Company: Cognos, Inc.
Contact: Zeynep Marasli, Cognos global marketing programs manager
Location: Ottawa, Canada
Industry: Business software and services (B2B)
Annual revenue: $979,300,000
Number of employees: 3000

Quick Read:

Cognos, Inc.—which yesterday (Nov. 12) announced it had agreed to be acquired by IBM—produces enterprise planning and business intelligence software. It makes sense, then, that the company would attempt to constantly improve its own performance, including the execution of its Financial Forum conference events. Cognos regularly held at least 10 forum events a year, in different locations, aimed at staying in touch with current customers and generating new ones.

In 2007, Cognos experimented with a virtual conference format, which offered a complete 3-D simulation of a physical event, including a main stage with a keynote address, seminar rooms hosting five session tracks, a tradeshow lobby, and a resource center. As a result, the company was able to significantly cut conference costs, boost attendance, and consolidate several forum events into one while still retaining the two-way interaction associated with physical events.

The Challenge:

Cognos is Canada's largest software provider, specializing in business intelligence and performance management solutions. It regularly holds conferences that it dubs Financial Forums to stay in touch with customers and generate leads for new customers.

In past years, the Forums visited various cities across North America, with 10 stops in 2006, for example. The plan was the same for 2007 until the company considered virtual conferences, which were intriguing both as an exciting new technology and as a means to save costly expenditures associated with physical events. Still, Cognos was cautious at first.

It took the time to research the market and identify its goals, then set out to find a solution that would fulfill its needs. "We had a specific vision of what we wanted the conference and tradeshow to look like. We wrote down our goals, the features we wanted...then contacted [potential providers] with our list," recalled Zeynep Marasli, global marketing programs manager for Cognos.

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Kimberly Smith is a staff writer for MarketingProfs. Reach her via