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Cubicle Wars - Part I & II

From the CEO

We're a small software company with an incredibly boring product (reporting & document generation software). And we compete against Microsoft, Oracle, & SAP. Yet one week in 2006 – we had over 1 million unique visitors to our web site. And in this process we moved from no brand awareness to over 60% with our target audience.

How? By trying something different. Any company, no matter how small, can find a way to break through all the clutter out there and get noticed. There are a million ways to do it. This is one that worked. Here's the story.

Back in 2006 I saw a video on YouTube named Mother's Day that I thought was very clever. So I emailed Joe & Luke and asked if they would create one for us (for a fee). My only requirements was make it very funny to programmers, and mention our company. They came up with Cubicle Wars (part I).

When I first received it, I was really nervous. I had spent a lot (by our standards) and didn't know what I would get. So very nervous, I played it. And I was laughing so hard that I couldn't breathe. Ok step 1 was good – it was funny. Or at least I thought it was.

So we pushed it up to YouTube. And we crossed our fingers. It was a gigantic hit. It made the front page of Digg and YouTube. It made the opening paragraph of the MSDN newsletter (sent to every Windows developer). It was forwarded and referenced and copied everywhere. Ok step 2 was good – it went viral.

But that still left the question, did it help us. The old Joe Isuzu ads were hilarious, but they didn't sell any more cars. So what did we get? Well over the next couple of year we found:

  1. Our name recognition went through the roof. When you're competing with the big guys, having prospective customers know you exist is gigantic.
  2. People would stop at our booth at trade shows just to congratulate us on the video. (One professor told us he shows it the first day of each semester in his classes.)
  3. Starting that week, and still going strong 3 years later, one of our top 5 sources of demo downloads almost every week come via YouTube.
  4. Business Week did an article about the video. That article gave us the legit 3rd party cite we needed to have a Windward Reports Wikipedia page. This then got us on the Reporting Software Wikipedia page.
  5. And for Joe & Luke, they won an Addy and NBC asked them to do a pilot based on Cubicle Wars. (NBC did not pick it up – but they should have.)

So earlier this year we asked Joe & Luke to do a sequel. Once again make it funny and mention Windward. And once again they came through. Every bit as funny as the first.

There's a lot more competition for attention today. A lot lot LOT more. We didn't get the front page of Digg (yet), but we did get the front page of FunnyOrDie. We weren't on the front page of YouTube 100% of the time, because nothing gets 100% today – but we were there at times. So we were not front and center everywhere as we were in 2006, but I don't think that is even possible anymore. We are in a lot more places this time, because there are a lot more sites today (there was no HuffPo back then).

Every day getting attention is harder. Every day all kinds of marketing is harder. The trick is to keep trying new things. And when repeating efforts that were previously successful, learn how to use them better. You also need to realize that it's impossible to predict what will resonate best with people, and in what way.

So how did it work out? Our biggest worry when we first did this was would a successful video lead to more sales. That turned out to be an easy yes. If you make developers laugh, it turns out quite a few will look at your product. Our biggest issue this second time has been getting it in front of people – we were spoiled by how easy it was the first time. I think this is just the state of the Internet today – even more sites, even more content, even more competition for attention. So we've had to work a lot hard to get equivilent attention.

This second time we also had Joe & Luke create a 30 second ad. The idea behind it was that people who saw the video would want more, and would then watch the ad (not labeled as an ad). So it would be a mention of Windward Reports followed by a clear sell of Windward Reports. And again, the requirement was the ad had to be funny.

These guys are geniuses. I think it is one of the best ads for any product I have seen. It sells the fundamental concept of our system, and does so in a way that has you laughing. So good in fact that we are putting the ad out on websites as a click ad. It is pulling people in by itself. The combination of the ad along with the video makes up for the more challenging marketing environment of today.

If you are trying to get word out about your product, and you are drowning in the sea of noise that is the Internet, look for a different way to break out. It could be a video (Joe & Luke are available). It could be a free computer game. It could be a free quirky iPhone app. But I think the key point to focus on is you have to create something that gets the widespread attention. You then want it to link back to what you are selling – but that can be a light touch. The key challenge is getting people's attention. Because if 1 million people watch your video, 1% looking at your product is 10,000 potential customers.

Good luck.

Tags Start & End

Tags Can Start & End Anywhere

Appendix B

.NET code for multi-page image output

Appendix A

Java code for multi-page image output

Data Bin Search

The Data Bin can now be searched to find a table, column, node or other piece of data without scrolling through it all.

Shrink to Fit

This will shrink the contents of a cell until it fits the defined cell size.

Time Zone Conversion

A new Windward macro has been added to help with converting dates and times from UTC time to the local time zone.

Image Output Format

New image output formats added.

PostScript Output Format

PostScript, commonly used with printers and printing companies, has been added as an additional output format.

New and Improved Datasets (Designer, Java Engine, .NET Engine)

Datasets have been re-written from scratch to be more powerful and easier to use.

