Tuesday, April 24, 2007

No Courtesy at SmartDraw

Whither Professional Courtesy? Not at SmartDraw

Recently I had the need to do some diagrams for a presentation. I'm not a huge "diagrammer," and don't do it very often, but every once and awhile the drawing tools in MS PowerPoint are not enough. After a quick Google search and a quick read of the reviews on download.com, I decided that SmartDraw (by a company of the same name) might be a good choice. SmartDraw is a local San Diego software developer and, among the cognoscenti here, widely respected for their excellent SEO (search engine optimization) programs. I've seen Paul Stannard, their CEO, talk about their investment and energy around this area several times and have come away favorably impressed.

SmartDraw seemed to be just the ticket, although being pretty good with consumer software, it did feel a little TOO "consumer-ish." Still, it was going to get the job done. I quickly downloaded their Trial Version and drew up a diagram or two. Everything was peachy until I printed the diagram with a huge "This Page Printed by a Trial Version of SmartDraw" watermark on it. Yikes! What's a product manager to do?

Simple - call the other product manager (or someone in a position of authority) and offer to make an in-kind trade. One well-respected award-winning piece software for a copy of yours. Simple deal, right? Hmmm... not the case.

After being passed around via email, I finally was able to reach someone in their sales department. After hearing my plight, he immediately suggested that I consider a site license and show the HR and Accounting departments the software (since they need to do diagrams too). I tactfully suggested that if he were to trade software with me, I would gladly share the diagrams with decision-makers in those departments. Uggh! This was getting too hard, then it turned downright nasty: He suggested that if Nik Software were more profitable they could surely afford a site license of SmartDraw. Wow... that was both cold and harsh.

I ended the call quickly by assuring him that Nik was doing quite well financially, that I was surprised at his demeanor given his CEO's reputation, and that I would be buying Microsoft Visio. And, of course promptly told *everyone* I knew in San Diego that certain SmartDraw folks had poor decision-making ability (well, I probably didn't put it THAT delicately!).

It's a shame and I don't necessarily want to bag on the SmartDraw organization; still, I don't think they're very smart in this regard. Very different from the days in the late '80's and '90's when I can recall trading "NFRs" (not-for-resale) copies with almost anyone with a good story and a connection to the software industry. Was it wise from a pure bottom-line perspective? Maybe not, but it *always* was a conversation starter at the next trade show or industry event and good Karma all around... Meanwhile, Visio is pretty danged good and though I had to pay a few more dollars (but not much more) I'm definitely pleased - I'll take NO customer interaction over hostile interaction any day!