060 | How Collaboration Changed HIMSS21 for Innovaccer | Dipty Desai | Studio CMO
For two years prior to the pandemic, marketing executives were bemoaning the effectiveness and the future of trade shows. When the world shut live events down, organizations pivoted to online. Would in-person events return? If so, would they be even more ineffective as those before the pandemic?
Industries outside of healthcare looked to HIMSS as a major in-person trade show to gauge their own financial and human investment in events for 2021-22.
Innovaccer’s success at HIMSS is a blueprint for others.
About Our Guest
Dipty Desai, PhD serves as Director of Marketing for strategic partnerships at Innovaccer. Her thrilling career has woven through healthcare and biosciences with a stint at NASA. She holds her undergraduate and masters’ degrees from the University of Bombay, studied genetics at Penn State, received her PhD at UCSF, and completed a post-doctoral research fellowship at Stanford. While at NASA, she took her research from Stanford and helped adapt technology to study the effects of zero gravity at the cellular level. She brings a lifetime of connections to Innovaccer.
Innovaccer mounted a very successful experience at HIMSS21 through:
- encouraging infectious passion about their solution and their company culture
- building team unity
- defining the roles for team members and booth staff
- creating a transferable methodology for engaging passersby and leads in the booth
- using a team to evaluate, grade, and contact leads to set appointments during the show
Their trade show savvy would have been nothing without the fact their HealthTech solution works and has integrity.
Links Mentioned on This Episode
Find out more about Innovaccer.
Four Trade Show Lessons from HIMSS 2021
Overcoming the Three Curses of the HealthTech Technical Founder
John Farkas (00:00):
We are right now at HIMSS. And it’s been really interesting year because there’s not as many people here, but there is a place that decidedly is a beehive: Innovaccer. And this honestly is the first year that I noticed what was going on with Innovaccer. I’ve been at HIMS, I think the last six years, this was the first year I’d seen and took note of what was going on. And I was drawn in. This isn’t a company that started by a bunch of American, Silicon Valley guys. This is a company that started in India, and that was so exciting to me because, first of all, we’re in the United States of America and we are a very egocentric country. It’s hard for us to open the door to other cultures very often in the context of business. And it’s hard for businesses in other cultures to enter in to the conversation in the United States, especially in healthcare, because we have a system unlike anything else that exists anywhere else in the world. There’s a lot of complexity. There’s a lot of nuance and it’s manifest most clearly at the HIMSS conference. These companies that come from overseas, they’ll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a presence at HIMSS. And they’ll just sit there. The interaction is nominal and they way under realize the opportunity that exists. And a lot of that is because of the lack of understanding of what this market is and the lack of understanding of what you need to do to engage. And we’re going to unpack that a little bit today on Studio CMO.
Mark Whitlock (02:02):
Bonjour! Obosayo! Guten tag! Howdy y’all! And welcome to the translation edition of Studio CMO. I’m Mark Whitlock. I’m alongside our host, John Farkas, the CEO of Golden Spiral, the agency which brings you Studio CMO. Also Anna Grimes, one of our account directors is here with us at HIMSS as well. You’re listening to the podcast that exists to help HealthTech companies improve patient outcomes. You’re going to feel empowered to communicate your solution in ways that capture attention, motivate, change, and speed improvements throughout all of healthcare. We’re here talking about marketing HealthTech and Anna, the translation issue that we’re gonna be talking about today is so important. And I feel like I need a seatbelt for the episode. So we were having a conversation before we started in, man, it’s moving fast.
Anna Grimes (02:49):
Well, we are really delighted to have Dr. Dipty Desai here. She is the director of marketing for Innovaccer, and she has really brought the energy to the room and to the conference. So we’re really glad to have you here. Um, her career includes strong work in healthcare and bio-sciences, I mean, I wouldn’t be surprised if you actually did sequence the human genome, but, um, I mean, I mean, you could tell me that and that’d be like, well, it makes sense from everything else you’ve done. She’s an actual rocket scientist. Um, having spent four years with NASA, creating adaptive tech for zero gravity and STEM programs. She got her degrees at UCF and, uh, Stanford. So welcome.
