Connecting with Customers and Competition

Although there are many benefits scientists receive for attending conferences, these events are also exceedingly important for scientific instrumentation suppliers. Vendors directly interact with many prospective customers through product exhibits, workshops, panel discussions, and other activities. In most other settings, it can be difficult to hold the attention of scientists in order to effectively market new products. At a live conference, face-to-face interactions allow suppliers to become more than just a website or an email address. Developing a more personal relationship with customers can help differentiate a supplier from its competitors.

At conferences, scheduled company speakers and presentations provide valuable information on current market trends. In January at the JP Morgan Conference, the CEO of Abcam presented on his company’s expansion into various diagnostic markets. This is highly representative of a current trend in the market for antibody distributing companies, since many similar organizations are beginning to expand by developing products across multiple, yet related, markets.

In addition to hearing the latest news about companies, product demonstrations can be very effective at establishing a connection between scientists and vendors. Researchers rarely get the opportunity to physically interact with new technology and see its features firsthand prior to purchasing. As such, presenting new or innovative products to researchers can help generate interest and capture possible leads for future sales.

In addition to wooing and informing potential buyers, conferences are also a great time for vendors to scope out competitors. Although having most of the competition gathered in one place can be daunting, it’s valuable to understand the state of the market and other vendors’ marketing or product line strategies. After learning about the strengths and weaknesses of other businesses, suppliers can reflect on their own strategies and adapt to gain a competitive edge in the future.

Besides scoping out the competition, vendors can organize meetings with representatives from major laboratories, research institutions, or other companies. These meetings are used to propose partnerships, close sales, or discuss mutually beneficial business deals. Many conferences provide side rooms that vendors can rent for this very purpose. Side rooms also serve as a place to meet with attendees who want to receive additional product information not available on the main conference floor.

Traveling to these conferences and building a booth both require a company to invest a considerable amount of time and money, so it’s imperative that suppliers consider several factors when planning which conferences to attend. Our analysts have surveyed over 1,000 life scientists to compile our newest report, Conference & Exhibit Strategies in Life Sciences: What’s Working Now, which provides perspectives from your scientific consumers on how to construct an effective exhibit and conference plan.

For example, we found that vendors should not only consider attending large, mainstream conferences, but also several small to medium sized events (around 100 to 1,000 attendees). Scientists often prefer medium sized conferences, probably due to their desire for a more collaborative setting. Even a small presence at these events often results in beneficial outcomes. A brief presentation and a pamphlet or USB stick with informational material may be all that is needed for scientists to make a purchasing decision. By remaining cognizant of these perspectives, companies can identify the best avenue to establish a meaningful connection with customers.

Be on the lookout for the last post in this series, where we will discuss strategies conference organizers and event leaders can employ to attract both attendees and exhibitors; with special attention on maximizing attendance and maintaining engagement from both scientists and vendors.