Have you ever attended a large expo and wished someone would remind you about the events you don't want to miss? Or as an exhibitor, maybe you'd like a more reliable way to drive traffic to your booth or to the panel discussion that you're moderating in 15 minutes?
Ladies and gentlemen, take out your digital cellphones and dial into ShowPhone. Following its initial rollout this summer at Advanstar's Customer Contact Week at the McCormick Place Complex in Chicago, Kikucall Inc.'s new wirelesstechnique may soon find its way to a conference near you.
At the Advanstar show, attendees were met between the registration area and exhibit area and invited to sign up. Only digital cellphone users can receive the service, which sends short text messages to attendees' phones. Of the 6,500 attendees, more than 500 tested the ShowPhone system. Among the messages they received:
Free Coffee & Cappucino. Go Now to Mitel Booth 653. Supplies Limited.
PeopleSoft Presents Next Generation Call Center. 3:45 Theater One.
Free Blooze CD. Go to Frogjazz Booth 1433 and Collect Your Free CD.
“Our goal was to manipulate attendee behavior by sending them to specific booths or events,” explains Ryan Labbe, president of Washington, D.C.-based Kikucall Inc. (www.kikucall.com). “One of FrogJazz's goals was to run out of CDs. And they did. It was our proof of concept. We were wonderfully surprised by the response.” Other corporate participants included Verizon and WorldCom.
Ninety-five percent of cellphones sold today are digital, which Labbe says is one of the keys to ShowPhone's viability. In fact, most phones sold since 1995 can receive text messages.
The ShowPhone system is “100 percent opt-in,” says Labbe. Users who want the service dial a specific number that captures their telephone number. Those who dial in and hang up immediately receive a variety of general and specific messages — about four per hour. But those who call in and follow a series of profiling menus (“Which industries are you interested in?” “Are you interested in product demonstrations?” and so on) get messages targeted to their needs.
Why market to cellphones? Sheer volume, Labbe says. “There are 140 million cellphones in the United States,” he says. “By comparison, there are only 5 million [PDAs]. We've heard that as many as 80 [percent] to 90 percent of attendees at these shows carry cellphones.”
The other big question: Who pays? “The attendee doesn't pay anything,” Labbe says. “There probably will be a slotting fee for exhibitors. Or we may sell the service tooperators and let them sell it to exhibitors.”
The service is numbingly cheap to operate. Kikucall brings no equipment or hardware to a show; the success of the service is all based on attendees carrying a device that they already carry. And opting out is as easy as opting in: Just call back in and disconnect. Labbe says that his company does not sell the cellphone numbers it collects.
Marguerite Gervaise, a marketing manager for Santa Ana, Calif.-based Advanstar, was pleased with ShowPhone's debut. “With everyone having cellphones attached to their heads, we thought this was a great idea,” she says.
Not that sending messages to attendees' personal phones wasn't of some concern. “Either people would love it or hate it,” Gervaise says. “Thankfully, 95 percent of the people were happy. The other 5 percent? They complained, ‘I got messages all the time!’”
Gervaise would like to do it again, but would cut back the volume of messages, moving away from Advanstar announcements and emphasizing messages from exhibitors.