Fred DeCock, manager of eBusiness for Tyco Electronics in Harrisburg, Pa., would love to fill 100 seats every minute of every day. Virtual seats, that is.
Tyco Electronics has awith PlaceWare, the Mountain View, Calif., e-conferencing provider, that allows 100 Tyco Electronics — affiliated users on the system at any time. That means anything from 50 two-person meetings to one 100-person meeting. That's a lot of e-vent time for a company that only started using webconferencing in earnest about a year ago. And it's DeCock's job to maximize that investment.
The story starts back in October 2001, in the post-9/11 world of travel cutbacks and general cost cutting. The company's AMP NETCONNECT business unit, which provides products for design and installation of electronic networks in buildings, had used PlaceWare for several one-off meetings, and their success led to a call for more.
In the past, the division's sales strategy had included a 12-city, new product road show, but that had become an expensive proposition, running up roughly $250,000 in direct costs. “We couldn't afford to do that any more,” says DeCock. The division devised a new approach that would replace the road shows with four to six e-conferences a year, and asked DeCock to work out a contract with PlaceWare.
While the 100-seat deal was far more e-meeting time than the NETCONNECT unit needed, DeCock was confident that other divisions at Tyco Electronics would see the service as “a great way to save money, and a great way to get the word out about our company.” However, selling the service internally would be a job in its own right. E-conferencing may be efficient, cost-effective, and absolutely appropriate to many situations, but it doesn't sell itself, as he has learned.
And while DeCock was bullish about e-conferencing, “there was a financial motivation to get someone to use it,” he says. His eBusiness unit needed to recoup its investment by charging back the service to internal clients. As it turns out, the service quickly paid for itself, but not without DeCock adding “marketing” to his job description.
Marketing, Not Magic
“The tough part is getting people to jump on the bandwagon,” says DeCock. To begin selling the system, he built an intranet site with info on PlaceWare's capabilities, an online form where employees could request seats and time on the system, and a link to the PlaceWare training page.
Next, an e-mail notice went to every manager in the company encouraging them to consider e-conferencing as a meeting alternative. “It's like advertising anything,” says DeCock. “You have to do it more than once.” So he repeated his mailing to Tyco's several thousand managers and followed up with an in-house Web conference, demonstrating the application. For that event, which drew 50 viewers, DeCock partnered with his vendor. He personally kicked off the meeting, and then handed it off to a PlaceWare rep more experienced in navigating trainees through its demo.
Up to this point, training on the system has been mostly “self-service,” says DeCock. Given the time and resources, however, his next marketing move will be to develop an internal seminar for PlaceWare presenters, teaching them techniques to keep an audience involved with the system's interactive tools. He also wants to do more internal promotion, and he would “like the CEO to do a management update meeting using the system. You've got to use the technology to sell the technology.”
Room to Grow
“It hasn't caught on as quickly as I'd like, but it paid for itself in seven months,” says DeCock. Actually, the payback was probably quicker than that. DeCock is calculating the return based on charging internal clients 25 cents per user, per minute. “But what I don't know is how much travel was avoided or what new business the system has helped to bring in,” he says.
“I know use is growing, but you've got to constantly remind people about it,” says DeCock. Among the success stories he can point to is the AMP NETCONNECT business unit, which cut the cost of acquiring a lead from $105, with the road show, to $50 using e-conferencing. Another is a steering committee meeting among international managers that switched from videoconferencing to e-conferencing. DeCock says the 40- to 50-person, two-hour meeting costs about $6,000 as a videoconference versus $1,500 using PlaceWare.
“I talked to people who attended both, and they thought that the e-conference blew away the videoconference.” He calls the e-conference a “better visual environment,” and notes that attendees don't have to travel to a videoconferencing facility, citing a woman in Belgium for whom the online conference saved 90 minutes in travel time.
Since October 2001, DeCock estimates that Tyco has held nearly 200 e-meetings, compared to about 10 the previous year. While a 50-seat contract would have been sufficient, he says, the adoption is still impressive and growing. His estimate for Tyco's 2003 e-meetings: 500.
E-Conference Promotion 101
When Tyco Electronics signed on with PlaceWare, Fred DeCock, manager of eBusiness, fell into the role of marketing the e-conferencing as a meeting option companywide. Here are some of the lessons he learned along the way.
E-conferencing needs an internal advocate who is motivated to market the system. “I've almost become a sales manager for the PlaceWare service,” says DeCock.
Have a sponsor or a co-sponsor with a purpose. Before signing with an e-conferencing provider, identify an internal client with definite plans to use the system. Tyco Electronic's AMP NETCONNECT business unit was already sold on e-conferencing before the company contracted with PlaceWare.
Target a client's needs when you explain the system. The training division, for example, may be excited about a system's interactive polling and testing capabilities; marketing may be most interested in knowing how a system can help to generate leads; and someone planning internal meetings may care mainly about application sharing and efficiency.
Use the technology to sell the technology. Tyco Electronics ran an in-house Web conference to explain the system, and “I try to use it as much as possible, especially for interdepartmental meetings,” says DeCock.
Get the vendor involved. Give it some of the burden of marketing the system — and get that commitment in the contract.