ILLUSTRATION: MARK FISHER
I'm an exhibit manager at a pharmaceutical company, and it's time for a new booth – and possibly a new exhibit house. What big-picture ideas should I be most mindful of?
The current "buzz-phrase" in health-care marketing is "Content before channels." Or in other words, all marketing channels should create consistent content across all channels, as opposed to one channel veering off message to better suit its objectives. Your company is probably employing multiple channel activities, such as emarketing, advertising, and brand activations (e.g., sponsorships, community initiatives, etc.). Whenever the firm builds a new booth, then, the exhibit manager can – and perhaps should – bring all channel managers together to ensure that the content in the booth, which will be around for years to come, is consistent with the larger message across all channels.
Your first exhibit-acquisition task is to get all of the channel managers and reps from your medical, legal, information-technology, and regulatory teams at the same table to talk content and strategy. You want everyone on the same page now so you don't end up with costly changes later.
During this initial planning phase, also keep your long-term strategy in mind. Most exhibit programs include multiple stands in various sizes. While you may only need to replace one property at this time, you'll still need brand consistency across the board. So consider future booth acquisition whenever you purchase a new exhibit. How will all properties tie together now – and years down the road?
Once you've developed a vision for your booth, it's time to find an exhibit house to execute it effectively. Since the learning curve in pharmaceutical exhibiting is so steep, it's critical that you work with a firm with industry experience. So before you send out a request for proposal, research several exhibit houses to determine their level of industry-specific experience. After you've identified a few suitable options, explain your vision using your own terminology. If reps' eyes gloss over when you start talking about regulations or "KOLs" (key opinion leaders, i.e., scientific partners, experts, and advisors with a strong voice in their field), they lack experience, and you should look elsewhere.
Ultimately, you'll no doubt settle on a suitable exhibit house to execute your concept, and given your planning efforts, you'll craft something suitable to all stakeholders. But now that you have laid the groundwork, continue to share your vision and direction with other internal channels. This demonstrates your exhibiting expertise and facilitates everyone remaining on the same page going forward, which will make for an easier booth-acquisition process the next time around.
— Pat Friedlander, owner, Word Up, Chicago