If I were to ask a group of partners the main differences between WordPress and Business Catalyst, I would probably hear comments along the lines of WordPress being a powerful blogging platform with lots of available plugins to extend its abilities, while BC is an online business builder, with an integrated system of modules. I suppose I would hear the terms open-source and SaaS as well.
These answers are great. And, viewed from the perspective of a client’s needs, they are true. But the value proposition of a platform depends on who you are and what your needs are. Web platforms are interesting in that they have two target audiences: the developers who build the sites, and the clients who the sites are built for. So, what about the developers needs? Do we need an online business builder? It would be easy to assume that if the system provides value to our clients, it automatically provides value for us as well. After all, if our clients are happy, so are we, right?
Not really. Sure we’ll have moments of satisfaction, enjoying a client’s success, but we also have our own goals to reach. I think it’s safe to say that, from developer to developer, we all want to develop quality websites, quickly, and to make lots of money doing it. I don’t think our client’s share that goal. This is why understanding a platform’s developer value proposition is so important.
So what is the value Business Catalyst offers its partners? We can start by assessing BC’s own sales pitch from its home page. I took the following list from the section, Why You’ll Love Business Catalyst:
- Online Businesses, Not Websites. These days, clients are demanding more functionality and better results than what a simple website can offer. They want a website with business functionality that fulfils real business goals.
- Lower Costs, Higher Profits. Say goodbye to manually integrating systems or maintaining tens of plug-ins to meet a single client’s requirements. Slash development time and streamline your workflows using our all-in-one online business platform.
- Build Beautiful Sites, Your Way. Other solutions limit your creativity with complicated or restrictive theme systems. Business Catalyst turns that on its head — you craft your design in HTML and CSS, then simply insert our modules on top.
- Professional Infrastructure. No more headaches about uptime, server updates or installing the latest patches — our expert team takes care of that. Because we're fully hosted and managed, you and your clients receive all system updates automatically.
I think they did a pretty good job. I certainly don’t disagree with anything they said—In fact, without these points it would be hard to explain much of anything about Business Catalyst—but I think they are dancing around the real value proposition the platform offers its partners:
Business Catalyst is a Site Productization Platform
In a loose sense, productization occurs when you do something once, in a way that allows you to benefit from it multiple times. Business Catalyst provides developers the power to productize in both the loose sense, and in very specific monetizing ways. Think about it, what do the following features have in common?
- page templates
- content holders
- module layouts
- site replication
If you didn’t see the pattern, the answer is: they all allow partners to reuse their work. Now, think of the value implications! It is a system designed on principles of productization. Imagine:
- For a client similar to another, you can simply flip a switch and have a new instance of the existing site, ready to be customized. Site replication may be the single greatest value BC offers to developers.
- Your next site can always be better than the last, because you can simply expand on what you have already done.
- You can borrow content holders, templates, and layouts from other sites you’ve built, knowing they will work in the new site because module tags are consistent.
- You can target entire industries with custom site templates that deploy in seconds.
- You can completely customize the Business Catalyst experience for one audience, and then completely customize it for another.
Taking advantage of Business Catalyst’s true value
For developers who don’t take advantage of a platform’s strengths, there probably isn’t enough practical difference between one platform and another to create any loyalty; it’s easy to move along when bugs and delays arise. That’s the short-sighted view. I want to see partners who have caught the vision, and are ready to take advantage of Business Catalyst; who are ready to productize their efforts and reach their goals. This is the partner BC is built to serve.