Smartphone 'challenge' is darn smart marketing
The decision to vault onto the smartphone bandwagon can be intimidating for small and mid-size businesses.
It requires investment in capital, investment in employee training time and a commitment to making sure the device fosters productivity instead of hindering it.
Essentially it can be a lot of work for small shops with little or no IT support.
That's why I was intrigued to read about a "Smartphone Challenge" underway in San Antonio, Texas.
A local phone dealer, The Phone Store, has initiated a special 'try it, you'll like it' marketing program where small companies can test drive five smartphones -- including the BlackBerry -- in a free 10-day trial program.
Hosted provider Rackspace handles the email and messaging integration work, and Sprint provides free voice and data services.
The challenge kicked off about a month ago, and so far just under 20 SMBs have participated and gone on to become official (and paying) BlackBerry business environments.
Kevin, VP at the Phone Store, explained the goal is to target companies that are typically ignored by wireless carriers' marketing programs.
"The carriers are usually going after the Fords and Budweisers. We're going after our market which is the smaller company," Kevin said.
So far every participating company has gone the BlackBerry route, though any smartphone offered by Sprint is available in the challenge.
After a company signs up, Rackspace comes in to allocate and provision email and messaging systems for the devices.
A "launch" party, which kicks off the trial period, is then held on a Friday afternoon complete with balloons, cake, champagne and a few hours of training to get the five chosen users (and not just company leaders mind you) up and running.
A huge treasure chest filled with Bluetooth and wireless add ons and peripherals is brought in so users can choose accessories.
"It's a big to-do," said Kevin, admitting there are no pony rides or clowns part of the festivities, at least as yet.
The smartphone users spend the weekend getting familiar with their new workplace device and start using it the next Monday.
All the sponsors offer 24 hour support for any issues, concerns and hand holding.
The Phone Store is in daily contact with the participating company to provide help when needed.
Participating companies have run the gamut from construction firms to law offices to real estate agencies.
When the trial period ends a company can either just hand back all the devices and goodies with Rackspace undoing the integration hookup, or it can then choose from several different smartphone plans.
"We've had 100 percent success, no one has handed all the stuff back," said Kevin.
Not a surprising result given the challenge eliminates the hurdles thwarting SMB smartphone adoption these days.
Pretty savvy marketing I think.