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How to Maintain Momentum from an Industry Tradeshow After It Ends

May 1, 2015 | MERGE Atlanta team

It’s hard to believe HIMSS15 has already come and gone… And we’re already looking ahead to HIMSS16. Tradeshows can be tough to manage, from a strategic communications perspective, and it’s particularly easy to get caught up in the one week (or just a few days) of the show itself, while everyone’s on site – especially when you’ve followed best practices for tradeshow success. However, it’s important to maintain momentum from a show even after everyone’s gone home.

With that in mind, I asked Lauren Tilelli, Director Marketing for Medicity, a few questions about how she maintains momentum after a big show like HIMSS. We chatted about the importance, the target audiences, prioritizing activities and more.

Dodge: How do you maintain momentum from an industry tradeshow? What does that mean to you?

Tilelli: Maintaining momentum is incredibly important, especially one like HIMSS. We choose to only invest in one or two major tradeshows. For us, it’s even more important now than ever, with recent changes in our go-to-market strategy. We have to keep our sales team motivated to penetrate a new area, outside of their comfort zone; HIMSS was the first opportunity to test messaging and present our new solution suite.

Thanks to Brian Ahier, Medicity’s director of standards and government affairs, we knew that the Meaningful Use Stage 3 rules would be published right before HIMSS. We went ahead and scheduled a webinar for two weeks after HIMSS, and promoted it during the show verbally with handout cards and tweeting out links to register. By driving people into something else, we acknowledge that they can’t absorb everything at the show – hot topics, experts and more – so with a very quick follow-up event about a timely topic, you can engage them again post-show. We’ve already seen an impressive registration rate, and it’s working to keep our sales team, subject matter experts and senior management team engaged, which drives more lead generation.

Dodge: Why is it important to maintain tradeshow momentum?

Tilelli: Our setup for HIMSS16 was like no other in our company history. We went through a rebrand and messaging exercise, but didn’t fully launch the new look-and-feel in advance, to keep our clients, prospects and sales team just as excited post-show. We have set up our sales team with messaging that resonates for key market segments. We run internal campaigns to track the number of meetings secured, and those that translate into real opportunities. The sales and marketing departments work together to figure out how to give ‘credit’ for drawing attendees to our booth, participating in demonstrations, attending a meeting, etc. We also track how well the follow-up materials resonate.

Dodge: Who are the target audiences for post-show engagement?

Tilelli: At HIMSS, we are largely focused on our existing client base, as well as net-new prospects. We spend time on client appreciation events and meetings, where clients can mingle with executives. This year, we saw an increase in walk-up traffic, from people who wanted to learn more about our business and how we differentiate ourselves from competitors.

The leads get triaged and assigned to the right person (through our marketing automation and CRM systems); it’s a joint effort behind the scenes to manage different campaigns. We make sure we share the right materials in follow-up, based on our tracking of what was demoed on-site, and connect people with a product expert to take a deep dive. This year, we also did a direct mail piece, which resonated well and people gave great feedback on not being continually ‘bombed’ with emails.

Dodge: What is your top priority once a show concludes (other than taking a moment to relax, if possible)?

Tilelli: Our first priority is the lead triaging I mentioned. We also start our follow-up campaigns; our team members dedicated to content analysis track the demos done at the show. We ask for feedback from our senior management team, to find out the key topics addressed in meetings (such as Meaningful Use, value-based care, analytics, patient engagement, etc.). Lastly, we work as a team to classify prospects and assign them by priority into the buying cycle.

Dodge: What role does social media play?

Tilelli: We really upped our game this year, particularly on Twitter; we tweeted more than 35 times in five days, more than usual. Brian Ahier was also nominated as HIMSS representative in social media, so he provided thought leadership perspective. We leveraged themes or categories for our tweets – some were purely promotional, some were fun facts about Chicago and our planned party – and we pulled our own data for statistics to share. Of course, we used #HIMSS15 and displayed a rolling feed on our video wall in the Healthagen booth, which showed tweets from twenty handles we’d selected in advance. We’ll likely reuse some of the content we gathered for future tweets, to maximize the effort required and ensure the information didn’t get lost in the shuffle.

Dodge: When do mentions of the tradeshow typically fade – a week, a month, three months later?

Tilelli: For media follow-up and internal conversations, discussion of a tradeshow typically lasts for a good month. On the social media side, it lasts no more than a week. We do work to keep the conversation about HIMSS going strong, as we transition into follow-up campaigns.
Sometimes, companies only do things for a tradeshow. It’s almost like how some people view a wedding gown – such a waste for one day of wear. If you take a different approach, and make a big investment in message, brand, collateral and a demo microsite with a longer life than just the show, then you can keep the conversation going post-show.

Dodge: Any last words of wisdom?

Tilelli: I’ll reiterate – don’t just do things that fade out very quickly; leverage the big investment. Like most marketing departments, we are highly scrutinized for ROI; every year, we must meet and exceed expectations. Fortunately, we emphasize quality over quantity, which is great. We’re focused on our post-show campaigns with brand-new content, to keep the sales force excited and the momentum strong.

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