Hot! Meditation on Project Management Apps

  • Sharebar

Basecamp LogoThere’s a barrage of project management apps – and I’ve only been looking at the SAAS ones!

God only knows how many are out there that are stand-alone installs (MS Project).

The list keeps getting longer, in part because of the critical and financial success of one of the pioneers of the industry – 37signals. 37Signals started off as a web development company, but, when they discovered their business needed a better tool – not fancier, not more features – better, they developed Basecamp. But, why is Basecamp a success when others are still struggling? Well I think it has to do with a few core marketing practices (or are they accidents?).

I’ve talked about it before, but only now did I find the reason I believe that Basecamp is so great on Basecamp’s actual homepage:

Basecamp actually works

For years project management software was about charts, graphs, and stats. And you know what? It didn’t work. Pictures and numbers don’t get projects done. Basecamp tackles project management from an entirely different angle: A focus on communication and collaboration. Basecamp brings people together.

It’s true, Basecamp tackles the “problem” of projects, through robust communication, and every tool/feature they’ve added over the years plays into this philosophy. Speaking of philosophy 37Signals, particularly Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson have been lauded and chastised for their views on business and software. They have a take no prisoners attitude when it comes to online software – make it great, make it easy, and make them (your clients) pay. It’s simple – and it is STILL having trouble breaking through the “FREE” attitude of the web.

PLEASE WATCH THIS VIDEO

Why Was/IS 37signals a Success?

It’s not simply a matter of their project – BaseCamp – or their software. Clearly in reviewing all of the software out there today there are competitors that at least do it as well – if not better – for a similar or CHEAPER cost.

  • Startup – 37Signals was not a property manager – they were a team of web developers, who, knowing the web, created a piece of software that solved a problem. They knew the industry, and the tools. In fact, they even CREATED the tools – David Heinemeier Hansson CREATED RUBY ON RAILS! This is the software that is used to run many of the Web 2.0/3.0 applications. This in and of itself is not that amazing, but the access and networking that it afforded 37Signals had a profound effect on Basecamp’s success.
  • Branding – Basecamp is the defacto web collaboration tool for projects and small businesses. Even in sleepy southwest Florida, many businesses, even those NOT involved in the web directly are using it. It’s a snowball effect (more to come in cost of entry).
  • Marketing – As great web developers 37Signals are also a team of good (but not great – more coming later) marketers. They’ve enhanced their site over the years and have recognized that marketing the tool comes first, adding features comes second.
  • Cost of Entry (aka Moat) – This is perhaps the BIGGEST advantage and any company can unseat Basecamp and 37Signals here, but it will take time. Basecamp although relatively inexpensive on a month-to-month basis has a HUGE cost of entry. Converting one’s company and processes is time consuming, and frankly once you’re in something – in this case a collaboration tool – that just works – leaving is a huge pain in the ass! At my web development company we’ve used Basecamp for about 4 years intensively, and many more less intensely. We have no plans to move right now, simply because ALL of our clients, clients clients, and daily processes are tracked through the system.

But, despite the last couple paragraphs talking about 37Signals I’m not here to talk about them directly. In fact, what got me started today on this topic was my interview yesterday of Sahil Parikh of DeskAway. DeskAway is very similar to Basecamp, but more powerful, and is slated to become the “Basecamp of India.” I only phrase it that way to make it simple – DeskAway is it’s own product and it’s goals and tools are very different from Basecamp – in a way. Sahil was reluctant to divulge how many users DeskAway has – if it’s smaller than 50,000 this was smart, if it’s more this was a mistake! It was a mistake because good marketing will make me want to join those legions of satisfied customers.

Where Basecamp/37Signals Falls Short

Although hinted at in the copied ad copy above, Basecamp still falls short. Despite having one of the best home pages and sites in the business, one that has copy that speaks to the crowd effect – IE 3,000,000+ people use our software why not you? – Basecamp is still falling short! Where is Basecamp falling short? Well, it’s the place I feel 99% of the other web based project management applications are falling short – marketing! It’s this simple:

Most of the copy, design, etc. of project management applications is being communicated on a technical level.

