SCTE Cable-Tec Expo Connects Networks & Technology

As new technologies continue to deliver on cable’s promise to consumers around the world, the SCTE Cable-Tec Expo is playing a more important role than ever before providing an industry alignment that enables companies to accelerate the availability of new services.

One exhibitor, Kaon Interactive, is helping companies do just that by providing interactive sales and marketing applications that help differentiate products and solutions from the rest.

Visit us at booth #1425 and learn how the Kaon v-Rack® virtually demonstrates entire families of rack mounted switches, routers, servers, cables and storage products like never before. Customers can engage with 3D Product Models (which look and behave like the actual products), on two 40″ Kaon v-OSK MT™ interactive touch screens mounted within an ACTUAL rack, creating a user experience relevant to a real-world environment.

Come see what all the hype is about at booth #1425!

Cable Tec Expo

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What We Have Here Is A Failure to Communicate

Screen Shot 2014-09-16 at 11.56.47 AMWhy do most B2B sales people miss their quota? At the top of my list is the failure to communicate. Just as in the classic movie “Cool Hand Luke”, when the (admittedly evil) Captain can’t get Luke to cooperate and he attributes this disappointing result to “a failure to communicate”, do we also see sales teams AND marketers failing to communicate effectively with prospects.

What must marketers and sales people know how to communicate?

1. A substantive understanding of the prospect’s business environment;

2. A knowledge of the technical, workflow, or business challenges faced by each constituent in the prospect’s decision-making process;

3. A differentiated benefits message regarding the value of the products or solutions being proposed;

4. A direct relationship between those differentiated business values and the customer’s problems/challenges.

Of course, selling and marketing is much more than just these four items, but without the ability to communicate effectively on ALL of these dimensions, it is unlikely that prospects will understand, and therefore purchase, even the best products.

Sales and Marketing must, therefore:

  • know your customer’s business well, and learn to speak their language (using their acronyms, their industry lingo, and the terminology common to their business ecosystem);
  • learn to listen well, so that when information is conveyed to customers, it is personalized based on what has been learned from the customer, and is thus relevant and useful;
  • focus on why the product or solution being offered is better, in specific terms of solving the customer’s problems – not just a knowledge of the features and benefits of those features;
  • communicate effectively about the meaningful and relevant outcomes that will result from the customer’s decision to purchase these specific problems.

Better communication always leads to better sales performance.

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5 Steps to Telling Your Product Story Better

When trying to communicate a complex product story, articulating your differentiation is key. But often times it’s just not enough. Here are five steps that will help your company explain its product story loud and clear.

1.    Hands-on customer engagement
2.    Visually showing how the product works
3.    Non-linear personalization
4.    Crib notes
5.    Supersize it

Hands-on customer engagement
Did you know that interactivity can increase product knowledge retention by up to 75 percent? Giving prospects a hands-on sensory experience allows them to explore product features that are the most important to them in a way that they’ll remember.

That said, getting your products into the hands of your prospects is much easier said than done.  Products (specifically in the telecom, medical or industrial industries) are often large, fragile, expensive, hard to obtain and difficult to ship. Even at trade shows, companies often bring just their flagship products and/or just a “shell” of their product to avoid damage during transport.

Consider using virtual 3D product models (that look and behave just like the actual products) on touch screens appliances at trade shows, or on mobile devices for remote sales meetings. This will ensure products are available at every sales encounter, and that customers can engage and navigate products as desired.

Visually showing how the product works
A lot of products look similar from the outside, but showing the uniqueness of what’s happening within your product and what makes it different from the competition is how you’ll win the deal.

Your brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. So whether you have 60 seconds of your prospect’s attention in a trade show booth, or 30 minutes in an actual face-to-face sales meeting, visual representations of product workflow and network infrastructures will not only help overcome language barriers, but assist in quickly and effectively communicating how your product works. Oh, and don’t forget that over 65 percent of people are visual learners.

Non-linear personalization
Personalization is paramount! There’s no substitute for being able to look someone in the eye, shake hands, and give a full presentation of any relevant aspect of your entire product portfolio at a moment’s notice.

To avoid “one-size-fits-all” marketing, you need to tailor product demonstrations to the needs and interests of each prospect, making their purchasing experience feel specific to their individual business challenges. By creating non-linear, user-driven product demonstrations, the prospect can control  his own experience, exploring the product and messages in a sequence and level of detail that he feels are most appropriate to his needs.

