Provide a brief description of the Initiative.
IT Weapons proudly hosted their first end-user conference on May 26, 2009. The theme for this one-day event was purely educational-clearing up the confusion when it comes to the complex and rapidly growing virtualization marketplace. With major vendors like Microsoft, Citrix, and VMware all competing for market share, and the industry buzzing about Green initiatives and Cloud Computing, IT Weapons saw a great opportunity to bring customers and vendors together for an honest and informative exchange on why virtualization matters. In order to have a unique and innovative event, we took up the challenge of bringing together competing partners so that attendees can juxtapose their current and future positions in virtualization. Sponsors: Gold sponsors included Citrix, Microsoft, VMware and HP. Bronze sponsors included Vizioncore, ShoreTel, Barracuda, WatchGuard, and Novell.
Describe what makes this Initiative original or innovative in the application of IT to a group of customers or solution, and/or in presenting an established approach in an innovative and creative way.
An exciting and timely conference Since the 2008-2009 economic slowdown cut IT budgets for travel and training, many organizations did not send their IT employees to conferences in the United States, like Citrix Synergy, VMworld, etc. So IT Weapons decided to bring the subject matter of these events to Toronto in a scaled-down, one-day, all-in-one approach. This proved to be very beneficial because attendees were able to get a full perspective of the virtualization marketplace without spending a dime. It was also a time where new competition was emerging in the server and desktop virtualization marketplace. IT Weapons needed a forum to educate Ontario’s customers and provide them answers to the many questions they were facing. The reality is that in an effort to squelch their own competition, the 3 major vendors were actively marketing directly to Ontario’s businesses and heavily criticizing one another in an effort to capture market share in the virtualization space. This created a great deal of confusion for people and we saw an opportunity to help clear that up. It took a little convincing on our parts, but the sponsors were excited to be apart of such a unique and innovative end-user event, especially during a time when most other VARs were shying away from marketing events. Finally, there was a virtualization event that encompassed all the information needed to clear up the confusion and help you make decisions. “Hands down, this was the best conference I’ve been to in years in terms of information pertinent to our company. The situation we’re in now is that we have to make a decision about which route to take. And in one show here, we got all the answers we need.” – Jeff Gare, Senior Network Administrator, Corix Group of Companies An original keynote session to remember: The highlight of the day was certainly the three keynote sessions and panel discussion. So imagine the three big players in the virtualization marketplace sharing the stage in a room full of technical experts and business executives. Attendees heard from all three vendors as they each presented their company’s own visions on virtualization and positioned themselves in a new competitive virtualization landscape. After the presentations, the keynote speakers participated in a panel discussion mediated by the CEO of IT Weapons, Ted Garner. Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and listen to the different – and competitive – viewpoints. A lot of effort was put into organizing and developing an arena for a spirited and relevant keynote discussion. This conference was purposefully developed to clear up the confusion around virtualization and the keynote speakers did an excellent job positioning themselves against or with each other. Attendees wanted to learn how each vendor differentiates in the marketplace and were quite pleased to see that the speakers did not shy away from a friendly and respectable exchange of blows. The keynote set the tone for the entire day. Citrix and Microsoft wanted to convey to the attendees that they now have options and are not limited to VMware’s virtualization technologies. This event helped brand and increase awareness of Citrix and Microsoft virtualization solutions. It also reinforced VMware’s strength as a pioneer in the virtualization space. The keynote session set this event apart and exceeded many of the vendors and attendees’ expectations. You can view the keynote and breakout session recordings if you go online to www.virtualizationmatters.ca and register to view the sessions. Only qualified registrants were able to view the recordings. This website was an excellent resource after the event; allowing people who attended to revisit what they heard. Since the event itself was such an entertaining success, we ended up seeing significant traffic at the site for months after the conference, with dozens of registrations (to watch the videos) coming from folks who didn’t attend the conference. The Exhibit Hall: The Exhibit Hall was set up for all the sponsors with a tradeshow / table top set up. There was a lot of buzz and energy in the tradeshow area and attendees enjoyed seeing the products live and talking one-on-one with all the sponsors. The IT Weapons consultants set up a large corner area in the Exhibit Hall to provide ad hoc demonstrations of Citrix, VMware and Microsoft virtualization technologies on big screen TVs. IT Weapons’ roots are in consulting and our mission to give objective and informative advice establishes our integrity and expertise. Our consulting excellence shined as attendees questioned and examined all the virtualization technologies on hand. They appreciated talking directly to our consultants, who work everyday at client sites and get right to the point – no sales pitch.
Describe how this Initiative benefited the solution provider with improvement in interest, leads, sales, revenue, or other factors. What changed? Provide evidence of measurable improvements in leads, sales, revenues, etc.
