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How GE's mobile exhibit put tech launch in the fast lane

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When General Electric Co. wanted to spread the word about its new FlexEfficiency 60 portfolio of power generation technology, the company decided to hit the road. GE introduced the technology at a San Francisco launch event last September, unveiling equipment designed to help add natural gas and renewable energy sources to the power grid. A black 18-wheel tractor-trailer emblazoned with the GE logo parked outside City Hall and served as an educational center. It was the first stop for the vehicle, a mobile exhibit that allowed GE to take technology that does not yet exist and showcase it for a decentralized group of stakeholders that included utility operators, regulators and insurers as well as engineering, procurement and construction firms. “The first site wouldn't be installed until sometime in 2017,” said Brian Gutknecht, manager of thermal marketing-GE Power & Water. “We had to create a virtual experience for [stakeholders] to see what this technology can do, to view it through animated movies and see how the equipment would work.” The custom-built truck, which traveled to 25 North American cities, featured side and rear walls that open to make room for model displays, computer stations and meeting spaces. In Sacramento, Calif., it pulled up outside the state capitol building so that regulators could wander through the displays. It drove directly onto the show floor at trade events and became a site for media events. It also carried its message to individual company sites, offering GE the opportunity to engage more deeply with potential accounts. “In the past when one would launch technology in this industry, one would do it at a big trade show where buyers kick the tires,” Gutknecht said. “But by us taking a truck to customer sites and letting their employees go through the truck, we could reach a different level that may not have been at that industry convention.” The truck did not travel alone. It arrived with about a dozen GE employees—engineers, marketing experts, sales leaders and communications staff—who walked visitors through the truck, adapting the presentation to match each individual's role in the decision-making process and level of expertise, Gutknecht said. If staff could not answer questions on the spot, they ushered visitors to a Skype station and called an offsite GE expert for the answers. At most sites, GE also reserved outside meeting rooms for additional presentations, Gutknecht said, but the truck remained the most effective portion of the engagement. Visitors left the mobile exhibit with cards that pointed them to a campaign microsite where they could follow the tour, download collateral and watch videos. The tour captured media attention, generating 43 television and news placements specific to the truck and a total of 358 articles, Gutknecht said. Stops at GE sites also helped galvanize employee enthusiasm for the new technology. But the big win came with the compression of the launch timeline, he said. “During one of our most recent product launches in the U.S., it took our sales team about a year to reach out with individual meetings, then plan to have engineers come out to meet with key customers. Here, in a matter of two months, we reached most of the critical customers. This truck, staffed with the right experts, made for a very effective way to get the message out quickly.”
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