Dipty Desai (03:30):
Thank you. Thank you. I’m no rocket scientist, but yeah, I mean, I helped the scientists that get launched on the rockets to help with some of the experiments they’re doing.
Anna Grimes (03:42):
That they’re doing,
John Farkas (03:44):
And I’m pretty sure that you own the distinction of being the first PhD that we’ve interviewed on Studio CMO.
Anna Grimes (03:51):
I think so.
John Farkas (03:53):
Well, I’m really interested for you to give our listeners the thousand-foot flyover of what Innovaccer is doing.
Dipty Desai (04:01):
Like you mentioned earlier, right, Innovaccer was formed by three founders that came from India. They came to this country to study and as they were doing that, they actually participated in a hackathon and that’s in a way, so was born just like Google was born at the Stanford campus and Rajeev Motwani’s lab when I was at Stanford, too. Innovaccer was born out of this hackathon where they came up with a solution on how to integrate all the data and how to bring about better analysis through that. And this particular solution that they came up with could have been adapted for any vertical, right? Be it FinTech or marketing, or even manufacturing, high-tech. The hardest vertical for them to go after was HealthTech. And that’s what the founders decided to do. So you can see that, you know, there was a passion in solving the problems that existed in the world and that these startup founders were very interested in doing that.
Dipty Desai (04:59):
So they went after the healthcare market created up solution, there was a problem that existed where, and healthcare data was all siloed. It all existed. There’s tons of data, but it was all in different buckets. And the buckets didn’t talk to one another. So the solution that they came up with allowed all the integration of the data, allowed all the data to be brought together. And when you bring all of that data on a patient together, it actually allows you to bring out insights that you would not have been able to do when you just have the revenue data or the pharmacy data or the clinical data. So that’s how Innovaccer was born. And they were very lucky. There were people who were willing to invest in them. Uh, um, Microsoft was one of them, uh, and a few other investors and they’ve just grown. They’ve no going back. And the pandemic actually accelerated the growth because this was a solution which was really needed and technology adoption and healthcare just went through exponential growth in the last few years. Yeah. So from a startup in 2014 to a unicorn with a valuation of more than $1.3 billion, that’s where Innovaccer is today.
John Farkas (06:20):
In six years.
Dipty Desai (06:20):
In six years, yeah.
John Farkas (06:22):
That is a formidable accomplishment for any company. So our listeners can know, big organization at this point 800 people on the staff on the way quickly to 1200 people this year is the objective so fast growing, well-funded, good revenue stream at this point, lots of partners that are contributing to the ecosystem. Tell us about your part in the marketing, because you’re not over all of marketing for Innovaccer, you’re focused on an area. So give us a little glimpse into your part of the world,
Dipty Desai (06:56):
Come as a surprise to you. But this is my first week at Innovaccer. I accepted the offer on Thursday and the said come on to HIMSS. I’m here, but I have known these people for a few years now. It’s been really interesting. It’s been amazing to see how the journey has just grown and how well they’ve done as the marketing department has grown. There’s a lot of need for us to be known, not only as what Innovaccer does itself, but also with what we can do through alliances and partnerships. So they’re growing that part of Innovaccer where we can do like one plus one becomes 11, as opposed to two, how can we work with different partners? How can we create alliances? How can we bring them into our umbrella, be a synergistic, you know, where we compliment one another or somewhere where we can help the startups go to market.
Dipty Desai (07:50):
So grow the whole ecosystem. So that’s one area. The other area that really fascinates me and interests me is that we just launched at HIMMS, an innovation acceleration program, right? What do we mean by that is that we want to help the startups. We were a startup ourselves, uh, six years ago and we see how hard it is for a startup to go to market, right? How do meet the customers, how to sell to those customers. We already have a sales machinery. We already have a marketing machinery. We can help these startups by partnering with them and helping them be an app on our platform. We are a platform players in there and they can be sitting on our, along with our tools and we can now add this solutions, do ours and present them as a bigger solution to our customer.
John Farkas (08:42):
So there’s definitely a network effect that you guys are promoting. And that is one of the parts that I find interesting. And part of the why it was so dynamic over there, because we’re not just an insular company focused on our tiny little piece, the pie of you are an ecosystem player, and you’re promoting an ecosystem that you’re helping to facilitate and working to grow for. The good of connected healthcare in our world
Dipty Desai (09:06):
Would be the end goal that we all have is pretty lofty is how do we make healthcare more efficient? How do we make it cheaper, faster, better, and with better outcomes, right? Value-based care.
