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Mobile World Congress Returns with Hybrid Event

After 2020, the C-suite and boardroom are forced to re-examine their technology stacks to stay competitive, optimizing for more distributed workforces and customers, exponentially growing data sources, and adjusting to their customers’ ever-rising expectations for personalized services and experiences.

Attendees of Mobile World Congress (MWC), one of the world’s biggest trade shows held between June 28-July 1, 2021, were no exception. Pivoting from a canceled show in 2020, MWC went hybrid in 2021, which meant a much smaller in-person audience than in years prior.

The Hybrid Event Challenge

Although many companies opted for virtual participation, the level of personalization and one-on-one engagement at the hybrid event did not satisfy virtual attendees or provide a format in which to discover solutions that would help them overcome their complex challenges. This has been a common occurrence for virtual shows that is now seeping into hybrid events as well. In response, some companies have experimented with using augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) to generate engagement and excitement.

Jon Pershke, VP of Strategy and Emerging Business Development at Lenovo, stated that “anything that is large, expensive, and needs visual tools, and where safety and productivity are crucial, this is really where we're going to see [AR] take off.”

Albeit exciting, the conversation around AR for safety and productivity is limited. Using AR does not have to stop at the production level; sales and marketing leaders can expand the use case to tell complex value stories in a comprehensive, visually engaging way. And, why stop at AR?

Despite the above discussion, a lack of active learning and immersive hands-on engagement left attendees wanting more. This lack of attendee excitement and understanding.

Power of the Platform

The word “platform”, used by CTO’s at MWC, highlights an exciting development from one-off, expirable solutions that must be recreated for every new event and meeting. Now, business leaders are looking for long-term, reusable engagement solutions that tell their complex value story in a self-guided, visually engaging way.

It is no longer enough to have only visual tools (AR, VR, ROI calculators, 3D product models, etc.) on their own, these features must come together on a comprehensive, interactive customer engagement platform that ensures a reusable investment and are used in a contextually relevant way to tell your story.

It was because of an extensible SaaS platform that AWS was able to reuse their interactive storytelling application at the virtual MWC event, and even host a separate branded event, using and evolving the interactive experience they have already invested in for MWC. If you “invested” in a one-off project specifically for MWC 2021, that investment is already gone.

Your extensible SaaS platform should include:

  • Offline and online capabilities (on the web or native applications running offline on PCs or mobile devices)
  • Device agnosticism (mobile, tablet, PC, touch screen)
  • Venue agnosticism (website, trade show, sales meeting, briefings, training)
  • Interactive 3D, augmented reality, and virtual reality experiences
  • Scalability and extensibility (with real-time cloud updates)

Contact us to learn how Kaon’s interactive solutions helped create marketing efficiencies and sales acceleration at AWS, HPE, Baker Hughes, Thermo Fisher Scientific, and more.

The Customer Engagement Digital Transformation of Heavy Industry Sales and Marketing

Heavy Industry’s Sales and Marketing Challenges

As social, economic, and political pressures continue to drive innovation in heavy industry, many companies in this sector struggle not only to map and manage their digital transformation journey but also to apply the fundamentals of this transformation to their sales and marketing efforts.

Tasked with the complex mission of offering new and innovative solutions, B2B leaders often fail to effectively communicate their complex story and turn to their sales and marketing executives to overcome the challenge. To be conveyed effectively, the heavy industry story needs to be visually engaging, consistent, and easily accessible across all channels of a hybrid buyer’s journey. Industry leaders must become digital storytellers of their value.

According to McKinsey, these are the struggles heavy industry sales and marketing leaders currently face:

1. Adjusting the value message to the vertical and customer archetype

2. Improving the end-to-end customer experience

3. Making customers aware of the latest product innovations with the right message at the right time

4. Breaking down silos between the sales and marketing teams

5. Having the agility to modify value stories based on industry consolidation or change

The Customer Engagement Digital Transformation

The simple answer to engaging with your customers is offering them something to interact with at their own pace. The challenge is in creating an interactive experience that can be reused and expanded across the entire buyer's journey – whether for digital self-service, virtual meetings and events, or in-person.

Your buyers give 23% of their attention during online conferences and video calls. If you’re unable to connect with them on an intellectual, emotional, and sensory level, you have lost them already. Considering the pace of change in heavy industry, traditional content like videos, brochures, fact sheets, and slide presentations are outdated as soon as they’re created.

Consistent Omnichannel (NOT Multi-Channel) Engagement

Multi-channel marketing just means that there are multiple channels of communication with your customers. Channels like social media, mobile, landing pages, websites, email campaigns, and others operate independently with separate strategies and goals.

