I’ve tossed this post into the marketing category, but it’s really anything but. Marketing, to me, implies a deeply impersonal one-to-many relationship. Blogs, coupled with websites like Technorati, give you the ability to manage one-to-one relationships, quickly determining what your customers think about your product. Robert Scoble swears by this technique, and will probably see this blog post, since I mention him by name. Hey Scoble, I’ll be at the Venture All-Stars party tonight. I’ll buy you a drink if you mention this blog post to me, or I’ll buy you two if you link to me ;-).
Take the search term “Visual Studio Sucks”: seven results on Technorati. One of them states in no uncertain terms that Visual Studio (2002) sucks:
First let me make it clear, I'm a web developer, so we're talking ASP.NET here… Visual studio may do an admirable job with Windows forms (note I say "may") but I don't care, it does a piss poor job with ASP.NET so why try? So far, and I'm damn sure there's more, Visual Studio's "Design" view has reformatted/rewritten large chunks of my standards compliant code, changed lower case tags to upper case and get this… removed closing tags! WTF!!! The result? It actually breaks things!
What’s really cool is that the Developer Division General Manager who owns this stuff, Scott Guthrie, actually responded on the blog to help this customer out (Scott’s an awesome guy, by the way). A profoundly angry customer (and rightfully so, let me add) was made much happier because someone took a minute of their time to let the author know that their thoughts and feelings were being heard. That’s really cool: sixty seconds == a happier customer, who won’t slag you, will probably give you the benefit of the doubt, and who thinks that you’re actually pretty cool. The ROI is significant, in my opinion.
Jan Miksovsky did something similar to this when he commented on my blog the other day; Cozi (probably Jan) is also linking to my blogged thoughts on their application. That’s cool.
Even if you’re a MicroISV, you can still use this same principle to respond to your customers quickly and easily. I’ve had great success with iRooster along these lines in the past, as you can see on Florian’s blog. Incidentally, I haven’t done as good a job releasing updates for iRooster as I would have liked over the past few months (although Visual Studio is better for it), but I promise to rectify this soon.