5 Essential Trade Show Tips for Science Marketers

C&ENjobs September 14, 2017

The unique environment of a large scientific gathering presents a challenge to product marketers to integrate disruptive campaign strategy with real-time adaptive analytics. Here are 5 ways to succeed.

Large conferences and scientific meetings provide a rare, invaluable opportunity for marketers to reach out to a diverse, global group of scientists in a compact setting, as well as to assess competitors and gain fresh marketing ideas. Unfortunately, they can also be an expensive sinkhole for marketing budgets if funds are not used smartly or through proper channels. How do you ensure this doesn’t happen? Maximizing lead nurturing and product visibility requires understanding a scientist’s perspective of the conference and trade show experience, adopting creative marketing tactics, and balancing digital and interactive platform strategy.

1) Find Ways to Be Memorable

Large yearly research conferences and international meetings can best be described as electric, organized chaos. Scientists from all over the world converge and have a narrow window of time to exchange ideas, showcase their work, forge collaborations, network for job opportunities and establish themselves as field experts. Also vying for their attention are vendors and exhibitors, as well as ongoing laboratory duties back at home (grant applications, publications, reviewing experimental results, and on). How will you allocate marketing resource funds to stand out to potential customer leads rather than contributing to the noise?

Consider sponsoring a high-profile speaker with limited venue seating, a series of daily fireside chats with topics and participants relevant to your client cohort, or a high-end private dinner with a celebrity scientist or science personality. Make your attendees feel like the time they’re spending at your event is a learning experience – career wise or research wise – they can’t skip.

Don’t forget to be creative with lucrative giveaways, beyond the standard smartphone and iPad devices.

2) Know Who Your Decision-Makers Are

Before registering, budgeting or designing marketing materials for any conference, prepare ahead with due diligence. What kind of scientist makes up the majority of your client base? Are purchasing decisions made by professors, laboratory managers, postdoctoral fellows, graduate students/laboratory researchers, or a combination thereof? Do they come from academia, industry, or a mix? Is there a predominant field or specialty that uses your product? What marketing tactics or campaigns have worked successfully in the past?

Assessing these questions well ahead of time will help you pick the right conferences, compose effective marketing materials and interactive content, as well as targeted outreach and post-conference follow-ups.

3) Don’t Over-Rely on Social Media and Digital Tactics

Never underestimate the value of combining savvy social media with traditional microcampaign methods to attract maximal attention to your booth and product.

Principal investigators, group leaders, managers and other key decision-makers may be too preoccupied with meetings, seminars and floor show vendors to consistently check in with hashtags and promotions. Some may not even have an active social media presence beyond Facebook. What are some of these ‘old-school’ tactics?

Before the conference, email key contacts of interest with pertinent details, incentivize booth visits, and schedule one-on-one meetings. Follow up with glossy postcards to labs and companies as the conference nears. Take out print ads in key trade journals. During the conference, deploy outgoing, gregarious employees with a daily boots-on-the-ground strategy: visit lecture rooms and poster sessions. Initiate conversations in coffee lines and break areas, and always remember to wear memorable, colorful company logo attire. Your active participation is a marketing strategy not to be forgotten.

4) Use Lead Building Analytics For Long-Term Relationship Cultivation

The advent of automated sales metrics and lead analysis software has facilitated tremendous progress in niche marketing of long sales cycle products. Nowhere is this more critical than at trade shows, where a heavy volume of people and short interaction times makes keeping track of leads difficult.

Instead of an impersonal business card raffle or physical sign-in sheet, have a computer at your booth and design a conference-specific landing page that is easy to use and collects as much specific information as possible about potential customers. (See an example for one of our own C&EN booth activities with the quiz pictured at right. Attendees enter contact details at the end to see their results.)

Provide an action item, sign in for a great giveaway and use check boxes to quickly ascertain demographics. You will leave with fewer overall contacts than with traditional methodology, but they will be of much higher lead quality, have more overall interest in your product, and will automatically be added to your digital distribution list. Software such as HubSpot, ActOn, Marketo, Salesforce and Infusionsoft (among others) provide extensive training opportunities and support.

5) Young Researchers Can Be Powerful Evangelists (And Future Clients)

Grad students and postdocs may gravitate towards free food and free giveaways, but don’t assume they’re all at your booth for a pen or a candy bar. Many early-stage startup labs, and even some huge established ones, delegate enormous responsibility to young trainees. Many run their projects independently and are in charge of purchasing decisions. Postdocs are often planning ahead financially and logistically towards starting their own labs in the near future.

As you develop sales leads with current customers, cultivate relationships and build fidelity – especially through digital media, marketing software and newsletters – with the future generation of investigators.