John Farkas (09:16):
So I want to rewind a bit to the first year that Innovaccer was at HIMSS. You told us a story about that when we were getting going, because it speaks to the core that I think is really an important part of the marketing equation for HealthTech company. So tell us, tell us the story about the founder and the first year at HIMSS,
Dipty Desai (09:39):
Every year we’ve come to HIMSS, but the first year we were at HIMSS, we didn’t have any customers before that. Right. And our first customer, we acquired at HIMSS. And like you mentioned, right, there are companies that come the first time at him, they have a little booth, they’re sitting there and they don’t know what to do because nobody’s coming to their booth. Well, no, you won’t get people coming to your booth. You have to go and get them. Right. Okay.
John Farkas (10:04):
Hey, that’s Trade Show 101: you have to go get them. They’re not going to show up. So yes. Thank you. Keep going.
Dipty Desai (10:12):
Exactly. So Sachin Saxena, who was one of our founding team members, he is just amazing. He just goes out there, he’s standing near the booth and he’s watching people go by. And as he sees somebody that he thinks that would be a great customer for us, he just goes out to them and says, “You know, you really need to come and talk to us.” And it just brings them, doesn’t give them a choice to say no, I just bring that to the book. And that starts a conversation that today, is one of our largest customers. And it’s so great to see that growth that has happened. So it was a win-win. And had we not done that? Who knows where it would have been. But I think that is part of our DNA is to hustle is to make things happen and to be empathetic and, and, you know, listen to what the other person’s needs are and see how we can help fulfill them.
John Farkas (11:02):
One of the things that makes me a little bit crazy about this space is so many of the companies here are so stoic. Healthcare in many ways is a very stoic space. It has a lot of well-worn paths. Indeed. They’re very hard to overcome. And that’s what makes innovation so difficult in a lot of these things, because we have to be willing to entertain new conversations, talk about new ways of doing things. And that requires passion. It requires somebody forcing the conversation saying, you know what, I know who you are. I know what we have can make your world different. And let’s take a walk together and understand what that means. That’s hard enough to do in the native language, in the native culture. When, when you’re crossing cultures to do that, some measure that takes a little extra energy, a little extra work to get past that and to bring that.
John Farkas (11:59):
And so one of the things that I think is really important to hear, especially, and this is, this is across the board. This is for any company, but especially for companies that are working across the cultural divide, you have to bring it. You have to be confident. You have to believe in what you’re doing, know how it applies, and insert yourself passionately into the conversation and dip the I’ll just say you are a great reflection of that core because you know, we, we’ve known each other just a short time in this and this interaction and I’m so for you, and I’m excited about what you, uh, what you have going on in the story that you’re bringing, because, and, and, and so that also speaks to the culture because the organization’s attracting people like you, and it was so evident and everything I saw that was going on in the context of, of your presence, uh, of the company’s presence.
John Farkas (12:52):
One of the things I would just want to communicate clearly, and this is an important component for marketing leaders to understand: passion and energy can create a lot of bridge in this space. And if you come at things quiet and reserved and very blue, because everybody’s blue, so you don’t want to be any other color than blue because blue is the safe color. And I’m saying that figuratively and literally, um, but if you come at a really true blue, it’s going to be hard for you because we are in a, in a time right now we’re change has to happen. And we’re all looking at it. And understanding there needs to be innovation. People are looking for ways to truly transform things. And some of the conversations are slow and some of them are taking way longer than they should. But at the end of the day, I mean, we’re talking about a unicorn that six years ago barely was.
Anna Grimes (13:51):
20 people, right?
Dipty Desai (13:53):
John Farkas (13:55):
And so in a six year time span going from barely there on the hackathon to a billion dollar valuation. It’s an incredible journey. And it’s fueled by a passionate belief in what can be. And that’s a really important component,
Dipty Desai (14:11):
Humility and humble. If you look at our three founders, you won’t even think that they are the founders of a Unicon company, right. They’re just so down to earth. And that’s what actually drives the company to say filled with people like that. Who just constantly amazing.
