What is Andy Lark’s real agenda as Xero’s new global CMO?

Paul McIntyre
By Paul McIntyre | 10 October 2014

The shareprice for fast growing New Zealand cloud-based accounting firm Xero was down 8.3% overnight to after the appointment of former outspoken CommBank marketing boss Andy Lark as global CMO.

The decline is perhaps more to do with market reaction to several Xero stockmarket announcements yesterday, trading at a $2.4 billion market cap, than Lark’s appointment in isolation. All Xero’s growth numbers – revenue and new small and medium-sized business customers – are booming although local rival MYOB muddied the waters yesterday about Xero’s direct paying customers versus those on the ledgers of accounting firms.

That stoush aside, what is Lark up to?

His consulting firm Group Lark has a team of eight who will remain in their roles while Lark sets off to drive Xero’s international growth – the US particularly - with three key strategic marketing themes.

“There are really three big levers inside Xero,” Lark told AdNews yesterday (10 October).

The first is clearly a brand building exercise for the not so well-known company. Lark needs to improve Xero’s brand awareness among prospects, or the pre-search marketing role. We know most advertisers are besotted with search, otherwise known as Google, given close to half of the $3 billion-plus of online advertising is pouring into Google’s search bucket. But to improve Xero’s performance in search, Lark says he needs to focus on “what happens before branded search. It calls for a lot of work on branding and online.” Food for thought there for all those brand owners looking to just get ROI results out of search marketing and optimisation without too much else.

Some of Xero's product design is also on Lark’s radar – Xero’s UX needs a sharper focus on mobile devices because Lark say users are increasingly treating accounts entries as part of multitasking behaviour – being a cloud-based software as a service model advances that trend. “Accounting is going from a dedicated task to one of five you do while on the run,” Lark says.

The second of Lark’s “levers” is better managing the “marketing funnel” – where, why and how prospects reach Xero and how the interactions at each stage are user-friendly, streamlined and easy. It’s similar stuff to Lark’s CommBank mandate.

The third is one of Lark’s historical hot spots – content and communities, also a key focus while he was with the bank. Watch for a big content play from Xero, focusing on small and medium-sized companies.

Lark wouldn’t divulge more details but he’s a fan of content outfits like Filtered, co-founded by former Australian Financial Review IT editor, Mark Jones. Xero could be aligning there but that’s joining dots that might not exist.

All the same, Lark is back on brand.

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