Tech sector gets A for export commitment, B- for marketing

Tech sector gets A for export commitment, B- for marketing

Kiwi tech companies remain strongly export-focused, but there's room for improvement in how they sell and promote themselves, according to this year's Market Measures Survey.

The study, with a record high of 346 responding companies this year, showed the proportion of companies that export their products and services (77 percent) was the second equal highest rate since the analysis began in 2009.

Annual turnover growth, though, was down to 39 percent from a 2009 high of 58 percent and sales and marketing expenditure including staff costs was down to 29 percent from a high of 40 percent in 2010.

Analysis of the survey by organisers Concentrate and Swaytech says Kiwi tech firms need to invest in more planned and measurable programmes to raise brand awareness and generate leads.

It says an inefficient approach means these companies experience a high cost of sales, have long lead times, find it hard to engage distributors and achieve scale, and find growth restricted by the size of their direct sales resource.

"Kiwi companies tend to be 'spear fishermen', snaring one customer at a time instead of using 'nets' to efficiently catch larger numbers," the report says. "Too many firms are failing to put in place the most efficient strategies for acquiring new customers for their innovations. They arm a sales force with collateral and expect them to sell effectively against larger, better-funded competitors."

Companies were on average very focused on direct sales, with weak ratings for researching and understanding markets, developing market entry strategy, building partner relationships and promotional activity.

Kiwi tech firms need to export early because the domestic market is small, and more than half the startups canvassed were exporting. Eighty four percent of early growth companies were exporting, along with 79 percent of established companies. On average the firms export to three or four countries and exports to the US have doubled since the 2010 survey. Exports to Singapore, China and Southeast Asia were also growing. But the report identified a lack of export focus.

"The challenge for Kiwi tech companies is not to increase investment but to focus it on the most productive areas," it says.

On average the participating firms were selling into over five different industry sectors and 50 percent were in more than three. Startups were selling into an average of 3.6.

The survey showed Kiwi companies rated themselves strongly for design, production, managing money and staff, but lacked confidence in selling, marketing and protecting IP.

The study also highlighted a lack of effectiveness in the companies' use of social media, with companies saying they were investing in social media, websites, sponsorship, and online advertising but not getting the results they want.

"The typical survey respondent is a B2B exporter making complex sales with long lead times, for whom LinkedIn would be useful for finding, connecting and influencing key people in the decision-making process," says the report. "However, 50% of respondents indicated they were on LinkedIn 'monthly to never'."