Open source software is an irreversible trend. Its success and future, that at one time were questioned, cannot be denied.

The vast majority of server farms that enable Cloud computing have a foundation of x86 servers running Linux. The most popular smartphone OS is based on open source. The public networks, the backbones of the phone companies, are primarily running Linux. Most ATM networks run on Linux platforms. There are numerous OSS desktops operating systems. The average person will come into contact with an open source-based product multiple times throughout their day.

I have supported OSS companies in gaining awareness and building their brands. I have enjoyed supporting organizations looking to showcase their technology innovation “chops” by showcasing their use of open source. It has also been a privilege to work with the most strategic industry organization that ensures a level playing field for OSS companies to compete and innovate.

The majority of open source companies – particularly OSS startups – often lead their public relations activities with the fact that the product or service they are selling is open source-based. Don’t get me wrong, ten years ago that would have made many decision makers think twice about buying an OSS vendor’s product or service.  Today, that is not a problem for decision makers.

Proprietary or Open Source

The problem most decision makers have is understanding the inherent benefits any technology product or service will deliver.  By leading with the fact that a product or service is based on open source creates an extra hurdle for decision makers. Successful startups, regardless of their heritage – proprietary or open source – need to develop positioning and messaging that makes it easy for decision makers to consume. They need to get to the big benefit as quickly as possible.

Additionally, most OSS startups focus their public relations activities on generating awareness with the open source community. It is great to establish a presence with the OSS community, but most decision makers (technology buyers) are not focused on that arena. They are focused on addressing their needs. And the people and reporters discussing those needs do so in other realms.

It would be great to see the all OSS companies strengthen their public relations activities by targeting the influencers and media that their decision makers listen to and read. By targeting the appropriate influencers and media – and communicating distinct and compelling benefits that decision makers care most about, OSS companies will make significant progress in rightfully attaining industry thought leadership and boosting their sales.

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