Tag : life science conferences

New Report on Conference Exhibition ROI

BioBM conducted a survey of 61 life science commercial professionals to assess their opinions of conferences, conference spending, revenues derived from conferences, and trends related to conferences. The results are in the newly published “Scientific Conferences Survey Report” now available for free download.

The report seeks to shed light on a number of key questions surrounding conferences. Considering the massive costs and increasing ability to digitally and inexpensively reach a hyper-targeted audience, are conferences really still worth it? Are we over-investing in them at the expense of higher-ROI opportunities? How does spending on conferences compare to the revenues generated from them? What differentiates high-performing exhibitors from others? How will exhibition spending change in the near future? Will virtual conferences play a significant role in the short- to mid-term future?

Some of the results are shockingly clear and many provide valuable insights. To preview the document or download your copy, visit the report page.

Are Conferences Worth It?

BIO 2012 convention hallI don’t think I need to tell anyone just how readily reachable customers are these days. We have an incredible amount of channels and tools at our disposal to reach a target audience. Advertising opportunities get continually more targeted. Want someone’s contact information? You can certainly dig it up. Want to target senior scientists working in genomics labs in pharmaceutical companies? You could easily do that with LinkedIn, or if you prefer otherwise there are a ton of publishers and websites who can help you target such an audience via advertising, email, or just plain old print.

So is it really necessary that life science companies spend tens of thousands of dollars (or more) creating conference exhibits, then tens of thousands more any time they want to exhibit at a conference? The costs are genuinely enormous – conferences are often the single largest line item in B2B companies’ marketing budgets. A 2014 study from Forrester Research put the percentage of marketing budget going to in-person events at 20%; almost 50% more than the second largest category, which was all digital advertising combined. That same study, however, found that while overall B2B marketing budgets were increasing, more marketers were planning on decreasing spending for in-person events than increasing spending for them.

A 2013 study from InsideSales.com (summarized nicely here by MarketingProfs) found that conferences were rated as the 4th most effective method for lead generation as well as the 4th most effective method for driving brand awareness by B2B marketers and salespeople. Considering that they found lead generation quantity and quality to be the #1 and #2 top marketing challenge cited, with product and service awareness third, perhaps conferences are still worth the cost after all. (FYI – lead generation has ranked the top marketing challenge in study after study for a long time. Not to excavate the internet, but here’s an example from 2013 published by IDG Enterprise and another from 2011 by MarketingSherpa) To add some more recent sentiment on the effectiveness of in-person events, a 2015 study from Regalix (summarized here by MarketingCharts) asked CXOs what online and offline marketing tactics they found to be effective. The #1 answer, with 84% of respondents citing them as effective, was in-person events.

There is one question that different people in the life science industry seem to have different opinions on that we can settle using data: are conferences falling out of style? We took a basket of North American conferences and got attendance data for the last 5 years to see if we could spot any clear trends. Full disclosure for the nitpickers among us, unfortunately they’re not truly random – they’re just the ones we thought of first and could obtain attendance data for.

Conferece 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
American Association for Cancer Research 12,254 11,761 12,415 15,794 16,500
American Chemical Society* 17,455 15,178 17,396 14,353 18,754
American Society for Cell Biology (ASCB) 7,440 5,606 7,484 5,138 5,758
American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) 8,430 8,484 8,376 7,502 7,259
Experimental Biology 13,376 14,956 13,263 13,558 11,970
PittCon 16,876 17,199 15,754 18,197 16,255
Neuroscience 31,250 30,469 28,574 32,357 31,975
Bio-IT World 1,865 2,160 2,528 2,576 3,021
TOTAL 108,946 105,813 105,790 109,475 111,492

*The American Chemical Society meetings are biannual. These numbers reflect a total attendance for both Spring and Fall meetings.

From this data, which admittedly is far from comprehensive, it seems that conference attendance is relatively steady, at least in recent years. Unfortunately that doesn’t help us answer our burning question: are conferences worth it?

None of those aforementioned studies say anything about ROI, they are all based on qualitative responses, and we all know something can be effective without being efficient. We’re also not just B2B. We’re life science. Maybe for us it’s different. Maybe the legendary scientific skepticism makes conferences not worth the cost?

We’re going to tap the collective knowledge of the market and see what you – life science marketers and salespeople – think. We’ll share the data we collect so we can see exactly what direction conferences are heading. Are they effective within our industry? Please take the survey. It has 23 questions and should take about 6 minutes. If we can get 100 respondents by the end of April we’ll create a resource listing scientific conferences with attendance, dates, costs, and location.

Are scientific conferences worth it? Take the survey.

Succeeding at Conferences

salesman speaking with scientist at a conferenceWe’re no stranger to scientific conferences, myself especially. I’ve attended scientific conferences on all sides – as a scientist, as an exhibitor, and as a business developer targeting the exhibitors. From all this experience, I am certain that one thing, above all else, will determine your level of success if you are at a conference for sales or marketing purposes. This one thing will sound simple. It will sound obvious. But look around at the next conference you attend and see how many people aren’t doing this one thing. So… What is the “magic bullet” for conference success?

Speak with everyone you can.

A conference is a numbers game. There are a fixed amount of scientists at any given conference who will be within your target market. The more people you speak with, the more of those scientists that you’ll identify, and the more leads you’ll generate.

It doesn’t matter how pretty your booth is. You could have a massive, open, wildly elaborate booth or just a table in front of a curtain. Those elaborate, expensive booths don’t do much more to reel scientists in than a large bag of candy dumped into a bowl. All you need is to capture enough of their attention to be able to gracefully say hello and ask them what they work on.

Being successful at a scientific conference really is that simple, yet at least three quarters of the company representatives at the average conference fail to come close to being as successful as they could be because they neglect to be outgoing. If you, or someone in your company, is going to be exhibiting at a conference, be sure to take to heart that one key element for a successful conference: speak with everyone you can.

"Marketing and sales should work together. To build or optimize your demand generation efforts in a way that deliver high-quality leads which your sales team can effectively convert into sales, contact BioBM. We’ll work with you to create the strategies and campaigns which deliver results and grow your company’s revenues."