Chapter 6: Poverty Sticks
Footnote: The Cost of Marketing
Developing what technically may be the perfect product is one thing. Getting people to buy it is something else. It is called marketing, and it costs an awful lot of money. If you do not have the money required to market your perfect product then it will never see the light of day.
During the early 1980s I designed and wrote a
marketing database package. I do not claim that it was the perfect product by any means. Nevertheless, it was one of the first of its kind. That alone made it difficult to sell. Despite this, I persevered. Through word of mouth I managed to sell about 15 copies (or more correctly, licences to use it). I suspect that far more copies found themselves running on the computers of people to whom I had not managed to sell licences.
By the early 1990s this kind of application had become established and very much in demand. I read articles which often reiterated that in the depth of the recession, the market for computer-aided sales and marketing systems [CASM] was booming. This market was estimated at £1,700 million for 1991. During that era I kept being invited to exhibit my software at national exhibitions dedicated to such systems. The catch was that a stand cost £5,000 per exhibition. Each exhibitor was also expected to pay for several complementary tickets at £300 each. Then there was the cost of the magazine advertising which was necessary in order to make the market aware of my product and thereby confident enough to buy it. No bank would lend me the money and I could not spare it out of my state welfare on which by then my family and I depended.
Consequently my potential share of that £1.7bn a year market was swallowed up by large (mainly American) corporates. With their vastly superior marketing resources, these took by storm, in what seemed to be an overt act of commercial war, what I saw as the indigenous artisan's rightful market share. The U.K. software market thus fell almost totally into the outright possession of the large vendors who were left free to carve it up between them as they saw fit. I thus became locked out of the free market. The latch had closed.
Had I been able to sell my package sufficiently to make a reasonable living, I would then have developed it further. I had many new ideas. These came not only from myself, but also as feed-back from users. I even laid down the design for
its successor. But it simply was not worth the effort. My software package, into which I had sunk over 15,000 hours of development, thus descended into oblivion. Not because it was no good, but because I did not have the means to tell people it was there or to create the image of credibility and establishment needed to induce people buy it.
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©July 1994 Robert John Morton