Omnichannel marketing provides customers with an integrated and seamless experience across all channels.

The benefits of a proper omnichannel strategy are abundant, but according to McKinsey, haphazard efforts at omnichannel can destroy value. Omnichannel is not just a buzzword; it's what your customers are demanding of you. Your value story needs to be tailored for verticals such as upstream, midstream, and downstream. It needs to be updated and available to engage your customers everywhere – on their computers, phones, tablets, web browsers, social feeds, and inboxes. Research from Forrester shows that 68% of B2B buyers prefer to conduct online research on their own, and 63% of them do it from a mobile device.

An omnichannel approach includes having marketing tools that tell your value story for you on your customer’s phone, potentially without sales involvement.

How Rockwell Automation Delivers Omnichannel, Value-Based Storytelling

Seeing concerning trends regarding customer engagement at virtual events, Rockwell Automation decided to head in a different direction. Tired of spending millions of dollars on a one-time event, just to start from scratch for the next one, Rockwell created an interactive, immersive storytelling application that could be used during their annual event (which pivoted to virtual as a result of the pandemic) and, afterwards, as a virtual experience and briefing center, in marketing campaigns, and during sales meetings (whether virtual or in-person).

The immersive experience netted out more than 2,000 hours of hands-on engagement and led to $50 million in opportunities in the six months that the experience was live for the event. Because Rockwell chose an extensible, enterprise SaaS platform, their application was built only once and seamlessly deployed everywhere on all devices and operating systems for all of their use cases – online and offline. Consistently articulating their value message throughout their buyers’ hybrid journeys cost-effectively supercharges omnichannel customer engagement and accelerates buying discussions. In addition, their investment continues generating engagement, revenue, and results.

Click here to read more about Rockwell Automation’s digital transformation.

The Power of the Platform

Rockwell Automation was able to provide real engagement and a reusable, omnichannel experience because they had the power of an extensible, enterprise SaaS platform. When leveraging such a platform, enterprise-level companies can elevate customer engagement throughout today’s new hybrid funnel by putting customers in the driver’s seat to effectively uncover relevant value. The power of a platform is that it allows companies to constantly evolve – without disruption – to drive sales productivity, marketing efficiency, and elevated customer engagement.

Enterprise-level customer engagement platforms must include collaboration technologies and tools, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, interactive whiteboards, real-time sharing, and engagement analytics. Putting such a powerful tool in your customers’ and salespeople’s hands has been proven to shorten sales cycles, increase customer knowledge and retention, improve overall customer experience, and eliminate silos between sales and marketing teams.

Contact us to learn how Kaon’s SaaS platform can help to solve your heavy industry sales and marketing challenges.

How to Improve Your B2B Digital Engagement Strategy

In this Forbes Tech Council article, Kaon President and CEO Gavin Finn presents the impact COVID-19 has had on the B2B landscape, specifically regarding the difficulties some companies faced accommodating the shift away from in-person meetings and maintaining customer engagement in a digital-first environment.

Companies have been dealing with pandemic setbacks in the wrong ways -- to the detriment of their customers. Finn cites a multitude of common mistakes businesses and CEOs have made in their efforts to compensate for the inability to meet with buyers and demonstrate products in-person. Likewise, he stresses the importance of reinventing how a B2B digital customer engagement strategy is approached. To this end:

“What companies now need is a customer digital engagement strategy — one that is accessible to all of the different customer-facing functional areas throughout the company. The value of a strategy provides the guiding principles and the context around which each solution is conceived and created.”

Read the full article here.

COVID-19 Transformed the Marketing Ps to Es

The “4 P’s of Marketing” concept feels almost as old as marketing itself, harkening back to a simpler time when chalkboards were a marketing professor’s primary communication tool and virtual classrooms sounded like an impossibility. The world – at large as well as from a marketing standpoint – has changed. After undergoing a seismic shift that propelled both buyers and sellers to a digital-first world, marketers have instead adopted the four E’s, an updated mnemonic device that encapsulates how brands need to approach marketing from this point on.

In the post-COVID era of marketing, the passive components highlighted in the four P’s (product, price, promotion, and place) are no longer sufficient. Instead, the four E’s provide a proactive approach that puts the customer at the center of marketing and sales engagements.

“E” is for Experience + Engagement

With access to social media sites and 24-hour news via our computers, phones, and tablets plus the distractions of working from home, it’s no surprise that professionals only give 23% of their attention during online conference and video calls. As virtual and hybrid meetings and events are quickly becoming the norm, companies need to find ways to engage prospects online more effectively.

