Objective: Reach customers with downsized travel budgets.
Strategy: Customize a bus with the company’s latest technology and create a traveling show that can go to the customer’s front door.
Results: 634 people came through the coach, opening up nine new revenue opportunities and significantly shortening the sales cycle.
In yet another case of what to do with falling travel budgets, Extream, a division of Hewlett-Packard Co., an electronics and computer company, decided to save its clients and partners the trouble of travel and instead brought the HP Extream booth to them.
“With the economy the way it has been, a lot of people don’t have travel budgets,” said Tami Webster, HP Extream marketing manager, Americas. “When you have an event, even a small seminar at a hotel, it’s an inconvenience. So we decided to bring the tech and the event right to their door.”
Webster enlisted the assistance of event marketing company Pro Motion to nail down a marketing strategy for the coach.
“When Tami came to us, we got into a conversation about putting the end in mind first,” said Steven Randazzo, president of Pro Motion. “What does this program need to do? We have to get the right people on the bus and show them the software. We thought about engagement and how long they were going to spend on the motor coach. How do we keep them on? What are they going to be interested in?”
Webster and her event team customized a bus, outfitting it with a living room, a meeting area, a plasma television and three demo stations to highlight HP products.
“The software is very complex and has a lot of features,” Webster said. “We had testing demos for each. We could have three people using them at one time.”
Over the course of four weeks last April and May, HP Extream took the coach to 23 cities, traveling 10,100 miles and demonstrating the software to 28 customers and 18 prospects. The bus spent two to four hours at each site and, in the evenings, transported clients to executive dinners. According to Webster, this helped the marketing and sales team reach more high-level decision-makers in their client organizations then in the past.
“We closed a deal in four months instead of nine,” said Webster of the significantly reduced sales cycle experienced while using the traveling event. “All of the salespeople said they wanted to do this again, without hesitation. There was access to a wider variety of people and it was no pressure—the environment was like sitting in a living room, and the customers were much more relaxed. They shared more information, and the environment facilitated the sales relationship.”
“There are so many clients that are cutting budgets that the decision-makers can’t get out of their office,” Randazzo said. “HP is showing clients and prospects how important they are to them. It’s making the accessibility convenient for the decision-maker and shows the prospects and customers that HP cares.”
In addition to creating accessibility to customers, Webster also suggested that the coach had some benefits over traditional meetings. “At one stop, we had 30 people from one company come through the bus,” she said. “That would have taken months to set up—meeting upon meeting. But we had the users and decision-makers all at the same time.”
HP Extream opened up nine new revenue opportunities. “Some are completely new and some are existing customers that we uncovered a new business opportunity with,” Webster said.
The success, she said, means the team will be integrating the bus in its event mix in years to come. “It was a hard sell internally when we first presented the idea because it’s new and a little different. But now that we’ve got a track record, we have been asked to include it in the budget again.”
Randazzo agreed that the traveling coach is an effective addition to HP Extream’s marketing strategy. “This is part of an integrated outreach program,” he said. “They still do advertising and trade shows, but they really saw the value of getting decision-makers to make decisions quickly. They sold millions of dollars of product during this program.”