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Every May, little Sand Point, Idaho, hosts “Lost in the ’50s,” a celebration of 1950s music, dress and characters in the town that feels like it really is lost in the decade.

The event swells the little downtown with thousands of Midwest visitors, backing up traffic on every approach and handing KBM Enterprises, a local VAR and Microsoft partner, a unique marketing opportunity.

“Those are our customers sitting in that traffic,” said Kevin Merwin, KBM’s president and chief executive officer. “Here is our chance to say, ‘Microsoft cares about their small business.’”

KBM, for “Lost in the ’50s 2005,” used the heavy downtown presence and one of Microsoft’s “Microsoft Across America” trucks—roving demonstration centers—to put on a show for anyone interested in touring their solutions. They herded interested visitors and businesses to the truck parked downtown with radio advertising, a live radio broadcast in partnership with a local station and a billboard catching the eye of traffic-tied drivers.

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Once on the truck, KBM staff demonstrated their remote monitoring and management and virtual server technology, among others, to more than 200 potential customers. In the truck, KBM was able to replicate a customer’s environment running multiple applications and solutions.

The event paid off, with 200 customer visits, 100 leads and six deals worth $125,000.

“You can’t beat that kind of attention,” Merwin said of the truck’s demonstration power. “We can do Webinars and that stuff, but it’s not the same. When you can pull clients out of their environment and isolate them on the truck, that’s where their mind is. There are no interruptions from their office. They can touch and feel the demo and run through it. … They’re at mouse and keyboard.”

KBM has used the program on two other occasions, but found “Lost in the ’50s” to be their best bet. KBM has another event planned using the truck, June 15-16.

Microsoft earlier this year extended the availability of the trucks to partners, procuring seven for full-time use by partners. The trucks will be available 1,500 partner event days annually, up from 250 in 2005, said Michael Moore, program manager of Microsoft Partner Events.

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The 42-foot tractor-trailers are outfitted with Microsoft software and hardware as well as software from Cisco, Hewlett-Packard and Intel. Microsoft supplies a driver and a technology specialist to assist in the setup and demonstrations, but the VAR owns the event, Moore said.

Software vendor CA, one of Microsoft’s largest partners, used one of the trucks in May to demonstrate its SMB Protection Suites of security and backup software for desktops and servers at SMB Nation East, a gathering of about 200 SMB VARs.

The trucks are managed through a Web site, where partners can track each truck’s location and availability.

Partners may even use Market Development Funds and Microsoft’s event planning programs to develop a program and campaign, Moore said.

“These guys use it for so many things,” he said. “It’s a pipeline or a community event or demand generation. We keep the concept pretty open.”

And partners are creative with the use, he said. Some have requested the trucks for the christening a new office or floor space at a convention. One used it as part of a sports night for current customers, parking the truck outside a ballpark and walking clients through the truck before plying them in the stadium with baseball, beer and hot dogs, Moore said.