Mark Whitlock (14:29):
We might as well since were talking about healthcare blue, what colors is Innovaccer?
Dipty Desai (14:36):
All right, there you go. Pink. We’re all pink.
John Farkas (14:44):
That’s outside the box right there. And that’s a good thing because we need to be, so you’re new on the team. You’ve had a lot of other opportunities, you know, my guess is there’s a lot of directions you could choose to go in. Why are you a part of this organism
Dipty Desai (15:00):
At this stage of my life? Uh, I really wanted to make an impact. And the three things that I’m truly passionate about, one of them is health care. And so Innovacer checks that box. The second thing that really excites me is innovation and entrepreneurs and like you saw, we actually just launched our innovation accelerator program at HIMSS right? What that means is that we are bringing more and more startups under our umbrella innovators, people that are coming up with some amazing product and we are helping them grow faster than they can by themselves. So that checked my second box there. And the third thing that really excites me is US and India. I grew up in India, but I’m now a citizen of the U S and I feel that if there’s a way of getting both these countries to grow and have the economies grow faster through interactions between the two countries, there’s a lot that each has to offer to the other.
Dipty Desai (15:56):
I would love to see that innovation though. It is a India-founded company. It never had any customers in India. We started as a company in the US with only us as our target market. Now that we’ve grown to the stage, we are looking to grow, expand globally. And as we do that, we are looking at Europe and middle east. We just had conversations at this HIMSS going on in those two areas. And eventually we want to go and close the loop with India. And so that’s going to be that. So at some point we will be doing that US/India interaction again, and check that box. So that’s what really excited me. And of course, all of us have our hats, but I think what I like is that Innovaccer is also very collaborative. So while I am in marketing, I’m sure I’ll be working with partnerships and alliances and the organization that we want to create, which is “Care as One”, which is like an umbrella organization that will actually bring the whole ecosystem together. The biotech companies, the life sciences, the pharma, the physicians, the healthcare systems, and the patient, everyone together under an umbrella understand how can we care as one, as opposed to each one of us in our little silos, which is where we began.
John Farkas (17:14):
If you were to summarize how Innnovaccer approaches marketing, how they’ve improved market engagement, how would you sum that up?
Dipty Desai (17:25):
We have a group of marketing, but our marketing group works with the sales team very closely. And we have a lot of, you know, research that we do. You know, what is it that we want to target? Who are the people that we want to talk to? And we actually do our demand gen, right. And all of that has created. And then based off that, we create the interactions and meetings. And then depending on the outcomes of those meetings, we then go on to pass those people onto others. Other thing is we actually have a presence felt in trade shows like HIMSS. We will be attending another one later this year. We may be even creating our own events that we will invite other people to because we feel that we have such amazing people. We have Paul Grundy, who is, um, a convener, uh, who works with us. We have Dr. Nays. We have some, uh, amazing people who are in healthcare. They are influencers. They are thought leaders in healthcare. And we would love for them to talk about their thoughts, their vision, their ideas to the rest of the world. And the other thing we do with marketing is basically just social media marketing, where we talk about what we are doing, and we just let the world know.
John Farkas (18:38):
So if you were to describe how Innovaccer has overcome challenges, because there’s a lot of challenges that you, I mean, you’re not tackling a small problem. This is a big problem. I want you to talk about how passion and imagination has fueled the organization’s ability to get where you are.
Dipty Desai (19:00):
Nothing is handed over to you on a platter, right? Everything you have to work towards. And I’ve just said that there are various ways to skin a cat, right? Different ways in which to solve a problem. But I think at the core of that, I feel the humility, the empathy, and the way of thinking out of the box is what has led Innovaccer to differentiate itself from the rest of the people in the healthcare. And the reason I say that is that everybody’s had been doing does a lot of companies that are working on interoperability, which is bringing all the data together, right? I mean, you don’t want it to be in silos. Everybody is doing it differently. We thought that the best way to do it is to bring the patient at the center. We want the patient to be at the center of attention, as opposed to the doctor or the pharma or others. So when you bring the patient at the center of the conversation, all the data that surrounds the patient now automatically gets gathered. So I feel those are the kinds of things—thinking differently, uh, coming up with solutions that others are not thought of
John Farkas (20:05):
Going back to how you all have engaged at HIMSS, because I think that that’s an important thing, because I got to think there’s a lot of good revenue that has been generated by your organization in the last four days. I’m interested how you went from that first chance meeting years ago, it was a very deliberate reel-in to a more deliberate strategy. Right? And I mean, that’s an important piece.
