Q: How Do You Leverage Your Exhibit Investment?

Tradeshow and conference season is upon us! Exhibiting at such an event is an expensive endeavor for a medical device company. But that “expense” becomes more acute if you fail to achieve the qualified leads you need to maximize your return on investment.

How do the most successful exhibiting companies do it? And why does the size of the booth almost seem irrelevant to the amount of booth traffic?

For most companies, conferences are the best way to achieve one-on-one contact with qualified prospects. But while the venue may be sound, success will not come from simply having a “presence.” Holding an iPod drawing or giving away pens may bring some people into your booth, however these leads are often not qualified or even worse, stopping by for the wrong reason. And if your company adheres to AdvaMed guidelines, such giveaways are no longer an option because they are not medically relevant.

Incentives are a good idea, but they should be relevant and meaningful to your target prospects. For example, a company that produces medical testing kits can make the test itself an incentive — demonstrate to physicians how the test works, ease of use and relevance of test results by letting them experience it firsthand.

For higher ticket items, like hospital or surgical equipment, consider using the conference to hold a special event — either to launch new products or to provide ongoing education to physicians or specialists. While this type of event can be as costly as the exhibit itself, it is more likely to convert prospects to customers, quickly building loyalty and shortening the sales cycle.

If you insist on a giveaway, we recommend asking the prospect to fill out a short survey prior to handing over the gift. This way, they will at least be “earning” the item by providing you with the useful information you need to more effectively sell to them.

Direct Marketing
There is another important aspect to achieving booth traffic and event participation: Direct marketing. Unfortunately, a single blast email to the attendee list isn’t going to cut it. In today’s competitive message environment, you need the following mix:

  • Direct mail (printed and sent via traditional mail)
  • Direct email (multiple times)
  • Direct contact (by salesperson)

Notice how we didn’t mention show guide advertising and sponsorship. While these are viable marketing tactics to deliver branding messages and frequency, they should only be used when all of the recommended tactics are already covered.

Ask Yourself
Have you used these techniques and still failed to produce the desired number of leads? Could it be that you used the medium to talk about your product features without considering the benefits it brings to the target audience? Or maybe you have, but they still didn’t bite?

This could mean your company is unknown to (or not trusted by) the marketplace, or even worse, your product isn’t perceived as “viable” for any number of reasons. If it’s the latter, some market research is in order to find out what’s missing from your product marketing equation.

Like any marketing investment, your exhibit should be part of your strategic marketing initiatives, with clearly defined objectives and tactics, as well as a means of results measurement. Secondary to these considerations — but still very important — is the creative execution of the promotion to ensure the key messages and benefits are communicated as dynamically and clearly as possible.

When you make strategic marketing a priority to support your exhibit and leverage your investment, you’ll find tradeshows and conferences to be the best-returning investment in your overall marketing mix.

Jim is Armada’s President.