Canon product intro benefits from face-to-face focus


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Objective: Canon Inc. wanted to create a scaled-back product launch during uncertain economic times that would still have a lasting impact on business partners and boost sales. Strategy: The company held a face-to-face event that normally takes place in several rooms in a single room and invited a select, focused group of guests to participate. Results: The smaller event spurred high sales for the product and is considered one of Canon's most successful product introductions. When Canon Inc., a camera and office technologies company, had a new product line to introduce, it decided that, despite the need for a scaled-down event in the stumbling economy, a face-to-face meeting was essential to the success of its new devices. So it invited a “focus group” of 4,000 people to a highly specialized, targeted event. The company commissioned MC2, Chestnut Ridge, N.Y., an exhibit and trade show booth production company, to assist in creating a new type of face-to-face meeting for its imageRUNNER Advance products, which are copiers and printers for home and office. Generally, Canon holds sessions, seminars and demos in separate rooms across a convention space. In this case, however, the company decided to use a single space. “Although we ultimately decided to [produce] a more scaled-down event than we had done in the past, this allowed us to be very focused in terms of the message we delivered and the technology demonstrations we arranged,” said Dennis Amorosano, senior director-solutions marketing and business support at Canon USA. “In some ways, I think this focus proved to be very beneficial, as one of our core objectives in conducting the event was to get our selling activities for the new product line off to a fast start,” he said. In order to target a specific group of business partners, Canon developed a small, two-day event in Oct. 2009 at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas. In a single conference room it built a central stage for keynote presentations and seminars—with seating for 650 people. The company placed 28 product demo stations in four zones around the room, allowing attendees to see the new products being sold in real-life office scenerios. “Because the stage was actively integrated in the rest of the floor plan, it made for an excellent congregating point for guests,” Amorosano said. And the demonstration areas allowed the company's customers to see how the new products could directly benefit them. “One of our goals was to drive these demonstrations in such a way as to tie each zone of the event together,” he said. “By doing this, we could show customers how they could integrate our technology throughout their entire operation.” Though the launch event was smaller than others Canon had done in the past, the focused nature of its event design made it highly successful. “Overall, we felt that this was one of the better events we did,” Amorosano said. “The feedback we received from dealers and customers was excellent, and it was clear to us that attendees walked away with a clear understanding of our message.” And that, he said, would have been very difficult to achieve without the benefit of a face-to-face event. “While technology today certainly gives us more flexibility in delivering content, it is very difficult to replace the value that can be achieved through face-to-face encounters,” Amoro-sano said. “It was important for us to meet with our dealer partners in person so they could clearly understand Canon's commitment to the market and the benefits we believed our new technology was capable of providing. Many value propositions associated with Canon's technology need to be seen in order to be clearly understood. Trying to do this remotely would have been extremely challenging. The face-to-face approach was the ideal way to deliver the message.” The greatest measure of success, Amorosano said, was the significant sales bump the company experienced after the event. “We wanted to use this event to stimulate sales at the launch of our new products. The results we experienced during the fourth quarter of the year were terrific.”
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