Now more than ever marketers are competing for the full attention of their customers. If marketers and sales teams want their products/solutions to be differentiated and be memorable during virtual events, they need to create emotional and cognitive connections. No one can be reasonably expected to simply absorb a list of product features and make a buying decision based on a comparison matrix; they need a more connective experience.

For some time now, the trend has been to recognize that more and more consumers no longer buy just products – they buy an experience. Starbucks Coffee stores, for example, are all about the experience. The customer experience starts well before they taste the coffee - starting with the welcoming scent of coffee beans as they walk in, the specifically selected colors and textures of the store, the friendliness of the baristas as they pen names on cups, and the curated playlist of the best coffeehouse tunes. Starbucks is the most successful coffeehouse chain in the world because of the consistent experience it creates for its customers.

In the B2B world, this same concept can be applied to the buying experience. Sales and marketing teams need to deliver to decision-makers a comprehensive, consistent, and elevated experience well beyond the focus of the product that they are buying. The most effective way to start that experience is to put the customer in the “driver’s seat” - letting them control the pace and direction of the experience so that they can discover the company’s unique value differentiation for themselves. Research has shown that this customer’s “self-discovery” is a more impactful way of learning and understanding. Focusing on delivering this experience will allow the company to stand out in even the most competitive market.

“E” is also for Exchange of Value

While price will always be a factor, it shouldn’t be the deciding factor when it comes to buying complex solutions. When prospects don’t understand the value of a feature, product, or solution, they commoditize the solution into dimensions that they do understand - the most common of which is price. This is a challenge for B2B companies in two ways: First, no global solutions providers want to be in competitive situations where the only perceived difference is price because that leads to both profit margin erosion and market perception erosion The second, reason is that companies invest enormous budgets in R&D to create differentiated features and products, and if the market does not understand the differentiated benefits of these innovations, then these companies experience a much lower Return on Invested Capital, further reducing their financial performance.

The goal is to be able to charge higher prices because the customers understand the unique benefits of the solution and are willing to pay for these benefits to achieve the value that these solutions deliver. As such, companies must first become experts at highlighting their unique solution-based value to customers and prospects, and how they can create value across an entire organization and even for the clients’ customers. This value-first approach leads to a customer mindset transition from price-based decisions to that of a mutual exchange of value.

In this sustained digital-first world, CEOs are looking to their visionary B2B marketing leaders to provide long-term impact strategies that offer agility, efficiencies, and increased enterprise revenue. The most effective way to accomplish this is to first help customers understand the value that the company delivers.

…And Everywhere

Customers now have more options than ever before when it comes to researching and exploring potential solutions. In the past, in-person sales meetings, briefing center visits, and trade shows were the primary venues where customers could fulfill their information-gathering needs and explore solutions. In the past decade, prospects have shifted to web-based research before agreeing to in-person meetings. Now, due to the COVID-19 lockdowns, customers expect to be able to have all of their interactions remotely, even when talking to company representatives.

On the heels of the pandemic, most large organizations are still struggling with disruptions in sales and marketing, finding it almost impossible to systematically modify their previous approach to engaging with customers and prospects in a digital-first world. According to Forbes, more than 75% of B2B buyers and sellers say they now prefer digital self-serve and remote human engagement over face-to-face interactions. Instead of trying to get customers off their phones and tablets and forcing them to pay attention to you, engage them on the devices that they’re already on and use that versatility to your advantage.

Delivering engaging and immersive experiences for prospects and customers is now imperative, and these experiences need to be available everywhere the customers are, at every stage of their problem-solving journey.

As Well As Evangelism

“People buy from people,” is a well-known adage. The corollary to this is that “people listen to, and trust people they know” and are more likely to be influenced by their trusted community than by what a company representative tells them. We want our customers to be the ones who tell the market about the value of our solutions because they believe in that value and how it has transformed their worlds. We need to transition from “word of mouth” to evangelism - conveying not just a review or an endorsement but a “transfer of enthusiasm” based on shared beliefs.

If customers believe in the value of a product and a company, they will proactively discuss it with friends, colleagues, and industry associates. To truly create a brand evangelist, you must align with the identity and motivations of each customer. People yearn to associate with brands that reflect their missions and values. Buyers don’t only buy just to increase revenue or reduce expenses; they invest in order to better achieve the brand’s mission. While customers’ goals appear to be measured in dollars, buyers also consider how partners can help them accomplish their missionswhile following their core values. Once you have helped them uncover solutions to their unique challenges, they will enthusiastically share their insight with other like-minded organizations on your behalf.

