The big health IT industry confab HIMSS kicks off one week from today. With some 28 briefings scheduled over 2.5 days, the Chilmark Research team will be extremely busy to say the least. It is with that in mind that Chilmark has prepared the top 5 do’s and don’ts that all vendors need to keep in mind when briefing analysts to insure that these briefings are fruitful for both parties. (This post is as much for self-preservation as it is a public service.)
In the lead-up to HIMSS, Chilmark has been absolutely inundated with requests for meetings with vendors of all shapes and sizes. How do we select who will meet with? Our selection criteria is pretty simple:
1) Is the HIT vendor providing a solution for which we are currently doing research (HIE market) or in the future (provider-based PHRs, mobile health apps, cloud computing in healthcare, clinical decision support, etc.).
2) Have we had fruitful, meaningful discussions with this vendor in the past?
This last point is particularly critical and played a major role in prompting this post (along with a meeting last week with an executive from PR firm Schwartz Communication, who also encouraged such a post). There were numerous requests to meet with vendors we met with last year. Those who gave horrific briefings last year were turned down. This post is dedicated to them in the hopes that they will change their analyst briefing strategy.
Top 5 Don’ts
1) Don’t give us a canned pitch. Not only is a canned pitch a waste of our precious time (and yours as well), canned pitches insult us, they insult our intelligence. Please save those for others less knowledgeable of the market. Along with canned pitches, do not talk through Press Releases, ugh, we can read these on our flight home.
2) Don’t bother with PowerPoint. We only have at best 30min together, let’s not waste that time going through a series of PowerPoint slides – boring. The other danger here is that analysts are bred to be cynics. When we see PowerPoint, first thing that comes into our heads – Vaporware! That is the last thing you want us thinking – Trust Me.
3) Don’t be obtrusive when we are talking to one of your customers. Let us have an unencumbered conversation with your customer which affords us the opportunity to drill down on the most critical issues/challenges as well as the significance of your solution in their organization. Really quite annoying when a vendor is frequently interjecting themselves into a conversation. Please fade into background, you can clarify critical points later.
4) Don’t bad mouth your competition. Complete turn-off and also raises a red flag for that ever so cynical analyst leading him/her to think: Hmm, competition must be eating this company alive and they are struggling to remain relevant in the market.
5) Don’t forget to follow-up. Granted, not every briefing will be engaging, but that should not prevent you from following up after the show with analysts. In that follow-up email, do reference specific conversation points and answering any questions that may have not been fully addressed during the show briefing. Quite amazing how much this will assist you in your relationship(s) with analysts but also how infrequently it is done. There were several briefing requests turned down this year due to lack of follow-up on their part after last year’s HIMSS. Sloppy.
Top 5 Do’s
1) Do tell us about what you are seeing in the market. Sure, we”ll want to hear ever so briefly about your announcements at HIMSS, but more importantly, we want to hear about what YOU are seeing in the market and how your company is responding to market needs and challenges. This puts your strategy in context for us. No you don’t have to be explicit, on your strategy that is, we can figure that out just fine on our own. The more open and honest you are here will go a very long way to endearing your self in the analyst’s eyes.
2) Do have a couple of people involved in briefing from different disciplines (e.g., marketing, executive management, R&D). Too often, analyst briefings at events like HIMSS are seen as something similar to briefing the press with a press person and marketing executive present going through the motions. Boring. Analysts want to understand your company at a far deeper level so leave the press bunny behind and bring in another senior exec from product development, management, etc.
3) Do keep conversation focused to one or two topics that are relevant to analyst and their research agenda. Remember, we only have about 20-25 minutes to work with once formal intros are done and we both want to get as much out of these briefing as humanly possible. Focus discussion on one to two key points you want to get across as that is about all the time you’ll have. Any more topics then that just get lost in the white noise of other activities.
4) Do introduce us to a customer or two. Analysts love talking to customers, ideally, not the ones that have been heavily coached by your marketing and sales team. Do introduce us to a customer or two of yours that may also be attending HIMSS that we can talk to. This need not take up our precious 30 minutes together, as an analyst can follow-up with customer. And do take heed to Number 3 in the “Don’ts” above after making such an introduction.
5) Do ask us questions. Ideally, a briefing with an analyst is a conversation where both parties are asking questions of one another. A good analyst (yes, there are many poor ones) has a unique perspective on the market that is actually a composite view of those conversations with numerous market players. As I use to tell new analysts shortly after hiring: Think of yourself in the crow’s nest of a ship in the War of 1812. You are not down on the deck in the heat of the action, you are removed from the intense excitement viewing the entire sea battle from your perch. It is from that perch that you direct those below where to fire their cannons. Use this time with the analyst to gain their perspective on the market and where you may need to point your cannons in the future.