Selling Umbraco

For those of us in the agency world, selling Umbraco is part of everyday life. Most pitches are CMS-agnostic; so making the case for Umbraco is an integral part of closing the deal. But we all have a stake in the future of the project, so everyone in the developer community should be selling Umbraco.

More sales mean more installations. More installations attract more developers, which means more knowledge sharing. A bigger community improves the platform faster, which drives more sales and so on.

Everyone in the developer community should be selling Umbraco.

This article, based on my CodeGarden 15 talk with the same name, will hopefully make you a little more effective at selling Umbraco. To start with, let’s take a look at where things stand now. 

Our market share

The room for improvement is considerable. Umbraco powers just 0.7% of the top 100,000 sites against 73% for WordPress according to BuiltWith. That still makes us the 7th most popular CMS, and 2nd .NET system after DNN, which measures a 2% market share in the same segment. 

Our market share looks a little better as we get closer to the .NET domain. Umbraco has a 13% share of Microsoft Web Platform CMS downloads, about half of DNN (21%) and almost a quarter of WordPress (40%).

As fewer people know about Umbraco, our job is a little more difficult. Whereas the popularity of WordPress is its own advocate, you need to be prepared to make a convincing case for Umbraco in your pitch.

Fend off the competition

Picture yourself in a pitch where the CMS is contested. Inevitably, you will be asked how Umbraco compares against other systems. Opinions on the merits of CMS may vary, but these simple arguments are hard to dispute: 

Umbraco vs WordPress

WordPress is a blogging platform, designed for hobbyists and focused on easy set-up. Umbraco is a fully featured CMS, designed for professionals with a focus on extensibility.

Umbraco vs Drupal

Drupal (or ModX or ExpressionEngine) is a good all-round CMS for the LAMP stack, which can present challenges for some complex requirements. Umbraco is built on the .NET stack, with full access to Microsoft's server technology.

Umbraco vs SiteCore

SiteCore (or EpiServer) is built on .NET, but comes with a hefty commercial license. Umbraco is open-source, so 100% of the client’s budget can be allocated to building custom functionality.

Umbraco vs DNN


The people who buy stuff are not the people that will get to use them.

DNN (or Kentico) is open-source and built on .NET, but the split focus on community and commercial licensing has left the platform stale and outdated. Umbraco’s single focus, has helped it adapted faster, offering superior UX and modern APIs.  

Umbraco stands out as a modern, open-source CMS for .NET. Play on these strengths, and the arguments will make themselves, painting Umbraco as the only option that ticks all the boxes. Ticking the boxes is only half the job though. To close the deal you need to drum up support from the people in the room.

Meet the audience

My first rule of business-to-business (B2B) selling is this: the people who buy stuff are not the people that will get to use them.  Complicating matters further, there are many different roles to deal with, each with their own needs and expectations.

  • The CEO or Managing Director needs to be reassured that the system is a good fit for organizations in his sector. They are normally neutral but need to be managed closely.

  • The CTO or Head of IT cares about systems and skills compatibility and should be your biggest ally from the outset. If IT management dislikes .NET, your chances of winning are slim. 

  • The CMO or Head of Marketing or Communications wants to measure and control everything. Accustomed to working with PHP-based systems, they are your most vocal opponents and require careful handling.

  • The Project Manager does not normally have a preference, but is an important gatekeeper. If a system limits their resource options, they will strongly oppose its selection. 

  • The Content Editor wants a system that allows them to do their job efficiently. As the primary hands-on user, their opinion matters.

  • The Developer wants to do cool things with the new kit - and maybe get involved in an open-source community. As fellow geeks, you should make friends with them early.  

  • The Digital Marketer wants to connect with their users in social media, search and other channels. They are looking for a system that will not put any obstacles in their endeavors.  

  • The Web Designer is looking for a system that will not constrain their creativity. They have experience with PHP-based CMSs, and are normally skeptical of .NET systems.

Not all roles exist in all pitches, but variations of the internal conflicts they represent will always be there. Your job is to win over your opponents and empower your allies. To succeed in this endeavor, you need careful preparation and a little cunning. 

Power vs Attitude matrix

To help us make sense of things, let’s plot our roles on a matrix, with their relative power on the vertical axis and their default attitude on the horizontal. The size of the icon indicates how vocal they are in the proceedings.

When a role is particularly troublesome, you need to reduce their presence and win their silence.

In the matrix above, the CTO is a senior manager, a natural ally and pretty vocal, represented by a large icon on the top right corner. The Digital Marketer on the other hand, is a more junior role, skeptical and not too vocal, hence a smaller icon on the bottom left corner of our matrix.

The matrix can helps you visualize your goal. Obviously, your job is to move everyone to the right. When a role is particularly troublesome, you need to reduce their presence and win their silence.

Selling Tactics

My second rule of B2B selling is that to sell is to teach. A sales process includes many contact points - proposals, clarification emails and presentations. Use every opportunity to transfer knowledge and move each role to your preferred location.

Leverage the authority of the CTO

Keep emphasizing Umbraco’s .NET heritage in every call and document. Done right, this is a potent tactic as the CTO’s vocal support can kill rivals in one clean sweep.

Coach editors and developers

Umbraco’s back office UI and development API are our biggest strength. The more they know, the better so offer free demos to win their vocal support.

Prove to designers and marketers that Umbraco is no threat

These roles may be skeptical of .NET systems. Show them the number of available packages and showcase beautiful sites to win their silent support.

Help the Project Manager

Resource availability is a major headache for PMs. Emphasize the size and breadth of Umbraco's developer community to show they will always have options. 

Appease the CEO

A vocal CEO is bad news, even if you win the project. Use case studies from similar organizations to make them feel comfortable letting their reports make the decision.   

Neutralize the CMO

Set against the vocal support from IT, the CMO should feel comfortable enough to let go of their objections and move their attention onto implementation issues.

At the end of your campaign, your natural allies (IT, editors) should be empowered to fight your corner. Neutrals (PM, CEO) and skeptics (creative, marketing) should be sufficiently reassured to trust IT with the ultimate selection. With the pieces laid out in your favor, you are well on your way to close the deal.

Go forth and pitch

We all need to sell Umbraco.

We all need to sell Umbraco. Not only are we the best people for the job, we are the only people who can do it. The HQ looks after the software and the community, but it is down to us, the developer community, to get more organizations on board.

Selling Umbraco is not a piece of cake. Our small market share means we have to make our case against much better known systems. But it’s not rocket science either. Just keep in mind the different roles and their needs and let your natural enthusiasm do the rest.

Theo Paraskevopoulos

Theo is technical director at GrowCreate, a digital agency and Umbraco Gold partner based near Oxford. A strongly-typed meeting room ninja, he dynamically casts developers and parses clients to the Umbraco cause.

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