Operation "Rock Soup"
- a marketing plan for OS/2

Sponsored by


The bearded old man hiked into the small, downcast town on a chill autumn evening. The sun had not quite set over the surrounding hills, but a cool breeze was already beginning to bring down the temperature. The townspeople peered nervously from within their little houses, wondering who the stranger was, and what his business was. The old man had the appearance of a mountaineer, a wanderer, a nomad. He was a nobody, and he didn't care who knew that. He paused a moment at the center of town, and then swung his backpack off his shoulders right in the middle of the dusty town square. Carefully unpacking his bag, he placed a round cauldron on a metal stand, poured in about a gallon of water from his ample supply, and sat down to wait.

The first person who wandered over to his makeshift campsite asked what he was doing. "I'm making soup," the strange man replied. "Rock soup." He took out a long-handled spoon and began stirring the water. "Of course, you can't have rock soup without heat. Do you have any old twigs, sticks, or other spare pieces of wood?" The townsman curtly replied that he did, and went off to gather a few sticks. In a few minutes, a small fire was burning under the cauldron, and the stranger began stirring the water with gusto. Another townsman wandered over to inspect the visitor's work. "Can't have rock soup without a rock," mumbled the outsider. "You wouldn't happen to have a large, smooth pebble, would you?" Indignantly, the second townsman snorted a quick reply and went off the find a smartly polished little piece of stone, which the tramp dropped into his little cooking pot and continued stirring.

By this time, a crowd was beginning to gather. The visitor added a bit of broth to his gumbo, and continued stirring the pot. "Of course, you can't have rock soup without a bit of meat. Somebody go get a small chunk of stewing beef, or pork, or whatever." While one person walked off to get the meat, the wanderer mentioned a few other ingredients. "Rock soup tastes better with a little potato in there, and maybe some carrots and pinto beans. I don't suppose anybody has any of those things, do they?" Not wanting to appear totally destitute in front of the obviously impoverished stranger, various townspeople went off to their homes and brought the required items. By them time an hour had passed, the cauldron was seething with a delightful concoction that smelled like a rich banquet. "There's plenty for everyone. Each person just needs to bring a small bowl and everyone can have some," stated the outsider. There was more than enough for everyone, because everyone had brought something valuable.

The moral of this story is quite simple. People usually have what is needed to build a successful community, but they are often afraid to contribute to the cause. Sometimes it is fear of failure, sometimes it is discouragement, sometimes it is pride. But the biggest obstacles to success are within us, not outside of us.

The stranger pulled three more things from his backpack and left them on the ground in front of the crowd before he wandered off to find a place to rest for the night....



The three "secret ingredients" shown above are as follows:

1. A standard-sized (468x60 pixels) Internet banner can be used with the LinkExchange service (or any other free banner exchange service) to advertise Warpstock (http://www.warpstock.org/). To use this type of service is free. Anybody can do it. The appropriate targets in terms of website categories would be anything related to computers, technology, or business. What is the theory behind this strategy?

Most banner services have dreadfully poor click-through rates. Even the most exciting, attention-grabbing banners (such as those advertising free stuff) usually have no better than 5% click-through rate. I have experienced a typical click-through of 1% for the most successful banners, and much less than that for most banners. This type of service generally does not add a large number of hits to a website; we might say that the "signal" is 1% and the "noise" is 99%.

I believe that this perception is foolish. We should not look at the link banners as 99% noise. We should view that 99% as the *REAL* signal. Design the banners to advertise something, not merely to attract hits to a particular site. Use the 99% that most people are wasting. Think of the 1% hit rate as icing on the cake. If thousands of people all use the same banner -- the Warpstock banner -- Warpstock will be seen on tens of thousands of websites. The issue of click-through becomes unimportant.

Remember, this is a FREE service. Everyone can do it. All you need is a website. I have supplied the banner.

2. A bumper sticker does not have to go on a car bumper to be effective. It can go on a school notebook, on a door to a closet in an office, on a filing cabinet, or just about anywhere. The term "bumper sticker" is often a mental barrier to seeing the marketing possibilities. The Warpstock bumper sticker is available at BMT Micro (http://www.bmtmicro.com/) or here on my website at Bargain Headquarters (http://www.os2hq.com/ads/bargains.htm). The cost is just $2 each. With a little creative positioning, one bumper sticker can be seen by literally tens of thousands of people over the course of one year. At just $2 each, anyone can participate in this type of marketing, and they don't have to use their own vehicle if they prefer not to. There are hundreds of other places to put such a sticker. Use a little imagination.

3. A bus bench can be a tremendous marketing opportunity. I was quite shocked to find out that a bench such as the one pictured above was available for just $3 per day. Counting the cost of making the sign, the final expense is about $3.30 per day for a 6-month contract in Nashville, TN. Prices may vary in other locations. You don't have to use a bus bench; there are other forms of outdoor advertising available. Shop around.

How many people will see this advertisement and take notice of it? Well, consider the location. This bench is near a stoplight at a busy intersection. Not a "major" intersection, but a fairly busy stretch of 4-lane road. The bench is strategically positioned across the street from a Nashville bank. In fact, the bench sits directly across from the drive-through teller windows, less than 100 feet away. This means that every person using the drive-through tellers must stare at this bench for anywhere from one minute to five minutes. They simply have no choice. (Just the traffic on Fridays alone is fabulous, as people deposit their paychecks or take out money for the weekend.) Furthermore, the bench is positioned directly in front of a church, so it gets plenty of Sunday viewing as well.

Remember, any visitors your site would get from such a sign are "cream" or "icing on the cake." The real goal is to develop name recognition for OS/2 and to present it as the superior alternative to both Windows and Linux. This is the "Goldilocks Scenario" in which Linux is "too hard," Windows is "too soft," and OS/2 Warp 4.0 is "just right!"

Admittedly, $100 per month is not chicken feed. However, there *are* hundreds of OS/2 users who could easily afford this kind of expenditure, provided they knew somebody else was also doing it. Well, guess what: SOMEBODY IS.


OS/2 people as a group are not more impoverished than everyone else. Sometimes the lack of public exposure makes us feel that way, but the same resources are available to us that are available to everyone else. Venture capital funding from so-called "angels" is one source of investment capital that the OS/2 community has not yet tapped. Other sources are available.

Some may ask, "Why should we advertise OS/2 to the public, if IBM doesn't?" This is the wrong question, because it assumes that IBM is a retailer. IBM is not a retail company; IBM is an OEM. Having IBM advertise OS/2 would be something like asking Alcoa Aluminum to advertise its rolled aluminum to the public. Instead, Alcoa advertises to the business customers who make aluminum cans, and these business customers (Coke, Pepsi, whatever) advertise to the public. IBM has "outsourced" desktop computing, so we must view ourselves in the OS/2 community as the retailer, and IBM as merely our software supplier at a wholesale level.

What I have presented in this article is merely Phase I of Operation "Rock Soup." I am currently planning a Phase II, which does not involve bus benches, but rather targets the education market. For Phase II, I need 50 volunteers, one for each state in the U.S., who are willing to spend about $300 annually for a special educational campaign that I plan to announce soon. The actual amount of work involved is quite small, but I am not ready to reveal the details yet. Sign up by sending me an e-mail, and stay tuned for further developments.

To make a tortured coupling of two scriptures, "It is better to cast one stone than to curse the darkness." I have cast the first smooth pebble into the pot. WHO ELSE IS HUNGRY???


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