I talked earlier about how EDA marketing can’t create demand. Small companies cannot afford much marketing and large companies are in the vicious cycle of not being able to get innovation into the channel since they can’t create demand even though they could have money to spend if it were effective.
EDA used to be rich enough that it would advertise anyway, at least to get the company name out in front of people (remember all those in-flight magazine ads for Cadence and the “curfew key” and suchlike). But as times got tighter, EDA stopped advertising since it was ineffective. In turn, the books that used to cover EDA, like EE Times and EDN, cut back their coverage and laid off their specialist journalists like Richard Goering and Mike Santarini. To be honest, I think for some time before that the major readers of EDA coverage were the other EDA companies, not the customers. I don’t have any way to know, but I’m sure the readership of this blog is the same.
Trade shows seem to be a dying breed too, and not just in EDA. DATE seems to be dead, as a tradeshow, with almost no exhibitors any more. I wouldn’t be surprised if this year it has almost no visitors any more either, and gives up next year. EDA seems like it can support one real tradeshow, which is DAC. It is mainly for startups for whom it is really the only way to get discovered by customers outside of having a half-reasonable website. The large EDA companies run their own tradeshows in an environment that leverages their costs better than paying a ridiculous rate for floor space, paying rapacious convention center unions to set up the booth, and putting up with whatever restrictions show management has chosen for this year (“you can’t put a car on the booth, just because” was one memorable one that I ran into once).
The large EDA companies, with some justification, feel that a big presence at DAC is subsidizing their startup competitors as well as not being the most cost-effective way to reach their customers to show them the portfolio of new products. The best is to avoid the political noise by at least showing up, but the booths with 60 demo suites running continuously with a 600 employee presence are gone.
That leaves websites and search engines as the main way that customer engineers discover what is available. So you’d think that EDA company websites, especially for startups who have no other channels, would be good. But there are very few websites that do a good job of explaining the product line, the focus of the company and so on in a way that is customer-oriented.
If you talk to PR agencies, they’ll tell you that the new thing is using social networks and blogging to reach customers. But they don’t really seem to know just how that would work. I mean I’m reaching you through a blog because you are reading this. But if every other blog item were a thinly disguised regurgitated press release you’d soon give up reading. But it’s not really possible to do anything more technically in-depth. I don’t have the knowledge to be the Roger Ebert of EDA even if I had the time to go to all the “screenings”. But that leaves the problem that there isn’t an easy way to find out what is coming soon to a theatre, sorry, server-farm, near you and whether it is worth the investment of time to take a serious look.