I hear from people all the time who’ve been following this blog, read our books, been loving Rails, become impressed by a job post, or been inspired by a conference talk we’ve given. It’s intensely gratifying to hear how something you put into this world has had a chance to affect someone. Especially when the impact was large enough to open up a novel perspective or prompt real change. It warms.
But it also disappoints when I ask whether the person has tried Basecamp and the answer is “oh, I haven’t, we use [some assortment of big tech / valley combination] – hadn’t even thought about it”. Though the disappointment is not so much in the person as in ourselves. We’ve failed to do the work; failed to draw the connection.
Part of it is the lazy assumption that since you’ve been around for a long time, then of course people who like your philosophy or perspective would know what you make, and would have given it a try. We’ve been making Basecamp for over 15 years, so that erroneous assumption has had a long time to fester.
But that’s not how it works. If you want people to give your product a chance, you gotta ask them. Most companies do this via marketing budgets. They ask a bunch of strangers to try their product that they’ve targeted through the mechanisms of surveillance capitalism. We’ve historically been pretty hands off on ad spend, and remain staunchly opposed to invasive ad targeting.
What we’ve done instead is rely on the goodwill and word of mouth that making, sharing, and teaching affords. And it’s worked well, but it isn’t automatic. You have to activate that goodwill, if you want it to translate into sales that sustain all that making, sharing, and teaching. I don’t think we’ve done a great job at that lately. We’ve taken it for granted.
But how do you ask people who might not be your friends, but don’t feel like strangers either, if they’d try your product? Not just once five years ago, but regularly, without coming off as an annoying, self-promoting shill? I think that’s still largely an open question, but I’m really interested in trying to find the answers.
While we search, though, I thought I’d just remind myself to keep it simple and to keep it direct. So I’m not too proud to ask: Have you given Basecamp a try recently? If you like how we think about work, culture, and people, I think you’re going to like how we make software too. We’ve poured all of us into Basecamp. It would mean a lot if you’d give it a try ❤️