Conventions as Catalysts - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Conventions as Catalysts
The information at exhibit booths shouldn't go in one ear and out the other. Here's how to make it stick.


Pharma Meetings


Hearing a key opinion leader or well-known speaker discuss drug or disease state topics is by far the most valuable experience healthcare professionals can have at a convention; more than two-thirds of survey respondents said they prefer to hear clinical information presented by their peers. In today's convention environment, you can involve key opinion leaders through live presentations at the exhibit or by hosting interactive learning programs. Recognized experts do more than lend credibility to your brand messaging; they can provide practical advice on incorporating a product into a real-world clinical setting.

Physicians learn by doing, so it isn't surprising that they favor hands-on, case-based learning experiences in convention exhibits. Many survey respondents, for instance, said they value technology-based applications and simulations.

It's common to see average interaction times in excess of eight minutes with a single application and total exhibit visitation times of more than 15 minutes when these types of programs are incorporated into the booth. Not surprisingly, representatives who staff these exhibits report increased opportunities to discuss a physician's experience with and attitudes toward a brand, treatment approach, or specific clinical data. Contrast this experience with representatives' diminishing in-office access; a recent Pharma Marketing News report stated that less than seven percent of all office visits by sales representatives result in more than two minutes with a doctor.

Despite the decline in reps' in-office access, half of our survey respondents said they value discussions with sales representatives in the convention setting. Interactive experiences at exhibits shouldn't replace sales representatives; rather, they should offer reps a way to get to know physicians in another—usually more relaxed—setting.

In the end, attendees need to feel that what you are providing has value; they prefer exhibits to be more interactive, hands-on, and customized. Building in content and experiences that fulfill these requirements will ultimately maximize exposure for your brand.

Conventions as Marketing Campaigns

Brands often make the mistake of not integrating their strategies with other marketing programs. Events are often mistakenly viewed as isolated opportunities. While the exhibit floor may open at 8 a.m. on a Saturday and close at 5 p.m. on a Tuesday, it is often what happens before and after the event that dictates brand success and positive return on investment.

Reaching out to attendees—especially target attendees—before an event can generate interest and drive booth traffic. E-mail is a cost-effective way to get the word out, but our survey indicates that very few brands use this tool. For the communication to be effective, it's important to tell doctors about the information and experiences they'll find at your booth, not just where it is on the convention floor.

When asked to rank marketing programs based on their ability to provide these meaningful learning experiences, surveyed physicians answered across the board that events are more effective than print materials or in-office visits. Additionally, more than 80 percent of respondents said they would be willing to share their e-mail address if they believed the brand would send content that was valuable to them. However, only three percent of survey respondents indicated that they always receive an e-mail from the exhibits they have visited, illustrating the need for brands to place greater emphasis on sustaining these relationships following an event.

Putting It All Into Practice

Now that we know what works, how do we make it all work together? Let's say that your brand has reached out to professionals prior to the convention. You have explained to them that your exhibit will deliver compelling content in a unique way and that they should come see it. As a result, these professionals are in your booth, and they are speaking to your representatives, interacting with applications, answering questions, and expressing opinions. All the right things are happening, but if you are not collecting data, the opportunity to develop a relationship with these physicians is slipping through your fingers.

Every interaction at your exhibit is an opportunity to learn about an individual healthcare professional. The more time an attendee spends at your booth, the more insight you gain, and the more relevant you can be to that audience member in the future.


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