Virtual Demos Yield Real Results for Hewlett-Packard

Scheduling live demonstrations with busy executives can be an expensive stumbling block to moving $1 million commercial printing presses as big as half a tennis court. Hewlett-Packard's virtual demonstrations for its Indigo 5000, ws4050 and 3050 commercial and industrial digital presses attempt to solve this problem with online Flash movies.

Most people want to see a live demonstration before deciding whether to buy one of HP's Indigo digital presses, which cost $250,000 to $1 million and are used by the graphic arts community as well as commercial and industrial printers. However, by providing as much information as possible through a virtual demonstration, there's a better chance that potential buyers are genuinely interested in a product when they come in for a live demo, said Donna Stokes, HP's worldwide graphic arts e-business manager.

“We wanted to reduce our expenses in bringing customers to live demos and to shorten the sales cycle time,” Stokes said about why HP created three-minute virtual demos for the three digital printers.

HP's digital press division includes 10 commercial and industrial printers. HP chose three flagship items for the demos: the Indigo 5000 is an affordable, high-end commercial digital printing press; the Indigo ws4050 is the top-of-the-line model for label printers; and the Indigo 3050 is a seven-color digital commercial offset press.

Typically, an HP salesperson either directs a potential customer to the Web site,, to view one of the demos or sends a CD burned with the Flash movies. The demos also are marketed on the home page, at trade shows and in product brochures.

One benefit of the virtual demos to potential customers is that via Flash navigation, they can easily access information relevant to their specific needs, whether they are a production manager or a business owner, Stokes said.

“Using that infrastructure has allowed us to talk to diverse groups with different needs in a very personalized manner,” she said.

HP tried other strategies to drive sales such as an animated demonstration and placing presses in strategic locations around the country so executives wouldn't have to travel so far, said Banta account executive Katie Fernands, “but it still was a barrier to getting them further down the sales cycle.” Banta has created virtual demos for other companies such as John Deere, but this is one of the most complex, she said.

“This one is almost like a tutorial,” Fernands said. “It is very complex and shows all the ins and outs.”

For HP, the demos have proven so successful that the company broadened their use beyond what initially was intended to include internal training.

“As we grew, we found that they became great training tools for R&D and marketing,” Stokes said.

The demonstrations went live in September 2004. Already, they are HP's No. 1 source of marketing leads for its digital presses, with 20 percent to 30 percent of the leads from the Web site contacting HP via the virtual demos. HP's graphic arts Web site has 50,000 unique visitors a month. The increase in viewership of the demos on a month-to-month basis has been 39.5 percent.

HP expects to introduce a virtual demonstration for its Indigo Press 1050 soon. The 1050 is a commercial press for one-to-one and direct marketing jobs.

Chantal Todé covers catalog and retail news and BTB marketing for DM News and DM To keep up with the latest developments in these areas, subscribe to our daily and weekly e-mail newsletters by visiting

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