The most common criticism of Alibre Design is that it cannot do this and it cannot do that. I have always found the discussions around features (or lack thereof) particularly interesting because very few get the very simple point that Alibre Design is not meant to be used for things like surfacing, analysis, etc. Alibre’s target audience is base of the pyramid. People who need to design simple prismatic parts and assemblies – professionals, small shops, DIY’ers, hobbyists and similar. I asked Paul Grayson how effective he had been in passing this message to his target audience directly or through the CAD media. This question actually opened the flood gates on Paul’s view on the CAD media. This is what he had to say:
“Messaging is a critical problem when it comes to the CAD media. I mean your visit here and your role along with others has been the only bright spot as far as messaging is concerned in the field of CAD for quite some time. The CAD industry is a very closed industry and has a very closed media model. Not all are open minded and willing to talk about things that are of true interest to users. So I don’t consider the current media layout as providing any benefit as far as conveying our message to our customers. So we have pretty much chosen to go around it. In effect, there is no CAD media market that is of interest to anybody other than a few thousand insiders. I mean, they are not reaching anybody. Particularly the magazines are dismal in this business. The old media is in the process of shutting down, as far as I can tell. I mean, you have seen the magazines. There’ s fewer of them. They are thinner. They are all controlled circulation publications and nobody reads them as far as I can tell. They are not worthy to be sold on a stand.
We advertised in print publications for a while, almost like because we felt that we had to. Then Google Adwords came along. We started experimenting with that and found that it was a vastly superior marketing opportunity which was completely measurable and the cost per lead was dramatically lower. The whole thing with the print magazines is that they are all pay for play. So if you want someone to write an article about your product, you have to advertise. And they will not write anything controversial. For example, they will not write “Alibre’s business model challenges that of Autodesk”. Frankly, I don’t even know why they exist. Other than to take money from their advertisers and maintain their mailing list.”
Since we got talking about the CAD media I let Paul know of how one CAD editor “lovingly” called me the patron saint of failing ventures or something like that when referring to the amount of digital ink I spent writing about Alibre Design. To which Paul said:
“I think they are angry at us and just want to go away. They view us as a threat because we have a different business model with different objectives and we are not paying them a regular retainer so that they will write nice stuff about us. It’s sad actually. It’s kind of depressing to me because we have to work so hard to find somebody to pay attention to what we are doing.”
I reminded Paul that whether he likes it or not, the stuff that gets written by the CAD media is read by people who may turn out to be Alibre’s prospects. So, in the interest of his company, I wondered if he thought that it would probably be wise to “play the game”. Paul replied:
“I don’t think that would buy anything for me. It would simply become a cost. If I wanted to spend $30,000 or $50,000 a month on print ads to play the game, I could do that. But I would not get anything out of it. They are surprised that we haven’t failed yet. So they are not going to give us decent coverage anyways.
Also, I think you are one of the very few people I know that use CAD software. I don’t think most of the people writing in magazines even know how to use the CAD software that they write about or can even understand the market to begin with.
So I guess we are like the Rodney Dangerfield of the CAD industry. We can’t get respect (Ha! Ha!). But does not mean that we have no value.
This really goes back to the fact that our business model is so radically different that they view it as a threat. Because if our business model were to be embraced by others, it would turn over the industry, including the magazines. The magazines are going out anyways.”