March 13, 2014 – Byline by Gavin Finn, published by Exhibitors Daily
Both event marketers and sales representatives are tasked with creating memorable experiences that educate prospects and generate emotional connections between prospects and the brand that will ultimately result in successful buying decisions. In 2014, marketers will be challenged to provide more interactive and personalized customer experiences over an increasing number of channels, while maintaining consistent brand and product messaging.
Customer engagement tools are an increasing trend at trade shows and events, and now sales representatives are clamoring to have access to similar solutions that they can use OFF the show floor, to bring the same type of experiences to their prospects. I recently asked a senior director of marketing at a very successful high-tech company which, out of all of his deliverables, were the most effective and the most valued by his marketing and sales teams. His answer was simple – anything interactive – online AND offline.
Transitioning these interactive experiences from the trade show floor to remote sales demonstrations has been a perennial challenge for enterprise B2B companies. This article will investigate how both a network telecommunication equipment and an analytical instrument company successfully deployed interactive sales and marketing experiences cross-platform, across mobile devices, touch screens, websites, laptops and more, to any customer-facing venue.
Lack of physical products for demonstration
A major international networking and telecommunications equipment company was preparing to do a global product launch at an industry trade show; however, due to unexpected delays, all the physical products that were to be shipped to the event and for sales demonstrations across the globe became entirely unavailable. With the product launch already announced, the company needed a tool that would not only demonstrate their product to prospects, but also educate internal teams on how to best differentiate and sell the equipment. Crunched for time and lacking physical products, the marketing team turned to photo-realistic 3D interactive product models that look and behave just like the actual product.
“We were just weeks away from a major trade show where we planned to display our latest product — a breakthrough ethernet services router — but all available systems were spoken for by customers. Kaon was able to develop a fully interactive 3D model that looked exactly like the physical product,” said the company’s field marketing manager.
Frequently at large networking trade shows and events, physical products are present, but a large majority of servers and routers look very similar to the naked eye, and the hardware is generally protected behind glass due to the fragility and cost of the complex systems. The Kaon 3D Product Models, paired with interactive solution storytelling, provided a product demonstration that broke through the trade show clutter, drawing prospects into their booth and providing a differentiated demonstration that can be truly explored and tailored to the interest of prospects. Not only was the company able to get its products into its trade show booth by using virtual product demonstrations, but was also able to get the products into the hands of its globally dispersed sales channels on iPads.
By creating a non-linear, user-driven application, the company’s prospects could control their own experience, exploring the content, product models, solution stories and collateral in a sequence and level of detail that they feel is most appropriate to their needs. Putting the customer in the driver’s seat better highlights their interests for sales representatives, enabling sales teams to tailor the discussion to best solve the customer’s business challenges. By using the virtual 3D products within their trade show booth, the cost of giving a product demo was driven down from $100 per minute to an impressive $7 per minute (eliminating shipping, drayage, labor and power costs). Once the iPad App was made available to global channel partners, the users of application vastly increased, while the cost for demonstrating products went down to an astonishing $2.33 per minute.
Ability to demonstrate workflow, features and benefits of large, complex, fragile products
Marketers are often challenged to educate sales teams and channel partners on the value, differentiation and positioning of their offerings, as well as communicate these benefits to prospects at trade shows and events. When complex physical products are being sold, this task is not trivial.
A leading global instrument and materials analysis company needed a tool to assist in the demonstration of its sophisticated analytical instruments. With scientific and medical laboratory devices, product accessibility is often limited, as the physical products can be large, fragile and expensive to ship. Even when physical products are present, they often can’t be operated outside of a clinical environment, meaning large exterior shells of products are shipped simply to sit inoperable on trade show floors.
In addition to exorbitant shipping and drayage costs for such large products, the potential costs associated with the product being damaged during shipment to events or demonstrations is an enormous risk. Due to these challenges, this company found it difficult it to communicate and differentiate complex product features, benefits, workflow and processes without a new solution.
Turning to interactive 3D product applications, the company was able to have its demonstration products remain at the corporate lab for customer site-visit and demo purposes, resulting in approximately $150,000 of cost avoidance, in addition to eliminating the need to manage international shipping and logistics. The company was also able to increase the effectiveness of the demo lab for sales purposes, resulting in an increase in sales of $250,000 per year. The cost of damages and equipment downtime was dramatically reduced through the cutback in the number of actual instruments shipped to exhibitions, seminars and short courses.
In addition to these financial returns, the greatest benefit that this instrument company experienced was a more personalized and consultative customer experience. Now sales and marketing ALWAYS have access to even the most difficult to obtain products and can use these interactive tools during meetings to succinctly deliver the information that each customer needs. This allows employees in any corner of the globe to learn about and interact with any product as if it were physically in front of them on a variety of convenient platforms, including websites, tablets, smartphones, laptops or touch-screen appliances.
“Unlike in the past, with Kaon’s 3D interactive applications, prospects now have the opportunity to look ‘under the hood’ and gain far more knowledge and understanding of the capabilities and benefits of our products,” said the vice president of marketing. The greatest benefit that the team is experiencing is the ability to show more products in a meaningful way without the products being physically present at trade shows and all customer-facing venues. “By meaningful,” the VP concludes, “I mean in a way that’s interesting, and that gives customers the ability to interact with the product. Before, when our products weren’t available for demonstrations, we had only a static brochure, which was not at all effective.”
Reaching customers everywhere
Your customers participate in the buying cycle in a wide variety of venues, and your tool must function well in any situation to be truly effective. Marketing tools need to be able to reach prospects anywhere they seek information, from individual discovery on websites and mobile devices to face-to-face events, to intimate sales meetings or briefing centers.
The end goal is to provide engaging informational knowledge exchanges that enhance the sales experience regardless of whether or not a representative is present. Repurposing the applications that engage customers in your trade show booth to run on smartphones, tablets and laptops for sales meetings ensures that prospects are experiencing a consistent and memorable experience at every touch point.
By creating interactive, non-linear applications, users can control their own experience, exploring the application in a sequence and level of detail that they feel are most appropriate to their needs and challenges. 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.
With interactivity proven to increase product knowledge retention by 78 percent, it’s no wonder that companies are turning to digital engagement marketing strategies that put the customer in control.
Gavin Finn is president and CEO of Kaon Interactive.