With Sweat Equity and Brain Power: How Small Business Can Benefit from Using an Open Source Tool Like Drupal
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With Sweat Equity and Brain Power: How Small Business Can Benefit from an Open Source Tool Like Drupal

carla-briceno Guest contributor Carla Briceno is co-founder of Bixal, a strategic communications and technology firm based in Oakton, VA. Bixal provides strategic communications and technology services for organizations making a difference in the U.S. and Latin America. She can be reached through LinkedIn (www.linkedin.com/chbriceno), Twitter (www.twitter.com/bixal), or her blog on the online Hispanic market at Online Hispanic Trends.

Why would you recommend Drupal as a way to help small businesses?

Just to be clear:  I love Drupal.

And I think it’s one of the leading open-source content management systems out there. It’s user-friendly, interactive, i.e. Web 2.0, and can help you create professional looking websites to reach your specific audience(s) online.

I wanted to share with Women Grow Business a few of the key goals & challenges faced by small businesses and how Drupal can be used as a great resource to meet them.

Small businesses need to….. Drupal can help by….
Market their offering to their specific audiences online.

  • One of the keys to reaching your audience online is to regularly publish content that addresses their needs and interests and provides useful information to resolve them via blogs, in forums, news releases, and web content.
As David Meerman Scott says in his book The New Rules of Marketing and PR, “When people visit your company’s Web site… They want information, interaction, and choice….” Scott covers how businesses and organizations of all types can use innovative and low-cost tools (blogs, news releases, podcasts, and video) to reach their buyers directly online, and Drupal offers the flexible functionality required to support a highly-interactive, audience-focused online strategy.

Drupal has ability to publish many types of content, including blogs, forums, RSS feeds and offers some great SEO features, such as a taxonomy system to create keyword-rich content and user-friendly URLs. These features can help you produce content and get it out into the search engines so when your audience is searching for your products or services, they find you.

Take advantage of low-cost tools and information to further their business goals. Drupal is an open-source (free!) content management system which is supported by a large community of developers and is being used by some major players in a variety of industries, including NASA, Sony, Mozilla, AOL Corporate to name a few.

This community is constantly improving Drupal’s capabilities and building new modules to meet business needs. The culture of the Drupal community is based on working together and giving back. Businesses and organizations that develop new functionality regularly share it in the form of modules or improvements Drupal’s core code.

Grow their businesses over time without making major cash investments, but relying more on brain power and sweat equity. Being that Drupal is open-source, a small business can take advantage of Drupal’s many out of the box features, its large community and a lot of great documentation to develop a relatively simple website. As time and resources permit, this site can grow over time through the installation of (free) contributed modules, allowing the business to reach its audience using the most cost-effective marketing and innovative technologies.

Taking advantage of Drupal isn’t completely free though. It takes a certain amount of time to come up to speed on how to install, configure and identify the specific modules you want to use.

If you have the time and willingness to invest in learning how to make the most of Drupal, as opposed to investing in more expensive proprietary software, it can be a great choice for a small business with big plans for growth.

Getting started:  Depending on how you prefer to learn, there are a number of resources. Here are a few I would recommend for those who are new to using the system.

  • Visit www.Drupal.org to learn more about the technology, including its functionality and history, the community, how it can meet your needs, and how you can get involved in contributing back.
  • Lynda.com offers free video courses per the Drupal Essential Training series.

This serves only as a ‘starter’ list for the sake of our conversation here. I’d like to learn what your experience with Drupal is too and how you’re tackling content management in general. Any thoughts? Please let me know in the comments!


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  1. Thanks for citing my book “New Rules…” here. I appreciate it.

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  2. No problem, David! It's one of the best books on online marketing I've read in a while. Full of great advice on how to market your business (or cause) in cost-effective ways by reaching your audiences where they are with the content they are looking for…

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  3. Thanks for the overview of the benefits of Drupal. I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on Drupal vs. Joomla (another opensource product). Particularly in terms of building and customizing an ecommerce website.

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  4. Does Drupal offer a customizable content approval system to users (similar to Teamsite) before content may be published online?

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  5. Hi, Rebecca –

    Here are three good write ups to give you a better sense of the pros and cons of each. I don't have much background on Joomla, so I couldn't fairly assess. My sense though is that, although Drupal has a steeper learning curve, it is the best way to go if you have plans for growth. I would recommend that you do further research on Drupal's ecommerce capabilities, because the comments in these articles about that area of Drupal may be out of date. Feel free to reach out if you need help on your project.

    http://mydrupal.com/joomla-versus-drupal

    http://www.communicopia.com/blog/joomla-versus-

    http://www.alledia.com/blog/general-cms-issues/

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  6. Yes, it's great in this area. The content approval workflow can be customized however you would like. Very strong in this area and only getting stronger. Thanks for your comments!

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  7. Thanks, Carla,
    I just installed Drupal 6.1 and am loving it. It can do so many things!

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  8. It's good to see someone describing Dupal a user-friendly! Too many people seem to think that one must be a serious techie to consider it, when in fact that's not true at all. My own background is in B2B marketing and copywriting, and I have built several Drupal sites in the past 2 years — the first within weeks of first hearing about Drupal. The vast majority of small businesses and nonprofits are unlikely to need anything that can't easily be built using the rich array of contributed modules, and the community is very supportive and generous with time and advice. There are also some good books and numerous online resources, such as video tutorials and podcasts, that can get you up to speed quickly. My clients have been able to use their Drupal sites with very minimal user training and have not needed much ongoing support.

    I've worked on just one Joomla project and found it to be a great deal more restrictive, less flexible, and less user-friendly, it seemed like we had to work around its capabilities instead of the other way around. I would definitely recommend Drupal as a small business website platform for anyone who is willing to do a little homework.

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  9. Thanks Carla,

    I'll look at these links and investigate the ecommerce aspect of it.

    Thanks again,
    Rebecca

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  10. Jean, Thank you very much for your great feedback!

    If you are willing to spend a little time getting in and getting familiar with its setup, it's worth it in the long run. Over time it will get easier and easier to come up to speed on because there are many folks in the community thinking about how to improve its usability. As it stands now, even though it might require some learning for the site creator / admin at the beginning, it can be set up in such a way that it is very easy for the non-technical end user. We created this site for a local nonprofit and they have continued to build it out without problems with little support – http://www.corporatevoices.org.

    Thank you again.

    Carla

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  11. Nice review for drupal, I've been using drupal for 3 years now and find it really excellent. It seemed complicated initially but would recommend it to anyone contemplating of getting a CMS.

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  12. Nice review for drupal, I've been using drupal for 3 years now and find it really excellent. It seemed complicated initially but would recommend it to anyone contemplating of getting a CMS.

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  13. If you are interested in learning Drupal, please join us on May 8th and 15th, 2010 in Reston for a hands-on introductory course:

    http://hands-on-introduction-to-drupal.eventbri

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