Four Lessons Learned from Stratasys’ Mobile Showroom Experience
Brands reliant on industry shows this year have faced a number of challenges in the wake of postponements or pivots to virtual. Among them, 3D printing technology company Stratasys, which hit the road in November to meet customers at their doorsteps in a showroom experience aimed at markets in the Midwest.
The planned six-month tour, however, was put on pause after only two weeks and six activations as virus numbers spiked in the region, but the brand enjoyed an interesting insight: It saw better results in six stops than it would have exhibiting in six months-worth of trade shows.
Mobile units are becoming a critical business asset for many exhibiting brands. Reusable, customizable and able to shift from an intimate activation at a corporate headquarters to parked within or outside a convention center, they’re a flexible investment with which brands can ride out the uncertainties of the pandemic.
Housed in a leased, branded gooseneck trailer, Stratasys’ controlled environment accommodated six attendees at a time inside (per COVID guidelines) and offered a sleek showcase of its printers and 3D printing capabilities. Regular cleanings, air filtration, temperature checks and hand sanitizer were incorporated into the health safety procedures. And while the tour is on hold for now, the brand plans to take the unit back out on the road this season on its own stops or, potentially, to industry shows as they move to in-person (Agency: EMG3, Falmouth, ME; Build: Craftsmen Industries, St. Charles, MO).
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“At a trade show, someone once described it to me as having three kinds of customers: the whales, people that are going to purchase no matter what; the influencers, people that can help move the needle and recommend you, but might not necessarily be a purchaser; and then you have what people in the business often refer to as saw dust, because they kind of muck everything up—they take a lot of your time and your attention, but they’re never going to purchase,” says Amy Teal, marketing manager-events, Stratasys. “With this experience, we’ve gotten rid of the saw dust. We’re meeting with the influencers and whales.”
Teal says one of the team’s biggest revelations this year has been one of quality versus quantity. For a trade show booth, the team might identify a baseline of 500 leads to hit a goal of acquiring 10 opportunities. With a scaled down mobile program there may only be 10 leads, but eight are going to be opportunities.
“We already were evaluating trade shows and cutting back to make sure we were homing in on the ones we saw the most value in,” Teal says. “It has been more important for us to look for different speaking opportunities and sponsorships, because in the booth you may see 3D-printed parts, but it’s not necessarily telling our full story.”
A few tips on mobile programs in the age of COVID-19 the team has learned along the way.
There are definitely more logistics involved.
The planning process for a mobile road show program is more complicated than planning for a trade show exhibit. As Teal puts it, her team went from planning for 20 trade shows in a year to planning 20 stops in one month with this unit. Having a logistics partner is critical.
“It’s making sure someone is staying on top of everything, from making sure we can fit in a parking lot to knowing the DOT rules to making sure the driver gets the reset hours to creating backup plans,” she says.
The interior design should be flexible.
Stratasys markets to a variety of verticals, from medical to automotive to education to aerospace, so the team leveraged shelving units to swap out displays and created kits customized to each sector and audience type that the sales team could pull out easily on-site. Screens inside displayed different types of content depending on the stop.
“When we started looking at how we change our approach, we wanted to make sure that we could still market to all of those different verticals in a way that made sense, where if I bring this asset to a school it would make as much sense bringing it to a large manufacturing facility,” Teal says. “And that’s a different approach for us, because we’re typically very focused on who we’re targeting when we got to an event.”
Have product experts connect remotely.
The limit of six bodies inside the trailer included team members, so to not waste any available space or engagement, Stratasys added a Zoom call function that allowed visitors to connect with different product experts remotely on-site while they were taking part in the tour.
“It’s about being creative in how we provide information and use resources that may not be able to travel with the truck, so we can give customers what they’re looking for,” Teal says.
Zero in on those hard-to-get customers.
The advantage of a tour, Teal says, is that the team can invite key customers that are already in the pipeline, but hard to meet without you coming to them. And even then, you can’t always bring in the equipment, demonstrate application or tell deeper stories by simply visiting the office in person in the same way you could if you visited customers with a mobile unit.
“We are able to initiate those meetings to help move the needle when we can say, ‘We’re going to be in the city, would you like to stop and see us? Can we bring it to you?’ We’ve seen a lot of success and people intrigued by us bringing everything to their door,” Teal says.