iPad in Construction

Can iPad help your sales presentation? Here's one example:

Second, check out the Construction Equipment Owner's Blogs podcast "Construction Uses for the iPad".

I had the chance to view iPads in the wild, so to speak, recently and my opinions - both positive and negative - have been reinforced.

First the good.

At CONSTRUCT this Spring I saw one exhibitor using their iPad as part of the booth display. Mostly they showed videos and pictures of their product in the field. Was the video better than it would be on a desktop pc? No. But when he put the video into my hands, letting me view and control it, the impact was considerable. Most booths I would just walk past, catching the video out of the corner of my eye. In his booth I stayed to watch the entire clip, and then spent a few minutes playing around with his photo gallery.

Granted, that was as much about playing with the technology as about his product (ok, it was mostly about the technology), but this gets back to the concept of engagement; I spent 30 minutes playing with the iPad, but I was looking at his pictures, his videos, his product literature while I did it. That increases the amount of time eyeballs stay on your literature and builds a relationship with the brand. This effect may decrease as the novelty of the iPad (and slate or tablet computers in general) wears off, but transforming prospects into participants rather than viewers of your message will remain powerful.

A hotel I stayed at recently used iPads at the front desk for similar purpose. Instead of suggesting restaurants and scribbling directions on scrap paper, the concierge invited guests to "explore the neighborhood" themselves, pulling up restaurant reviews, showtimes, directions, and even booking tables. Again, the payoff was increased engagement with the guests; even if the actual utility and information gain remained the same - it didn't; it increased - the richer experience improved their perception of the interaction.

I believe this will be a very powerful feature for selling to architects. In addition to being very visual, architects tend to be very experiential. Giving them something they can manipulate - either a physical object or digital representation - will reach them more than static photography or videos. 

I also was struck again by the iPad's portability. It was smaller, but heavier than I expected. I would not hold it one-handed like I would a book I was reading. Still, its slim profile means it fits nicely into a briefcase, laptop bag, purse, or portfolio, making it incredibly convenient to carry it with me on sales calls.

Now the bad. The iPad has been called "the ideal device for multimedia consumption"; that title is both a compliment and a limitation. Its use has expanded to multimedia content creation, but it still seems somewhat limited to the "multimedia" part. Which means an iPad may be a wonderful addition to my gadget library, but it's just that; an addition. It will not replace anything I'm currently using.

I still need my camera (although I wouldn't be surprised if one gets put in the next generation), I still need my smartphone, and I still need my laptop. Granted, this could greatly reduce laptop usage, but Apple's insistence on maintaining a walled garden prevents some of the utility I need from my laptop as a business and productivity tool. Plus, for extended text writing (such as this blog post) I think I would need the wireless keyboard. And by the time I'm carrying the iPad, a keyboard, peripherals, and a power supply, I might as well be using my laptop.

In summary, I see great potential for the iPad as a new sales tool, but it will be an extension to your tool kit. This might change in future generations, and as competing tablet products reach the market, but for now the iPad remains a tool for the sales team and for personal entertainment.