February 27, 2008
Case Study

How to Maximize Real-World Product Demos: 8 Strategies to Convert 40% More Leads

SUMMARY: Many companies outfit large trucks to go on the road and demonstrate their products in real-world scenarios. Though costly, the ROI can be phenomenal … if executed properly.

See how one marketing team melded a mobile-demo truck campaign into their overall campaign to convert leads at a 40% rate. They also reduced 20% off the time of a typical conversion.
Sonia Martinez, Director, Field and Industry Marketing North America, Avaya, was looking for a powerful hands-on marketing tool that would convert prospects. She believed the complex nature of Avaya’s communications technology required demonstrations in real-world scenarios.

Avaya and its competitors had experimented with mobile-demonstration units -- trucks that haul equipment around the country to show prospects the technology in action. But Martinez noticed a flaw in most strategies: simply turning the tool over to the sales team for field marketing.

“We found when other companies and ourselves turn the trucks over to sales, they’re missing out on all the big momentum,” Martinez says. “They didn’t really know all the time what sales was doing with truck. They didn’t know how to cross promote with other campaigns and online. And they didn’t know how to follow the path back from the truck to ROI and other marketing metrics.”

First, Martinez and her team changed the mindset associated with mobile-demonstration units: Instead of thinking of the truck as a field tactic, they treated it like a fully integrated campaign to try to maximize their six-figure investment. They managed the development of on-board resources, email and online promotions and an automated follow-up program, and they tracked important metrics.

Here are the eight strategies they followed:

-> Strategy #1. Assemble truck team with a mix of expertise

They assembled the right team to handle the campaign’s logistical, technical and marketing operations. Among key personnel:

- Transportation expert to handle route planning and logistics, including government regulations that cover drivers’ hours and mandatory break requirements.

- Logistics manager to set up the truck at each stop and handle on-site registration for visitors.

- Technical support on call 24/7 to maintain the network and equipment installed in the truck. These personnel worked in off-hours to help set up the mobile demonstration station at each stop and handle any unforeseen technical issues.

“At the end of day, this is not a typical, real-world environment. I don’t know anyone who starts and stops their network every day, and has it jiggling down the road.”

That group also developed demonstration resource books to keep on board the truck. If something went wrong, the demo teams knew who to call and how to properly set up each piece of equipment.

- Personnel with the skill to operate the equipment, and walk customers and prospects through business scenarios. Martinez chose members of the company’s executive briefing teams, who usually are called in to develop on-site demonstrations and technology walk-throughs with prospects.

These experts knew how to integrate technology demonstrations with existing marketing campaigns, and were the company’s top evangelists. “They needed to be able to talk to various audiences, from the technical level to the executive level, so the briefing teams were the right ones to do that.”

-> Strategy #2. Showcase technology in real-world demos

Martinez and her team decided that size matters in a mobile demonstration unit. They picked an 18-wheeler to highlight as many pieces of equipment and networking solutions as possible.

But trucking pieces of equipment from city to city wasn’t enough. They demonstrated the functionality of their products by showing how they handle real-world business needs. The mobile demonstration unit was modeled on brick-and-mortar technology briefing centers the company operates in large markets, where customers and prospects can see hands-on demonstrations of technology in action.

Working with the technology marketing team, they developed demonstrations that wee relevant to key industry segments, such as:

- Communications-enabled business processes for enterprises, such as physicians offices and hospitals. Inside the truck, prospects saw how Avaya solutions integrated telephone networks and appointment databases to operate an online scheduling tool for doctor’s appointments.

- Unified business communications demonstrations for different industry verticals and company sizes. Each showed how to integrate telephony, voice mail, email, video and other communications on PCs, land-lines and mobile phones.

- A mobile command center demonstration for emergency situations. It included satellite communications capability should terrestrial or mobile networks go down, along with a network of emergency resources, such as access to NOAA hurricane alerts and earthquake alerts.

“We offered everything you’d need to look at from government or first responder’s standpoint to keep your infrastructure running.”

-> Strategy #3. Coordinate route planning with sales, marketing teams

To plan the truck’s route, the team worked with their transportation expert to trace a path between cities with a major concentration of prospects and customers. That path took into account DOT regulations on truckers.

After they had outlined the truck’s route and major stops, the team asked sales people to help schedule additional stops along the way:

- Martinez’s team created an online booking tool. The tool displayed the truck’s itinerary for the next three months, and allowed sales and marketing team members to request additional stops, such as at major customer locations, along the way.

- If the date and time was available, and the location was within the truck’s established path, the location was added to the truck’s itinerary.

- Team members also requested truck appearances at major customer or prospect meetings taking place within the pre-established route.

