Carestream Health, a technology company that produces medical and dental imaging and healthcare IT solutions, faces an imbalance in its event marketing equation: The company spends more on face-to-face marketing than on any other channel in its marketing mix, but trade shows produce the lowest measurable return on investment in the marketing portfolio.
It's a common challenge in the healthcare vertical, said Norman Yung, CMO of the company. Marketers must carefully monitor performance and look for improvements. “We're all looking at how we're optimizing our trade show spend,” he said. “We try to get more from each event.”
One of the ways the company is doing that is to couple an integrated marketing strategy with tracking technology to build an events program that engages attendees and boosts ROI.
At the 2012 Radiological Society of North America annual meeting, held Nov. 25-30 at McCormick Place in Chicago, the company erected a 12,800-square-foot booth, incorporating digital displays, the medical imaging equipment it manufactures and radio frequency identification readers that track attendee movement patterns.
“We're looking at how we can maximize our investment and create the best engagement experience,” Yung said. “[Attendees] really only spend about three minutes [in a booth,] so you need to figure out how to capture them.”
Carestream embedded 10 RFID readers in key stations around the booth. The readers automatically pick up sensors on attendee badges, noting where a person spends the most time, for example. Carestream then uses that data as it prepares for future shows.
The technology has helped Carestream build a booth that emphasizes clean design and that offers multiple stations and meeting rooms connected by an educational story line. Attendees who are navigating their own experience follow a logical path through the exhibit, Yung said. Digital displays allow the company to include multiple messages without cluttering the space.
To promote its presence at trade shows, Carestream uses an integrated approach in which events both benefit from and provide content for other channels. The company posted 28 video interviews captured at RSNA to YouTube. The short segments included reactions to the keynote, interviews with Carestream customers and a tour of the booth.
For RSNA, the company began promoting in-booth user group meetings and one-on-one sessions prior to the conference, using email, social media and Web channels to encourage attendees to sign up for the in-depth meetings. Carestream continues to promote similar interactions at other events on its roster.
The overall strategy has helped the company increase the amount of time attendees spend in the booth. RFID technology tracked attendees who spent more than one minute in the Carestream environment at RSNA and found that those visits lasted much longer than the three minutes it had expected. A sample of almost 2,900 visitors averaged about 10 minutes in the booth, according to a company spokesman.
The integrated approach is vital to the performance of the face-to-face medium, Yung said. “There is always a role for trade shows. It's a way to showcase [products and services] to new customers. You need to be very smart about it. We need to continue to link to other areas of marketing.”