Free software as multi-level marketing?

Over the years, the marketing and advertising strategies employed by businesses—both small and large alike—have changed dramatically. What once used to be traditional advertising on a black-and-white television has since evolved into elaborate online guerilla marketing campaigns, sometimes costing several thousand dollars a month. With computer software being a relatively new (and I use that term lightly) advancement, the marketing strategies employed by software distributors has largely been based on the web.

Even energy companies have been embracing it (see Ambit Energy reviews, where you can also see information about Ambit Energy Power Company).

Regardless of the product, marketing tactic or the budget, the desired outcome remains the same; attract attention, increase exposure, and brand-strengthening. One marketing strategy in particular is widely used, but seldom talked about. That strategy is referred to as multi-level marketing or MLM. Unfortunately, multi-level marketing has been given a bad name because it is often employed by sketchy folks operating pyramid schemes. However, when employed as a legitimate business strategy, multi-level marketing can be quite effective.

Is it possible to apply multi level marketing principles to free software?

What about free software?

Roberr Galoppini wrote a very interesting blog entry back in 2008:

So, why do we need a scheme like an MLM to sell open source?

Information asymmetry make categorizing open source customers a not so easy task, and I believe that is not uncommon to see users – read potential customers – spent a lot of time (therefore money) instead of buying commercial open source products and services. Someone, somewhere in the IT department, knows how much time spends to make things work.

These people can make the difference, they can really help to turn users into customers, from inside.

They use open source software, they know what kind of support do they need, they are the best distribution channel than ever. They do know how to reach customers – rather they live by them – and how to offer your value proposition.

The point is: what you can offer them?

Today, in 2015, the question remains: as an open source project, what is it that you give them back? The answer has been there all along: it's the advantages they get by using free software.

In effects, multi-level marketing is already happening in the free software world. The rewords for developing free software is in terms of exposure, experience, passion, and peer-review of your code. The "benefits" to the IT professionals in companies cannot be monetary: it is, however, there in terms of what they get out of it.


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