A letter to event technology companies trying to sell me stuff

Dear event technology vendor,

I’m sure I’m not the only event professional who is bombarded with email from event technology companies. I receive solicitations from multiple companies each week, asking me to check out/review their latest mobile app/conference management software/social-networking tool etc.

Guys, I don’t want to be crass here, but could you give me some idea upfront how much your products/services cost?

If cost was no object I would be a customer for much of the stuff you are pitching.

But cost is not no object. For me to evaluate the value proposition you’re offering I have to know the value of what you provide and what it costs me. The former is my job. The latter is yours.

I read your patter about your product or service, decide to find out more and click on your embedded link. So far so good. I jump to your elaborate website where it’s obvious you have spared no expense creating great material designed to turn me into a customer. Overviews, feature lists, videos—it’s all there.

Except for any kind of price information.

You don’t share your pricing model! Is this is a $299-for-unlimited-use, a $5/seat, or a $10,000/event deal? Are there packages of services available at clear price points? If customization is an option, what ballpark costs are we talking about?

About the only thing I’m sure of, once I’ve wasted my time searching for this information on your oh-so-pretty website, is that you don’t use a freemium model. You would have told me about that.

I’m sorry, but I don’t have the time to enter into your next sales step—the “contact us to discuss your requirements” dance—on the off chance that your actual pricing model represents real value for me.

So next time—if there is a next time—please consider giving me all the basic information I need so I’ll be compelled to check out your possibly awesome creation further. I can handle talking about money upfront. And so can you.

Sincerely,

A lost potential customer

Photo attribution: Flickr user dswilliams

18 thoughts on “A letter to event technology companies trying to sell me stuff

  1. That is spot on Adrian,

    I get pitches everyday from people who sometimes put together statements like “You need to post about us”

    Arrogance and superficiality are not allowed when asking for attention.

    1. True, Julius! And when people are asking for attention but then expect you to chase them to provide fairly basic information about their product/service, it leaves a bad taste in the mouth.

  2. Are you seriously saying everything should have a pricing structure that is cookie cutter? Why is customizing a product or service so it’s appropriate for each customer a bad thing? Have you called the company in question to inquire? I think I may be missing something here as everyone else is so quick to agree.

      1. Touche! Well I can’t speak for the others who have commented, but I’ll say that the prices for my book, the one “product” I sell, are clearly available on my site. Many people buy the book and go off and design/run their own events. A small proportion go on to contact me to discuss event design services, and it’s true that I don’t post consulting rates on my website. The main reason for this are that:

        1) clients rarely know how much of my time they’ll be using until we talk, so I can’t give them an estimate until we’ve spoke

        2) my rates depend on length of contract, when they are quoted (yes, I do increase my rates from time to time), scope of services, geographical location, client profile, etc., etc.

        Unlike me, many of the vendors that triggered this post have simple pricing models that can be shared early on, and I don’t understand why some of them don’t. I think there is little excuse for obscuring the price-level of a product or app these days.

    1. One of the things I like about you Traci, is your willingness to (thoughtfully) challenge me-too thinking.

      No, I’m not saying that everyone should have a cookie cutter pricing model or that customization is bad.

      What I’m asking for is a ball-park, order-of-magnitude idea of what the cost might be for what I’m being pitched. For example, there are mobile event apps that are free, cost $X/seat, or $Y,000 dollars. Telling me up front what kind of cost model is being used and the range of X & Y lets me make a quickly judgement about whether the product/service is potentially within my budget.

      I’m not expecting a vendor to immediately provide me with a cost to the penny (though that would be nice, and some vendors can/do). But I do want to be able to easily know whether this is a gold-plated solution that is, unfortunately, way out of my league, or something that could work for me financially.

      As to calling the company to inquire; I don’t have time any more to do this in response to an initial pitch! Going back to the mobile app example, there are hundreds of vendors in this space. Realistically, a call is going to take maybe 10 minutes of my time, if I’m lucky, to get the information I need and I can’t spare the hours I’d need to spend to get ball-park costs from every vendor that doesn’t supply it up front.

      1. I aim to please 😉

        I agree with you, if the pricing as as simple as x/seat why not post? But it’s unfair to assume that people are not being up front or some how hiding their pricing when it is not posted. Whether they be a software vendor or a consultant. It is more likely that their solution is customized to each particular customer. Posting a price range of $5000-50,000 is not really useful to anyone. Although it would weed out those looking for a $500 solution.

        I would argue that if you had a problem important enough to seek outside help to solve it, it would be worth your time to make a phone call. I get frustrated when shows do not post their exhibit pricing…but if I’m interested enough in the potential of the show to me I will make the call.

        The onus is on the buyer to at least do some due diligence. When did we as a society to get so lazy we can’t do a bit of research on a solution? As a business owner I would be very worried about an employee who just wanted to do a google search to get some pricing. I would be worried about someone who made decisions based solely on price without finding out what exactly that might include or exclude. What levels of service were to be expected. What type of ongoing support would be required. What the impact is on other systems. How easy is it to implement. What is the satisfaction level of other customers. Is this company financially stable (will they be around six months from now.