Anna Grimes (20:30):
Exactly. And, and what you’ve told us too, is that this was not accidental. The big crowd, we kept seeing at Innovaccer. And I mean, the big crowd we saw at Innovaccer every day was born of due diligence. And that sometimes companies and their marketing organizations within those companies lose track of just the basic bread and butter they get, as we all do a little distracted, you know, (squirrel) about what we’ve got to have. Yeah. We’ve got to have this, this right product demo. We’ve got to get this right. We’ve got, well, those are all awesome. But what if no, one’s there to watch it. So talk a little bit about what you told us about getting ready for him.
Dipty Desai (21:15):
Yeah. So, you know, it’s very interesting. You say that, yeah. You know, nothing comes to you on a platter. You don’t work hard for it. Right. Add, say, give kudos to our whole team that’s sitting in India. They couldn’t even come to this conference this year. Because if you’re not a us citizen, you cannot enter this country right now. And so they were all hoping they could have, but, uh, the pandemic, you know, the whole conference has been like that. So many people couldn’t make it so they could have, but they worked diligently round the clock, setting up meetings. Right. So, uh, like I mentioned earlier, we have a whole partner ecosystem. We have six startups sitting in our partner booth and each one of them had at least a 200 meetings that had been set up for all right. And these were like people that they went through, all the attendees that are coming to HIMSS, finding a match, curating them, identifying things that are going to be a good match between them and setting them up. Now, all those meetings couldn’t happen because people say yes to a meeting, but so many of them, at least 50% of them happen. And the ones that didn’t happen, the team is going to go back and engage with them again, to see if they want to continue the meeting outside of HIMSS.
John Farkas (22:26):
Understood you right before the meeting. You told us that you have 96 scans. Yeah. Just you.
Dipty Desai (22:33):
Yeah. And these are curated. These are the ones that when they came to our booth, we felt that that was a match. Then we said, okay, let me scan you because we want to continue this conversation.
John Farkas (22:43):
So one, one person out of how many did you have.
Dipty Desai (22:46):
John Farkas (22:47):
So one person out of 50 got 96 scans of qualified leads. Yeah. So there was a lot of work cause there’s a lot of people at this floor that just would have been content with those 96, let alone what’s the rest of your 50 team were able to gather. I don’t, I do know what the tally is looking like how many qualified leads in a base for us to follow up on
Dipty Desai (23:10):
Total? I don’t know. I think it’s probably in the thousands. Yeah.
John Farkas (23:14):
Thousands on the leanest year that HIMSS has had.
Anna Grimes (23:17):
And, and we, we heard a lot, um, both in the healthcare trade press and just, you know, chatter on the floor about how well, you know, it’s really not been a very, uh, uh, productive year. We didn’t really get a lot of leads or blah, blah, blah. And then for you to come in and go, “well, uh, did you reach out to them individually?” And also, like you said, having also managing the expectations of the team and as said, I mean, you said it very informally, but there’s a lot of truth in it. We had, you know, 200 appointments and okay. So 50% didn’t show up. Well, fine. That happens. That’s a fairly customary, normal percentage for trade shows. Well, for any kind of event for that matter. But to understand that you got to have the funnel this wide in order to get yeah.
Mark Whitlock (24:09):
And if you went, it went further to say, you guys already have a plan for follow-up, what you’re going to do. So the missed opportunities will be followed up. And then each individual person who has the scans has got a follow-up procedure.
Dipty Desai (24:21):
And, and we have the best testimonial from all the six startups, our will and our partner booth. They were like, wow, we are just blown away with the kind of meetings we’ve had here. And it was because of Innovaccer’s due diligence and doing that. So kudos a team sitting in India that couldn’t come to HIMSS, but they were day and night making sure that we were on track and getting all the meetings to happen.
John Farkas (24:47):
Yeah. What I would want to underscore here is that so much of the opportunity of engaging the market is engaging the market.
