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Working the market with Hart

THE first milestones of Kenneth Hart’s success as a software publisher take pride of place on his office wall. There’s a BankWest statement from January 2002 showing the opening $50 deposit in his company’s account, and next to it, the company’s first software order from a school in Queensland in May the same year. And last week the company, eye4you, got its biggest unit order, for 300 schools in New Zealand, and is on track to turn over $500,000 for the current financial year from its Australian operations alone. Mr Hart’s path to discovery began while travelling in Europe after finishing a marketing degree at Curtin University. He was employed in Switzerland by a software developer to market the company’s products. It was there he saw that the IT sector “was full of techies and no-one was concentrating on the marketing. “They thought it was enough to develop software and plug into the internet. That’s still the case,” Mr Hart told WA Business News. He returned home after about a year, and while living with his parents came across a newsletter advertisement from German software developer RDT-Global seeking an Australian distributor for its revolutionary HD GUARD software. Intrigued by the software – developed for education and training institutions to protect PCs by restoring systems to their original configuration simply by rebooting – he made contact. “I saw an opportunity to apply the marketing lessons I’d learned. To take on HD GUARD and become a software publisher and marketer,” Mr Hart said. What happened next is also recorded on that first bank statement – two additional deposits of $6,000 each, loans from his parents and the software developer, all since repaid. Operating out of his parents’ house, Mr Hart decided on a big, primarily education-targeted direct mail campaign involving a new brochure and sample CD. It cost eyes4you all but about $400 of its bankroll. What followed was “a very scary few months when nothing happened”. Then came the Queensland school order, and others. The company’s client base now includes 650 Australian schools. The direct mail worked. “I was still getting responses from that CD two years later, but it was expensive,” Mr Hart said. It was time for some help, so Mr Hart hired a business consultant, who advised him to use the new cash flow to establish an office, get some assistance, refine his marketing strategy and, wherever possible, reinvest in the business. “In all of this, I found marketing was my strength. It is what this business is built on,” he said. Mr Hart has found the most cost-effective marketing to be via facsimile and utilises a Sydney company with specialist education lists to do fax broadcasts that cost about $1,500 per 10,500 for a good 5 per cent response, usually the next day. Direct mail is about 10 times as expensive, but has its place in smaller, individual campaigns. Using one such campaign, in which eyes4you generated $44,000 of sales in one month and $22,000 the next, the company reached the finals of the prestigious Australia Post Direct Mail Awards late last year. The company has added a second flagship product, the US behavioural monitoring Policy Central Pro software, for which it is the sole Asia Pacific distributor. The software has also been designed for educational institutions and corporations to monitor words and phrases that identify unacceptable computer usage. The next major hurdle is securing a full-time technical support person to resolve client software interface problems without having to refer clients to the developer or divert Mr Hart from his marketing activities. “We’ve got the products right and we’ve got the marketing right. We want to develop long-term relationships with people and their businesses, and you can’t do that by flicking them on to a call centre in India,” Mr Hart said. ”In this case, the type of person is as important as their qualifications.” Mr Hart estimates the right person will cost between $60,000 and $70,000 in their first start-up year and has also budgeted a further $50,000 to rebrand the company later this year. An extra staffer will bring the full time complement to four, with one operating off site.

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