"A company may give out a nice leather-bound product, but with a big imprinted logo," said a neurologist. "The logo often
makes it worthless for general use. They should save their money for better purposes."
Free food and beverages also have great appeal, the physicians said, because they're going to have to buy those items anyway.
However, instead of snacks and soda, help conference attendees avoid crowded convention-center cafes by offering "real" food.
In fact, in Europe, it's not surprising to find full restaurants inside the exhibits, which encourage attendees to linger,
and engage in deeper conversations.
What's in a Car?
The image of a company is projected through its presence at the exhibit hall. Style your booth to doctors' images of a good
partner or vendor. But what should the exhibit look like?
In the focus group, participants were shown photographs of nine automobiles and asked which car best represented the pharma
company they would most prefer to do business with. Glitz and glamour did not carry the day.
Sports cars fared less well than an SUV and a sedan, which tied with seven votes apiece. Respondents prefer to work with pharma
companies considered safe, reliable, and mature, with proven track records.
"The SUV," said one radiologist, "evokes the feeling of power, but it is not too flashy, seems solid, and has the ability
to take you to new places."
Five doctors chose the Hummer, which supported the Big Pharma model. "Big companies with a solid sales force and immense resources
support physicians," said one radiologist.
Traffic at the booth matters. One great traffic-boosting technique for companies: partner with a medical equipment vendor,
ideally one that complements your drug. For example, if you're marketing a hypertension drug, offer testing from a real-time
hypertension monitoring device to capture interest and reinforce your drug's indication.
Conferences are often the first chance for doctors to see the latest medical equipment and technology. Conventions offer the
opportunities to compare equipment—"kick the tires," so to speak—whereas doctors have other sources for pharma information:
the Web, medical journals, sales reps, and TV ads. Indeed, physicians in the target group said they'll often bypass pharma
booths in favor of getting some hands-on time with the latest medical gear.
"I like to window shop the new technology," said a radiologist. "Sometimes I have a specific item I need to research, and
I like having the opportunity to compare things in real-time by walking the floor from vendor to vendor and going back and
Perhaps it's the cutting-edge technology that represents an ideal in physicians' minds. When shown photos of 10 buildings,
participants were asked what architectural design best represents the pharma company from which they would most like to buy
Nearly all respondents voted for one of three photographs. Six went for avant-garde modernism, perhaps a vision of first-in-class
research. Nine chose an opulent resort building with a blue swimming pool and broad shady balconies. But the largest number,
10, chose a contemporary glass-and-steel skyscraper. Interpretation: a state-of-the art company, with ample resources to support
new research and ideas.
"The skyscraper is nice, elegant-looking, and appeared serious and well-presented," a cardiologist said. "It represents a
large company with large resources to support big ideas," a radiologist added.
Clearly, conventions succeed on a fundamental level or they wouldn't attract physicians. When the doctors were asked if conference
exhibits change or influence their prescribing habits, their answer was overwhelmingly "yes."
"The name of the product is fresh in my mind," one cardiologist said. "If the information is reinforced by [a] seminar or
lecture, I can be converted to a new product."