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Beyond the booth: an OEM executive’s thoughts on getting the most out of industry events
You attend scientific trade shows and conferences for more than just a chance to fill up a bag with brochures and swag. Industry events are excellent opportunities to see new technologies at vendor booths, attend workshops and symposiums to learn about current topics in your fields of interest, and review the latest scientific posters. These are the types of experiences that event hosts promote and that comprise the agendas of most attendees. But even if you walk every aisle, visit every booth, pack your days with talks, and check out every poster of interest, you may not be getting the most out of your conference visits. If you’re in any stage of developing an assay, up to the commercialization phase, or actively selling a lab product, trade shows offer a unique opportunity to advance your business by connecting directly with key business leaders and decision makers.
According to Steve Becker, who leads OEM partnerships for genetic sciences at Thermo Fisher Scientific, leaders from companies of all sizes can leverage their attendance at trade shows to start discussing OEM business with other companies in their field. “Trade shows have a forcing function,” he explains. “It’s an opportunity to get leaders from multiple companies together in the same place at the same time.”
Start-up and smaller company leaders may not be leveraging this opportunity to meet face to face with business leaders and decision makers in part because when companies are starting out, they’re often focused on meeting a technical or clinical need, so they tend to be science-focused. This means that the medical directors and researchers are often leading the conversations they’re having with others in their field.
“However, as you start moving your idea closer to the market, it’s important that both executives of companies and supply chain managers step in to help the company set themselves up for success—and that’s where the opportunity to talk to an OEM partner is so important,” Steve says. “When you’re building a solution, it takes a lot of technology knowledge and insight to know how to make it a complete solution rather than just a product. And that’s where the OEM vendor can come in and help fill voids.”
Consider how different this scenario is from a situation where a company with an idea for a product reaches out to an OEM vendor for a first meeting with a business development manager (BDM.) That company’s team leaders (e.g., CEO, procurement manager, and CSO) have full calendars, and may work out of different cities or even countries. It will be challenging to coordinate everyone’s busy calendars, and costly to fly everyone to a central location. This results in a meeting where many of the company’s key attendees would not be available and could delay an opportunity to develop a successful working relationship.
However, if that team of key players were attending the same conference, they can also now turn that 3-on-1 meeting into a 3-on-3 meeting where the OEM’s BDM contact can bring key decision makers from their team and possibly even senior leaders to connect with the company’s leadership team for a much more productive conversation. The company leaves the conference much further ahead than in the first scenario, with less effort and expense.
Consider that large organizations like Thermo Fisher send many people to large industry conferences: at the most recent Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) Annual Meeting & Expo, Thermo Fisher had about 100 team members across all relevant business and technology areas, and at the American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) Annual Scientific Meeting + Clinical Lab Expo, around 200. There’s likely nowhere else that a company developing a new solution would have the potential to connect with so many individuals with needed expertise—from scientists, product and lab managers, and marketing leaders, to senior sales directors, business development managers, field service supervisors—and even general managers.
Steve offers a specific example of how conference meetups can work to the advantage of companies that have been adopting CRISPR technology. Many companies have been converting to the CRISPR technique using different business models, some of which include diagnostics. Initially, a company will focus on demonstrating that a CRISPR-based assay may produce novel and unique insights for the market that traditional assays might not. When they then need to scale up production of their assay—possibly tens of thousands of times—they’ll face several potential challenges to their success.
“It’s critical for the company bringing the assay to market to think through and identify their critical success factor,” he says, “whether it’s getting commercial rights, working with a company that has robust global supply chain capabilities, or connecting with a company that can provide the appropriate regulatory support and documentation—which can help ensure the product is made in a compliant fashion to support potential filings with regulators.” Potential OEM partners will be at the conference providing an excellent opportunity to start solving for these challenges that Steve highlighted. Best of all, meaningful discussions among key decision-makers can be more easily facilitated, which helps minimize roadblocks and accelerate your path to market.
A good OEM relationship is built on a foundation of personal trust between those involved. The crucial difference provided by industry events for companies developing products is that personal touch. OEM business leaders can learn about the company’s technology and challenges and have a frank dialogue that helps them understand at a deep level their company’s needs. Having such open and transparent discussions, conducted legally, ethically, and with strict confidentiality measures in place—talking things through—is important because it’s not just about products: companies need more than just a product to be successful. The right OEM partner can provide significant value adds, for example, Thermo Fisher can assist clients with repackaging or reconfiguring a technology, licensing intellectual property to bring a technology to market in a unique way, or solving global market challenges.
“The fun part is that at every event, I get to meet somebody new and rekindle old relationships as well,” Steve says. For example, at the most recent AACC meeting, he reconnected with an executive of a large organization in Europe that was facing some growth struggles in dealing with pending IVDR regulations. The executive had been thinking about ways for his company to grow strategically and talked it over with Steve. He ultimately decided to partner with Thermo Fisher, confident that Thermo Fisher’s offerings could help his company can create new market openings that it couldn’t have otherwise. “Those kinds of free-flowing conversations can happen when both parties are outside of their home turf,” Steve explains. “You can spend an hour together exploring what’s possible. A conference is a great place for that. That’s the part that is most exciting for me—we really are enabling our clients to be successful.”
If you’d like to continue the conversation with Steve about OEM partnerships in person, contact our team to find out which conference we are attending next, or to schedule an in-person meeting.
Related Links & Resources
- Article: Nine Questions to Ask When Considering an OEM Partner
- Article: How to Help Ensure Your Supply Chain Security
- Article: Four Things You Should Know About Customized OEM Solutions
- 2023 Event: American Association for Clinical Chemistry (AACC) Annual Scientific Meeting
- 2023 Event: Association for Molecular Pathology (AMP) Annual Meeting & Expo
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