Stored Procedure Wizard (Designer)

This works for all tag types that are connected to a SQL-based data source (Microsoft SQL Server, Oracle, MySQL, or DB2).

Boolean Conditional Wizard (Designer)

Before, conditional statements could only be written manually. Now they can also be built using our intuitive Wizard interface.

Reorganized Ribbon

The ribbon menus have been re-organized and consolidated to improve the report design workflow.

XPath 2.0 as Data Source

Adds various capabilities such as inequalities,descending sort, joins, and other functions.

SQL Select Debugger

SQL Select  Debugger

  • The look and feel was improved
  • Stored Procedure Wizard
  • Improved Exceptions pane

Tag Editor/Tag Selector

Added a Query tab as a field for typing or pasting in a select statement

  • Color Coding of Keywords
  • TypeAhead
  • Evaluate is now "Preview"

Rename a Datasource

All tags using that Data source will be automatically updated with that name.

Connecting to a Data Source

New single interface to replace 2 separate dialog boxes

Tag Tree

Provides a display of all the tags in the template, structures as they are placed in the template. Provides an easy way to see the structure, go to any tag, and see the properties of a tag.

Added Javelin into the RESTful Engine

Support for Google Application Engine Integration

The ability to integrate the Windward Engine into Google’s cloud computing platform for developing and hosting web applications dubbed Google Applications Engine (GAE).

Additional Refinement for HTML Output

  • Improved indentation for ordered and unordered lists
  • Better handling of template header and footer images
  • Better handling for background images and colors

Redesigned PDF Output Support

This new  integration will allow for processing of complex scripts and bi-directional  text such as Arabic.  Your PDF output  will be much tighter and more closely match your template, and we’ll be able  to respond rapidly to PDF requests and fixes.

PowerPoint Support

Includes support for new ForEach and slide break handling, table header row repeat across slide breaks, and native Microsoft support for charts and images.

Tags are Color Coded

Tags are color coded in the template by type, making it easy to visually identify them.

Increased Performance

Version 13’s core code has been reworked and optimized to offer a reduced memory footprint, faster PDF generation and full documentation of supported features and limitations in the specifications for DOCX, XLSX and PPTX.

Advanced Image Properties

Documents can include advanced Word image properties such as shadows, borders, and styles.

Improved HTML Output

Windward has updated HTML output to reflect changing HTML standards.

Version 13 New Data Sources

Windward now works with a slew of new datasources: MongoDB, JSON, Cassandra, OData, Salesforce.com

Generate Code

Designer (fka AutoTag) Generate Code tool allows you to open an existing template and, with a click of a button, automatically create a window with the code needed to run your current template with all data sources and variables in your .NET or Java project. The process is quick, shortens delivery time and helps alleviate any bumps in the road.

Pivot Tables Adjusted in Output

Any pivot tables in the template are carried over to XLSX output. The ranges in the pivot ranges are adjusted to match the generated output. So your final XLSX will be pivot tables set as expected in the generated file.

Imported Template Can be Set to Match the Parent Styles

In an imported sub-template, if its properties for a style (ex. Normal) differ from the parent template's properties for the style, the use in the sub-template can be set to either use the properties in the sub-template, ot the properties in the parent.

Tags can be Placed in Text Boxes

Tags can be placed in text boxes. Including linked text boxes. This gives you the ability to set the text in a textbox from your data.

Tags can be Placed in Shapes & Smart Art

Tags can be placed in shapes & smart art. This gives you the ability to set the text in a shape from your data.

HTML Output Supports Embedded Images

When generating HTML output, the engine can either write bitmaps as distinct files the generate HTML references, or it can embed the images in the HTML providing a single file for the output.

Footnotes & Endnotes can Have Tags

You can place tags in pretty much any part of a template, including in footnotes & endnotes.

Document Locking Supported in DOCX & XLSX

Any parts of a DOCX or XLSX (PowerPoint does not support this) file that are locked in the template, will be locked the same in the output.

Specify Font Substitution

If a font used in the template does not exist on the server generating a report, the font to substitute can be specified.
In addition, if a glyph to be rendered does not exist in the font specified, you can specify the replacement font. This can be set distinctly for European, Bi-Directional, and Far East fonts.

Process Multiple Datasources Simultaneously

When Windward is merging the data into a template, it process the template handling each tag in order, and the tags can pull from different datasources. This allows the select in a tag to use data from other datasources in the select.

David Thielen

President/CEO at Windward Studios

From his early years as a Senior Developer at Microsoft, to legendary designer of the popular Enemy Nations strategy game, to reporting and document generation guru, Dave has never lost his passion for building superb software and teams.

david@windward.nethttps://www.linkedin.com/in/davethielen/

For over 10 years, Windward has lead the industry with our world-class document generation platform that creates visually stunning, data-powered documents designed exactly the way users want and are created in a fraction of the time and cost compared to existing solutions. Proudly located in Boulder, Colorado, Windward Studios is the premier solution for developers and business users adding reporting and document generation capabilities to their applications in over 70 countries around the world.

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