Each year, our sister publication Computer Dealer News hosts the Channel Elite Awards to recognize IT Solution Provider for their innovation, leadership, and commitment for creating value for their customers. As Canada’s leading IT channel publication, CDN invited solution providers to submit their best work to nine different categories for 2013’s awards. Here, we present the case studies these award nominees put forward to us. Find out who the big winners are on Sept. 11 when CDN presents them at the CEA Awards Gala.

Learn more about CDN’s Channel Elite Awards 2013

Nominee: Audcomp from Ancaster, ON

Describe the initiative

As part of its annual marketing strategy, Audcomp hosted a two-day technology conference in 2012, namely -CONNECT 2012. The conference was held from May 9th and 10th at the Fallsview Casino in Niagara Falls, where leading-edge technology experts came face-to-face with technology end-users from both the private and the public sector. With its motto ‘share, learn, grow’, the conference proved to be a great opportunity for business, government, educational institutions, and other organizations to touch and feel the latest technology solutions, products and applications. Our customers are always trying to keep up with new technologies. They are also looking for better solutions to make their work more efficient and effective. On the other hand, our vendor partners also have to understand the needs of the end-users of their products and solutions. CONNECT2012 Technology Conference aimed at bridging this gap by offering a series of learning opportunities and hands-on product demonstrations that are valuable for corporate tech users in making informed decisions.

What makes this initiative innovative or original?

800 plus IT decision makers from both the private and the public sector registered to attend CONNECT2012. The two-day conference has proved to be an important platform to share ideas about IT trends and their implications on business growth and productivity in today’s world. Value-packed with different IT learning sessions, keynotes, breakout sessions and product showcases, presented by a variety of leading-edge IT companies, the conference created the opportunity to customers to share, learn and have hands-on access to the latest technology product and solutions in the market. The keynote addresses, which were delivered by HP, Intel, Microsoft and VMware revolved around the topic of cloud computing. A number of breakout sessions were also presented on several technology topics including: virtualization, IT security, Interactive Education, BYOD, Storage, mobile and printing solutions. The District School Board of Niagara, one of Audcomp’s customers, partnered with Audcomp as a co-host for the event, sharing the vision that educational sessions as such are important in helping to bridge the gap between technology and its users. Partnering with the education sector, an area which is a major focus in Audcomp’s clientele composition, Audcomp was able to gain more support and also develop its network in the sector. The conference included learning sessions that are designed for educators. Brock University and District School Board of Niagara, shared their success and best practices in IT integration in the classroom. 60 IT manufactures, including HP, Intel, Dell, Microsoft, VMware, Lenovo, IBM, Xerox, D-Link, Kaspersky, Hitachi, Samsung, Research in Motion (RIM), EMC and Nexan showcased their products and technologies on CONNECT2012 exhibit floor. Attendees were able to navigate through the exhibit floor to touch and feel latest technology products and technologies from this leading vendors. The conference was open to all businesses, educational institutions and government agencies that are interested in exploring the latest technology trends that are critical for business growth and enhanced productivity. As mentioned above what makes CONNECT2012 conference different as a marketing initiative was that it was not just about showing products and asking people to buy the products. It was about information, education and sharing best practices.

Describe how this initiative was a benefit to the solutions provider and provide metrics to demonstrate it.

