The most important question to ask when you are looking at a Drupal site is: “Who uses it?” If you can’t answer that, you have a lot of work ahead of you.
It is not just small companies and institutions which use Drupal; it is also large companies (e.g. Google, LinkedIn) and government agencies (e.g. the UK Department for Work and Pensions).
In fact, despite its growing popularity in smaller titles, Drupal remains somewhat of a niche technology in these domains. So, who DOES use it? A couple of examples…
How to find out which companies use Drupal
“The first rule of the Drupal community is that we don’t talk about what we don’t know.”
This quote from Brian Ward, when he was a member of the Drupal Association and still a developer at WordPress, applies today as much as it did when it was written. It’s a good rule to live by; if you are curious what others are doing and how they do it, then you have to ask them.
It is also a good rule for marketing; you may not always be able to find the exact brand name of your target market (although that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try!) but from there, it is much easier to find out which products or services they use.
For example, I recently ran into two companies that had used Drupal to build their sites: Logibot and Carrot Software. Both were based in the U.S., but their products looked very different: one was for small businesses, the other for large corporations (the latter had more than 30 customers). It turns out that both were using Drupal to implement some sort of SaaS platform with on-boarding workflow management tools and customer relationship management capabilities. The only difference between them was their choice of administering those systems via web-based interfaces rather than through dedicated apps installed on their servers.
Both companies also had similar customer profiles: they were small businesses selling e-commerce platforms (Logibot) or custom software solutions (Carrot). Their customer support was also very similar: both companies specialized in “one-on-one customer service” rather than professional support with dedicated telephone lines or email addresses. Here are some questions you can ask yourself when trying to find out which big companies use Drupal:
• Who uses Drupal? What kind of websites does this company build? Which platforms do they use? Who is their target market? What kind of functionality does this product offer? How will this product be sold (e.g., via resellers)?
• How does this company measure success with its recruitment efforts? How many people do the company manage internally (the sales team)? How many people does it manage externally? Who are these people responsible for hiring salespeople from external agencies? If any major clients exist, how many clients has the marketing department managed successfully? How many new sales reports has the marketing department generated during each year since joining forces with Salesforce in 2009/2010? Is
How is Drupal used by big companies and institutions?
It’s a very interesting question: who uses Drupal for what?
The answer is very, very large companies and institutions.
New enterprises may not be able to afford the investment required to pay the company’s development team (the “locking in” cost) and so they are most likely to use a module that is not commercially available. This can make it harder for them to create a strong value proposition around their product, but also makes it harder as well to refine or change the product over time. This is why paying for commercial support is such a big deal for new enterprises: they know that if they screw up, there isn’t much they can do about it. The only way to make the product better (as opposed to just tweak minor features) is to pay for commercial support.
This is why many new enterprises don’t start out with a commercial support model at all (though I would argue that many start-ups do). It isn’t an option because there are simply too many options out there already and you can easily find yourself in trouble trying to pick one of them (or more) when you want something that “just works” and doesn’t require any technical skill or knowledge from your end.
For example, I work with several small businesses who have chosen not to use commercial support because they prefer using their own development resources instead of paying someone else $10 – $20 per project or per month (which some companies will do on a pro-bono basis). Others choose not to use commercial support because there are simply too many other options out there: paid solutions, open source solutions, open source modules…
As a result, each of these businesses has had several different iterations of their own marketing strategy: some focused on customer acquisition (the customer becomes aware of your product and purchases it), some focused on getting press coverage in search engines like Google News or Wikipedia, others focused on getting coverage from existing news outlets like BusinessWeek. Finally, some have focused solely on building community around their products through social media sites like Twitter and Facebook — which means those strategies are more about creating relationships than about getting press coverage. In fact, this has worked quite well for them so far — although the community has been rather noisy at times — but none of these strategies come without a price tag attached: acquiring customers becomes more difficult as you scale up; getting press coverage gets harder as your competitors grow;
We asked the community to tell us which companies and institutions use Drupal. The results were as follows:
5. Lockheed Martin (a former customer)