The Most Important Factors When Buying Event Technology (Part Two...sort of)

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As with any enterprise technology decision, corporate marketers have to consider many factors when selecting event technology: functionality, compatibility with existing systems, ease of implementation, ease of use, and vendor support, to name a few.

And yes, cost. But not primarily cost.

As noted here previously in our post, Why Cost Should NOT be the Deciding Factor in Choosing Event Technology (And What Should be Instead), the Event Manager Blog published the results of a study indicating that cost was the most important factor to event planners in choosing one event tech vendor over another.

Our post explained why that is a really bad idea. On a subsequent Event Tech Podcast, Will Curran of Endless Events and Brandt Krueger pretty much agreed. Cost is certainly a factor, but shouldn't be and generally isn't the most important consideration.

But what do experienced enterprise technology buyers think? Two recent posts from Gartner analyst Hank Barnes provide some fascinating insights.

In A Different Perspective on Differentiation, Barnes reports on a key finding from a study of 764 line-of-business buyers. These are the four factors which they said are the most important when deciding between different vendors:

Gartner-differentiation

The second point (compatibility) is a basic in-or-out qualifier, but note the other three responses: enterprise technology buyers say the most important factors are:

  • That the solution is customizable to their needs (flexible);
  • That the vendor collaborates with them on innovation (makes it simple to implement and use); and
  • That the solution gives them competitive differentiation, i.e., enables them to do unique things with their events (powerful).

No mention of price there.

Barnes sums up his advice for vendors in this post as, "The next time you think about differentiation, consider it from the customer’s perspective—it’s not about your differentiation (solely); its about whether you can help them differentiate (and gain competitive advantage)." It's hard to imagine an experienced corporate events professional objecting to that approach.

In his follow-up to that post, What Matters Least to Line-of-Business Buyers, Barnes highlights a tweet from a tech buyer:

Gartner-buyer-tweet

Note again that criteria #1 is a basic qualifier, but #2 is interesting: the best (preferred) vendors are those who's focus is on making the buyer successful, not just getting the sale. Of course, every software sales rep will promise that. Knowledgeable event technology buyers will press further, asking questions like:

  • Will I really get white-glove service?
  • How will you support me?
  • What will you do for me at my event?
  • Can I talk to your services people before I buy?
  • What customers of yours can I talk to?

So...price? According to the Gartner research, it's the second-to-least important factor in purchase decisions, ahead of only "Has preferred status with our organization" (the procurement folks care about this; the marketing professionals who will actually be relying on the software do not care).

Again, as Barnes sums up the position of the enterprise tech buyer: "If you help me innovate, help me differentiate, and don’t cause me pain from having to change everything else I’m doing (i.e. work with the stuff we have (integration), then that is more important than being cheap." 

Of course, cost will be a factor in any business purchasing decision. But unless you are buying pure commodities (and sometimes, not even then) should it be the deciding factor.

If you're planning an event for thousands or even tens of thousands of attendees, there will be many significant costs to justify. The one cost you don't want to have to explain to your CMO (or CEO) is why some element of your event went horribly wrong because you bought the "cheap" event technology solution.