"Ready to go," does not mean chomping at the bit. Pharma reps must learn not to control those four minutes. Instead, most
physicians want to engage with reps on their own terms, and control their own pace.
Some doctors have made an artform out of avoiding sales representatives. In the focus group discussion, physician respondents
even admitted that they consciously walk down the middle of the aisle between booths to avoid being drawn into unwelcome or
long-winded conversations with overeager pharma reps.
"Show that you can solve my problems or my patients' problems with your product, or that you can make my job easier," a primary
care physician said in the focus group. "No hard sell. Just say what your product can do, and then offer just bullets of evidence,
unless I request more. My brain is almost full, and I don't want anything more than what I absolutely must know."
On the crowded exhibit hall floor, less is more. In fact, one way companies can attract more physicians and hold their attention
longer is to create a "no detail zone" at the booth, an area where doctors can meander, greet colleagues, and review information—without
being approached by a rep.
This gives physicians time to take things in and decide, on their own, if they want more information. Without the pressure
of a rep—or reps—following the doctor's every step, physicians might spend even more time at the booth investigating its resources
than they otherwise would.
But it's not only the design of the booth that counts, said focus group participants. Companies can create more effective
exhibits if they think carefully about the environment their booth represents, and how it fits into the convention floor as
a whole. Healthcare professionals were shown photos of six different environments, and asked to identify which most reminds
them of the convention show floor. Just three were reminded of a placid college campus. Four thought of a carnival midway,
and eight felt it resembled a big-city traffic jam. Maybe the pace is a little frantic for some physicians!
But 10 doctors chose a shopping mall, indicating that medical conventions provide a one-stop shop for browsing and comparing
various drugs, devices, and equipment.
"At a mall, there are different stores with specialty shops that cater to individual needs," one oncologist said. "Just as
some drugs are specialized for only specific kinds of patients and providers."
Freebies Still Popular
Doctors perceive several downsides to visiting the exhibit floor, but they agree that trade shows, on the whole, still offer
them invaluable opportunities. Respondents agree that certain convention traditions, like networking opportunities and informative
presentations, keep them coming back for more.
This is particularly true for give-aways. Physicians love freebies. The proof: Doctors making six figures will wait in long
lines for a free pen.
"Physicians have been trained into this behavior during medical school and residency," one doctor said, wryly. "Drug reps
fed us and gave us pens and other toys when we were starving students. Old habits die hard." But the doctor participants mentioned
there was room for improvement—they said they wanted premiums with real value.
The focus group said that company logos and overt branding often ruin high-value items. In these cases, consider stealth branding.
Put a logo on the inside cover of a personalized journal instead of plastering it on the front.