infoTECH Feature

October 28, 2014

Virtual Racks Provide Endless Hardware Configurations

By TMCnet Special Guest
Dana Drissel, Marketing Director at Kaon Interactive

Marketers of rack-based products have a very difficult task set before them: Differentiating a fragile, intricate piece of equipment, which often looks identical to competitor products and needs to be ‘powered on’ to effectively demonstrate.

Most of the challenges facing the manufacturers of these products are often not immediately visible to the outside eye, but to those tasked with demonstrating and selling rack-based hardware, are all too familiar with these ongoing difficulties:
•    Lack of product inventory
•    Globally disperse multi-lingual sales teams and channel partners
•    Expensive shipping and drayage costs (tradeshows/sales meetings)
•    Difficulty showing multiple rack configurations
•    Hard to communicate product feature/benefit differentiation

Fujitsu (News - Alert) Network Communications, Inc., has many outbound marketing efforts, including exhibiting in over 80 globally dispersed events per year. For inventory control purposes, products must be ‘rented’ for use from internal departments. These expenses add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars annually. In a 10x10 booth, a single rack weighing approximately 700 pounds was typically brought to the show.

Internal costs for this rack were in the range of $2,000 per show, not including shipping, drayage, handling and space requirements (not to mention the risk of damages), totaling thousands more. For larger events, which might call for eight racks, internal rental costs could easily exceed $18,000 per show.

There is also the dilemma of product prototypes, which are often really too precious to be on display. Yes, the company is using the trade show to stimulate the interest of its prospects, but should they really risk the potential for loss or damage of their only working model while moving it to and from the event?

Even if the product is one of many, and it arrives at its destination intact, it must still be powered and possibly air-conditioned. Electricity costs can be exorbitant; especially when you consider cooling requirements for something like the Fujitsu rack in the example above. Just 220V (possibly five products requiring 24A each) would cost nearly $3,000 to run for only one show.

Those challenges are only the tip of the iceberg, when considering that for most direct and almost ALL indirect sales teams, accessibility to this hardware is very hard to attain due to lack of inventory. Many times only armed with collateral, generic looping videos and perhaps a sales demo kit, they are expected to differentiate the various unique benefits of their products and solutions. Showing various product configurations and network solutions without a visual is no easy feat—and PowerPoints, pictures and product fact sheets fail to truly engage the prospect.

While showcasing these servers, switches, routers and other pieces of hardware may seem like an impossible task, many innovative product marketers are turning to virtual 3D product demonstrations (which look and behave like the actual product) to show and differentiate their products anywhere, at any time. Instead of bringing physical racks to trade shows and events, virtual racks containing interactive 3D product models (which look and behave just like the actual products) allow prospects to ‘look under the hood’ to see what makes each product unique. The virtual racks allow organizations to quickly and easily demonstrate multiple rack-mounted configurations, showing how the various hardware pieces work together as a larger solution.

“It is impossible for me to take a 7- foot server rack that weighs 1000 lbs and put it on its side to show how it works. When we talk about connecting hardware systems to the racks, there is no way to show multiple options and demonstrate how the products could connect and function, unless I get on scaffolding or a ladder. With 3D product models I can launch the demonstration and show how it bolts and connects, and I can do that right on the show floor at a moment’s notice” said Tony Walker, Former VP of Marketing, Legrand Data Communications (News - Alert)

These virtual rack demonstrations not only radically change sales meetings and marketing events, but they provide one of the first interactive, captivating sales enablement tools for channel partners and VARs.

“The vivid graphics and up-to-date virtual 3D product demos have enhanced our ability to train our internal sales teams and engage future prospects in the converged space. It is also financially smarter for us because we no longer have to purchase expensive demo hardware that quickly becomes obsolete” Renae Johnson, National VP of Cisco (News - Alert) Solutions at Logicalis stated.

The virtual rack is capable of showing 3D products from different manufacturers, giving resellers and OEMs the ability to customize a solution that incorporates the hardware and most relevant products for a customer’s particular needs. Attaining physical products for all global sales teams has never been logistically and economically feasible, but with interactive 3D products and virtual racks, equipment can now be in the hands of anyone and everyone who needs it.

Additionally, the digital nature of these product demonstrations makes them far more responsive and up-to-date than any other sales and marketing tool. PowerPoints, demo boxes, shells of products, and printed collateral quickly can become outdated, as soon as one product feature, function or design is modified or updated. 3D product models, and the sales crib notes that accompany them, can be updated to reflect all product changes in real time, immediately becoming available to the field to provide the most accurate information.

By enabling companies to better communicate unique product differentiators without physical hardware present, major B2B manufacturers cut costs and increase efficiency while providing a more captivating and memorable customer experience. Virtual racks are forever changing how telecom and networking and IT equipment providers demonstrate their products and solutions, by allowing endless unique configurations at all Sales and Marketing meetings.

Edited by Maurice Nagle

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