Handango: Catalyst of the Handheld Economy
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Handango: Catalyst of the Handheld Economy

Handango executives turned to BSMG Worldwide/Southwest to establish the company as the catalyst of the handheld economy and position the company’s executives as thought leaders in the handheld space.

Paul Holmes

Handango executives turned to BSMG Worldwide/Southwest to establish the company as the catalyst of the handheld economy and position the company’s executives as thought leaders in the handheld space.  Within a year, BSMG was able to take the little known start-up from Hurst, Texas, and land them on the cover of leading publications like Internet World.   CEO Laura Rippy was seen as an up-and-coming female executive in the technology industry, requested to speak at the most notable industry conferences and offer quotes to top media on handheld industry trends.  As a result, Handango became the world’s leading publisher of handheld software and solutions for business professionals. 

SITUATION ANALYSIS

Handheld devices have become essential tools for every gadget lover and business professional.  But what exactly is a “handheld?” Is it a portable computer? A personal digital assistant (PDA)? A two-way pager?  A smart phone?  Well, it’s all of the above.  And everywhere you go, you see someone typing, tapping or talking into these devices.  In addition, handheld computing has become one of the hottest growth markets in the technology industry today.  While many technology stocks have languished in the last few months, handheld stocks such as Palm Computing and Handspring continue to soar.

But many challenges still stand in the way of mass adoption of handheld devices by consumers and businesses.  Organizations are looking for a source to help them select, deploy and manage the right handheld devices and applications for their mobile teams.  Developers of handheld software applications are looking for a vehicle to publish their titles and market them to a broad audience.  And consumers don’t realize that most handheld devices don’t come pre-loaded with the right type of software to meet their individual needs.  As a result, handhelds often become little more than expensive electronic address books and calendars.  

Enter Handango. Handango is the complete source for handheld and wireless computing solutions for business professionals. Handango offers best-of-breed handheld software applications to transform an empty handheld device into a wealth of knowledge and productivity.  It serves as a publisher for more than 4,000 handheld software companies across all major leading handheld platforms including Palm, Pocket PC/Windows CE, Symbian and RIM. Handango is positioned to assist business professionals and corporations in finding, deploying and managing handheld solutions in key industries such as healthcare, legal, accounting, consulting, financial services and sales. Handango delivers its solutions through its sales force, retail and enterprise channel partners, and through its Web site.

Handango turned to BSMG Worldwide/Southwest to develop and implement a national PR campaign in 2000 that would create credibility and raise awareness of Handango as the “Handheld Economy Catalyst” – bringing application developers, device makers and channel partners together to deliver complete handheld solutions and expand the entire category.

OBSTACLES/CHALLENGES

Overcame media and marketplace noise created by other Internet companies 

Focused the media on the importance of “filling the toolbox” with handheld software applications, not just reporting on new handheld devices 

Positioned Handango as a solution to the system integration and procurement challenges related to enterprise deployment of handhelds 

Garnered the interest of top business media in Handango even though the company is privately held

RESEARCH

Through its own market research, Handango identified the unique concerns of handheld industry segments.  Handango’s individual customers said, “Make this thing more than a fancy day planner” and “Make it easy to buy and download software.” Business professionals were in need of applications to fit their jobs.  Many corporate employees said, “Show me the best applications for my industry,” “Make it easy to buy and deploy for a team, department or company.”  Top-notch software developers said, “Help me make money” and “Show me the installed base.”  Industry research also showed tremendous market opportunity and the need for a provider of value-added handheld software and solutions:

In 2001, more than 14.3 million smart handheld devices will be shipped worldwide.  By 2004, that number will more than triple to 45.4 million worldwide shipments. (IDC)

Wireless technology will make mobile workers 30 percent more productive. (GartnerGroup)

More than 78 percent of U.S. online users will use mobile data in the next year. (CapGeminiAmerica)

Of all U.S. IT buyers and decision-makers, 10 percent are implementing plans for handheld devices in their organizations.  More impressively, 54 percent either have plans for handhelds, but haven’t implemented them yet, or are currently developing plans. (Cognosco Publishing Inc.)

