Conferences and trade-shows are key rally-points in life science and biotech marketing strategies. They are the opportunity for your company to create an in-person meeting and network with customers, potential new customers and people who still haven’t heard of you yet. Being at the right event and attending in the right way creates exposure for your business profile, investment, lead generation and market testing your latest developments.
With conferences no longer happening on the ground what you can do to simulate these benefits to support exposure and momentum in your biotech marketing business strategy?
At this time of year you would be executing all the planning and preparation to present as delegates and exhibitors. You are busy receiving banner stands and biotech digital marketing materials back from one event and resupplying them to the next venue.
Attending the actual event and follow up can take days and weeks out of your schedule.
In this article, we’ll talk about putting that effort into creating a virtual exhibition stand on your website. It’s not just about having a booth. There are opportunities for supplementing a personalised conversation with assets that would typically require a high investment to be delivered to delegates during a real event.
The role of conferences as an annual touch-point
Conferences have been at the core of sales and biotech marketing plans, product launches, and business development for decades. They are perceived as the place where business gets done and regular attendance at annual events is required to validate that your business is still alive and active.
A lot of connection can be made with people in your biotech industry as part of the main program and networking around it.
Attendees are away from their daily distractions and come with an intention to learn about the latest developments in their field. It’s a one-stop-shop to catch-up with ex-colleagues, collaborators, find useful partnerships and new jobs, present posters and surrounded by peers and innovation over several days.
These are mainly the benefits for delegates. The other side of it is a lot of hard work and hours competing for delegate time if you are holding an exhibitor badge, including periods of intense activity during break time in exhibit halls punctuated by slow hours staffing an empty booth. Promoting and delivering seminars at the same time as other companies in one of the ancillary rooms hoping people choose yours, long nights in conference dinners seeking the people you want to speak to. To be the main sponsor and gain that exposure takes a lot of investment.
With so many biotech conferences cancelled or being replaced with on-line biotech events in 2020 due to Coronavirus restrictions is this tenet for delegates and exhibitors going to hold up in the future?
As we get comfortable with the ways of using Zoom, MS Teams, Skype and other video conference options, literally letting customers into our own front rooms, is the need to be physically present at an event with a booth critical to have an attractive sales conversation?
If you use on-line face-to-face as a follow up to the personalised conversation you’ve already started via your website you can start to see how you can get in front of “booth visitors” all year round. Not just once a year at annual conferences, relying on you and a potential customer being there on the ground at the same time.
Avoid trying to create the real world online
There are a few VR style event platforms emerging as physical events are paused. These try to exactly imitate a real-world event experience and they often fall short. Using a feeling of 'Skeuomorphism' to make people feel like they are at events they have experienced in the past. Don't let the desire to create a community come in the way of thinking digital-first and creating a new experience better designed to be delivered online.
Biotech digital marketing
There are many challenges for the biotech space when marketing your innovation: regulations, compliance, IP and the very nature of fast-moving changes that take place in your industry. Having a flexible website content management system in place will allow your biotech marketing team to react quickly to new product launches that need promotional content. At Arttia Creative we provide you with a flexible website that you can update at any time or, with our priority monthly digital support, send over your content, and we will both optimise and publish on your behalf.
Creating an on-line exhibition booth
What ways can you give visitors the benefits of a physical booth interaction and other promotional opportunities you traditionally alongside it at an event? One way to look at how you create a virtual booth and integrate it into your sales and marketing for the year is to consider the following items.
- Where does a booth visit or conference interaction fit in your sales and marketing objectives for the year?
- What different audiences do you speak to at your physical booth in an exhibition hall or other places during the conference? And what does each audience what from that interaction?
- What details would you ideally capture as you engage with a delegate on your physical booth, and how would you usually follow up that interaction?
- How to optimise a mix of a live webinar, recorded presentations, on-page content and downloadable collateral for visitors to your on-line booth to give them a full conference exposure experience?
#1 – Where does a booth visit or conference interaction fit in your sales and marketing objectives for the year?
This is really asking the big question of “if I was to go to the annual society conference this year, what would be the goals?” Is it to launch a new version of an existing product and generate upgrade business? Is it business development to expand channels to market or are you seeking investment to take the business forward? Is it to generate awareness and interest in you as an option to challenge existing players in a market in which you’re unknown? Is it to maintain your presence in an existing market?
Defining the primary purpose or top 3 reasons you would attend in person gives you a focus for the on-line booth. And with a virtual booth, you have the advantage that relevant content for inquisitive visitors outside that target audience can be presented with quite quickly.