Let me give you an example:

When I try to sell web design, or Internet marketing I don’t talk about tweaking HTML, TITLE Tags, compressing JPGs just right, or optimizing a company’s Google Advertiser Score (for Google AdWords).

“Holy shit! What did you just say…”

NOTHING… to my prospective customer.

Instead I have them first define their problem – 99% of the time it’s WE WANT MORE BUSINESS! Then I answer that for them, we’ll bring in more business with a new website or better online marketing.

It’s that simple.

The tech stuff can help – when a company or person is educated, but usually it confuses.

What Can You Do?

Are you the developer of an online system looking to sign people up on a monthly fee and create a viable business? Well, here’s what you need to do:

Market to your audience.

What are their problems, how does your program solve those problems? Not technically how, physically how! I could care less if your system has social cabilities, integrates with email, and provides a full API. Is he talking about Rubicon now?

No, I care that this thing I’m about to pay money for saves me time, makes me money, or helps me delay hiring staff.

Author

Zach Katkin

Zach is the owner of a number of small businesses including Atilus. He has used many of the small business tools and tips featured on this site in order to help his company. Zach – who general doesn’t like speaking about himself in 3rd person – wants to help you – that’s right, now I’m talking to you – make your small business the best it can be using the Interweb.

23 Comments

  1. Aw, this was a really nice post. In idea I would like to put in writing like this additionally – taking time and actual effort to make a very good article… but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and by no means seem to get something done.

  2. I like it when people get together and share ideas. Great site, stick with it!

  3. I truly love your blog..I am working on my camping web site. Pleasant colors & design. Did you develop this page on your own? Please reply back as I’m attempting to build my very own website and also want to learn the place where you got this from or maybe what the theme known as.

  4. I cherished as much as you will obtain performed right here. The sketch is tasteful, your authored subject matter stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an nervousness over that you would like be turning in the following. ill surely come more formerly once more since exactly the similar just about very regularly inside of case you defend this increase.

  5. Hello! I know this is kinda off topic but I was wondering which blog platform are you using for this
    website? I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress because I’ve had problems with hackers and I’m
    looking at options for another platform. I would be great
    if you could point me in the direction of
    a good platform.

  6. Virginia Woolf – a famous writer of the twentieth
    century, has rightly pointed out the importance of food in her
    quote “one cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well. 21 Degrees Cigar & Accessories in Scottsdale is offering veterans 10% off their purchases today and access to the private Rocky Patel Lounge in honor of Veterans Day and their service. The first is accident forgiveness, which allows essentially provides you with the ability to have one at-fault accident without your policy being hit with an increase in rates.

  7. Moreover, if you want something funkier you can also combine the flavors
    like double apple with mint and thus get a hint of mint also with apple.
    Because modifying temperature demands heating system as well as cooling in Melbourne
    being looked after, you must call up the repair service to
    maintain your system. With the aid of online you can get a better picture of all the designs and colors and so on.

  8. Wonderful blog! I found it while surfing around on Yahoo News.

    Do you have any tips on how to get listed in Yahoo News? I’ve been trying for a while but I
    never seem to get there! Thank you

  9. Hi there, You’ve done an excellent job. I will definitely digg it and personally
    suggest to my friends. I am confident they’ll be benefited from this site.

  10. Can you tell us more about this? I’d like to find out some additional information.

  11. You’re so cool! I do not think I’ve read through a single thing like that before. So wonderful to find another person with original thoughts on this subject matter. Seriously.. many thanks for starting this up. This site is something that is required on the internet, someone with some originality!

  12. I am not sure the place you are getting your info, however good topic.

    I must spend a while finding out more or understanding more.

    Thank you for wonderful info I was in search of this information for
    my mission.

  13. He showed up per week later, troubleshooted the TV
    per Sharp Tech via cell phone, was knowledgeable my board was dangerous.

  14. Good post. I learn something totally new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday. It will always be helpful to read through content from other writers and use something from other websites.

  15. good post and nice info

  16. True love does not mean to always be one, sometimes true love is separate but nothing changes

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *