Why Open-Source Marketing?

Published 4 years ago - 13 Comments

About Open Source

Open Source is a concept originally developed as a method to build software, using a distributed model that allows the worldwide community to collaborate on a project.

The development of complex software systems requires a massive amount of people power. The core idea of open-source is that, by giving the world free access to the code base — the core intellectual property — the product will improve faster and be more widely adopted, than it could using a top-down, proprietary, hierarchical model.

The method has proved extremely successful, enabling some of the world’s most popular software products, such as Apache, Mozilla, Linux, and WordPress.

The idea of Open-Source has now spread beyond software development. Here Wikipedia lists some of its other applications. The former CIA spy Robert David Steele has taken the concept the furthest in his 2012 book “Open Source Everything Manifesto”, in which he argues for open-sourcing all the world’s intelligence. (Read a review here)

It seems that, whenever you have complex knowledge, technology, or intellectual property, which can benefit from rapid, continual development, you can make a case to take it open-source.

Can We Open-Source Marketing?

I spent the second half of 2014 trying to reverse-engineer what an expert online marketing consultant does, so that that set of skills could be spread to more people.

When I, or one of my experienced colleagues, looked at a website or spoke with a client, how did we know whether the project was promising, or if it had fundamental flaws that would waste money if taken to market? And, if it did need work, how did we know if it needed to focus on traffic, or on conversion, or if it had a branding problem?

Those were the questions that consumed me. I started to deconstruct the whole marketing model. Over the period of a few months, I developed a system, which I called “Ultimate Web Design” because it represents what the best web designers have always done — not just published pretty-looking websites, but created marketing campaigns that could cause real change.

“Ultimate Web Design” grew into a model and a step-by-step method that could help anyone analyse any marketing campaign and discover…

  • Whether the overall concept was fit for market.
  • Whether any elements of the proposition were missing, incomplete, or misaligned.
  • What changes could be made  to make the campaign more successful.
  • Which marketing channels or tactics would me most effective, and why.
  • And how to craft truly strategic campaigns that would take the message to market in the most cost-effective way.

I ran a private beta of the programme with a handful of paying students, and worked through several real-world case studies. It worked very well. In fact, I quickly realised it was the most powerful system I had ever used.

Of course, the great thing about a system is that it can be recorded. And if it can be recorded, it can be shared, and improved upon.

At the same time, I was working on a new book, “Web Design Is Dead”, which examines the development of web publishing technology over the past twenty years, then looks at the impact of recent advances on the web design community, and on the client sector.

I realised a few truths, which did not make me happy. One was that the world of business had been wasting an enormous amount of time and money for a long time, chasing after innovation in marketing technology that was expanding too fast to keep up with.

My second realisation was that the young web design and marketing sector was not equipped to provide its clients with the strategic quality of service it really needed.

Then it hit me…


My logo for Open-Source Marketing, inspired by the Open Source Initiative’s branding

I realised the world needed “Ultimate Web Design”, but I could see that the proprietary model was not a vehicle that could spread that “technology” far enough or fast enough. As I was reading Steele’s book I wondered, “Why can’t we make this model open-source?”

After all, my model is a technology. It has a “code base” of sorts, in that it has a process to follow, which can be written down, shared, and applied in a range of situations.

What if I invited the world to use that technology freely, to test it, to help build on it, and to find ways to improve it?

Why Go Open-Source?

I accept that giving our knowledge away is not a popular idea in the Internet Marketing sector. I have a number of friends and colleagues who argue that giving content away for free devalues it in people’s eyes, and that it’s morally right to be compensated for developing learning resources.

I’m not saying they’re wrong on either of those points. However, I’m generally disgusted with the practices of the Internet Marketing sector (more here), which tends to use knowledge to manipulate, and will only tell you enough to persuade you to purchase the rest of the course. I don’t want to manipulate, even if it means I lose money. Some things are more important than profits. Here are a few reasons why I’m willing to take this step…

#1 The Greater Good

My first priority is always to create the maximum good. The idea of charging people to be able to access this information, which could radically help businesses to survive or to grow, does not sit well with me.

From each according to his ability, to each according to his need

Louis Blanc, 1851

Is it right that the only people who should have access to the best marketing methods be the ones who can already afford it — either because their businesses are already profitable, or because they’re willing to risk borrowing?

Or is it right that everyone gets the same opportunities, regardless of their situation?

Open-source marketing would be like paying forward, trusting that the long-term effects will benefit all.

#2 It’s Natural

I’m inspired by Nature, and the idea of biomimicry, which invites us to look to the natural world for inspiration on how to solve problems, because natural systems have been developing for thousands or millions of years.

When I look at Nature, I see that it gives without counting the cost, and in doing so creates life. It is naturally abundant, so it is natural to be abundant, not stingy. (I write more about this in my article: “Marketing Magic Beans“.)

#3 We’re Stronger Together

Going open-source is also the best way to improve the product faster. The more people use the systems and models we create, the more eyeballs they have on them, the more case studies they’re tested on, the more enhancements we’ll notice.

An open system supports interoperability, which brings multiple advantages.

Imagine if we had a world full of consultants, freelancers, or agencies, who were familiar with the “Open-Source Marketing” system. Using a standardised “language” of marketing would let us far more easily take over projects, move between projects or between teams, or share expert advice. This could make the whole marketing world run far more efficiently, and more smoothly.

#4 Transparency

Open-Source Marketing would increase transparency within projects, by making both the models and also the methods openly available.

That should allow everyone working on a project to understand what’s happening more easily. It would also make it much harder for service providers to confuse their clients with a smoke screen of technical jargon, and instead promote accountability.

How Open-Source Marketing Will Work

For a project to go open-source, we need…

  1. To make all the intellectual property freely available. (I am doing this now, by putting my new “Ultimate Web Design” course materials online for free. old “Pro Web Design Course” will follow soon.)
  2. Any designer, consultant, agency, or organisation can then pick up the materials and apply them in their own projects.
  3. If they find ways to extend or to improve the system, they need to be able to submit change requests.
  4. Requests can be considered and, if successful, will be incorporated into the next iteration of the code base.
  5. The legal framework will be provided by one of many standard licences.
  6. In due course, it may make sense to create a formal qualification in being an OSM practitioner, and to run conferences.
  7. My hope is that people will take this technology and build on it, creating new applications that I cannot even imagine today.

What’s In It For Me?

My reasons for making my research into an open-source project are altruistic, but (to apply full transparency) there are selfish motives too. I am hoping to build a good business out of this.

But, whether I do that or not, if I can help you along the way, to have a better business and a better life, that’s good enough for me.

There is no catch and no deal.

I invite you to take this info and apply it in your business or organisation.

If you find it helpful, let me know. If you find a case in which it doesn’t work, please let me know, so that we can make it better.

If you need assistance or support, either I, or one of my team, would love to help you, for a fee.

Whatever you do, please put it to use.

I’m not saying it’s super-quick or super-simple… To get sustainable results in marketing takes something significant. But I can tell you it works.

I have faith in human nature – in you! Maybe you’ll never tip me, buy an hour of my time, or become a client of my agency. And that’s 100% fine. Maybe you don’t have the need, or the budget. But I want you to have the best guidance I can offer, because hopefully that may help your business to survive, grow, thrive. And maybe one day you’ll have the need to call me or my team.