Skip the traffic:
For little more than
a car service in some cities,
attendees can be
the airport to
Treating doctors to warm
hospitality can be one of the trickiest tasks that
pharmaceutical meeting planners face. On one hand, it takes a great
deal of effort to impress physicians, who generally expect to be
treated like royalty in their travels. On the other hand, any
substantial expenditure on gifts or special experiences might be
seen by the government or the media as a waste of money, or worse,
a bribe to influence prescribing practices.
Here’s one solution: Make them feel
welcome with impressive yet inexpensive touches. Limiting gifts to
$100 per person (the maximum amount as prescribed by the PhRMA
Code) is one way to ensure that. The following 20 ideas were
suggested by hotels and professional gift companies to brighten up
a physician’s day and create experiences to treasure. Not all will
be permitted by the most stringent of compliance departments, but
they should serve as a reminder that a friendly gesture isn’t
necessarily forbidden, and they can spark other ideas for
impressing any VIP.
Take a look at the nuts and bolts of
the meeting, things attendees take for granted, and inject an
element of surprise into them.
$100: Instead of the
typical town car from the airport, a little extra money can procure
a helicopter ride. The Hotel Park City (Utah), for example, offers
a chopper to and from the Salt Lake City airport. It’s three times
faster and infinitely more exciting than driving. Retail price for
the flight is $125, but the hotel can offer it at a discount for
$95: Though many
pharmaceutical companies need to shy away from hallmarks of excess
like filet mignon and lobster, mealtime doesn’t have to feel spare.
Spending extra to give the event a special setting or to
incorporate a wine tasting can be a cost-effective way of leaving a
good taste in attendees’ mouths, says Tracy Lynch, director of
corporate and group sales for the Emerson Resort & Spa in Mt.
Tremper, N.Y. The resort’s chef’s table, for example, costs about
$95 per person, not much more than a regular banquet.
$50: Perks don’t have
to be targeted to individual guests. Banyan Tree Desert Spa &
Resort in Bahrain places small essential-oil burners on the meeting
room tables. The scents are mild and can be tailored to the goals
of the meeting. For example, Kaffir lime is thought to enhance
mental clarity as well as memory, and pine is used to help
attendees relax. Moreover, the $50 expenditure is enough to let
attendees take the burners and oil home as keepsakes.
Physicians (and their cell phones)
will get a charge out of
the Datexx SuperBattery.
“Useful technology is a hot thing these
days,” says Larry Cohen, president of Axis Promotions, a marketing,
promotions and events company specializing in the pharmaceutical
sector, based in New York City and with offices in Boston and Los
Angeles. “It’s not just stuff, it’s things they’re going to
$79: At Ocean Edge
Resort & Club in Brewster, Mass., on Cape Cod, a recent
pharmaceutical group gave out iPod shuffles, onto which can be
loaded a podcast of the conference proceedings (or a doc’s favorite
$32: Instead of having
to carry around a half-dozen plugs for on-the-go or at-work
charging of the myriad portable electronics people carry, a
universal docking station, offered by New York City-based
promotions and marketing company The Complete Package Inc., does it
all by itself.
$20-$50: Linda Rubin,
president of The Complete Package, recommends a digital desk clock
that displays the weather. More expensive versions download the
five-day outlook via satellite. “We concentrate on high perceived
value,” Rubin says. “Items that have the same ‘wow’ factor as
something you may find in the Sharper Image, but less
$20: Cohen favors a
wireless mouse that allows doctors to operate a PowerPoint
presentation without going near the computer. A laser pointer is
$15-$3: USB flash
memory drives are the kind of item most tech-savvy people can’t
have too many of. Cohen stores prescribing information on the
drive, and through a new technology, the file is automatically
updated every time the information changes. Physicians need only to
be connected to the Internet.
$5-$40: Especially on
business trips, it’s common for a cell phone or BlackBerry to go
dead without any prospect of recharging in sight. Axis Promotions
offers a portable cell phone charger, which is essentially a
rechargeable battery that jump-starts a failing phone. The less
expensive models use AA batteries.
