by Michael J. Shapiro | May 22, 2018
Etouches is shaking up the traditional event-tech sales model by introducing a new low-touch sales option. Beginning today, the technology supplier is selling five of its LOOPD products in an online store, as well as through Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Planners can simply charge the $2,000 LOOPD Express app or the $6,500 LOOPD Pro app to a credit card, at which point they'll be assigned a customer-satisfaction rep and will have access to the LOOPD content-management system a mere 24 hours later.
The new approach isn't replacing Etouches' traditional high-touch sales approach, according to vice president of digital innovation Brian Friedman -- it's simply an additional, very consumer- and Millennials-oriented way to shop. "This is a very futuristic approach," he explained to M&C, "and how a lot of SaaS [software-as-a-service] companies run their businesses." Friedman pointed to Atlassian and Zendesk as examples of tech suppliers that have pulled in a few hundred million dollars in revenue and gone public thanks to a hybrid model of low- and high-touch sales.
 
"Our goal is to take out steps in the sales process if you don't need them," Friedman explained. "We're really putting out opportunities for event planners to purchase our products at an entry level. This is really focused on event planners who aren't necessarily using Etouches registration." 
 
The LOOPD products are event mobile apps that incorporate LOOPD Smart Tags, Bluetooth-enabled digital business-card devices that attendees wear. Use of the tags helps attendees find each other and connect, while collecting a great deal of data to fuel the app's analytics -- and reveal who attended which sessions, who connected with whom, where attendees spent the most time and more.
 
Etouches' LOOPD smart tags
By putting the word out about LOOPD on social channels, Etouches hopes to reach a new audience of planners -- Millennials in particular -- who might have the budget consent to experiment with technology like LOOPD, even if larger purchasing decisions for registration and meetings-management platforms are made higher up in the organization. This way, Friedman explained, not only can planners experiment with different technology, but positive word-of-mouth can even cause LOOPD to "go viral" within an organization and eventually draw the attention of the C-suite decision makers.
 
The notion seems counterintuitive to the event-technology providers' long-fought efforts to get in front of the CMOs and IT directors, to be thought of as true enterprise-software suppliers. But Friedman, a young entrepreneur who founded LOOPD as a startup before it was acquired by Etouches last year, brings a different perspective. "We believe that technology that only comes from the top-down of an organization entails a longer sales cycle, will be more expensive, and can be more difficult and less personal," he asserted. "We think that with this hybrid model of selling, we can give more power and voice back to the event planner. They're purchasing it themselves, they're becoming more proficient, faster, and it's a faster sales cycle -- so they're up and running a lot sooner."
 
The new approach is an experiment, Friedman acknowledged, but he's clearly hopeful. If it's successful, Etouches will begin selling registration software and low-cost bundled packages in similar fashion. For other technology companies that use the hybrid approach, according to Friedman, 30 to 40 percent of their business eventually comes from these transactional, low-touch channels. Time will tell whether planners like this approach.