Tools such as videos do the talking for you and put the sales demonstration on autopilot, thus creating a forgettable experience and inhibiting true conversation with your customer. Putting your customer in the driver’s seat better highlights their interests for your sales representative, enabling you to tailor the discussion to best solve the customer’s business challenges.

Crib notes
Crib notes aren’t for cheaters; they’re for those of us who just need a little extra help! Even the most knowledgeable sales reps need crib notes now and then.

As corporate strategies shift and organizations become acquired, the product marketing mix changes and sales people must quickly accommodate. The majority of sales reps no longer sell just one product to one audience, they sale numerous products to dozens of different recipients, within very complex buying cycles.

And here’s the rub: When several products are marketed by the same sales force, it becomes impossible and impractical for them to know the unique features and benefits of EVERY product within the portfolio. This results in a generalized selling pitch, making the sales pitch less than stellar.

Use small crib notes that will help your sales team navigate thought the demonstration like a product expert. Quick reference points like information hot spots on products, supporting marketing messages and videos, will help quickly and concisely communicate the differentiation of each product.

Supersize it
Similar to McDonalds, you want to give your prospects the ability to “Supersize” their orders. How many times have you heard a server ask, “would you like fries with that?” Having the sales and marketing tools to communicate the benefits of one product is good, but having the ability to clearly show and articulate the value of add-ons or multiple product configurations is even better!

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How to Harness the Power of the Cloud at Trade Shows

BylinScreen Shot 2014-08-12 at 11.58.04 AMe by Dana Drissel, published by Exhibitors Daily

In recent years we’ve seen explosive growth in the marketing technology sector, causing research firm Gartner to famously predict that CMOs would outspend CIOs on IT by the year 2017.

As sales enablement tools trend more and more toward digital applications, marketers want to automate their content deployment across multiple outlets and devices, to both engage prospects and take the guesswork out of interpreting their interaction.

As marketers are turning to cloud-based applications, they can gain actionable insights through the use of analytics by tracking user engagement (devices used, global location, content of interest, frequency of interactions) along the way. This real time user intelligence and measurement will help refine messages and provide clear insight into the success of outward facing prospect marketing and sales enablement tools. And guess what? The cloud helps them achieve this magnificent feat and more.

Buyers engage in almost 60 percent of their buying cycle without the assistance of a traditional sales representative. Marketers need to ensure that they find new ways to bring interactivity and engagement to customers along their nontraditional decision-making process, which spans numerous channels.

It’s time for B2B marketers to pull their heads out of the clouds and start realizing how hosted technologies and cloud adoption will help them differentiate their offerings and inevitably sell more both on and off the trade show floor.

As marketers look to implement interactive sales and marketing applications cross-platform, we’re encountering literally hundreds of different devices, architectures, platforms, global networks, enterprise firewalls, intermittent connectivity and proxy servers. On top of all that, we have a user base of prospects, customers, channel partners and sales teams that need everything to be very simple. Using the cloud will help overcome the following constraints:

Deploying Large Applications: Interactive sales and marketing applications can be very large, so the updates need to be incremental, particularly for global users with limited Internet connectivity. The content of these applications can also be very rich, including video, animation, and real-time photo-quality 3D rendering. By using a cloud-based server, you allow for extremely high-speed information transfers with the potential to have greater bandwidth.

Providing Real Time Updates: Sales and marketing content is constantly being updated to parallel your company’s shifting objectives or newest product offering. Therefore, new product launches, case studies, videos, presentations, and any recently updated content must be deployed seamlessly to your sales, marketing, channel, customers and prospects.

Every second you spend not educating your team about your offerings or getting your products to market costs your company money.

By placing content in the cloud (versus hosting on your own central server) the information is now replicated in multiple data farms around the world, making it local to the end user. This causes less latency in accessing data. Incremental content updates can be made via the cloud in real-time, ensuring that relevant information is immediately getting into the hands of the people who need it the most.

Cost Effectiveness & Efficiency: Hosting your own server can be a very expensive upfront investment that requires significant IT involvement and ongoing maintenance. Marketers looking for cost efficiencies (and to avoid extensive work with their IT department) are turning to the cloud to share the expense with multiple users, paying as they go, based on usage.

With sales and marketing applications being hosted via the cloud, there’s less chance of deployment failure. If one data farm incurs an issue, content will automatically be redirected and accessible via another location, ensuring that your applications ALWAYS work without downtime.

Competitive Advantage

With so many prospects delving into the buying cycle on their own, we need to make sure they have the right interactive and engaging sales and marketing content at their disposal, to clearly differentiate our offerings and coax buyers further into the sales cycle, with or without sales assistance. By putting content into the hands of buyers, it empowers them to make more informed buying decisions, based on their interests and business challenges.

