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

by Jill Foster on May 5, 2009

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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