Healthcare Convention Marketing: It Works.

Face-to-face healthcare convention marketing works. But in order to justify convention marketing spend we must demonstrate its effectiveness. Sometimes this can be challenging and one of the reasons is because as a marketing channel, convention marketing can be misjudged. Plain and simple, most people have the wrong perception of what it is we do. Do you ever think colleagues in other departments or even family and friends think your job is to make sure the exhibit booth arrives and that it is set up by the time the convention opens, attend fancy dinners, travel to some of the most beautiful cities in the world and go to parties? Well, many people have had that perception for a long time and while not based in truth, remember, perception is reality. And some of those people approve budgets … so we need to change that perception. 

So how do you change this perception? Demonstrating the value of your program by implementing well thought out strategy and communication. 

Some facts from CEIR:

The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) is a non-profit professional organization for the marketing, promotion, and importance of exhibitions and has been around since 1978. The CEIR Index Report is produced each year and provides an economic overview of the exhibition industry, including key indicators for growth, including some figures specifically related to the Medical and Health Care (MD) sector. 

• After the turn of the century, exhibitions in the MD sector grew strongly until they collapsed during the Great Recession.  
• They stabilized between 2011 and 2014 and saw solid gains in 2015 and 2016 as the CEIR Total Index, a measure of exhibition performance, increased 2.5% in both years.  
• The MD sector is holding steady in 2018. 
• In 2018, the exhibition industry’s performance finally surpassed its last peak and is now anticipated to break new ground performance-wise through 2021.  
• The Total Index, a measure of overall exhibition industry performance, increased by a moderate 1.9%, just slightly lower than the 2.0% gain in 2017.  
• All four metrics rose in 2018, with real revenues leading at 3.6% above 2017 levels. Both attendees and net square feet (NSF) rose 1.7%, whereas exhibitors gained 0.5%. 

CEIR Index for the Overall Exhibition Industry, 2014=100 

Other facts:

• 70% of physicians who attend conferences visit exhibit halls to learn about new products and procedures of which they were not previously aware. (Kantar Media) 
• HCPs that attend meetings 85% report content was most important consideration, followed by 76% ability to meet with global or local experts and 74% learn about the latest products in their therapeutic area. (Ashfield, The Science Behind Meetings) 

As more and more restrictions are implemented in regards to interactions between sales reps and HCPs, access to HCPs is declining. This could very well make face-to-face marketing at conventions an even more important part of a company’s overall marketing mix. Face to face marketing literally could be one of the best opportunities for conversations with HCPs, allowing for critical marketing insights to be collected and a better understanding of HCP behaviors. 

The biotech healthcare sector is experiencing explosive growth and is expected to continue to do so. The global biotechnology market is expected to reach $727.1 billion by 2025, according to a new report by Grand View Research, Inc. The emergence of certain key themes in the biotechnology market is expected to drive growth in this industry. Poretta & Orr has experienced this firsthand at educational programming and events at industry biotech organizations in both Philadelphia and Cambridge. It is an exciting time and important to help start-ups understand that convention marketing is more than “build a booth and they will come.” Strategy and expertise will ensure that convention marketing goals and objectives are achieved at your next healthcare convention. 

At Poretta & Orr we understand the necessity of implementing exhibit strategy that demonstrates the importance of convention marketing on par with other marketing channels. Our industry is changing rapidly and marketing efforts are now focusing on the patient experience and data and outcomes. This is the information that HCPs will be seeking from exhibitors at conventions. And when they stop by the exhibit booth and interact, your booth staff should, in addition to answering questions, be asking them. The exhibit booth is a perfect forum to glean valuable insights that can be brought back to your colleagues, which in turn changes the perception and value of your program. 

This change in perception gets you that “seat at the table”. The convention marketing program is vital to the success of the overall marketing mix and so is the need to collaborate with stakeholders across channels. The program’s visibility will rise based on the insights your team is now able to share with stakeholders such as, HCPs insights, preferences and feedback. As a result, the perception of the convention marketing program and its contributions begin to change from tactical to strategic. 

However, all this comes at a cost. It takes time, it take effort up-front and it takes communication. Clearly communicating your strategy utilizing measurement and data, will raise the credibility of convention marketing as a strategic and valuable component in the overall marketing mix. Again, regular communication is key. Don’t be afraid to tell your story. Walt Whitman has said, “It isn’t bragging if you’ve done it.” 

So tell your story, loudly, proudly and often. And if you’re looking for more thoughts on this and how Poretta & Orr has helped hundreds of healthcare marketers achieve this goal, give us a call. We’re not bragging. We’ve done it.

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