This substantially more proactive approach to sales and marketing is not a distant future but is happening right now. Marketing textbooks and playbooks will need updating in 2021 to prepare the next generation of marketers for the post-COVID world. In the meantime, get ahead of the game; stop talking about and living with the outdated “P’s” and join the “E”volution of marketing and sales.

By Gavin Finn, President & CEO of Kaon Interactive

How Rockwell Automation Created an Immersive Digital Experience to Pivot Its Annual Automation Fair – and More

Over 100 years ago, inventive Lynde Bradley joined entrepreneurial Dr. Stanton Allen and mechanical genius Harry Bradley to establish the first motor control company with an initial investment of $1,000 and a prototype. Today, it has become the largest company in the world dedicated to industrial automation and information, with annual revenue of $6.7 billion. Rockwell Automation takes the knowledge it has gained over the last century to connect the imaginations of people with the potential of technology to expand what's possible, making the world more productive and sustainable. Headquartered in Milwaukee, Rockwell employs 23,000 problem-solvers dedicated to customers in 100+ countries.

Reimaging the Virtual Tradeshow: How to Create Immersive Digital Experiences

It was in the spirit of this long history of innovation that Rockwell reimagined it renown annual Automation Fair last year in the wake of a global pandemic. The customer event went virtual. As so many have learned, there are challenges in pivoting from a traditional in-person event to an all-virtual event -- logistics, content, attendee engagement, success measurement.

Over the past year, attendance at virtual events had been high, but attendee engagement and satisfaction are low. But, if marketers rethink virtual events, they offer opportunities for those brave enough to go beyond digitizing a physical booth to create imaginative, immersive experiences that generate educated and enthusiastic (and global) prospects. "Rockwell Automation at Home" is a prime example. It's an interactive application, created by Kaon Interactive, that transforms the virtual event from passive viewing to active engagement at every touchpoint, immersing the anticipated 12,000 users from 75 countries into a photo-realistic tour of the Rockwell Milwaukee headquarters.

The immersive digital experience hosted thousands of global user sessions during the three-day event. Attendees “walk” through the spaces (three replicas of full floors within the physical headquarters), explore interactive displays to learn about Rockwell solutions, and talk to subject-matter experts via live video conferencing. It’s the same experience as being on the tradeshow floor without leaving your home.

Experience the fair yourself, until June 1, 2021.

Setting Attainable Objectives for Your Virtual Experience

The Rockwell team had three goals in transitioning their in-person event to a virtual one:

#1 Give customers, partners, and distant employees a chance to tour the updated headquarters and learn about the latest company innovations.

#2 Drive conversations and leads at their most important annual event for engaging customers.

#3 Create a digital interactive experience that can be used for years, for events (virtual or in-person), marketing campaigns, and a virtual briefing center.

To achieve these goals, Rockwell required not just a highly engaging virtual experience, but a full-scale, agile platform on which to deliver it. They turned to the Kaon Interactive High Velocity Marketing Platform to overcome their challenge. The platform provided Rockwell with a holistic experience that is device-agnostic, available online or offline, easily updated via the cloud, measurable (with real-time engagement metrics), and accessible to unlimited users. As a leader in building and deploying interactive B2B sales and marketing applications, Kaon is the expert in creating and deploying engaging and business-relevant customer applications to drive and elevate buying conversations.

Finding Meaningful Engagement in Digital Experiences

The Rockwell Automation at Home event and digital experience exceeded expectations, providing a lifelike event for Rockwell's customers, partners, and employees, with 24,833 attendees across 107 countries -- netting out to more than 2,000 hours of actual hands-on engagement across hundreds of thousands of interactions. In terms of measurable engagement, 33% of those attendees actively interacted with the event and content for more than three minutes.

The purpose of any brand event is to drive conversion and move leads through the sales cycle. The Rockwell Automation Fair at Home resulted in more than $50 million in opportunities, with just over $3 million closed so far.

And counting. The advantage of this virtual immersive experience is the event doesn’t have to end in three or four days. Marketing and sales can direct customers and partners to the application post-event, while it is simultaneously being explored by organic website visitors. In the three weeks after the event, the digital experience attracted more than 1,100 user sessions in 64 countries, with a 44% capture rate (sessions with engagement of three minutes or more). The capture rate is a vital metric as it measures highly engaged users as they interact with the application and, independently, move further down the buying funnel, indicating intent. Rockwell was able to curate 11 customer-guided virtual tours, three analyst tours, and more – all virtually.

The rolling virtual event will remain available on the web for employees, customers, and partners to access and explore. Explore it now.

To find out how Kaon Interactive can help you plan for and achieve attendee engagement and knowledge retention at your next virtual, hybrid, or in-person event, contact us.

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