Given the intermittent nature of wireless Internet connectivity in exhibit halls, reliance on Internet-based content is not a robust strategy for delivering interactive experiences at trade shows. To combat this issue, booth managers must be sure to download interactive content from the cloud prior to the start of the show and make sure is 100 percent accessible offline (on tablets or touch-screen appliances).

Harnessing the power of the cloud empowers marketers to have their message heard, track user engagement and provide unlimited global access to everyone who needs it, cheaper and faster.

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The Utopian Future of Channel Selling

ChannelPartnersChannel partners and VARs are the redheaded stepchild (treated without the favor of birthright) when it comes to obtaining the attention and resources from manufacturers of the countless products they sell. They’re the last to get training and the first to be held accountable for meeting their quotas. With limited marketing budgets, and outdated sales tools, they’re struggling to effectively communicate why products are unique and different.

In recent years we’ve seen explosive growth in the marketing technology sector, causing research firm Gartner to famously predict that CMOs would outspend CIOs on IT by the year 2017. This leads me to wonder how, or if, OEMs will adjust their marketing strategy, and more importantly, will there be a newfound focus on sales enablement tools that could significantly affect the growth and success of there channel sales?

With new technologies rapidly changing the landscape of marketing and sales enablement I imagine the future of channel selling will alleviate some of the challenges channel partners and VARs currently face:

TRAINING: A recent study done by Qvidian shows that it takes an average of 9 months to successfully train a Sales representative, and it can sometimes take up to one year for them to become fully effective. While the average representative may be responsible for selling one particular product, or product line, VARs are tasked with selling multiple products from different companies. If this statistic is true for direct sales representatives, one can only assume that a channel partner tasked learning the ropes for a more expansive product set from more than one manufacturer could take much longer to train.

LACK OF ENGAGING SELLING TOOLS: 40% of all marketing materials are not used by sales teams, which makes sense when you consider that often these materials are static brochures and collateral, looping videos, or standardized PowerPoint presentations that don’t truly help create an engaging Sales process. As current purchasers are looking for more and more control, channel partners must be able to provide an interactive and engaging Sales experience, for any and all of the products/solutions they sell.

When selling products from a variety of companies directly competing with each other, it is likely that channel partners will spend their time attempting to sell the products they find easiest to differentiate–and therefore close deals on. Product manufacturers have realized this, and are already turning to virtual 3D Product Models, that look and behave just like the actual product, to get their offerings into the hands of Sales teams and channel partners. However, channel partners are often the last to receive these interactive sales enablement tools due to high software license fees, if they receive interactive tools at all, leaving them at a HUGE disadvantage.

GLOBALIZATION: VARs and channel partners are often located across the globe, potentially very far from the nearest manufacturer’s location or product demonstration centers. Therefore, they need tools that will allow them to sell better in any location, at any time. While mobile applications are starting to alleviate this problem, many tablets/smartphones carry greater weights of popularity in various countries, making content deployment more challenging, as a sales enablement tool must be able to work on ANY device the channel partner has at their disposal. Language barriers also render many sales tools useless, unless they can be translated into the local language for use in foreign countries.

UNIVERSAL ACCESS: As mentioned previously, globally dispersed representatives utilize many different devices, from laptops to mobile devices, and need a tool that works seamlessly cross-platform—providing a universal experience regardless of location. According to Qvidian, the number one reason that Sales disregards marketing materials is because they are unable to locate or access them. This means getting the right information deployed into the hands of channel partners and VARs on the right devices is of paramount importance to communicate your message seamlessly and consistently.

For use in regions where consistent Internet access is difficult to attain, or for use in venues like corporate headquarters or hospitals where Internet access is often restricted, channel partners need an application that works both ONLINE and OFFLINE, on laptops, smartphones, and tablets. Often, these sorts of applications require licenses (based on the number of users), which leaves channel partners and VARs at a huge disadvantage, as many OEMs are hesitant to pick up the tab for a sales enablement tool partners may or may not actually utilize.

Imagine a Utopian Future for Channel Selling
Sales enablement tools made especially for channels would not only provide 100% accessibility to interactive products, (by demonstrating them virtually) but would also show how various products can work together to better solve customers’ business challenges, regardless of which company manufactures them. This would turn every partner into a product expert, as they would have relevant product demonstrations, supporting materials, and marketing messages at their disposal at a moment’s notice. Eventually, channel partners would be able to integrate all of these virtual 3D product demonstrations, regardless of the OEM, into one interactive sales enablement tool with their own branding, allowing them to demonstrate the best ‘solution’ for consumers by unifying various offers from their partners.

