As of this writing, in October, travel of all sorts has been severely impacted by the fear and loathing which are among the legacies of the heinous terrorist crimes of September 11, 2001. Should this become a long-term phenomenon, marketers of CME reliant on attendees who travel by air to their programs will have to overcome the challenge as they do all challenges — by using marketing basics.
Double Your Target Market
A basic countermeasure to travel-aversion is to increase your universe of potential attendees. Extend your selection criteria to physicians beyond your normal target market — e.g., go to secondary specialties. The non-physician provider market, such as physician assistants and nurse practitioners, including nurse-midwives, may also be appropriate. There are approximately 140,000 of these professionals out there, more than the number of primary care physicians! That means you can virtually double your target market by including them in your marketing efforts.
It may be appropriate to offer a lower rate to these individuals, as their incomes are lower than physicians'. It may also be appropriate to carve out a special track for them, addressing their needs specifically. Adding professionals from these disciplines to your advisory/program development/steering committees is the best way to make the best decisions on these and other matters.
Plan More Mailings
Plan now for more frequent promotional efforts, rather than rushing at the last minute to put such efforts together when it becomes apparent that registration is below expectations. You can always cancel them if they are not needed. In particular, national meetings that rely heavily on air travelers should virtually assume the need for additional efforts. If two mailings were planned, make preparations for at least one and maybe two more.
Use Multiple Media
Using additional media makes sense too, especially when time constraints make more mail impractical. Options include the following:
Broadcast fax and e-mail offer maximum speed. Check with your legal counsel regarding these media, if you have not already done so, in terms of federal laws and regulations. Generally speaking, you are safest with lists of past attendees who have opted-in to receive fax or e-mail communications. If you're not already doing so, you should seek to capture e-mail addresses and fax numbers, along with permission to use them to promote future meetings at every opportunity.
Additional advertising is difficult to schedule quickly, but weekly publications such as JAMA and the New England Journal of Medicine offer the shortest lead time.
Web site promotions — such as banner ads, and interstitial (pop-up and pop-under) ads — can be developed quickly by webmasters or their suppliers.
Low Profile Destinations
It may be that major metropolitan central business districts in general, and skyscrapers in particular, will suffer a lasting stigma. In that case, suburban, low-rise facilities may be the venue of choice. Resorts reachable by car or train from population centers also should merit your consideration.
We Will Survive
American medicine and medical education will not be cowed by terrorists. In the land of the free and the home of the brave, there are few braver than physicians and other health professionals, many of whom duel with death on a daily basis. I am confident that they of all people will, in the long run, defy those who seek to terrorize them and go about the business of continuing education.
Terry Nugent has 25 years' experience marketing T-Nugent@mmslists.com.. Since 1989, he has been director of marketing for Medical Marketing Service Inc., an American Medical Association database licensee. Before that, he directed AMA's membership development efforts. He is a past president of the Midwest Healthcare Marketing Association. Send your questions or topic ideas at