For at least 15 last years, the topic of pharma’s marketing return on investment is a hot one. There are organizations which entirely focus on that matter, making annual conferences and writing reports. It is because the market defined the need quite clearly: to deliver more significant profits from increasingly smaller promotional budgets. 
However, measuring ROI in pharmaceutical marketing is a little bit tricky. It would be perfect to know the exact value of this factor, especially when CMO is talking with CFO on the next year budget. However, the fact is, not all of the marketing goals are easy to count or capitalize. Which part of the marketing budget is countable? The answer is quite simple – conferences. They can absorb even 70 percent of the total marketing spending.
First of all, medicine is a very fast growing branch of science and doctors, both educators and practitioners, need to be up to date with the latest knowledge. Exchange their thoughts, findings, and experiments. Conferences are the best to accumulate all of it in one place and make it in the short period. Labeling such vital gatherings with a pharmaceutical company logo is expected to be beneficial.
Moreover, it is. According to Keyword Pharma report by Dr. Barrie G Jamesdoctors are more keen to prescribe a drug they heard of during an event. It is in their top four decision-making factors, just under such undeniable as being asked for a specific medicine by a patient or being used to prescribing some drug. In this case, we are talking about a sales perspective. However, what about going a little bit deeper? Is it possible to connect conferences to the production process?
It is imperative. None of the drugs could enter the market without the proper research. Moreover, that is made by scientists, doctors who are working at universities and has the knowledge, skills, and reputation to carry out the appropriate tests. For this academics, being a keynote speaker at the major conference is desirable. For the pharmaceutical companies, the higher-ranked scientist to perform drug tests means the easiest way to get all the needed approvals. Benefits are mutual. So pharma wants to pay for the best keynoters available.
On-demand society changes everything
We are living in an on-demand society in which learning new things is quite simple and determined mostly by the internet connection. Almost every knowledge is right there, just one click away. If you would like to read a rare book, not present in any library or bookstore near you or even learn the Etruscan language – you can do it. Whenever you want and wherever you are. However, with the medical subjects, things are a little bit different, and more difficult to reach. We are not talking about some scientific disputes, but the life-changing knowledge that can do much good, but if not understand correctly, can also do immeasurable harm. That is why the medical research took time, and the conferences are the best venues to present findings by its authors and contributors. It is another example of why these meetings are so important for the healthcare development.
Financial drain for pharmaceutical companies
However, on the other hand, organizing such a significant event is a financial drain. Even short, two-day conferences for not more than 300 participants could cost about $ 1 mln. Of course, the top-notch lecturers demand the highest wages, but there are a lot of peripheral expenses that make the final amount goes through the roof. Logistics, hotels, booth makers, staff, security, catering to name the few. Is it possible to cut some of it down? For years it wasn’t an option, but now, the new possibilities appeared on the horizon. Thanks to the latest technologies, a pharmaceutical company could organize top events for a fracture of the original price. Here are some hints.
As all of us probably agree, the conference attendants, both the lecturers and the audience, are the core and the most important added value of the conference. However, should they meet in a real conference room? It is not needed anymore. Some companies are trying to change it and go into the future. Video recording of the sessions is becoming more and more popular. The others try to gather all of the local doctors in one place, like a movie theatre, and then organize live streaming with a famous speaker. Some try to record short interviews and sum-ups with the keynoters and then send it to the audiences, usually weeks after the event. Those are some excellent directions for changes but still not enough. The real future lies in a process that covers more than those single actions.
The future of conferencing
Doctors need some pre-conference materials to get to know the topic and prepare for the central part. Then many highlights during the conference and recalls after it. Only practical solutions could work properly. That is why video messaging like Highp are getting more and more attention. Due to its high open-rate (80% of the doctors watch the video in just 2 hours after getting it) and simplicity – just getting the link via personal SMS, it seems to be the perfect solution. For 90% of the doctors, a video message from the professor is considered to be reliable. Whats more, the simple way of getting it, which not require any particular actions, logins or registrations is making it even more attractive. Last but not least, the messages could be personalized according to the preferences of each doctor.
This conferencing solution is getting more and more users as its credibility goas higher thanks to its presence on the leading conferences, like ASCO, EULAR or EADV, to name just a few. For the pharmaceutical marketing departments, it becomes a tempting alternative to broaden the audience for less than a fracture of an original cost. Once they cope with expensive conferences ending up with getting common effects, now they can extend those costs to a broader group of doctors.
According to the data analysis, conferencing help in building brand awareness and getting the real leads. The knowledge of what do doctors need is also crucial. What is more important, it engages about 55 percent of the physicians. When the keynote speaker is a match, the engagement rate rise to even 72 percent.
When talking about ROI, in this case, it is not even an investment but rather wise decision to be made to reach for more with spending much less.
 Pharmaceutical marketing return-on-investment: a European perspective – Michel Rod, Nicholas J. Ashill, and Janet Carruthers