Not only would the ideal tool have access to all product lines, but unlimited users will have access 24/7, online or offline, any where in the world—providing a universal experience regardless of location or platform. Easily translatable text would make creating international versions of the application a snap, and universal cross-device compatibility would turn any device partners’ possess into a captivating sales accelerator.

While this may seem like a dream, I believe the future of interactive, cross-platform tools like this for channel partners and VARs may not be too far off!

 

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4 Features EVERY ‘Product Demo’ Should Have

Creating a product demonstration is a requirement when trying to differentiate your offering from the competition. In fact, according to the 2014 Qvidian ‘Sales Executive Challenge’ report, difficulty presenting ‘competitive differentiation’ is the #1 issue B2B companies face this year.

So why is it that organizations are still bringing just a ‘shell’ of their product to trade shows, using looping video as product demonstrations, or relying on boring collateral to tell us why their solutions are different and better? Do marketers really think this is making a big impact that their prospects will remember?!  

The old saying goes, ‘you only get one chance to make a first impression’ so when you get the opportunity to get in front of a prospect you don’t want to blow it. Here’s four features EVERY product demo should have…

  1. Hands-on Customer Engagement
  2. Visually Showing How the Product Works
  3. Non-Linear Personalization
  4. Crib Notes

Hands-on Customer Engagement 3DProductModel_ipad

Did you know that interactivity can increases product knowledge retention by up to 75%? It’s true. Giving prospects a hands-on sensory experience allows them to explore product features that are the most important to them in a way that they’ll remember.

That said, getting your products into the hands of your prospects is much easier said than done.  Products (specifically in the telecom, medical or industrial industries) are often large, fragile, expensive, hard to obtain and difficult to ship. Even at trade shows companies are often bringing just their flag ship products and/or just a ‘shell’ of their product to avoid damage during transport.

Consider using virtual 3D Product Models (that look and behave just like the actual products) on touch screens appliances at trade shows, or on mobile devices for remote sales meetings. Doing so will ensure products are available at every sales encounter and that customers can engage and navigate products as desired.

Bill_CienaProductVisually Showing How the Product Works

A lot of products look similar (e.g. grey boxes) from the outside, but showing the uniqueness of what’s happening within your product and what makes it different from the competition is how you’ll win the deal.

Your brain processes visual information 60,000 times faster than text. So whether you have 60-seconds of your prospect’s attention in a trade show booth, or 30-minutes in an actual face-to-face sales meeting, visual representations of product workflow and network infrastructures will not only help overcome language barriers but assist in quickly and effectively communicating how your product works. Oh, and don’t forget that over 65% of people are visual learners.

Non-Linear Personalization

Personalization is paramount! There is no substitute for being able to look someone in the eye, shake his or her hand, and give a full presentation of any relevant aspect of your entire product portfolio at a moment’s notice.

To avoid ‘one-size-fits-all’ marketing, you need the ability to tailor the product demonstration to the needs and interests of each prospect, making their purchasing experience feel specific to their individual business challenges. By creating non-linear, user-driven product demonstrations, the prospect can control their own experience, exploring the product and messages in a sequence and level of detail that they feel are most appropriate to their needs.

Tools such as videos do the talking for you and put the sales demonstration on autopilot, creating a forgettable experience and inhibiting a true conversation with your customer. Putting your customer in the driver’s seat better highlights their interests for your sales representative, enabling them to tailor the discussion to best solve the customer’s business challenges.

Crib Notes Screen Shot 2014-07-15 at 2.47.39 PM

Crib notes aren’t for cheaters– they’re for those of us who just need a little extra help! Even the most knowledgeable sales reps need crib notes now and then!

As corporate strategies shift and organizations become acquired, the product marketing mix changes and sales people must quickly accommodate. The majority of sales reps no longer sell just one product to one audience, they sale numerous products to dozens of different recipients, within very complex buying cycles.

And here’s the rub, when several products are marketed by the same sales force, it becomes impossible and impractical for them to know the unique features and benefits of EVERY product within the portfolio. This results in a generalized selling pitch, making the sales experiences less than stellar.

Use small crib notes that help sales navigate thought the demonstration like a product expert. Quick reference points like information hot spots on products, supporting marketing messages and videos will help quickly and concisely communicate the differentiation of each product.

