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A Fork in the Road for Event Tech Buyers: What Matters More, Logistics or Business Outcomes?

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It seems to be RFP season in the world of event technology, and I count myself among a handful of hardliners that [truly] enjoy reading these monstrous documents.

Why? Because an RFP is a window into the mindset of the buyer. If you read between the lines, you can learn a lot about a company’s priorities, pain points, and even their values.

And in the aggregate, changes in RFP content, tone, and purpose, over time, can provide insight into the evolution of an industry.

At the risk of oversimplifying, here is what I am seeing as I dive into 2018’s RFPs and how they differ from, say, those of a few years ago.

    1. A desire to light up smaller meetings with event tech. Otherwise known as the long tail effect, owners of large event programs are realizing that the universe of attendees in their smaller meetings often exceeds those at their Tier Ones - a vendor’s ability to instrument the full program, efficiently, with software is becoming table stakes.
    2. Integrations into other business systems as a hard requirement. Gone are the days that the event tech stack is able to operate in a silo. Integrations into marketing automation and CRM systems are now the norm.  
    3. Business outcomes are on at least equal footing with planner logistics as a decision criteria.

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And #3 is the biggie. The case for event technology has long been about logistics, cost savings, and efficiencies. How can event tech vendors help replace the planner spreadsheet, printed agenda, and clipboards with software? How can procurement force economies-of-scale across a large event program?

These workflow-focused RFPs tend to be giant checklists of functionality, and the winning vendor is often the one that can check the most boxes and offer the broadest selection of tools.

Large event tech companies have emerged that have done a good job at ticking the myriad of boxes associated with running an event program, from budgeting, to venue selection, to attendee registration and engagement. And there is nothing wrong with this approach, or gravitating towards these types of vendors; as the old saying goes, nobody ever got fired for choosing IBM.

But in the world of enterprise software, there is only one thing better than helping contain costs - it’s software that can help you achieve business outcomes; more revenue, more learning, more customer or employee engagement, more velocity….

And this is the sea change hitting our industry.

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The most ambitious event programs in the world are now putting out RFPs that clearly lay out the business goals of their event programs, and they are pressing on how a vendor can help them achieve those business outcomes.

In these sorts of RFPs, business outcomes will often trump logistics. Hard questions are asked around marketing and learning funnels, integrations to other business systems, product customization to suit different event types, and attendee engagement / experiences.

For these sorts of buyers, best-of-breed trumps end-to-end, and there is a refusal to compromise when it comes to two areas in particular; the attendee journey and achieving business outcomes.

Yes, we still see the 2010 style checkbox RFPs that presume that efficient logistics are the end game. But, they are fewer in number now.  

And this is a good thing for the industry - it’s not events for events’ sake, but events to power global business movements, and to deliver ROI.

Event logistics will never lose their importance. Running a large event program is like throwing a wedding every day, or managing an airport. There is an impossibly high number of moving pieces.

But, business outcomes are making themselves heard in the largest event technology RFPs; one sign of many that our industry is growing up.

So, as you write your event tech RFP, ask yourself this: What is more important to your organization, event logistics or driving business outcomes?

And in the immortal words of Marc Benioff, “if everything is important, nothing is.”

At DoubleDutch, we want to work with companies who believe that events are more than logistics and workflows; that events are MOVEMENTS that drive measurable and lasting impact.  In our experience, these sorts of customers put the attendee journey and achieving business outcomes above all else.

Feel free to send your RFP directly to me :)

Lawrence

By Lawrence Coburn | September 25, 2018

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About the Author: Lawrence Coburn

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