Also, consider when you present and promote the booth going live. Would be good to coincide it with the date of a regular conference that would occur within the year? Once it is up and live, you can also consider promoting it as a news story or new finding is announced in that field. For example, a feature in a major journal on a new discovery in treating dementia is an opportunity to point to the booth that hosts existing content in this field. The benefit is that once it’s live, the booth can be repurposed or promoted over the year, not just a one-off interaction.
This is also the point to consider where the virtual booth page fits within the existing website. Setting it up as a stand-alone page means you can consider search engine optimisation and send a single URL in a targeted way to prospects for them to engage. It also offers a way to link to existing core content that adds more detail to a specific topic.
For example, if you host recent publications on your virtual booth page focussed on the field of neuroscience, you can link to your library of previous publications.
And if you catalogue your existing library of content into relevant topics, rather than date, you could start to show your credibility and expertise in a particular application area, or related fields for a wider interest.
#2 – What different audiences do you meet at a physical booth in an exhibition hall and in other places during the conference? And what does each audience what from that interaction?
This is where you start to think of what content to create and host on your virtual booth. We’ll consider the mix of assets you can host later.
At this point, it’s about identifying the people you would expect to meet on a booth and what they need to take away. For example, if you’re expecting to talk to business development partners can you give them a summary of the profile of a partner you’re looking for and if they match it book a slot to have a personal meeting on-line?
It is worth considering existing customers as visitors too. As face-to-face contact has become challenging, this is an excellent way to connect with customers.
A separate “members” area is one way to create special offers and technical updates for them to access at the virtual booth. You can proactively contact existing customers with a unique log-in to promote the booth, and as conferences are not happening in the usual way, maybe they have posters they can give for you to use as user-created content.
#3 – What details would you ideally capture as you engage with a delegate on your physical booth and how would you normally follow up that interaction?
Business cards are the main way details get shared at the booth and in meetings around any event. This gives you all the contact detail without a break into the conversation to pause and write in details that having a contact form would mean. People can also find entering details into a web-based form impersonal or a wonder if it will get to the right person.
For new leads and existing customers, more detailed scientific and technical background on a person’s situation is vital to understand. What specific pain-points they have and not just reply with generic sales information. Could you consider listing top 10 FAQs and hosting the answers as a section on your virtual booth? With links to technical notes on how your product or service works compared to competitors.
A phone number or email address to a named person, with a personal profile and photo creates the personal touch to any details the person supplies. Plus they know who will be contacting them to answer their specific questions on what aspect of the science or technology you have.
A key benefit to meeting people at a booth during an actual conference is that you can follow up in person either at the event or immediately after. This should be your aim for the virtual booth too. So any interactions that come via the virtual booth page can be flagged for immediate follow up in your CRM system or emailed directly to the relevant person for a quick reply.
#4 – How to optimise a mix of live webinar, recorded presentations, on-page content and downloadable collateral for visitors to your on-line booth to give them a full conference exposure experience?
When you attend a conference in person, there is a usual a diverse mix of scientific presentations, conference book, poster displays, seminars and giveaways that delegates get exposed to.
This is your chance to create your own scientific program and use a mix of content to create a story down the main page of your virtual booth.
So, for example, an introduction on a disease area, the market size, current approaches, a review article summarised by you. This could be content from existing pages turned into an animated PowerPoint or even hosted as a webinar and recorded.
Then next up could be application notes from the science team. A technical note and presentation on specific technical details on the product and maybe top 10 support questions answered. Intersperse this with opportunities to ask a question or an email address too request an on-line meeting and discuss certain aspects of the program.
It doesn’t have to be sophisticated; it could be a phone number to the support team and have them primed to manage calls based around this page. Remember to frame it in the context of this is a virtual booth and the interaction you would expect on the ground is often about speaking to a person as quickly as possible.
While we wait for the return of annual conferences and meeting at locations around the world to resume, you have an opportunity to engage with audiences and keep them interested in you. Hosting a virtual booth and leveraging the power of online and digital services can connect you with customers far and wide at any time. You are allowing more people from the same organisations to be exposed to you and your services without a limited travel budget.
The 4 points above are about getting you to consider creative ways to engage with audiences at a virtual booth as a focal point for diverse content. This pop-up space can be used once to create a punctuated point in your company strategy or kept online and refreshed with new content such as recent publications, updated news releases, customer data etc. The page can form the basis for regular bulletins to leads and prospects promoted by personalised email or newsletter.
As you consider your company strategy for this year and next it is an opportunity look at how you refine, restructure and refresh your website and online content to be able to future proof against whatever the global situation will be.
We'd love to talk about your next project, to discuss your goals for how to end this year successfully and get a great start for next year. Starting the new year from a position of using all the benefits of online and digital marketing that we can support you to deliver.
Belinda White | Creative Director
Image credits: Adobe Stock and Unsplash