Competing for the ‘Space Virgin’

Some may have heard about the Virgin Galactic unveiling of the new VSS Enterprise spaceliner in the Mojave Desert last December. It was an astounding event and very much in keeping with the spectacle we normally associate with Sir Richard Branson.

But for me, the thrill of this event came from seeing a California company called Group Delphi landing and executing a major event contract by providing Virgin Galactic executives with “The Awesome Experience.”

Group Delphi had done a small project for Virgin Galactic in the past, but that only gave the company the opportunity to bid against five of the finest creative companies in the world for this significant event. Its charge was to demonstrate in less than four weeks that the company could design and execute, in a superior manner, a creative experience that would impress more than 800 investors, customers, members of the press and dignitaries attending the dramatic unveiling of the first commercial spacecraft.

Imagine the challenge. Virgin has access to the best and brightest creative minds in the world and requires a standard of presentation that is unsurpassed. Group Delphi CEO Justin Hersh was incredibly excited by the opportunity to show the Virgin Galactic executives that his company could out-Virgin Virgin by creating the convergence of need, entertainment and the unexpected necessary to create “The Awesome Experience.”

First, Group Delphi focused on Virgin’s pain. The Virgin Galactic executives had one shot with this event. They really didn’t know the Group Delphi team. Hersh figured his competition would have solid, creative ideas, so the key differentiator was to demonstrate high-caliber execution in the presentation process.

[See Kevin Daum talk with Group Delphi’s CEO Justin Hersh on video]

The team focused on providing a differentiated compelling message that said to Virgin executives, “Not only can we deliver an exciting, creative solution, but we can also execute in an efficient and detailed manner.”

Group Delphi has a culture that stems from experience in theater arts. In theater school, Hersh and his team learned how to develop and execute a moment-by-moment customer experience accounting for every microscopic detail. They used these practiced skills to create an extensive presentation that identified every aspect of what the attendees would see, hear and feel over the entire experience, from the moment invitations went out until post-event follow-up was completed.

As theater people, the Group Delphi team was accustomed to executing under tight deadlines. Despite less than four weeks of preparation, Hersh was able to rally his team to create an extensive presentation designed to overwhelm Virgin. The presentation was efficiently integrated as a 52-page PowerPoint deck that showed off Group Delphi’s ability to manage complexity with effective execution and communication. The Group Delphi team purposefully showed Virgin that nothing would be left out or left to chance in the production of this critical spectacle.

The Group Delphi team paid careful attention to integrating its own message into the Virgin Galactic story in a way that would entertain and impress the Virgin executives. The team members knew that a mediocre delivery would relegate them to a runner-up position, so they decided to go big or go home.

Consistency was key. The look and feel of the presentation was designed to be reflective of Group Delphi’s general design while clearly being about Virgin Galactic. They went the extra mile in delivering a memorable presentation.

Scripts were written and the production was staged so that images, messaging and emotions were synchronous with the excitement of the Virgin Galactic brand. For a “wow” factor, a powerful computer-generated film was created that brought the static imagery of the PowerPoint unveiling moment to emotional life.

At the last minute, the team decided to forego presenting by videoconference and booked flights on Virgin Atlantic and unexpectedly showed up in London. For the Virgin team, no detail was left untouched. Group Delphi had clearly shown Virgin Galactic executives that it was better prepared to deliver an awesome experience.

Although Group Delphi clearly executed on all three aspects of “The Awesome Experience,” its focus on forethought in specific detail was definitely its strong point. The effort Group Delphi showed was beyond the expectations of the Virgin Galactic executives giving it a decisive victory over competitors’ presentations that were likely good and potentially great.

The takeaway from this story for executives is an examination of the level of detail and design applied to presentation.

Many companies still use last-minute or stock presentations to compete for business. This leaves the door open for you to show prospects what they are missing by thinking ahead and committing to awesome execution.

Kevin Daum is the principal of TAE International and the author of several books, including “Building Your Own Home For Dummies,” and his latest, “ROAR! Get Heard in the Sales and Marketing Jungle.” He is a regular speaker and consultant on marketing and book development, and he blogs at Reach him at [email protected]. Kevin will be the featured speaker at CEO Think Tank’s Fourth Annual Growth Strategies Breakfast on March 9.

Read Kevin Daum’s previous column