GE Water Drops Trade Shows for a Proprietary Tour
Water is vanishing from the earth at alarming rates and municipalities are scrambling to find a solution. As a result, water technology companies are poised to see a 15 percent boost in sales in the $1.8 billion industry. The marketplace was primed and ready, but it was still one of the biggest gambles of the year. GE Water & Process Technologies rolled the dice, dropped 270 trade shows from its 300-show roster and moved the budget to its first-ever proprietary tour. (A move unprecedented in the industry.) The result was a 100-to-one return on investment.
The GE World Water Tour is a series of three-day events targeted at individuals charged with bringing clean water to their communities and finding water recycling solutions for their businesses. The seminars, which launched May 2 in Las Vegas, traveled to 14 cities in eight countries, including Australia, China, India, Mexico and United Arab Emirates—all destinations where water scarcity is a pressing issue.
To show that GE is about more than light bulbs and appliances, the tour communicated its message by putting the conversation on a global platform. Events kicked off with keynotes by industry heavy-hitters like Michael Deane, senior policy advisor for the Environmental Protection Agency, who was the first speaker in Las Vegas. A second local speaker took the podium to put the issues in a regional context. The macro-to-micro approach immediately paid off. People who wouldn’t normally attend industry trade shows or who might ignore GE’s sales force started attending the tour. In fact, 60 percent of all attendees were new prospects.
“We’ve met the expectations we set out and were able to significantly reduce our cost of events while more effectively reaching customers that were our intended target audience,” says Jeff Fulgham, cmo at GE WPT. “Rather than sharing the stage with a large group, this event really allowed us to bring in people we really want to spend a couple of days with.”
After the keynotes, attendees broke out into interest groups where they could learn in detail about technical solutions for their particular challenges. Attendees spent the last day of the seminar using the GE methodologies learned during the event to prioritize water challenges that affect their plants. The water scarcity education theme served as a soft sell to boost attendance and to help channel top-tier prospects toward GE’s pitch for an audit—an in-depth analysis performed by a GE WPT specialist. GE doubled up its ROI by using the two days before each seminar to train its sales force.
GE WPT is made up of five recently acquired companies, each with a different specialty, so communicating the GE brand as a one-source solution to its heritage clients was also central to the strategy. “Among existing customers, they got to see a brand new face of what our business is all about that they don’t get to see at their individual plants,” says Fulgham. “That was huge in creating this new GE WPT brand in the customer’s mind.”