Using Big Muscles to Launch Littlefeet
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Using Big Muscles to Launch Littlefeet

In May 2000, Littlefeet’s executive management team came to The Townsend Agency (TTA) with a tall order: Launch the company and its flagship product, SPICE, to a crowded, complex global marketplace in a very short timeframe.

Paul Holmes

 

Littlefeet Inc., a new entrant in the wireless communications market, was formed in April 1999 to address escalating consumer requirements for high quality voice, data and Internet-enabled wireless services for mobile devices. In May 2000, Littlefeet’s executive management team came to The Townsend Agency (TTA) with a tall order: Launch the company and its flagship product, SPICE, to a crowded, complex global marketplace in a very short timeframe. And build momentum for Littlefeet’s high-profile presence in September at the industry’s leading trade show and conference, Personal Communications Industry Association’s (PCIA) Global Xchange

SITUATION ANALYSIS

Littlefeet had some big shoes to fill! A small company with roughly 140 employees, Littlefeet competes in a market space dominated by telecommunications giants such as Siemens, Nortel, Lucent and Motorola.  Like many technology start-ups, Littlefeet had not yet gained visibility because its focus during the previous year had been exclusively on SPICE product development. TTA was tasked with positioning the company as a market leader, and its product as a credible, innovative solution.  One that was not only a new product, but a completely new category of technology.

TTA conducted extensive market and competitive research in Lexis/Nexis, trade publications, and on the Web to help guide us in developing a messaging strategy for Littlefeet’s SPICE.  Through this expedited research effort, TTA found that today’s wireless service providers (Littlefeet’s primary market) are constantly challenged with a number of issues including:

  • Consumer demand for more data services
  • Dropped calls and holes in network coverage areas
  • Tough governmental zoning regulations leading to skyrocketing infrastructure costs
  • Significant annual increase in the number of wireless subscribers
  • Community and environmental concerns about health, safety and aesthetic effects of wireless networks

PLANNING PROCESS

For one week, TTA and Littlefeet worked together in an abbreviated, but intensive, series of TTA’s patented, positioning workshop sessions developing messaging and branding strategies intended to distinguish the company’s product from all other product categories of wireless network infrastructure.  The Townsend Agency brainstormed ways to garner press, analyst, and market attention prior to, and during the show, in order to position the company accurately, build momentum and ensure Littlefeet could best leverage its Global Xchange investment. 

STRATEGIC APPROACH

Based on this research and planning, TTA developed a 90-day PR plan to accomplish two primary objectives: First, to introduce Littlefeet and SPICE to key U.S. and European press and analysts; and second, to place Littlefeet on these contacts’ radar screens as an important player in the wireless infrastructure market - a company worth watching.  Then, 90 days later when Global Xchange hit, Littlefeet could enjoy a high-recognition factor within the wireless community and capitalize on sales, strategic partnering and recruiting opportunities. Beginning in July, TTA implemented a coast-to-coast press and analyst tour with analysts, and top-tier trade and business publications. 

Based on the research and positioning workshop, TTA developed key messaging to incorporate in the pitches, media and analyst briefings.  It was very important to identify and stress SPICE’s differentiating features because not only was the product new, but it was also a new technology category. TTA identified the product’s differentiation as its ability to address escalating consumer requirements for high quality voice, data and Internet-enabled services.  SPICE was ultimately positioned as an easy to deploy, economical wireless infrastructure innovation for service providers worldwide. To ensure key message precision and consistency, TTA conducted media training with Littlefeet’s president/CEO prior to the tour. 

The pitch messaging worked well with trade press and analysts: TTA booked more than 30 appointments with leading industry analysts and press! But without trial announcements, customer agreements or product news, TTA knew it would be a challenge to garner the attention of important business press.  TTA brainstormed and came up with a most creative pitch (see enclosure).  With a name like Littlefeet, introducing the birth of a company was a perfect opportunity for creativity: Baby shoes with a “birth announcement” worked like a charm, and not only gained the attention of hard-to-impress reporters, but captured the essence of the company’s name. 

RESULTS

For the tour, TTA secured appointments with key European and U.S. industry analysts including Forrester, Yankee Group, Ovum, Merrill Lynch, ARC Group, Shosteck and Associates, Strategis Group, and Strategies Unlimited. In addition, TTA booked briefings with key press from Telecommunications Magazine, Roam, Asian Communications, Network News, IT Week, Electronics Times, GSM Quarterly, AFX News, Anywhereyougo.com, Mobile Europe, Wireless Systems Design, Microwave & RF, Wireless Today, Wireless Insider, Communications Today and Wireless Data News.  

The baby shoes pitch and follow-up calls led to briefing appointments with The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, CNET.com, Fast Company, The Los Angeles Times, mBusiness and the presidents of the two leading industry associations: PCIA, and the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA).  An upcoming customer trial (discussed under NDA) was news TTA capitalized on for the tour. 

TTA then worked hard to complete the next phase of the launch: Global Xchange.  First, TTA secured a panel speaking spot for Littlefeet’s president and CEO on "Meeting the New Challenges of Infrastructure Build Out."  Two weeks before the show, TTA conducted extensive tradeshow and media training for all of Littlefeet’s employees attending the show.  Only days before the show, TTA received word that Littlefeet could announce its first customer trial.  TTA capitalized on this news by coordinating a Global Xchange press conference.  Finally, TTA secured appointments with 18 international and US industry press and analysts at the show including RCR, Wireless Week, EE Times, Global Wireless, The Net Economy, The Los Angeles Times, GSM Quarterly, CommNOW.com, Wireless Systems Design, Anywhereyougo.com, Strategis Group, and Cahner’s In-Stat. Littlefeet was thrilled because many people they had met on the road stopped by to get briefed on the latest news.  The tour strategy had worked: Littlefeet was making noise and people were listening and watching!

PROGRAM SUCCESS SUMMARY

The launch campaign met all of the client’s goals of gaining visibility with the people who influence their worldwide market.  The results of The Townsend Agency’s global tour and wireless launch efforts were very successful.  TTA secured appointments and telephone briefings with every top-tier analyst and publication targeted.  Out of 22 press interviews, 17 resulted in one or more articles featuring Littlefeet!  Some of the magazines including IT Week, and Wireless Review published Littlefeet articles in late July/August, which started tremendous momentum for the show.  Roam, Anywhereyougo.com, and Wireless Systems Design, all publications Littlefeet met with during the tour, wrote feature articles in their September issues. Wireless Systems Design, where Littlefeet was featured on the cover and in a four-page article inside the magazine, was an especially prestigious hit because it is one of Littlefeet’s most important publications.
The briefings during the launch were very successful.  The follow-up press and analyst appointments to the European/U.S. tour were a testimony to the interest TTA generated for Littlefeet.  Visibility TTA gained for Littlefeet with the global tour and the PCIA wireless industry launch was essential in presenting the company and its products to the wireless market.  The Townsend Agency's successful launch and tour led to relationships with key editors and analysts in the wireless space and additional briefings and articles about Littlefeet.  This resulted in 32 press hits from both the tour and Global Xchange event.   Many have written follow-up articles and are actively following Littlefeet to this day.  It is important to note that Littlefeet's key messaging developed in the positioning workshop sessions is clear, consistent and apparent in every article that resulted from TTA’s efforts.  

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