The Value of Partners

Ralph Grabowski has written a “transitional ebook” called “Bricscad for AutoCAD Users“. In his words, the ebook “describes the similarities and differences between the two CAD programs, and would be of interest to CAD users interested in transitioning to Bricscad.” The  ebook is priced at $21.60. But existing customers can get it at a 30% discount.

Yesterday I had lunch with Rakesh Rao, founder of Four Dimension Technologies, a company based in Bangalore (India) which offers an AutoCAD productivity toolkit called GeoTools and which has been ported to work on Bricscad. Rakesh is down in Goa on vacation. We met up and discussed a variety of issues surrounding Autodesk and Bricsys, their software, their marketing and their partner programs. Rakesh recently founded Coordinate Systems, as a separate company to deal with the Bricscad part of his business including reselling.

I asked Rakesh a rather stupid question, “Why did you decide to port GeoTools to Bricscad?“. Stupid because at SYCODE, we ported almost all our AutoCAD plug-ins to Bricscad a long time ago. Rakesh replied, “We started getting inquiries from our existing GeoTools AutoCAD users who were making the switch to a clone, and realized that porting GeoTools was not that bad an idea.” My next question was not that stupid. “But why did you choose Bricscad over the other clones?” Rakesh went on to explain how he did evaluate other options but Bricsys was the only company that addressed the issues that he raised to his satisfaction.

In my opinion, Bricsys appears to have the correct strategy. I believe that a sure shot way for a CAD vendor to gain market share is by cultivating a bunch of partners all around the world and giving them all the help they need to develop solutions that work with its CAD system. Autodesk has mastered the art of doing this, thanks to the leadership of  Jim Quanci, the person who has been in charge of Autodesk’s Partner Program for several years, and his excellent team. These partners act like an extended marketing department that essentially promote the CAD vendor’s product software for free, directly or indirectly. And by partners I do not only mean plug-in developers. I also mean authors like Ralph Grabowski and just about anyone else that can help send the message out, this blog including.

In fact, this is basically what viral marketing is all about. Identify a common goal with a partner and work towards achieving it using the resoures that are available, while investing in building resources that are required. This approach takes time and dedication and also requires quite a bit of investment. But contrary to popular belief, the investment is rarely financial. Its more of spending time with people, having in depth email conversations, solving their immediate and long term problems and even socializing at places like Twitter and Facebook, etc. Basically building relationships, something which cannot be achieved by throwing money at people.

I think other companies that develop AutoCAD clones can learn something from this. I get the feeling that for most of them “partner” is just another word for “reseller”. Resellers are useful in getting the message out to people in areas where you cannot reach. Partners are useful in adding value to a CAD system thereby increasing the number of people that will find the CAD system useful, which in turn increases the target market globally. There is a big difference there.

Most of these AutoCAD clone developers are focussing all their attention on aping AutoCAD in every possible way. I think it would help them if they aped Autodesk’s partner program as well, which I believe is what Bricsys has done.