In search for suits, PDA's can make their connection on golf course

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Business people represent a huge opportunity for marketers of personal digital assistants, and when your product can cost $400, it makes sense to pursue the deep-pocketed employer. To do this, marketers are relying on face-to-face contact, often through sponsored events.

"My gut tells me that about 80% [of the PDA market] is consumer and that includes mobile professionals," says Neil Strother, senior analyst-wireless handset and access devices at Reed Elsevier's In-Stat/MDR service. The remaining 20% of the market is corporate, or enterprise, customers.

Gartner's Dataquest division is more generous to corporations, estimating that in 2001, 26% of PDAs, or 3.4 million, were purchased by corporations worldwide.

"For the most part people bring PDAs [into corporations] through the back door," Mr. Strother says.

"The company [that's] buying thousands [of PDAs] for its employees is the oddity today. Most PDAs-65% to 75%-are bought by individuals for business," says Ken Dulaney, VP-mobile computing for Gartner, a tech consultancy. "But I think that's going to change over the next couple of years."

PDA marketers are trying to get their PDAs into the hands of the corporate executive, so marketers have favored direct marketing, events and promotions.

PDA marketers note the corporate sell is framed in terms of return on investment. As such, it's more attuned to what Ben Bender, North American marketing manager-wireless and mobility at Compaq Computer Corp., calls the "personal touch" than to a mass marketing campaign.

direct marketing stands out

The preferred method of marketing PDAs to corporations is through the dedicated sales force and direct marketing efforts.

"It's a solution sell-you need to understand [all] the needs of the customer," says Doreen Canova, commercial category manager for Hewlett-Packard Co.'s Jornada PDA.

The PDA industry as a whole also has sought to reach potential corporate customers by linking with events sponsored by industry analysts. Other activities link PDA marketers with computer-related partners. Handspring, for example, participates in Dell Computer Corp.'s "Customer Enterprise Day." Dell invites executives to a two-day event that might include golf as well as product demos.

Professional golf events are popular venues. Palm used the Nissan Open in February to demonstrate to TV stations how scores could be kept on its PDAs. Compaq will provide iPAQs for guests at a tournament next May in Germany as it did last year at the Compaq Classic in New Orleans, says Cindy Box, director of marketing-iPAQ.

Compaq, HP and Casio, whose products use Microsoft Corp.'s PocketPC technology, have hooked into Microsoft marketing efforts. Microsoft strongly believes in the "back door" approach of targeting influential end users to reach the corporate sector. "They can help make the case to others in their organization," says Ed Suwanjindar, product manager for Microsoft's mobile devices division.

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