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HIMSS18 Takeaways: How to Sharpen Your Healthcare IT Message

As anyone who attended HIMSS18 can attest, having 1,300 vendors vie for the attention of 40,000+ purchasing influencers produces an overwhelming amount of competing messages. After all, this is the largest single conference dedicated to helping provider organizations solve their “biggest health information and technology challenges.” There is no comparable vehicle for IT solution providers seeking to advance in healthcare.

Yet vendors that are IT generalists rather than healthcare specialists often fail to connect with this valuable audience. It struck me at HIMSS18 that for many general-purpose IT vendors, techno-speak isn’t just a problem, it’s the problem. It doesn’t take long in a booth dominated by generalized technical messaging to hear someone ask a vendor rep some variant of, “What exactly do you folks do?”

When a tradeshow attendee asks what a vendor does, what they’re really asking is, “How can you help me?” Prospective buyers don’t care what an IT vendor does unless it meshes with their needs. The more the vendor’s messaging makes that clear from the start, the better the chance of seizing the HIMSS golden opportunity to connect with buyers – something to keep in mind for future conferences.

Messaging home runs and strikeouts

Vendor-supplied HIMSS exhibitor listings, presented in the conference exhibitor guide and the HIMSS mobile app, are invaluable for attendees on the hunt for solutions to pressing needs. For prospects not already familiar with you, your exhibitor listing is a first opportunity to connect. What you say in that brief paragraph can make the difference between a high-value booth visit and being passed by.

For IT companies that live and breathe healthcare exclusively, keeping the focus where it needs to be in an exhibitor description comes naturally. When literally everything an IT solution provider says is 100% informed by healthcare experience, there’s really no other way to express what they do. Here’s one example from a well-known healthcare IT leader:

“[Company A] solutions enable smarter care, delivered with greater precision, for healthier patients, populations and communities. As your trusted partner, we provide core clinical and financial solutions and a comprehensive suite of population health management tools that connect people across the care continuum. Thousands of top hospitals, health systems, physician practices and healthcare facilities use our Open, interoperable solutions to deliver patient-centered care and achieve better outcomes.”

That one hits all the right notes: What we excel at, how that delivers value, and evidence of broad industry acceptance. This is a vendor very much at home with a healthcare audience.

More generalized IT vendors are often at the other end of the spectrum, overlooking the need to express their value relative to the audience at hand. Consider the following HIMSS exhibitor listing:

“[Company B] is a leading Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP) in the US, providing exceptional and affordable enterprise-level security solutions for companies of all sizes. With three ISO certifications (ISO 9001, 20000, 27001), Global Security Operation Centers (SOCs) in the US, Europe, Middle East, Asia and Australia, and a dedicated Security Response Center (SRC), we are clearly in our own space."

“In our own space”? Better approach: Express your value in the healthcare space, as Company A does.

Messaging hits and misses extend to booth presentations. Every vendor pays close attention to its exhibition hall presence – months of advance planning for signage and messaging, fine-tuned over-and-over. Yet when 1,300 of those booths come together at a conference so large that only Las Vegas and Orlando can accommodate it, it’s easy for ineffective messaging to get drowned out by competing noise.

In a pre-HIMSS blog post, I wrote about what it takes to rise above exhibit hall noise specific to population health, noting a common misfire: “The dazzle of new technology is often expressed in technical terms, rather than being presented as an enabler of compelling business benefits.” My experience at HIMSS18 certainly reinforced that notion, with many promising companies having ample room for improvement at future conferences.

Moving forward: Tips for standing out in a crowd

In prepping for future industry tradeshows – or for any marketing effort directed at a specific industry – it’s imperative to look at messaging through the eyes of industry prospects. Four questions to ask yourself:

1. Setting aside technology, what is the essence of my company’s brand and culture – what does my brand stand for?

2. What is the value of my brand to the attendees of this specific conference?

3. Moving to solutions, what aspects of our offerings best align with current and projected trends in this industry or category?

4. What behavior are we trying to change in this industry, and why does the industry need that change?

Answer these questions honestly, in terms consistent with buyer motivations for the industry at hand, and you’ll be much better prepared to market effectively within an arena like HIMSS – starting with the messaging that determines your chances when the right prospects come across you.

For help with crafting your story, contact Abbie Niderberg at aniderberg@ndp.agency 

 

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