People looking to change careers are the target market of KML, an Auckland-based management consultancy.
Last year KML saw an opportunity to put career evaluation procedures into a software product.
KML accountant Doris Davidson says a lot of people who are looking to change their career, and wanting to conduct a personal evaluation of themselves, will be exploring the possibilities from home. Therefore, the Internet is a logical promotion and selling vehicle for software that assists this process.
People seeking to make a career change also want a degree of anonymity, and buying through the net rather than walking into a retailer lends itself to this. She acknowledges, though, that the Internet is not such an anonymous vehicle as it seems to many inexperienced users. Web sites can still collect information about you without your knowledge, she says.
KML has been selling career management software online for about five months. Internet distribution is the only selling channel the company uses at the moment. It provides the software for direct download, though it has also now burned it into CD-ROMs, which can be sent out in response to an online order.
Internet sales are less expensive than working through a sales agency or a retailer, Davidson says.
"There is always a markup involved in that; this way we can sell the product at the lowest possible price."
Such other channels may be considered in the future; "but that's a different kind of business", Davidson says. KML's concern is to get the product out and selling as quickly as possible, then look at other potential channels.
The sales clocked up so far are encouraging, she says. While she doesn't want to reveal any figures, "it's better than we were expecting". The majority of sales have been overseas.
"New Zealand is a very small market, and getting access to the larger markets is another reason for going on to the Internet."
KML's sole product to date is C-Pal, a package which systematically takes the user through a series of steps to evaluate their strengths and the particular interests which could guide them in their choice of a future career.
Another product, E-Pal is soon to emerge, which is aimed more at companies and assisting them to create a business plan. This might need other selling techniques, Davidson agrees, but initially it too will be sold from the Web site. When KML decides on its advertising strategy, the publications where advertising for E-Pal is concentrated will be different from those for C-Pal.
KML outsources the actual e-commerce operation to US-based company, Getsoftware. It handles the whole process, offering buyers options like paying by bank-cheque if they are wary of online credit card transactions.
Getsoftware also organises the CD-ROM sales - adding a $US10 freight charge to the $49.95 cost of the package. KML pays Getsoftware a percentage on each successful sale.
"If we don't sell anything, we don't have to pay them anything."
Occasionally, a customer less trustful of an overseas operation has said "I want the product, but I want to buy it from you", Davidson says. In those cases, KML set up a temporary Web site locally.
C-Pal and E-Pal are not "instant gratification" products like a music sound bite, she says.
Many customers still want to talk to a company representative by phone as part of the process of ensuring whether the product is the right one for their situation.
To date, KML has not advertised its Web site in other media, relying on word of mouth and search engines to pull people to the site. This is a simple matter of walking before you run, Davidson says. The company wanted to develop the product and have it out there in the market attracting at least some sales before going into the marketing aspect in detail.
KML is obviously considering broader advertising vehicles, but is a little concerned at expense and the deadlines that have to be met for press advertising. Email lists and direct approaches to educational institutions are also under consideration.