$2: “A gift’s
recipient is more likely to get that warm, fuzzy feeling if someone
went to the effort to put a name or initials on it,” says Larry
Cohen. For electronics or pens, laser engraving is discreet and
elegant. For leather goods, Cohen would deboss them without gold
foil, to be subtle.
WAIVING THE MARKUP
To limit the expense of turndown gifts, try asking for them at cost. Yes, hotels often rely on amenities as a revenue source, but ask if they’ll sell them to you for what it costs them to buy them. Tracy Lynch, director of corporate and group sales for the Emerson Resort & Spa in Mt. Tremper, N.Y., likes to leave attendees with a good bottle of champagne; if the meeting host has a price limit on room drops, she might waive the hotel’s typical markup. “As long as we’re breaking even, if it’s for a good cause, we have no problem doing it,” Lynch says. -- J.V.
VIPs of all kinds have come to
anticipate finding some variation on the fruit plate in their hotel
rooms. Give doctors what they expect -- with a thoughtful
presentation they’re certainly not expecting.
$85-$100: Going with the assumption that
doctors, especially, appreciate wholesome snacks, the Fairmont
Dallas offers a “Bedside Prescription” of noshes as an in-room
amenity. The platter combines apples, strawberries, chocolate
truffles and red wine, all of which have healthful properties.
Similarly, for $98, the Fairmont San Jose sets up a “Ladder to
Health,” right, a five-foot-high ladder featuring one healthful
breakfast food on each step, along with a coupon that lets
participants borrow workout clothing if they’d like.
$45: Wine doesn’t
scream lavishness, especially if it’s an everyday vintage, but it
typically is appreciated and always tasteful. Dewland likes to send
up an inexpensive but tasty bottle from her resort’s extensive
cellar. She will include a note about the wine along with a
reusable cork set that lets the attendee bring the wine home even
$30-$100: A gift
basket of locally produced products will give doctors a quick
orientation to their surroundings. Horseshoe Bay Resort, an hour
outside of Austin, Texas, packs baskets with coffee, snacks and
lotions, all from the Texas Hill Country. Or, for something more
immediately consumable, Cheryl Dewland, director of sales and
marketing of Crystal Springs Resort in Vernon, N.J., offers a
platter of artisanal cheese and fresh bread made at the nearby
Bobolink Dairy, priced at $30.
$25: The key to a
truly genuine welcome is personalization -- and that doesn’t have
to cost a lot. Call the doctor’s receptionist to find out what type
of amenity to offer.
Soothing goods from
Crystal Springs Resort
These miscellaneous gifts and add-ons
could give attendees a much-needed lift.
$80: Many spa
treatments are seen as essentially pampering activities, but a
brief massage -- either in the spa or at stations set up in a small
meeting room -- can increase awareness and benefit circulation, and
can be especially welcome after a long flight. At a recent meeting
at the New York Palace Hotel, 17 doctors were invited to partake in
a 25-minute massage. All but one gladly went for it.
$50: Tracy Lynch of
Emerson Resort & Spa has organized mini shopping sprees for
attendees of pharmaceutical meetings. For this perk, the meeting
planner gives out a gift certificate to the resort’s selection of
country stores, and lets them pick out a small item. If the company
requires that the gift be medically related, a planner might
instead give gift certificates to a medical bookstore.
in-room amenities that will help attendees relax and focus. Cheryl
Dewland suggests lavender oil, herbal tea and scented candles.
“When they’re working 14-hour days, it’s nice for them to have a
little retreat in their room,” she says.
$1-$2: If the meeting
is held in an exotic locale, leave a few stamped postcards in the
room, and offer to mail them for guests.
Free: Ask what the
hotel can give attendees gratis, such as passes to use the spa or
fitness facilities or, in the case of Crystal Springs Resort, an
educational walking tour offered by the property’s naturalist.
Free: It has almost
become a cliche that time is the greatest gift for high-powered
people, but truly, anything to keep doctors from waiting in line
will be much appreciated. One example: At no added cost, Copper
Conference Center at Copper Mountain Ski Resort in Colorado, offers
doctors a special lift ticket that lets them skip right to the
front of the line.