        None of these questions are addressed when posting a price on a website. Perhaps I am looking for a consultant and one posts rates of $50 per hour and another $200. Big deal…it doesn’t tell me anything. Maybe the consultant who charges $200 can get the job done in 1/4 the time and do a much better job.

        1. These days it hard to predict what anything might cost, especially something novel. Given this, it’s definitely useful to me to be given a $5K – $50K price range if my budget can’t run that much.

          I certainly don’t expect vendors to post everything I need to make a decision without talking to them more; but I want the level of detail I’ve described so I don’t waste time on a wild goose chase.

          I agree that when I have a problem important enough to seek outside help to solve, it’s worth my time to make a phone call. Solving important problems I don’t know how to solve is usually valuable to me. But what I’m seeing repeatedly are pitches for products or solutions that are not unique, that have competition, for which price is going to be a key (though not the only) consideration. It’s those vendors I’m addressing in my letter.

  3. I really enjoyed reading this, and it’s made me think twice about how I position MobePlace (our mobile app). For what’s it’s worth, MobePlace is free, and it says it on our site 🙂

  4. Thank you for beginning this discussion. EventRay is working on releasing registration software and investigating the competition has been very frustrating. I shouldnt have to make four phone calls, watch five youtube videos, and participate in 2 webinars to learn features and negotiate price. I know SAAS wasnt a viable option 15 years ago, but they are too focused on the sales funnel and not focused enough on transparency. I gave up on Cvent and SalesForce because there are too many hoops to jump through. I was beginning to worry meeting planners liked things that way.

    1. Without commenting on specific companies, Jessica, most customers welcome clear information, including price ranges, about the products and services they’re seeking. Meeting planners are no exception.

  5. I’m in the very wobbly boat of trying to figure out how to set public price points on services for each client that needs something totally different from the other. They may all be asking for “Presentation Management”, “Registration Services”, or “ARS” but they are very different actual requests for services, features, and needs.

    Clients should understand that their customized need in a feature requires x amount of work to program, test, and implement. Explaining what we can do and how fast the turnaround is according to the budget they have is the next tricky step. I need to determine if I’m going to have 5 programmers and 2 designers working on the feature or 1 programmer and a designer.

    Often, the clients assume x feature and y feature are available and don’t use the others available because they don’t understand how it works (or don’t need it). We try to simplifiy our process with an initial questionnaire. After talking through our questionnaire that asks things about user numbers, various feature options per service requested, and specific needs for the event it becomes a lot easier to quote a realistic budget that uses a sliding scale. Pre-production time spent customizing the needs and user counts must also be accounted for.

    This initial questionnaire allows us to quote and provide our services for the smaller “meetings” and scale up to large conferences allowing bigger discounts on volume service usage. Our Producer and Event Manager clients have an understanding of costs for the available services and that they pay x/hour for additional customization. But, we can also bill for block programming time for an additional discount.

    Also, if your current conference hires 7 vendors for 7 services (HD Streaming, ARS, Registration, Presentation Management, Network Engineering, E-Posters, and Apps), we can almost guarantee that we will be saving the event more than we charge by combining the data sets and services onto a single platform. We are practically writing our clients a check to work with them to better manage their conference data.

    Here’s a tip, that data is VALUABLE and should be considered the major ROI from the expense of all of these services. Conferences do a disservice by allowing multiple vendors to walk out with that data at the end of the event. The conferences that manage all this data and use it to analyse their conference are the ones that are growing, thriving, and building strong communities.

    These are not cookie cutter services that fit all needs. None of these services are easy to place into a pricing matrix without some understanding of the final needs (and REAL budgets) for the project. Every “registration” or “ARS” client we have has very different usages and needs out of our services. These things take time to prepare, discuss, budget, and plan for in pre-production.

    These conversations can’t and won’t take place in a .pdf pricing sheet. Everybody knows the going price of chicken, chairs, tables, and staging but these are very different needs. If you don’t have the time to evaluate these technical vendors correctly you need to hire someone to do it for you because it is that important.

    1. Matt, thanks for a very thoughtful and informative response. As someone who wrote custom software for vertical markets for over twenty years, and also helped clients evaluate competing vendors’ solutions, I’m very familiar with the complexities you describe.

      Nevertheless, when I worked with clients it was possible to provide at least order-of-magnitude estimates of the likely costs pretty early in the process, and that’s all I was asking for in this post. Is this a $50, $500, $5,000, $50,000, or $500,000 potential commitment? If more information is needed before an estimate can be given, how much time and money will that take, and what are the outside bounds of solutions typically provided? If I know that working with a vendor is going to cost me, say, a minimum of $3,000, that’s good information to have if my maximum budget is $2,000. Any data like this is helpful and gives a prospective client at least some idea whether the vendor’s services and products are more appropriate for a solo entrepreneur or a Fortune 500 company—something that is often by no means obvious.

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