Investing to win is crucial to Kiwi technology companies successfully selling their products in the USA, according to California-based technology marketing expert Andy Lark.

As a member of the Kiwi technology diaspora, Andy Lark stands out because he has reached the highest levels as a marketing professional in multinational technology companies. After a career consulting to companies like Dell, Microsoft, IBM, and Sony as a partner with global PR giant Fleishman-Hillard, Andy had stints at Nortel Networks and then Sun Microsystems. At Sun he was vice-president, global marketing and communications.

Andy is now enjoying the adrenalin rush of US venture capital funded start-up Log Logic as Chief Marketing Officer.

In between surfing the breaks of northern Californian beaches, he regularly visits his homeland. Andy is a director of No. 8 Ventures and sits on the boards of Endace and Esphion, and, the advisory boards of Right Hemisphere and Eurekster. He also speaks at conferences, consults to local technology companies and helps out with exporter assistance programmes like the Kiwi Expat Association and New Zealand Trade & Enterprise’s Beachheads scheme.

We asked Andy what key marketing mistakes Kiwi technology companies make when entering the US market. “The first mistake is not investing to win. You need to be spending 10% or more of revenue on marketing - that's simply the cost of the ticket to the ballpark.”

The US market is so vast and so complex that you have to focus on markets within markets, says Andy. “California is one of the largest ‘countries’ in the world. Just do California well. Or, pick a market within a vertical - for instance, mid-sized regional banks - there are hundreds of them in the US.”

It is crucial to have a strong understanding of the market you pick and then be able to build the kind of business model that is most likely to succeed. “And have enough funding to see the business model to success.”

Andy doesn’t believe there are any givens on how to deliver your products to the US market. It totally depends on the customer requirement and business strategy. There are no fixed rules. Just don't assume it will work for you because it worked for others - distribution should be a point of differentiation.”

Another real area of opportunity for Kiwi companies trying to communicate with the US market is the rise of ‘social media’, internet based communications channels like blogs, wikis and social networking websites, says Andy. Acknowledged as a leading thinker and practitioner in this area his opinion is highly sought after.

He considers social media a ‘massive opportunity’ for Kiwi technology exporters. “If MySpace were a country it would be the 11th largest in the world. Where the Internet lowered barriers to entry, Social Media is increasing connectivity. Where planes once granted access to customers, Google now acts as the delivery mechanism.”

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