Trade Show Muscle Used in Launch

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Budgets are usually tight. Time and space are always limited. And the corporate brass typically sets high expectations for exposure, publicity and bottom-line sales results. But with smart marketing and solid execution, companies can dramatically boost the return on their conference investments.


Here's how one hi-tech company used an innovative relaunch promotion to get an extra bang for its trade show buck.


Alcatel is a developer and manufacturer of communications systems, including broadband wireless, microwave, networks, cross connects, access, ADSL, switching and light-wave technologies. With operations in more than 130 countries and worldwide sales of $25 billion, Alcatel's turnkey solutions encompass feasibility studies, systems integration, systems engineering, installation, training, technical assistance and customer service.


Alcatel USA Inc., Plano, TX, knows how to promote hi-tech systems effectively, and that's what the company did for its Evolium Broadband Wireless Access solutions.


Alcatel's Evolium LMDS (local multipoint distribution service) is an end-to-end broadband wireless access solution that delivers a full range of high-speed data services during the "last mile" to a customer's location.


Alcatel sells the Evolium LMDS solution to wireless telecom network operators that, in turn, offer this flexible and scalable solution primarily to small- and medium-size enterprises. Though well-known in Europe and other international markets, Alcatel and the Evolium brand had not been aggressively promoted in the growing U.S. broadband wireless access market.


The marketing manager at Alcatel USA Wireless Access was given the job of introducing Evolium LMDS to U.S. operators, a task she was asked to tackle under tight time and budget constraints. Fortunately, Alcatel had already planned to host one of the premier broadband wireless industry gatherings, Broadband Wireless World Forum 2000.


Broadband Wireless World Forum 2000 is one of the largest annual events of its kind and is tailored exclusively to the needs of service providers, technology suppliers and users of fixed wireless broadband technology. This year's forum attracted 1,600 attendees.


Because Alcatel was committed to the forum, the company's U.S. marketing manager saw an opportunity to relaunch the Evolium product line while boosting the company's return on investment from this conference and exhibit. The objectives were to strengthen the Alcatel brand name within the U.S. telecom industry and to build awareness for the Evolium LMDS solution.


"Evolium is a proven success with installations now operating at 40 operator sites worldwide," said Debra Hoerner, senior manager, strategic marketing wireless access, at Alcatel USA. "We wanted to use the Broadband Wireless World Forum 2000 and other events to launch an aggressive U.S. marketing effort for our company and this broadband solution."


Alcatel USA Wireless Access worked with Communica Marketing Group, which concentrates on hi-tech promotional marketing. Together we formulated and launched an aggressive campaign built around the event with the intent of continuing the theme at other events through the first half of this year.


Introduction. To build awareness before Forum 2000, a high-impact mailing was sent to registered attendees and to a proprietary Alcatel prospect list. The two-tier split mailing included a copy of an Alcatel Wireless Access magazine, an invitation to attend the forum, a specially designed Evolium T-shirt and, for some prospects, an invitation to the pre-show kickoff event. A sophisticated Web site was deployed to collect R.S.V.P.s for the event and provide additional promotional exposure for Evolium and other Alcatel broadband wireless events.


At the show. Forum 2000 promotional activities included promotional materials and take-aways for the gala kickoff event, marketing materials and two gift drawings at Alcatel's exhibit booth and an interactive video segment to support Alcatel's keynote address. All materials were designed to provide graphic consistency and support the relaunch of the Evolium product line.


Maintaining the momentum. A closed-loop tracking system was deployed to collect, track and pursue leads generated by the Evolium promotional campaign. Follow-up letters were sent to attendees and those who signed up but did not attend. Press releases on custom-designed letterhead were also used to gain continued press coverage, and Alcatel will continue to keep current and potential customers apprised of Alcatel's successes in the industry.


The campaign was formulated in January, with the first mail drops scheduled for mid-February and the post-show mailings set for April 3. Alcatel USA officials judged the Forum 2000 promotion a strong success. Alcatel is reaping the benefits of the relaunch marketing campaign, which has resulted in several high-level discussions with prospective customers of the new broadband wireless technology. Alcatel attributes this in part to the relaunch campaign, of which the Forum 2000 event was a pivotal element.


"The Evolium LMDS U.S. launch is a great example of how the entire marketing communications planning effort must be integrated to bring together messaging, promotions, advertising, media and analyst relations ... to get the best possible return for the investment," Hoerner said.


David A.Barnes is director of marketing programs at Communica Marketing Group, Richardson, TX.
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