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Viral and Social Marketing Hall of Fame 2010
Initiate's 2010 HIMSS Trade Show Campaign
Campaign blog page

MarketingSherpa Summary:
Even if you don't want to go as far as creating a fictional character for a trade show campaign, social media channels are an essential component of any event marketing strategy. The team from Initiate took advantage of LinkedIn groups and Twitter hashtags provided by the trade show organizer, and incorporated these channels with their own email campaigns, blog and YouTube channel to stand out in the field of exhibitors.

The result was a 48.5% increase in meetings with qualified prospects during the show and a lift in new sales opportunities and advancement of existing opportunities.  

Agency: None
Client/company: Initiate, an IBM company
Campaign launch date: February 2010
Target audience/demographic: Health information technology tradeshow attendees

HIMSS' mission is to lead healthcare transformation through the effective use of health information technology. Every year, it represents our best opportunity to meet with the right people from a comprehensive healthcare-stakeholder membership organization. It is a crowded show so the primary goal was to cut through the noise and attract attention to Initiate Systems' technology, our people and our customers.

Campaign Description:
The HIMSS campaign spanned several different channels, with the common call-to-action inviting people to stop by our booth for a demo or schedule a meeting. By tapping into some of the channels officially sanctioned by the conference organizers -- such as the HIMSS LinkedIn and Facebook groups and the #HIMSS10 Twitter hashtag -- we were able to engage with an existing audience and invite their feedback.

We encouraged all of our sales people planning to attend the conference to join the LinkedIn and Facebook groups and network with their contacts and prospects there, and we re-tweeted a lot of HIMSS coverage.

Channels Used:
We leveraged traditional and social channels for HIMSS:

- In addition to a three-part email campaign, we started tweeting using the #HIMSS10 hashtag weeks prior to the show, linking to our blog posts previewing different aspects of our attendance.

- We also created our own hashtag, #InitiateHIMSS, which we used on our tweets promoting our booth, demos, customer speakers, receptions and other events. Twitter was very helpful for announcing when we had customers answering questions and sharing their stories in our booth. Two of our product managers attending educational sessions used Co-Tweet to live-tweet key points from the sessions, gaining retweets. 

- Additionally, we leveraged HIMSS' official LinkedIn group to engage other attendees in conversation and promote our own blog posts and events.

- We also published six HIMSS-related blog posts, including five before the event and one immediately following: 

o Serving the Underserved: Exchanging Information to Improve Rural Health Care,  a guest post by Jamie Welch, from LARHIX, previewing her customer presentation 
o Preview: Initiate at HIMSS, by Penny Schlyer
o Poll: What Topic Are You Most Looking Forward to at HIMSS? 
o Connecting Community Physicians for Interoperability at OhioHealth, by Penny Schyler, previewing our other customer presentation 
o See Initiate in Action at HIMSS, by Deanna Nole, previewing our demos at HIMSS Better Health Interview with Lorraine Fernandes at HIMSS10
o Video and recap from on-site interview 

- Additionally, during the show, we posted videos of the show floor to our YouTube channel.

Measurement Tactics:
Trade shows are still about meeting people and talking business. So the most important metric from our perspective is the number of sales meetings with qualified prospects that we were able to secure. HIMSS is also well-attended from a news media perspective, so a secondary metric, yet still very important, is the number of meetings that occur during the show with reporters and editors.

How the Audience Helped Spread the Message:
Since one of our customers was speaking about her organization's experience with Initiate software, we invited her to guest blog a preview of her presentation. In turn, we were able to promote this session in an email campaign and via Twitter and the HIMSS group on LinkedIn.


- At HIMSS10, we had 150 sales meetings with qualified prospects, greatly outpacing 2009, when we had 105 meetings.

- Additionally, we held 11 media meetings (including one requested via Twitter) and added 11 new sales opportunities to the pipeline in the 60 days following the event.

- Within 60 days, we also advanced 25 existing opportunities.

- During HIMSS, an influential blog,, spoke with our vice president and industry ambassador, Lorraine Fernandes, in an interview that was streamed live from the show floor and later posted to YouTube. We leveraged this video into a blog post following the conference, and it continues to get hits.

- The six blog posts focused on HIMSS have a combined total of over 1,100 pageviews and continue to draw views.

How Results Changed Over Time:
Weeks ahead of the show, traffic was relatively slow, but as HIMSS drew closer, traffic picked up considerably. Once other vendors and attendees started planning their attendance, we were able to tap into the traffic.

We closely monitored the HIMSS tweetstream and LinkedIn groups and responded as people asked questions about health information exchange or other relevant topics. The week of HIMSS itself was very busy, but we were well prepared, as we had pre-written and scheduled tweets to announce all our set-time events (such as 15 minutes prior to a customer speaking session), giving us the flexibility to live-tweet as needed.

Biggest Lesson:
The biggest lesson learned was that we needed to better coach our Initiate colleagues in how to execute social tactics. Before the show, we asked who was interested in helping with live-tweeting or capturing videos or photos. A couple expressed interest, so we brought them up to speed.

However, afterwards, additional colleagues said they would have liked to learn the ins and outs of tweeting and Flip videos. As a result, we've developed a "Top Tips to Flip" guide that we can distribute to colleagues before they attend a tradeshow, giving them some pointers on making a good video. We will also expand our education on Twitter and other social tools prior to big shows to try to include everyone going so they can be involved.