CONNECT2012 has benefited in the following ways: Image Building and Brand Recognition: CONNECT2012 has been very beneficial to Audcomp in terms of image building and brand visibility. By showcasing its partnership with leaders in the technology industry, Audcomp has been able to strengthen both relationships with customers and vendors. The fact that the attendees came from different regions in Southwestern Ontario (e.g. Toronto, Ottawa, Hamilton, Niagara Falls, St Catharines, Guelph, Waterloo, Mississauga, Seaforth etc) has a huge significance in promoting the Audcomp brand and increasing its reach. Lead Generation and Revenue: The conference also served as a great venue to generating leads from both existing customers and new prospects. Out of Audcomp’s 2012 sales revenue, 20% was generated as result of networking opportunities and leads generated from the conference. Popularity: The conference has been very popular that many customers and vendors have been asking Audcomp to continue hosting the conference in an annual basis. Empowered Customers: Most of all, the benefit for Audcomp in hosting this event is the fact that Audcomp’s customers were able to learn and share ideas around technology. When customers understand what is out there and learn about their options, they make informed decisions. This has a huge benefit in simplifying the selling processes for Audcomp and the vendor partners. Partnership: CONNECT2012 has helped Audcomp to strengthen its partnerships with its vendor partners. Vendor partners were able to showcase their technologies and further promote their brands. As a platform to introduce their technologies to business end-users, CONNECT2012 has allowed vendors to showcase their thought leaderships. Customer Appreciation: Here are a few testimonials from attendees: “CONNECT2012 is the ideal gateway for sharing and developing ideas relating to IT, its role in education and the classroom learning environment. Educators explored the latest trends in IT and Interactive education, learn about our roles as educators for the effective use of information technology and share ideas with our peers on how the 21st Century Information age is transforming the way we teach” Dino Miele, Chief Information Officer, DSBN. ‘I just wanted to say thank you for hosting the Connect 2012 Conference. It gave us great opportunities for meeting with colleagues and learning about emerging technologies. Much appreciated!’ Robin McNaughton, Computer Services Manager at NCDSB “Connect2012 was the best yet, looking forward to next year” Andrew Murray, Canadian Maritime Engineering.

How did the solution provider strengthen its relationship with the vendor?

60 IT vendors, including HP, Intel, Dell, Microsoft, VMware, Lenovo, IBM, Xerox, D-Link, Kaspersky, Hitachi, Samsung, Research in Motion (RIM), EMC and Nexan showcased their products and technologies on CONNECT2012 exhibit floor. A total of 35 breakout sessions were presented by vendors, giving them the opportunity to share their innovations with IT business executives and decision-makers. All of the vendor breakout sessions were sold out, with attendees up to 50-55 in one room. All the three vendor keynote sessions were attended by more than 400 engaged audiences. Microsoft, HP, Intel and VMware were able to showcase their innovation in cloud computing. Vendors were very pleased with the turnout for this Audcomp led event. This led to a more strengthen trust on the vendors’ part that most of them have committed to invest on different marketing initiatives and partner with Audcomp. Vendors were also beneficial from the leads that were generated from the events.

What social media tools did you use for the initiative and how did this enhance it?

Social media like Twitter and Facebook were used to promote the event. This has helped in increasing the attendance rate. Using the #connect2012, vendors were also able to promote their booth and sessions. Some tweets from attendees: @TheGreginski : #connect2012 great day 1 awesome! Great vibe! Jason from Intel, very captivating keynote! Congrats @Audcomp for another great opening! @dkoudijs: At #connect2012 conference, learned a few things. [An] food is good to. 3M has a neat multi touch screen. @BrockTechPD: Looking forward to learning more about what Intel has to offer the education community #Connect2012 @TheGreginski: #connect2012 was fantastic! @Audcomp has a great team! Well done!

In what ways did this initiative go above and beyond industry norms and expectations?

1. The fact that CONNECT2012 was an initiative that was supported by the customers themselves makes it unique. Our customers embraced the importance of such platforms to help them keep up with the ever changing and growing trends in technology. Partnering with the education sector, an area which is a major focus in Audcomp’s clientele composition, Audcomp was able to gain more support and also develop its network in the sector. District School Board of Niagara and Brock University supported Audcomp as helping hands in promoting the event and also showcasing the partnership that is needed between the education and technology industry. This level of partnership between customers and solutions providers is not common and should be encouraged.

2. The event included an evening of social gathering where attendees and vendor representatives networked on a personal level. The fun environment contributed to the success of the event and encouraged people to engage, share and learn.

3. The event wasn’t just about showing products. It was about partnership building and image building for both Audcomp and participating vendors. The Mayor of Niagara Falls and the Director of the District School Board of Niagara were present to provide their welcoming speeches to the attendees. They acknowledged the importance of technology and community partnership to transform their city, schools and businesses. One of the school boards Steel bands also participated in entertaining the attendees during lunch time. This is a creative way of utilizing the community resources to further develop partnerships

How does this solution further your customer’s green or environmentally friendly plans?

The entire theme of CONNECT2012 keynote speeches revolve around cloud computing. Attendees were able to learn about cloud innovations from different vendors and how cloud computing can impact their energy consumption, IT related emissions and waste. We like to think that as an educational platform, the event has helped end-users about how they can choose environmental friendly technology solutions.

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