Marketing is everything for latest venture says technology rock star Rod Drury.

Serial entrepreneur Rod Drury had a raft of successful technology ventures under his belt before starting Xero in July 2006, an accounting system for small businesses (SMEs) delivered over the Internet.

After beginning his career with Ernst & Young, Rod has founded several companies, including Glazier Systems (now Intergen) and AfterMail, which was acquired by US software giant Quest in January 2006.

Recognised as New Zealand Hi-Tech Entrepreneur of the Year for 2006 and 2007, Rod is also an angel investor in several technology start-ups.

Marketing has become increasingly important to his ventures, “For AfterMail the marketing was really focussed on an acquirer (i.e. Quest), while for Xero it is a strategic long term view. Xero is all about marketing.”

Rod says Xero has taken a carefully phased approach to its marketing. “The initial phase was raising profile with investors to support our IPO, while more recently it has been building validation and endorsement from key influencers like accountants. Next it is to initiate a broader focus on SMEs.”

The company has clear strategies to do this. Throughout his career Rod has been adept at using partnerships to promote products, and Xero will be no different.

“We’ve also identified some vertical niches within SMEs to target and gain momentum in. There are groups of SMEs that are very connected, and we believe we can use that ‘network effect’ to effectively get our customers to sell for us.”

An example of the way the company is fostering this connection amongst its customer is the ability for Xero users to transact with each other’s systems very easily. Rod says Xero has tried to avoid the classic technology marketing mistake of thinking it is all about the product. “We are really trying to be design led – to understand the customer’s world – to understand their pain and provide something that meets that.”

What any technology company really needs to understand and be able to articulate is their value proposition, i.e. their promise of unique value to their customers, says Rod. “The real challenge for many of them is exactly how to do that.”

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