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EPtalk by Dr. Jayne 2/24/22

February 24, 2022 Dr. Jayne No Comments

Lots of activity on the HIMSS22 preparation front as people start to get serious about scheduling meetings, identifying sessions to attend, and attempting to draw people into their booths.

I’m often asked what would get me to come to a booth and look at a solution. First, I always remember that I’m primarily at HIMSS on behalf of my clients. It’s not just about the shoes and parties (and looking at HIMSS22, the schedule for the latter is decidedly lacking). I’m more apt to visit a booth for a vendor that has a potential solution to a client’s problems, or to a generalizable healthcare problem that’s important to me as a physician.

Second, companies need to consider the mechanics of how they let people know that they have a solution that might stimulate some interest. I at least eyeball the emails that come through from HIMSS vendors. If there’s a problem with the email formatting and the subject line doesn’t render correctly in the inbox, it goes straight to the trash. Marketing teams definitely need to be on top of testing this before they send their blast communications.

If the subject line seems compelling enough to open it, but I find formatting issues in the email itself (such as a poorly constructed salutation), it’s likely to go straight to the trash as well, since I find that highly annoying in addition to the fact that it conveys a message that a company isn’t attentive to detail. If they can’t manage the little things like formatting their communications, can I trust them with my clients’ outcomes? I understand that marketing is far from being considered a little thing and there’s a lot of complexity involved, but thousands of companies are able to do it right every day, so it can be done.

There used to be a lot of direct mailings to CMIOs in the weeks before HIMSS that included invitations from vendors to visit their booths and teased potential announcements. Some of the big spenders would even send goodies ahead of the meeting. Some would fall along the lines of “HIMSS survival kits,” including energy drinks and water bottles. Although eye-catching and fun, I’m not sure how much the average CMIO really used them or whether they thought they were a waste of money and postage.

I always liked hearing about the booths that were hosting events or activities to benefit a charity, such as “come by to stuff a backpack for a deserving school” or something similar. Those definitely got my attention because they were not only fun to do, but a good diversion from a long day at HIMSS.

Other mailings were a little kitschier, especially if the meeting was scheduled for Las Vegas. This includes vendor-branded casino chips to bring to the booth. I don’t know how many people actually carried those to the show, let alone took them to the booth, but I saw them year after year so they must have been effective, at least to some degree. Cards to bring for a drawing were also popular, and it’s been interesting to see how those drawings have evolved over the years. In 2011, it was IPad city, and I was lucky enough to bring one home. Over time, Fitbit devices became popular, then Bluetooth speakers, Apple watches, and more. I’ve seen a couple of vendors give away designer handbags, which is a fun twist. There was one company that gave away jet ski and one that gave away Vespa scooters. I’d definitely stop by to get a Vespa pic if someone offers one.

Mailings have definitely fallen off over the last several years. For HIMSS19, many of the mailings were late and were waiting for me when I returned home. Although HIMSS20 was a casualty of COVID, I received fewer than a dozen mailings. HIMSS21 brought less than a handful of postcards. I haven’t received any mailings this year, although it’s still early. I feel like physical mail is likely going to disappear, but would be interested to hear from any marketing professionals on whether they still feel there is a role for it. It’s certainly a differentiator if you’re one of the few vendors who does it and is likely to garner a little more attention than the flood of emails that we all receive.

In thinking about being actually at the show and what makes me want to visit a booth, my list is fairly well harmonized with what Mr. H publishes nearly every year. Friendly and engaged booth staff who are outward facing as people walk by makes the top of my list. Nothing says “we don’t want to talk to you” like being heads-down on your phone. Even the tiniest booths will get my attention if they look remotely interesting and the staff actively tries to engage clients. Hopefully the HIMSS badges will be printed this year in a way that booth staff can see our titles, because I think that helps a bit in the exhibit hall dance as well.

The booth needs to be clean and organized, with no clutter on tables and definitely no overflowing trash cans. If you have swag to give away, it needs to be organized and not look like a yard sale. Small tchotchkes that make the show easier are always appreciated – hand sanitizer, lip balm, Tylenol packets, etc. Little pieces of chocolate are always a fan favorite, especially if you need a pick me up after several hours of cruising the exhibits. I’m not a big fan of glossy paper take-aways simply because I don’t want to carry them around, not to mention the environmental impact of those. I might take a picture of materials to remind me of a vendor, so maybe having something that displays the vendor, its core offering, and its website in a way that can be easily captured would be useful.

Of course, I always make sure to visit the booths of our HIStalk sponsors and I’ve enjoyed seeing our signage over the years. I test drove my new HIMSS shoes last week so now all my boxes are checked and I’m ready to put my exhibit hall strategy together.

What are your plans for HIMSS22? Leave a comment or email me.

Email Dr. Jayne.

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