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Instrument maker invests in 3-D demos

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Malvern Instruments is a global provider of analytical technical instruments for pharmaceutical and biotech companies, among others. The company, a unit of Spectris, has used interactive advertising for nearly a decade now.

Another major marketing component: Trade shows and in-office demonstrations.

Recently, however, the effectiveness and practicality of using trade shows started being called into question, said Randy Byrne, Malvern's VP-marketing.

“Big pharmaceutical and big chemical companies are starting to cut back on sending personnel to technology exhibitions,” Byrne said. Malvern also had to deal with its own escalating costs, which included paying to ship the often-massive products to trade shows, as well as building demo units for its booths.

A recent acquisition pushed the company to the edge. “We realized we had to have multiple units, and the investment was going to be in millions of dollars,” Byrne said.

Given this context, Malvern started looking for ways to avoid costly shipping damage and wear-and-tear on its equipment. The directive: find a way to duplicate the demonstration experience without having to ship and set up in a physical location.

Malvern was already working with Kaon Interactive at bit, using v-OSK, its 3-D interactive marketing tool, to conduct product demonstrations in countries in which there were restrictions on importing actual equipment.

But after seeing Kaon's software update—it takes the experience from big screens in an exhibition center to laptop or desktop screen—Byrne decided 3-D demonstrations might work.

About the tool, which Malvern has used for about three years, Byrne said: “It helped us to help people understand a sophisticated instrument in an easy-to-understand way without having the actual equipment on site. You can show someone the front and back and sides of the unit. It can bring life to a black box.”

Another benefit of the 3-D models is the ability to “open” delicate equipment. “If someone is interested in how the equipment interfaces with a computer you can show them where the connections are,” Byrne said, adding: “A lot of our equipment is laser-based, so the customers can't see inside because you have to be so careful with the lasers. But with the Kaon software you can pull out and expand the concept behind the laser internally.”

The company installed the v-OSK software on all of its internal sales team's laptops several months ago, around the same time it introduced a new product. Malvern marketed the product using search advertising, banner ads and e-mail, so there was a lot of interest, but more demand than demo equipment available.

“We had the product specialists bring the Kaon software in and make believers of everyone,” Byrne said. “One prospect was in Western Canada, where it would have been difficult to bring an actual piece of equipment. The demo brought the product to life and gave them the confidence to place the order.”

The company is also already seeing strong results from placing a 3-D demo of one of its other instruments on its Web site. It has doubled the number of software demonstrations it can do, and saved "millions of dollars" not having to create demo units. Prospects and existing customers were asked to register before viewing the demonstration, said Byrne.

“We've seen what's approaching 100 registrations. Out of 100 raw inquiries you get ten sales opportunities and maybe three sales,” he said. “That doesn't sound world-changing but this is a highly specialized product.”

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