PLANNING & STRATEGY

BSMG developed a public relations plan to create awareness of and establish preference for Handango’s complete suite of handheld and wireless solutions.  The campaign was designed to raise visibility for Handango and establish it as the central source to find, deploy and manage handheld and wireless solutions across all handheld platforms (not just Palm). The campaign’s primary PR strategies were to:

Implement an aggressive media outreach program for Handango around new services, software offerings, events, partnerships, surveys, contests and “lifestyle” stories

Offer Handango executives to top media as objective, third-party commentators on handheld industry trends

Create awareness of Handango within the technology industry analyst community focused on handhelds, wireless and enterprise software

Execute an executive visibility campaign for CEO Laura Rippy to establish her as a “rising star” in the industry

OBJECTIVES

BSMG developed a public relations campaign that would generate a buzz about Handango as the complete source for handheld computing solutions.  The campaign was designed to ensure business professionals, corporations, software developers and potential partners would see Handango as an industry catalyst and leader in the handheld space. Broad exposure in top tier business and technology media, as well as commentary from industry analysts and support from developers and partners were vital to its success. BSMG identified the following objectives for the 2000 strategic public relations campaign:

  • Educate business professionals about value-added software applications to expand the utility of their handheld devices 
  • Generate awareness of Handango as the largest publisher of software and accessories for all handheld device platforms 
  • Create awareness of Handango as an “industry catalyst” with whom other players in the handheld market would want to do business 
  • Position Handango as a resource for businesses to deploy complete handheld solutions across teams, departments 
  • Establish CEO Laura Rippy as a thought leader in the handheld/wireless industry

AUDIENCES

  • Mobile workforces in small- and mid-size organizations, large corporations 
  • Business professionals 
  • Enterprise IT decision makers 
  • Consumers, such as mothers, students, technology enthusiasts 
  • Software developers  
  • Channel partners, such as Web portals, IT solutions providers, virus software developers  
  • Business, technology and vertical media 
  • Industry analysts

EXECUTION/TACTICS

Based on an annual budget of $300,000, BSMG started building momentum in Spring 2000 with a whirlwind media/analyst relations campaign to create buzz in the industry. BSMG launched Handango’s new Business Solutions Center, just in time for Spring Comdex.  Nine reporter/analyst briefings were arranged at the trade show, including PC World, PC Magazine, and Field Force Automation.  In the next few months, BSMG executed new partner/channel announcements with companies such as AltaVista, CompuCom, Excite, Lycos, McAfee and Metrocall to build credibility and awareness of Handango.  

Creative pitch letters, story angles and feature releases were developed and distributed around topics such as “PDA Software for Travelers,” “Turning Your PDA into a Personal Trainer,” “The Top Five Applications for New Palm Users,” “Unique Uses of Handhelds,” and the “Best PDA Software for Presidential Candidates.” Industry news was leveraged to build up Handango’s CEO Laura Rippy as an industry expert and source for quotes on events such as the Handspring IPO, the Microsoft anti-trust trials, and Handspring’s Visor color models. By the end of September, Rippy had spoken at three distinguished industry forums all secured by BSMG.  BSMG also established ongoing dialog between Rippy and leading industry analysts at GartnerGroup, Dataquest, Giga, IDC and Mobile Insights.  

The media relations campaign secured story placements in all targeted media sectors, including national business media such as The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Fortune, Newsweek, Time Digital, and Money Magazine; New Economy/Internet publications such as The Industry Standard, Business 2.0, Fast Company, Revolution, Mbusiness, Yahoo! Internet Life, and Internet World (Dec. 2000 cover story); handheld/wireless trades such as RCR, Wireless Week, Pocket PC Magazine, and Mobile Computing and Communications; networking/computer trades such as Network World, Network Computing, Beyond Computing, Computerworld, Computer Reseller News, and Smart Computing; small business publications such as Entrepreneur and Inc. Magazine; and consumer publications such as Access Magazine, Parade Magazine, Allure and Working Woman.

MEASUREMENT OF SUCCESS

Secured an average of 50 media placements per month (more than 80 placements in October 2000)

Secured speaking engagements for CEO Laura Rippy at Jupiter’s Online Advertising Forum, IDC’s Personal Technology Outlook and The Dallas Morning News’ Technology Editorial Board

Impacted revenue increase of 700 percent from first quarter 2000

Generated large volumes of traffic to Web site: more than one million unique visitors now visit the site each month up from 300,000 unique visitors in March 2000

Helped Handango increase its software developer partnerships from 3,000 to more than 4,000 companies

Built strategic relationships with leading handheld companies such as Palm, Microsoft, Sony, RIM, Symbian, Compaq, McAfee and Ericsson, and powered the handheld computing sites for major Internet portals such as Yahoo!, AltaVista, Lycos and [email protected]

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