Exhibiting, sponsoring and attending healthcare conferences is expensive. When a conference does not deliver on expectations, leaders look to the Marketing Team (not Sales) for an explanation. Getting value and a return from the conference investment, is therefore a top priority for Health IT Marketers.
That was the central premise behind the first-ever Healthcare and IT Marketing Community (HITMC) pop-up event held recently in New York City – dubbed “Taste-of-HITMC”. A group of 15 marketing professionals gathered in a small boardroom in NYC’s Financial District to share tips and strategies on how to get at least a 10x return on your company’s conference investment.
“Everyone was madly taking notes and nodding their heads during the learning-lab portion of the event,” said John Lynn, Co-Founder and Editor of Healthcare Scene, the company behind HITMC. “For the entire two hours, there was a free flow of ideas and success stories. I counted over 30 creative tips on how to stand out at conferences and get the most from that spend.”
The Taste-of-HITMC event was divided into three equal parts:
- Act 1 – Pre-conference planning
- Act 2 – Day-of conference execution
- Act 3 – Post-conference follow-up
Act 1 was led by Chintan Shah, President of KNB Communications and Beth Cooper, Director of Marketing at KNB. In a creative twist, they had the group assemble Lego figures while they shared their pre-conference strategies. As each idea was presented, they handed out another portion of the Lego figure – from legs to torso to head to hair. By the end, attendees had a complete figure that was unique to them and when you look at it you can’t help but remember their pre-conference ideas.
For me, the key takeaway from Act 1 was: researching who is going to the conference. Shah and Cooper stressed how important it was to know:
- Which media outlets would be attending so that you can better target your PR initiatives
- Any customers who might be attending so that you can brush up on their current account situation in case they stopped by the booth with questions
- Any prospects who might be speaking at the event so that you can plan to be in the same room
Day-of Conference Execution
Act 2 was led by Bill Lauf, a 30-year veteran of the trade-show industry who is a Strategy Consultant with Tradetec Skyline. Lauf shared a key success factor that is often overlooked by companies – the need to train booth staff.
“It is critical that your booth team is educated not only how to demo your product, but also how to behave at the conference and engage with visitors,” explained Lauf. “If you take the total amount being spent at the conference and divide it by the number of minutes the exhibit floor is open, it equates to tens of dollars per minute. That means every minute you’re not engaging with a prospect, customer or partner is money down the drain.”
Lauf illustrated the point by literally taking out a stack of $1 bills and throwing them on the floor in rapid succession. He told the rapt Taste-of-HITMC audience this money-on-the-floor dramatization was very effective at getting Sales and Marketing leaders on board with curtailing non-productive booth behavior – answering calls, replying to emails, chatting with coworkers.
My key takeaway from Act 2 was: have at least one or two people in the booth who are the exemplars of the behavior you want and preferably someone who is senior in the organization. If salespeople see their director drawing people into the booth, doing demos, engaging prospects in conversation while avoiding her smartphone, the other members of the booth team will follow suit.
Ava Haekler, Marketing Consultant at Clarity Quest Marketing led the group in a very collaborative discussion on post-conference tactics that turn business cards into active leads. There was a particularly spirited conversation around the ideal time to follow up with someone who stopped by the booth.
“Asking to connect with someone on social media during a conversation is strongly encouraged,” stated Haekler. “In fact, there is nothing wrong with actually making the connection on the social media platform while the person is still in front of you. However, having an automated “thank you for stopping by the booth” email go to that person within minutes of them stepping away is too soon and too creepy. Give them a little space. Following up with an email at the end of the day or even better, a few days after the conference ends is best.”
The group also discussed the need for personalization of the follow-up. There was general agreement that bland emails blasted out through an automation tool yielded very little whereas personalized emails that referenced what you spoke about while in the booth proved to be highly affective.
My favorite tip from Haekler was ensuring follow-up communications have a clear next step. She warned against the generic “Please reach out” call-to-action which was ineffective. Instead Haekler recommended offering something of value to the person that you are following up with – a whitepaper or article that had relevant information to what you spoke about, or an offer of a free assessment or some form of reward for booking a demo.
Connecting and Shared Experience
By far, the most powerful outcome of the Taste-of-HITMC was the personal connections made between the attendees. For many, this was the first HITMC event they had ever participated in. Some attendees knew fellow participants from social media but had never met in-person until that day.
The group dinner that is part of the Taste-of-HITMC experience, solidified the friendships that had been built through the afternoon. Since the event was in New York, it was decided that dinner ought to be a quintessential Big Apple experience. Naturally, the group went out and grabbed pizza together at a local restaurant called Numero 28.
The food was fantastic, and it helped to crystallize the new relationships that had formed during the day.
I think this tweet says it all:
— Enlightening Results (@GraceCordovano) December 11, 2018
More Taste-of-HITMC events to come
Based on the success of this first event, we are going to look at doing more in the future. Let us know what topics you would like to see at future Taste-of-HITMC events and what cities should be considered.