The economic slowdown began in the fall of 2008 and continued throughout 2009. Many VARs did not invest in marketing and/or reduced their marketing budgets for 2009. IT Weapons saw an opportunity with the downturned economy and invested more in marketing. When organizations are looking for ways to increase their ROI and cut costs, we saw the opportunity to help them better understand the virtualization landscape. The idea for this event began to take shape in late 2008. Planning for the event started January 2009. Our results of the conference reveal that it was a success and our return on investment was exceptionally high: 907%. We had 248 registrations for the conference. The below numbers analyze the actual leads and the conversion to sales to date. We saw immediate traction in terms of sales generation after the event, and we continue to see opportunities arising directly from the conference itself and the online resources we developed for people to explore after the event was over. Over a year later we are still seeing revenue from this event. It is interesting to point out that for many clients, the sales cycle was long due to the economic slowdown and many budgets ended up frozen until 2010. Happily, we’ve seen an increase in IT spending in 2010 and are still following up with the leads from the conference. We believe the below numbers will continue to improve by the end of this year. As you can see, the ROI for this event was astounding. What is interesting to note is that our Marketing Manager was able to demonstrate the value of this conference to our sponsors during the planning phase and their Market Development Funds covered the program costs completely. To illustrate the success of the event, consider the numbers: Program Costs: $47,000 Attendees: 132 Genuine Leads: 91 Attendee/Lead Conversion Rate: 68.9% Cost per Lead: $516.48 Closed Deals: 10 Cost/Customer: $4,700 Lead/Deal Conv. Rate: 11% As of July 20th, 2010, our 10 opportunities produced $473,077.65 in Revenue for IT Weapons. Return on Investment: Expenses: $47,000 Profit: $426,077.65 ROI: 907%
Describe how this Initiative strengthened the solution provider’s relationship with their vendor. What changed? Provide evidence of this strengthened relationship.
This conference strengthened our relationships with all of our sponsors, especially VMware, Citrix, Microsoft and HP. Everyone was so pleased, impressed and surprised with the turn out of the event. We proved that IT Weapons – an IT consulting company of 35 people – can do amazing end-user events, and even compete with and outperform large IT VARs when it comes to marketing campaigns. We proved to our vendor sponsors that we have a loyal customer base that respects and trusts us. We proved that we are a trusted advisor to our customers and proved our competency and expertise to those attendees that weren’t familiar with IT Weapons. All three partners went above and beyond in getting high caliber keynote speakers from their American corporate headquarters. We were joined by Microsoft’s Senior Product Manager for Virtualization, Michael Cooper, Sumit Dhawan, VP of Product Marketing for Citrix, and VMware’s Chief Data Center Architect, Scott Davis. All keynote speakers were impressed with Virtualization Matters and the caliber of expertise that IT Weapons demonstrated. The event solidified IT Weapons as a go-to-partner for virtualization solutions. Both vendors and attendees saw that we are experts in virtualization and have a strong technical foundation. “The Virtualization Matters conference was a well attended and high quality event, allowing VMware to present our unique vision for the next generation/cloud oriented data center and contrast that vision with that of our major competitors in the industry.” – Scott Davis, Chief Data Center Architect for VMware “I am truly impressed with the quality of the event. IT Weapons did an excellent job in getting the right content prepared for different levels of audience – very impressive. Most importantly, I observed that you have a highly competent technical team that sets you apart. Your technical experts having ad hoc technical white board conversations and demos were exceptional and best in class.” – Sumit Dhawan, VP Product Marketing for Citrix “I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed your event, as well as your staff. Your technical SE’s were some of the best I’ve ever met, and the coordination and flow of the event was an obvious testament to the rest of your team. I think your organization may be one of the best mid tier IT consulting groups I’ve ever encountered. I have no doubt you will see nothing but more success in the future.” – Michael Cooper, Senior Product Manager, Virtualization for Microsoft
In what ways did this Initiative go above and beyond industry norms and expectations?
The key was making the conference educational and hosting it in Toronto so that local folks could attend. What is also important to note is that during a recession, where most VARs had opted out of the conference circuit and tightened their spending, we took the opposite approach, holding our largest event to date. And as the ROI results above demonstrate, fortune favours the bold. The conference was designed, advertised, and executed as an educational event. We were careful to ensure that IT Weapons’ name was minimized to showcase the value of the conference. We preferred to stay in a product agnostic, neutral position and have the merits of the solutions themselves stand out alone. We wanted the attendees to understand that IT Weapons has always been focused on business-centric solutions, not product sales; to reinforce one of our key differentiators, that we empower our customers. We brought the 3 major vendors together to let THEM illustrate their merits …come what may. While they may have been uncomfortable with the idea that we weren’t actively selling their products and solutions during the event, it was important for us, as a matter of consultative integrity, to show clients and prospects just how important honest advice really is the to the IT Weapons team. To promote the educational aspect of the event, IT Weapons took a back seat and let our partners shine and educate the attendees at the keynote and break out sessions. At this conference we gave attendees the opportunity to talk directly to the partners. Our only presence was highlighted in the Exhibit Hall – at the IT Weapons booth – and as hosts of the event. Attendee feedback revealed that the keynote session was exceptional and very informative. They enjoyed the lively banter between the keynote speakers and appreciated the opportunity to ask them questions directly during the panel discussion. It is a rare opportunity to see these 3 major players openly chiding one another on a single stage in the hopes of positioning their own solutions for the audience. Peter McQuillan, IT Manager for Drive Products said, “This conference was incredible. It was wonderful to see the 3 big vendors fighting it out on stage. That was a rare opportunity and hats off to IT Weapons for putting it together. I got a lot of that day.”