Successful IT entrepreneurs expressed polarised views on the need for big-splash marketing at the IT Investment Forum last week.
While healthcare software provider Orion Systems says it is gearing up for a series of major marketing pushes overseas and believes a strong brand is all important, WinGate inventor and Qbik founder Adrien de Croy and teenager site NZGirl’s founder Jenene Crossan have opted for the softly-softly approach.
De Croy says he has never spent a cent of his own on marketing, relying on the internet for sales and a support and distribution outsourcing deal with a US company. Crossan says while NZGirl statistics show 33% of the magazine-style site’s new visitors are drawn from word of mouth, the key to her success has been understanding and delivering what the customer wants, and working with advertisers rather than funding expensive campaigns.
But all of the speakers at the forum pointed out software developers are not marketers by trade and should employ outside help once their product starts taking off.
Orion founder Ian McCrae, in good spirits, admitted to the 50 attendees that one of his company’s marketing ploys had gone awry. Orion decided to “own the concept of speed” and commissioned thousands of stop watches carrying its Symphonia product's name. But the lead inside the watches shrunk in the cold climates abroad and rattled around inside the watches, and Orion executives had to put up with hard-to-find beepers on the watches going off in bulk in their hotel rooms.
McCrae says the experience did not stop him from feeling that branding offshore was all-important - especially in the healthcare sector. Orion now has a number of other marketing ventures planned, he said, and is spending time figuring out how to “build a marketing tidal wave” offshore.
One piece of advice for entrepreneurs that Orion is now putting to use: using the marketing budgets of your channel partners – often large companies - to put on shows and seminars. McCrae says Orion is on a strong growth curve with its Healthlink product, essentially a networked information service connecting GPs and hospitals, and is aiming to bring Australian users online within the next year and later Canada and UK.