John Farkas (25:00):
You have to do that work and you have to figure out, okay, where are they? How can we get in touch with them? And how can we build the bridge events like this, make the bridge halfway. I mean, they build half of the bridge, you have to complete the other half. And that’s a real opportunity. The bridge has halfway built. So take the energy, take the time, engage and invite and be passionate about it. Because if what you’re doing is sitting back and saying, we’re going to be at HIMSS. We’re going to be here. Well, that’s not very exciting. We’re going to be here. And here’s what we have for you. And we really are excited to tell you about it because we’re passionate and believe in what we have and think there’s a great solution for you. That’s what you guys are doing.
Dipty Desai (25:45):
And we also much to HIMSS, it’s like, I saw it told you, right? You’re after your, we come back to the extent that this year we also sponsored the gala, the awards that they have, the award ceremony, we felt that we owed it to HIMSS to be a sponsor of that particular event. And so we, along with Epic and Cerner, the big gorillas in the room, this tiny startup, all the spots
John Farkas (26:08):
It’s so tiny anymore. You can’t use tiny in front of it anymore.
Anna Grimes (26:12):
It’s tiny in front of a unicorn. Yes. There’s no such thing as a tiny unicorn.
John Farkas (26:17):
You can still say young, young,
Anna Grimes (26:21):
Young unicorn. I like that.
John Farkas (26:24):
Well, uh, Dipti thank you for the opportunity to talk about that. And for the insight that you’ve you’ve had into that world, I think it’s really exciting to see what’s going on. I’m looking forward to watching the story continue, and I’m really looking forward to the part you’re going to play in it because I think it’s going to be, I think it’s going to be exciting.
Dipty Desai (26:44):
That’s very exciting. I don’t know what tomorrow’s going to bring, but I’m really excited or whatever it is.
Mark Whitlock (26:50):
Thank you so much for being on Studio CMO and let’s recap real quick. So we’ve have the, probably the most successful booth on the floor at HIMSS. Uh, they built team unity, so they understood what everyone needed to do. Everyone had a job, had a purpose in the booth. Uh, second of all, based on the founders own experience, they built a methodology for how they were going to address passersby at their event. But more than that, they spent the time to be intentional about identifying the potential leads who are going to be at the event and setting up appointments and following through on those appointments. And they have a followup procedure for missed appointments and for the appointments that they made, that are certified leads. And so it’s going to be interesting to see long-term what happens to all of this, uh, as they move forward and the umbrella
John Farkas (27:37):
Overall, it was a really strong core belief in what they’re doing that was seasoned with an infectious passion. And that is a really important component. And by the way, you have to have a solution that has integrity. That’s important, but my goodness, a solution with integrity infused with passion is going to make a difference in this marketplace. You got to engage, you’ve got to go
Mark Whitlock (28:05):
So many times we heard prior to the pandemic that people were losing faith in trade shows and the effectiveness of them. And should we even be evolved? Here’s a case study of how to do it right, and how to maximize it, how to receive a return on your investment. So find out more about Innovaccer. When you come to studiocmo.com, click on the HIMSS interview, and you’ll get a chance to take a look at all of what Innovaccer did and read more about how you can have your own strategy for trade shows coming up further. Also, John talked a little bit about the problem of blue and the problems of, of some of the challenges within HealthTech. John’s written an excellent article on the three curses of tech founders, which goes in to some of the challenges that are facing our industry and HealthTech and how you can overcome those. As you move forward in marketing your HealthTech solution. Uh, you heard Dipti say the word and you’ve seen it play out in the way that they manage their trade show experience. And that was empathy. And that leads us to the discussion of the three tenets that we talked about on every episode of Studio CMO. First, you must understand your buyer’s problems.
Anna Grimes (29:16):
Lead with an empathetic understanding
John Farkas (29:20):
Always, always work to make your buyer the hero.
Mark Whitlock (29:24):
We’ll see you next time on Studio CMO.
Studio CMO is produced by Golden Spiral: market positioning and demand generation for HealthTech. We are an agency dedicated to help you realize your market potential. Our music is from Bigger Story Music, a BMG music library. Whatever story you’re trying to tell, Bigger Story has the perfect music to make it better. Really. Check them out at biggerstorymusic.com.