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On branding and the Future of Money

Just back from a couple of days with our team in Sydney. It was great to meet some of our new Australian partners and very exciting to hear what their plans are with Xero and see their enthusiasm.

I’m enjoying seeing how quickly accountants and bookkeepers are developing their game on the branding front. Jenny is one of our great new partners and is just launching her new brand.  I thought her new card was particularly good …

iBookkeepers

Also enjoyed meeting a bunch of smart people at the Future of Money conference where I was live tweeted (eeek!). Thanks Charis for putting on such a great event. I covered what I think of as Banking 2.0 – where banks expose more and more service points as webservices s0 that solution developers like ourselves can consume and integrate those services into seamless workflow improvements for small businesses and consumers.

Like as has happened in the Telco industry – the walled garden model is under pressure as advances in the cloud start linking into these core transactional systems.

Telstra is helping us spread the word with a very nice online campaign and even full width print ads in the major papers. These help build credibility with partners and are building our brand awareness in the Australian market.

T-Suite

It’s always a buzz spending time in Australia.   I especially enjoy the quantity and quality of the daily business coverage which promotes much more interest in business and you get a real sense of the opportunity that comes with scale.

With our partner base coming alive I’m looking forward to spending more time on the ‘West Island‘.

 

Read more about Accountants, Marketing

 

6 comments

Hugh
5 December 2009 #

Excellent adverts – partnering up with such a reputable and trusted company, like Telstra, is excellent for Xero. Would be interested to know how these adverts effect the number of daily sign ups.

Rod Drury
5 December 2009 #

It’s tempting to think that winning partnerships with world class organizations like Telstra means that you’ve cracked it.

We’ve been doing this for a while now and with Telecom in New Zealand and BT in the UK. We’ve also asked lots of other companies about what works in talking to the small business market.

The common experience is that you will see hits go up and awareness go up but offline to online does not normally convert to significant direct sales.

Definitely these opportunities help with branding and positioning but really are first steps in brand building.

We’ve certainly found that small businesses don’t buy accounting software just because they’ve heard a catchy jingle. There is an awareness building phase, word of mouth referrals, partner acquisition, ecosystem evaluation, conversion planning and so it goes on. But slowly, inch by inch, the snowball begins to roll. This ‘piggyback’ marketing approach definitely helps.

So far we’ve found no magic bullets for marketing to small businesses, just lots and lots of hard work – but, thankfully, that seems to be working. Even six months ago in New Zealand we were finding accountants that hadn’t heard of Xero. In Australia very few accountants have heard of Xero but that is quickly changing and these ads do start to create that first awareness.

On working with Telco’s specifically, these are the first early programs we’re running. We are also gaining significant impressions in more targeted publications. We believe that as Netbooks arrive next year (already Telstra and other carriers are selling them for $0 with a data plan) we’ll see carriers being a significant channel for SMB SaaS products and so a lot of work we’re doing is building the brand and relationship foundations in preparation for that.

Another insight I’m happy to share is that accountants in general don’t read our blog. We get a huge lift each month just after we send our newsletter to partners that includes links to a few articles we want to highlight. That’s when our blog items get read.

It’s a long game, but fascinating trying to communicate with millions of potential customers.

Hope that is useful. Keen to hear others experience.

Rod

Jason Plimmer
5 December 2009 #

Some of us accountants do enjoy reading Xero’s blog regularly. It not not only updates us on the potential for Xero as a tool, but it also includes discussions that both challenge, and offer insights to, our strategic thinking about our own businesses. So don’t fall into the trap of generalising all of us mere accountants ;-)

Paul Lattimore
5 December 2009 #

Rod,

When starting SmartFreight in NZ we needed to get carriers on side the same way Xero needs accountants. 4 years on we’re at the point where carriers now call us, needing to come on board to retain their existing clients. I suspect this is already happening at Xero now, but it’s certainly a satisfying point to get to in this type of business.

Might even make a sly call to Jenny Roberts myself :)

Rod Drury
5 December 2009 #

@Jason, point taken and great to hear.

Michael Porter
6 December 2009 #

Rod
I love reading your blog ! Chartered accountant n all. Xero is such a fascinating business model to follow. Within our industry it represents a technological revolution for SME’s and individuals – this really should encourage superior financial management at both a personal and SME level and encourage Accountants to work in real time with their clients to help manage their business not process their paperwork. It removes much of the frustration, the customer feedback is clear.
More so I love watching it unfold through such a tech savy media friendly blog. This open and transparent manner is liberating in a such a closeted commercial world.
I now work as a CFO in NZ – I was originally from a UK practice. I recently emailed my old practice to see if they had heard of Xero yet…. The youngest partner in the firm hadn’t, but contacted some others firms in the town who said they had picked up on Xero but not yet worked with it. He read the website and enthused that he was looking forward to having a play with the demo. Could see the benefits of SASS etc. The firm is a member of UK 200 – if you haven’t (and i’m sure you have) would be a great convert to help promote Xero in the UK as they are a lose affiliation / amalgamation of small practices targeting SME’s.(200 odd practices nationally…) He will email me what he thinks after he’s played. I know he’ll love it and start a ball rolling.

Incentive based referral schemes for existing users should work well to, but i may have mentioned that before !

If i can trigger a practice to review and convert them from a passionately worded email, and they in turn convert the clients the exponential model continues. Between your user base and your shareholder base, you could utilise each and every one of us – to recommend Xero to friends/colleagues…. Within NZ i’ve probably encouraged 5-10 users… and will work hard to get a few practices on board in the UK. If i’d been less lazy i’d proabably have actioned it sooner. The question is how do you help galvanise us, and i think Xero should lean on and encourage each of us to spread the gospel So anyone reading, who is a convert, be proactive about recommendations. It’s a great product, a great kiwi success story in the making – let’s all help give it a nudge. A few emails can go a long long way !
Could you send out an all shareholder email. I think if Xero asked for help, you’d be surprised at the response. Not one buried in an AGM communication but one specifically discussing referrals models and making a request.

I also worked as CFO for a technology company with a mass health care product that partnered with some large EAP’s (employee assistance providers) to piggy back marketing, it never worked very well beyond brand credibility… as you suggest.
Could xero also suit marketing through informercials?
it’s a great 5 minute sell, ideal for the infomercial format.
Mike

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