Pharma companies compete to seat the "right" audience of physicians at professional meetings and conferences. And some companies lose out, since the number of meetings continues to grow faster than the supply of doctors. A recent survey of Pharmaceutical Executive readers by Maritz Travel suggests that one in six companies rates itself as "below average" or "poor" when it comes to getting a good physician turnout at meetings, and more than one in seven say their company has trouble reaching the right physician audience—usually a list of doctors drawn from prescribing data.
What can planners do to improve? Pharma companies need to study the audience they want to attract. First, they have to get to know their audience. Who's coming to meetings now? Then they should define their ideal audience and figure out how they can offer the greatest value to physicians who make up that audience. Everyone wants the doctor's time, and all pharma companies strive to get in front of the key physicians. Learn what motivates your audience to attend and, more important, to participate.
Almost every respondent indicated that the in-person meeting is their company's favored format. One-on-one sales calls came in a close second among preferred ways to pitch ideas to physicians. Like CD-ROMs, which were also popular vehicles, personal meetings were deemed efficient ways to achieve strong physician participation, respondents said. Teleconferences also proved popular, but webinars were used less often. The least efficient way to reach doctors, respondents said, was the recorded telephone message.
Of course, companies must follow a new set of rules when they try to get doctors to come to meetings. This was a hot topic at many companies over the past year. Respondents to our non-scientific survey report that they made changes as a result of new regulations. They improved training and procedures, and completely reevaluated promotional programs to institute procedures that prioritize meeting compliance regulations over maximizing sales opportunities. Some have introduced systems to list detailed reports of spending by physician names and sometimes by medical license numbers. They also implemented systems to identify remuneration by customer to ensure that appropriate staff is aware of compliance regulations.
When it comes to attracting doctors to meetings and conferences, the average pharma company is, well, average. Half of all respondents said their companies were squarely in the middle of the pack when it comes to filling conference halls. But more respondents saw their company attracting the right mix of doctors. In fact, more than four in 10 of those completing the online survey reported above average or excellent targeting of preferred attendees. Nearly one in five respondents said their companies failed to achieve good physician turnout for conferences. Only one in seven fell short in attracting the preferred MDs.