Atlassian co-founder Mike Cannon-Brookes has hailed marketing as the key lesson that Australian start-ups should focus on as they try to build successful companies.
The entrepreneur, who has built his company into an international powerhouse with almost $60 million in revenue in 2010 since it was founded in 2002, made the comments in a speech given to the SydStart conference. A video of the speech was posted online by StartcastAU yesterday.
"As a start-up, you should always be marketing," Cannon-Brookes told the audience. "If there is probably one single lesson which has come out of Atlassian for me, it's every single thing you do is a marketing campaign — of some way, shape or form."
However, the entrepreneur said, marketing doesn't always have to take traditional forms. He gave a number of examples where Atlassian had embedded marketing into its activities that might not be seen to be a marketing strategy. For example, Cannon-Brookes cited the development of the 404 "not found" page on Atlassian's website, which features a humorous illustration. He said that people would see the page and then link to it on Twitter.
In another example, the entrepreneur pointed out that it was expensive to sponsor conferences where potential customers would congregate. To get around this problem, Atlassian tended to "buy people a lot of beer" instead, he said, setting up shop in a pub across the road from a conference and holding events with free drinks.
"People will turn up and drink your beer," he said. "And you'd be amazed how much they'll remember you."
In one example, the company handed out about 40 cases of beer to attendees at a conference in Belgium, putting Atlassian stickers on the bottles and passing them out to conference-goers as they walked into a talk.
"Oracle meanwhile spent $25,000 to sponsor the conference," said Cannon-Brookes. "They were giving away all this sort of gumph which you could do — you could win an iPad". However, he said, the amount of interest Atlassian got from giving away beer got a better result.
Other examples of Atlassian marketing exercises included giving away free t-shirts when people signed up to use its software. Cannon-Brookes described the practice as ironic due to the fact that Atlassian's solutions are delivered online, but noted it created mindshare with customers. In addition, he said, the software company created marketing from its hiring campaigns, attracting staff with free holidays when they joined, and chocolates and welcome messages on their desk on their first day.
The entrepreneur also highlighted other key aspects to starting a company in his speech, such as the need for a co-founder, the importance of developing a business model and more. But at the end of the day it was marketing that he said was key. "We were a tiny company ... and we had to be marketing almost every single day," he said.