Hybrid event brings groups together live and on Web

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HOW LIGHTOLIER USED A "HYBRID' EVENT TO SUCCESSFULLY LAUNCH A NEW PRODUCT Objective: Concurrently launch a single product in nine states while bringing the benefits of a face-to-face event to each customer and business partner attending the launch. Strategy: Using a live-television-inspired, enhanced webcast, the company created events in each state that linked attendees to the central location. Top sales representatives at each location were present to answer questions, provide a live demo of the new product and conduct sales on-site. Results: A successful combination of a live face-to-face event with a Web-based product launch resulted in significant money savings and immediate sale of brand new products. Lightolier, a 150-year-old lighting manufacturer, wanted to introduce a new product on the East and West coasts simultaneously. The event would bring together more than 1,000 customers and business partners, along with 500 members of the company's national sales force. But bringing all 1,500 targeted attendees together at one event would have come at a great expense. So instead, the company enlisted digital marketing agency Cramer, Norwood, Mass., to help it build a national “hybrid” event. Customers last November were hosted by members of the Lightolier sales team in nine cities around the U.S. From Lightolier headquarters in Fall River, Mass., the company delivered its live product announcement to each local event center via the Web. The company's president announced the debut of EXCEED, its recessed lighting design that maximizes environmentally friendly compact fluorescent light bulbs, and later the company's product manager moderated an interactive online Q&A. Throughout the live webcast, attendees could ask questions and participate in real-time polls, which allowed the company to engage the audience as well as collect metrics about what people were and weren't interested in. “The main advantage to us was to be able to reach out to that number of people without having to travel out of state,” said Kevin Brewster, manager of media services at Lightolier. “The product that we were releasing was an environmentally friendly product, and it seemed out of character to fly 500 sales reps [across the country].” Additionally, Brewster said, the financial benefits to spreading a single event out to several states were extremely high. “The flight arrangements, the catering, the hotel accommodations, plus the cost of a large event ... the cost savings were astronomical,” Brewster said. “It was sort of a no-brainer to do the event this way. In the long run, we ended up reaching a lot more people than we would have, and we saved a ton of money.” Once the Web-based event concluded, members of the local sales force—who were prepped about the product in advance of the event—could demo the new product in person for customers and business partners. “Within minutes of releasing the product to our sales force, they were closing deals—major deals,” Brewster said. “We still had the face-to-face opportunity. The sales team had their own minievents with the distributors. They all watched the Web release together, then the sales reps were there with the product in hand. They didn't lose the person-to-person benefit; they just gained the benefit of having our actual designers present the product and the president of our company give the rundown. So they gained a lot.” Rob Everton, creative director at Cramer, says that the hybrid event boosted communication between attendees and the Lightolier brand. “You've now got content that's available online all the time. There are a lot of reasons to look at alternatives [to a single large event]. The authenticity of actually seeing the people present opposite you is critical,” he said. Ultimately, the company's customers and sales force were all pleased with the results of the event. “The feedback was overwhelmingly positive,” Brewster said. “People really did appreciate not having to take four days out of their schedule. They commented on being able to go back and review the archived webcast at any time.” In light of the recent economic downturn, Brewster expects the cost savings and success of this event will lead the company to repeat it in the future. “I don't think that major full-scale events are going to go away, but they certainly are going to decrease. This will more than likely be the major direction we go in. This isn't just a replacement or a substitute. It's more convenient.” M
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