-oriented -- summary
    * A high level overview of how OSGeo achieves its goals in
      supporting these projects
    * How organizations can help support OSGeo in the above task.

  This web presence should exist in *addition* to the resources which
  are currently used by the community.

It's not clear to me if this effort should be pursued within the
existing marketing community in OSGeo, or pursued by some other group
already existing within OSGeo. It is clear to me that there has not been
a lot of thought put into the current website from the perspective of
someone with experience in marketing. This isn't a bad thing,
neccesarily, but I think in order for OSGeo to continue to grow, this is
going to become more and more of a problem.

Clearly, this is not the sole marketing task for OSGeo: materials to be
used at conferences should continue to be pursued. However, I think to
some extent, OSGeo needs to help projects which help themselves beyond a
certain point. OSgeo's job is to act as the starting point for people to
get *to* the information they need about a project -- not a place to
provide that information. Right now, probably due in part to the level
of participation by the projects themselves in the OSGeo community,
there is a blurry line here, and I think that's one of the things that
should be changed. 

It's not entirely clear to me whether the OSGeo drupal website that
currently exists is important to the community. It's possible it is, and
that it could continue to exist in some form. However, I think that it
is not sufficient as an executive overview of what OSGeo is, what it
does, and what each of its proejcts does from the marketing perspective.
It is clear to me that some projects are better at internal marketing
that others -- OSGeo should take the first step for each of these
projects within its own realm, and encourage projects to do their own
work outside of that. 

We've built a great community. The explosion of local chapters is
evidence of that. The desire to become an OSGeo project from projects
currently not in incubation is also evidence of that. In order to
continue to grow and succeed in supporting our projects, I think it's
really time to seriously look at how to market OSGeo as an organization
to executives with checkbooks, and I think an improved web presence is a
key part of that task.

Thank you for your consideration.

Best Regards,
Christopher Schmidt
OSGeo Charter Member

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