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Exhibit City News: Kaon Interactive revolutionizes mobile exhibiting

ecn logoJuly 1, 2014 – Published by Exhibit City News

 

Kaon Interactive Revolutionizes Mobile Exhibiting

Many tradeshows succeed due to the face-to-face engagement they provide, but highly technical companies may not see the point in exhibiting if their prospects can’t physically interact with their products.

Understanding that the seeing-is-believing mentality contributed to some costly mistakes for these companies, Kaon Interactive developed a 3D product demonstration application to aid sales professionals who face challenges delivering complex products to prospects on the show floor.

“You can look at [the 3D representation] and say this product is better because it has these interchangeable parts. If you have the equipment, you don’t have to replace the entire thing, just the parts. I can demonstrate that with the app. That’s huge savings for someone with a message to tell,” explained Gavin A. Finn, Ph.D., president and CEO, Kaon Interactive.

Using touchscreen functionality on any device and platform, sales professionals interact with a 3D virtual representation of technically complex equipment, showing prospects how it works.

“We talked to a number of key senior marketing executives. They all came to the conclusion that there is zero value in having a very complex product that people just look at. The value is not in what the product looks like. The value is what it delivers. You want to look at what the outcome is and not the physical device,” he added.

This perspective didn’t develop overnight. In the past, sales professionals strived to get prospects up close and personal to physical products at tradeshows. Depending on its complexity and weight, such as 1,000-pound networking equipment or even heavier X-ray scanners for airports, limited options existed for getting products from A to Z.

Sales professionals used either brochures or PowerPoint presentations to highlight product benefits. If that wasn’t effective, they arranged onsite visits for interested prospects, which often involved cost-scheduling logistics, according to Finn. Many companies spent $7,000-$14,000 shipping complex equipment to tradeshows and then had to say hello to drayage.

“The heavier the equipment, the more expensive the drayage is. By the time you’re finished, you’re talking sometimes $20,000,”explained Finn. “People sometimes underestimate the real cost. Let’s say you want to set the equipment up and have it turned on. You have to send in engineers or technical specialists. By the time you’re finished, it’s a very expensive and time consuming. It’s also prone to risks like getting there and the product not working for the show.”

It could also be catastrophic if the shipment doesn’t make it to the tradeshow.

“We talk to companies all the time. Somebody had a product fall off the back of a truck. It was $380,000. It shattered. They lost [money] with shipping. Without a solution like [ours], it’s costly to demonstrate and convey that right message to the customer,” he said.

Proving that Kaon Interactive contributed to sales professionals operating more efficiently in multiple environments are the more than 600,000 people using the 3D product demonstration apps six times a week.

“When a sales person is using something six times a week, you know it’s helping them,” added Finn. “There are also analytics showing how many people around the world are using it — what sections they are looking at, what devices they are using and how long they look at it. We also can measure effectiveness of the application at tradeshows and sales environments.”

Allowing exhibitors to operate cost-effectively and efficiently at tradeshows, the 3D product demonstration app can be used in a 10 x 10 booth rather than a company purchasing a bigger booth to accommodate physically larger equipment. Additionally, the device each professional is using to demonstrate the same product doesn’t matter.

“The same application does not have to be reprogrammed to run on other devices. We have the same code base running on all devices, and that makes it easier for us to support one platform from another,” Finn explained. “We also have the Application Delivery Network that allows us to create content once and distribute it to one delivery environment.”

Backed by a cloud, the Application Delivery Network allows updates made to a product model to be distributed to all parties involved, ensuring everyone has access to the same and most recent version of the content. This feature comes in handy for global companies delivering product information to their remote offices from their headquarters.

“For many global companies, it’s expensive to ship delicate equipment to their other offices. We have customers who deliver these experiences to all of their remote sales offices. Every time they get a new product or new message to tell, everyone gets it at the same time. They have the ability to detail entire product portfolios to each office,” said Finn. “For a company in South America, they use PCs, not tablets. They have sales and marketing people in Asia that use Android tablets. They don’t have to worry about spending money to run their sales and marketing application. We created the network to solve that problem.”

Being able to travel back and forth with no physical product shipping worries revolutionized the way sales professionals operate in all environments. Winning Kaon Interactive multiple awards, the 3D product demonstration apps reportedly saved clients thousands in shipping and increased sales, making up for the initial investment companies made into the virtual product, according to Finn. With Kaon working across multiple industries and entering others like automotive, in the future, app users could potentially go to a car dealership to virtually configure the car they want to buy.

 

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