3 Steps to Advertise to HCPs at Medical Conferences

After a pandemic-induced hiatus, in-person medical conferences have returned — with a vengeance. And 2023 is going to be one of the biggest years yet for HCP medical conferences, with hundreds taking place every month.
The only question is: Does your healthcare marketing plan include a comprehensive conference strategy to reach HCPs?
If you’re a healthcare marketer, the answer should be a resounding… YES. This article explains a simple three-step process you can use to advertise to HCPs at medical conferences.

Advertise to HCPs at Medical Conferences in 3 Simple Steps

Despite the growing prominence of digital advertising — eMarketer expected health and pharma digital advertising spending to reach $9.53 billion in 2020, up 14.2% from 2019 — now’s not the time to divert your healthcare ad budgets away from tried-and-true medical conferences.1 It is time, however, to add a digital layer to your strategy.
Before getting into the strategy, let’s paint a picture of a hypothetical but entirely possible scenario. You’re on the digital advertising team for a challenger pharma company, and your CMO asks you to attend the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology (ACNP) Annual Meeting.
Your goal? Connect with as many interested healthcare professionals (HCPs) as possible and get them interested in your new Rx drug. (For this example, let’s assume your in-person materials are ready to go, so the only thing left on your to-do list is to weave in the digital ad tactics. You can do that by following a three-step process.)

Before the Conference: Plant the Seed of Interest With HCPs

Here’s what you’re going to do: Plan to show up at the conference with tons of sales collateral and force-feed it to every HCP in sight. Right?
This is what your competition will do; you’ll be doing the opposite. Instead of unsolicited selling, you’re going to start the conversation with HCPs in the weeks leading up to the conference.
By teaming up with a company that has a reliable HCP database, like Adfire Health, you can pair the offline attendee list with online identities. In other words, you can handpick HCPs you want to connect with at the conference — say, for example, cardiologists or primary care physicians attending the conference — and serve them ads in the weeks leading up to it.
Think of this step as the first chapter of your narrative and your way to introduce what you’re selling. It’s imperative in a cross-channel world where it can take between six and eight marketing touches to close a sale.2
It’s also an opportunity to derive insights you can use to optimize the rest of your conference strategy and create personalized experiences proven to sway audiences. According to a survey, 44% of people said they were willing to switch to brands that did personalization better.2

During the Conference: Use Geofencing to Cultivate Existing Relationships

Once the conference is underway, start geofencing. Geofencing, also known as location-based advertising, gives you the ability to deliver ads to HCPs when they’re within a predefined location. For your conference advertising strategy, set a radius around the conference and only show ads to HCPs when they’re actually at the conference (or maybe within five miles of it if you want to reach them when they’re at their hotels or out to eat).
Your location-based ads should continue the conversation you started a few weeks back — only this time with more targeted interactions based on their previous behavior.

Example: A medical device brand launching a new laser eye surgery solution could use HCP geofencing to promote demo requests to attendees of an ophthalmology conference.

After the Conference: Tend to the Fruits of Your Labor

The conference is over, but your work isn’t. Now, take what you learned at the conference (and from the in-person discussions) and close the deal.
This will require you to refine your target list of HCPs even more — think only HCPs who demonstrated a precise level of interest and intent in your product or service. By being ultra-selective about your post-conference engagement strategy, you’ll be able to add another level of personalization, which will also help you eliminate media waste because you won’t be serving ads to HCPs who aren’t ready to convert.
In a survey of 1,000 marketers worldwide by Rakuten Marketing, respondents estimated they waste an average of 26% of their budgets on ineffective channels and strategies.3

Adding a Layer of Digital Ads to Your Medical Conference Strategy

Every part of your conference engagement strategy should provide value to HCPs and give them the information they need to make informed healthcare decisions. A few years ago, you could have achieved this with traditional marketing tactics alone. Today, there’s far too much competition at these conferences for you to expect that to fly.
Ads help you break through; think of this three-phase conference ad strategy as a way for you to jump to the front of the line and introduce yourself to HCPs while the competition waits for hours in the queue behind you. Sounds good, right?
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in July 2021 and was updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness in October 2022.
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