-> Strategy #4. Use email to promote truck appearances

Six weeks before the truck arrived at a scheduled stop, Martinez and her team began inviting customers and prospects to attend the demonstrations.

- Working from their in-house marketing database, the team identified customers and prospects within a 30-mile radius of a scheduled stop.

- They sent contacts one of four email invitations, developed to reach different customer segments:
o General
o State and local government or education
o Health care
o Federal government

- Invitations contained a hotlink to a landing page customized by customer segment. Prospects could see a calendar of upcoming stops and register to attend an event of their choice.

- Sales reps also could email invitations to key customers and top prospects.

- Registrations were coded according to the landing page used. That information was added to the company’s marketing and CRM databases.

- Registrants received two follow-up emails:
o Thank-you immediately following registration
o Reminder one week before the event

-> Strategy #5. Integrate truck demos with ongoing campaigns

Martinez’s team used the mobile demonstration truck in conjunction with other marketing campaigns whenever possible. Among the techniques:

- Support product launches by incorporating new equipment and scenario-based demonstrations in the mobile facility.

- Promote the truck tour on the Avaya website with banner ads linked to a customized landing page, which featured the truck’s schedule and an online registration form.

- Coordinate truck visits with field marketing activities, such as state and local government team meetings with contingents of prospects and customers.

- Cross-promote the truck tour with major industry events, either by scheduling a stop in conjunction with a trade show or inviting event attendees to attend a mobile demonstration as part of post-event follow-up.

“There’s not a perfect recipe, but because we’re so closely tied to the field marketing team, we were always sniffing out opportunities, looking at where the truck was going, and thinking if there was a way to hinge this together with other activities.”

-> Strategy #6. Offer co-marketing deals with partners to offset costs

To recoup some of their costs, the team worked with distributors, developers, and other business partners on co-sponsorship activities.

- The team created times in the truck schedule for partners to rent the truck on an hourly or half-day basis to host their own events.

- Partners could use the online booking tool.

-> Strategy #7. Generate PR and branding opportunities

In addition to lead generation, the truck offered opportunities for public relations and brand marketing:

- The truck’s trailer was used a rolling billboard. A range of highly-visible signs and graphics were designed to reiterate brand marketing elements, such as the tagline, “Intelligent Communications: Connecting People and Processes with the Power of Voice over IP.”

- The company’s internal PR team invited local media to attend the demonstrations and conduct interviews with the truck’s operations team.

-> Strategy #8. Enter visitors into follow-up marketing program

At each stop, the logistics manager checked off attendees from the pre-registration list. They also collected registration information from visitors who hadn’t pre-registered. Those names were added to a marketing database for automated marketing follow-up:

- Each attendee received an email thanking them for coming and offering additional marketing materials based on the products they were interested in.

- Those names were passed along to the relevant sales team or channel partner, with instructions to follow up within a week or pass the name back to the marketing cultivation team.

- Contacts who did not receive follow-up directly from a sales or channel representative were handed over to the company’s telemarketing team. They got a follow-up phone call to learn more about their product interests and potential purchasing timeframe.

- The telemarketing team added those names to a marketing cultivation list. Those names received additional marketing communications, such as relevant content and invitations to webinars, future mobile demonstrations if the truck was scheduled to return to their area, and other events.
As a fully-integrated campaign, the mobile-demonstration truck became what Martinez and her team called “a golden tool” to generate new leads and accelerate existing leads through the sales pipeline.

More than 7,000 visitors attended demonstrations in the mobile unit. Those events helped the team generate a 40% conversion rate from leads in the consideration phase to closed deals.

Martinez prefers not to disclose actual figures. But revenue from those deals totaled tens of millions of dollars in eight months. And more than a hundred million dollars of potential revenue are still in the pipeline.

They also saw about a 20% reduction the length of the typical sales cycle, compared with customers who didn’t attend a demonstration. “At the end of the year, when you look at metrics like cost per lead and conversion ratios, every time the truck stands out over typical campaigns.”

Because of its success, the team has extended the length of the truck campaign. What was originally meant to span six or seven months in 2007 has been carried over into 2008.

Offering co-sponsorship deals with partners helped her team recover about 25% of the cost of the campaign. “It makes it a lot more sustainable than we thought, which is difficult to do when you’re just turning an asset like this over to sales.”

Another bonus has been brand marketing and PR opportunities. Martinez estimates the truck generated more than 7 million brand impressions in its first seven months, and the PR team landed 62 media mentions, including a recent four-minute segment on a local news station.

“Again, you have to look at it like a full-blown campaign. You might spend roughly the same amount on solicitation and an integrated media piece that has a piece of content hinging on the end of it, or you can have the truck hinging on the end of it.”

Useful links related to this article

Faction Media developed the truck’s signage, graphics and inside design:


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