Vendors with a large presence at HIMSS start planning for the next year almost as soon as the current year’s event is complete, so my posts on vendor planning will focus on things you can pull off between now and February. The first topic we’ll look at is moving existing sales prospects to the close.

How many sales would you have to close to justify the marketing investment in HIMSS? If you're like most companies exhibiting at HIMSS, it would not take very many incremental sales to get a huge return on HIMSS. Creating a plan to move prospects towards a sale - and documenting the results - can make anyone look like a marketing star.

The key advantage of an event like HIMSS is the availability of many prospect’s key decision makers along with many of your company’s resources. At HIMSS you will have demonstration systems combined with access to senior management, R&D and product management folks, in addition to sales and marketing.

Getting good results from attending a conference like HIMSS is all about good execution. Like many marketing projects, this one is iterative – digging in to each of the following tasks will provide additional information to refine previous tasks.

First, determine which resources will be available at the show. This includes demo systems (noting features, versions, hardware and software), prototypes, and human resources (both who and when). Coopitition – collaborative alliances with sometime competitors – has become pervasive in health care. The HIMSS conference provides a unique opportunity for partners to work together, leveraging both sets of resources for integrated demonstrations and meetings with customers.

Now in conjunction with sales management, look at your sales pipeline and identify key accounts to target at HIMSS. You will want to go back to the field to confirm who will be attending HIMSS – you might even encourage their attendance so they can get the equivalent of a corporate visit without making a special trip (and allowing you to save that corporate visit for the close).

Once you know which target accounts are attending, dig into the sales strategy for each account. Are there common themes across accounts or will each meeting be a one-off? Work with sales to determine what will be most effective in moving each account forward in the sales process, and revise your demo capabilities and meeting resources accordingly. Don’t forget to consider how you might leverage alliance partners who will also be in New Orleans.

Once you’ve identified your internal and alliance resources, identified your target accounts, and refined your resources in response to sales strategies and meeting objectives, it is time to start executing.

Working with sales, invite and schedule each target account in accordance with your resource availability. Consider ways you might increase the importance of these meetings in the minds of your prospects: a special invitation, follow up calls, and customized pre-meeting briefs can improve the attendance and effectiveness of your meetings at HIMSS. And don’t forget post-meeting things like thank you notes, and a written summary of the meeting.

One of the nice things about special meetings like these is that you can leverage the HIMSS planning work you’ve been doing for months. Besides demo or conversation areas designed into your booth's layout, consider meeting areas outside the booth like the "corporate offices" HIMSS has spread around the perimeter of the show floor. You might also complement this space with a hotel room suite where you can have meetings of a more confidential nature. It does not take closing many sales opportunities that you’ve identified to justify your entire company’s attendance at HIMSS, let alone justifying the extra cost and effort these meetings require.

My next post will look at the wonderful competitive intelligence gathering opportunity that HIMSS provides. Until then.

You can find the rest of the blog posts on getting the most out of HIMSS here.