Rich Siegel, Bare Bones Software

This interview with Rich Siegel, President/CEO of Bare Bones Software, is the fifth in a series of interviews I've held with indie software developers about marketing Mac software. Previous interviews: Oliver BreidenbachJacob GorbanJean MacDonald, and Kevin Hoctor. (Is there an indie developer/company you'd like to see featured here? Leave me a comment and I'll do my best to feature them!)


Rich Siegel is the founder and, after all these years, still the President/CEO of Bare Bones Software, known for its long-standing BBEdit and more recent Yojimbo. He lives in Rhode Island with his family, including four parrots (two of whom he claims are "too smart for everyone's good"). Like most indies, Rich works out of a home office, which presents interesting opportunities and challenges. He enjoys music and can claims to be able to use dangerous power tools without injuring himself or others. His personal website is absolutely not

I cornered Rich over email and managed to get some of his thoughts about marketing.

DW: Can you tell us some of the marketing activities your company does?

RS: Our "indirect" or broad-based marketing activities include placement of web banner ads on various appropriate sites (as well as ad placements in TidBITS); and the occasional ad placement in a podcast or sponsorship of an event.

Coincident with major releases, we do focused briefings with selected members of the press in order to make sure that they're aware of our latest developments, so that reviews and "first look" writeups are well placed and well timed. In support of this, we've produced reviewers' guides and distribute NFR licenses accordingly.

In addition, demos and personal interactions, both through our discussion groups, and through our customer service and tech support channels, are our primary means of directly marketing to potential customers.

DW: You've been in the software business since, well, forever.  What is different now in how you get the word out about your software compared to 5, 10, 15 years ago?  Like, you know, the Internet?

RS: Ha. :-) A lot of the traditional marketing channels are still in place, but their character has changed: for example, banner ads and podcast sponsorships have displaced a great deal of print advertising.

For us, printed marketing materials (data sheets, packaging, and brochures) no longer play a role in marketing. Trade shows remain an excellent venue for building directly relationships, both with current and potential customers, but since it's now so easy for customers to directly gather the information they need, trade shows no longer fill that role for the vast majority.

Likewise, the traditional role of user groups as presentation and demo opportunities has largely been replaced by direct interaction with individual customers.

DW: You used to produce traditional boxes of software, but now you are doing digital distribution, like most of us are doing. Any real advantages left to being in stores?  Any ways to compensate for not being in the stores?

RS: With some occasional exceptions, Mac software has never been particularly suited for retail sale; we've always done much better with direct sales, anyway. We've been selling download-only to the vast majority of customers; the exceptions are for quantity licenses and the occasional on-demand order of a CD coincident with a download.

We are no longer concerned with the manufacture, storage, and inventory of finished goods. That's an enormous cost savings, and it affords us infinitely more flexibility in software releases, updating, and delivery -- there are no more lead times for production, no respins required when an upgrade is coming, no unsold goods to write down and destroy, and the environmental impact for each copy sold tends to zero.

DW: What would you say is different in how your company approaches marketing, compared to other small/indie Mac software companies out there?

RS: Marketing is all about psychology, which to engineers is an intangible — and engineers don't like intangibles. :-) So getting an engineer to invest effort and resources in something which doesn't have a predictable cause-and-effect return can be a tough sell. I think that our acceptance of the intangibles sets us apart. So, simplistically, I think that a big difference for us is the fact that we do marketing at all (outside of the self-centric efforts of putting up a web site, blogging, and tweeting). :-)

DW: From your experience, what are some marketing activities that are fairly easy to do and are pretty effective, that other indies — especially those who are just getting going now — might want to try?

RS: I think that apart from the obvious basics like having a web site that makes it easy for customers to learn about you and your product, the judicious placement of advertising (in any appropriate medium, but web sites are an easy start) is a good first step.

DW: What marketing activities have you found were actually not that beneficial?

RS: Search engine advertising. Full stop. :-)

DW: How do you measure success of your various marketing activities?

RS: We don't really try. :-) We do get referral data from our various advertising sources, but trying to correlate that to revenue isn't really a useful activity. Once in a while, we get a "I read about your product in XXX," or "XYZ mentioned your thing on her blog," and that's educational and good-to-have as an overall barometer.

DW: Any other marketing techniques that you can think of that you use that fellow indies might be interested to hear about?

RS: Well, now that Twitter is clearly part of the mainstream :-), I've noticed a certain value in being visible there as an individual. Some folks have both a personal presence and a company "role" presence, which in some ways seems obvious - but I feel like I have my hands full as it is. :-)

DW: Thanks so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us!

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