Question: What would you do differently if you started your company now?
Jason Fried: I would only build the things that I need. So I’m really a big proponent of building products that we’re going to use. So I would only... if we weren’t going to use something like Basecamp or something like Highrise, which is our online contact management tool, I wouldn’t have built them, but we needed them so we built them. We’re working on some new ideas now for new things that we need as a company grows, we have different needs and as things happen, we change. So I wouldn’t have built the product we are about the start working on and we started sort of working on. I wouldn’t have built that 10 years ago because we didn’t need it, but we sort of are gonna need it now. So, there are always new ideas based on our own needs that are coming up and those are things we’re focused on, including improving our existing products.
Question: What’s your approach to marketing?
Jason Fried: Our products are mostly for small businesses. So we’re a lot better known maybe in the small business world then we would be in the sort of consumer, who’s your neighbor, sort of world. And that’s fine. We’re not into this for a popularity contest sort of thing. I don’t care if people... if 37signals is a household name. It would be cool if it was, but that’s not really the driving force for us.
Our marketing approach is, first of all to make something great because that’s the best marketing you’ll ever have. When people talk about your products and we don’t really spend, we've spent maybe $10,000, $20,000 over five, 10 years advertising, or so, our whole thing is word of mouth. And you only get that if you make something great. You don’t get that by faking it, you don’t get that by seeding viral marketing stuff. I mean, you get that by making something great. And so we’re focused on that first and foremost. And then sharing. So we try to share everything that we know and we learn and that’s a great way to get the word out. Just like chefs share. Chefs have cooking shows, which ultimately leads people to their restaurants; ultimately it leads people to buy their chips or their salsa at the stores, because they get to know the people when they teach them something on TV, or in a book. So, we’re big in to sharing. Sharing, building something great, and...
My thing also, I will say one more thing about marketing is I don’t believe in a marketing department. I don’t believe marketing is a department. I think marketing is in everything you do. It’s from the error message in your product when something goes wrong, what does it say? It’s from the sign-up form, are you asking too much from somebody? If you ask too much from someone, that’s not good marketing. It’s in, you know the customer service response times, it’s in the customer service friendliness, it’s in the designs and the copywriting, its on the button, what does the button say, it’s clarity, it’s all of those things. That’s marketing. And if you only think of marketing as this thing that these people over here do, I think you’re going to have... you’re not going to be as well off as you could be if you thought of everything you do as marketing.
Recorded on July 22, 2010
Interviewed by Peter Hopkins