Meet the Market expands categories to bring more focus to one-on-ones

SAN DIEGO Let’s get acquainted. In eight minutes.

That’s the strategy behind Meet the Rx Market, a fruitful way for more than 100 mostly smaller suppliers to connect in a hurry-up meeting format with scores of retail pharmacy buyers and operations executives, talk about their products and, perhaps, establish relationships that extend far beyond the National Association of Chain Drug Stores Pharmacy and Technology Conference.

This year’s day-long series of meetings, held at the Marriott on the eve of the conference, Saturday, drew 131 supplier companies and 70 retail representatives of 41 pharmacy chains. All told, those companies generated more than 2,100 appointments during the event.

Meet the Market has proven a hit with retailers and suppliers at NACDS business events, with its rapid-fire meeting format and a strictly enforced time limit—similar to speed dating—that forces both sides to focus their discussions and get quickly to the point. The format allows just eight minutes for each round of meetings, which occur at hundreds of tables staffed by retail buyers and executives. Vendors are given two minutes between meetings to find their next scheduled appointment.

“One of the things that’s new this year is that we broadened the focus,” said Larry Lotridge, vice president of conference services for NACDS. “Last year we basically organized this into four categories: generic and branded pharmaceuticals, ‘other’ products, and services.”

This year, he told Drug Store News, NACDS significantly expanded the categories for discussion to spur a “much more targeted” series of meetings. In the weeks prior to the pharmacy conference, retailers and suppliers wishing to participate in Meet the Rx Market were given a broad list of specific product categories on which to base their eight-minute discussions in order to focus quickly on subjects to be addressed and match the right retail buyers with the right vendor representatives.

A computer program takes all the data and matches buyers to suppliers in a way that makes the meetings—and the meeting schedule—flow as efficiently and effectively as possible, according to NACDS. That means matching generic drug buyers with generic vendors, for example. The same holds true for people who deal in categories like home health care, personal care and pharmacy equipment and services, said Lotride.

“We’re trying to be much more targeted, so that you’re talking with exactly the person you need to, who works specifically with your service or product,” he explained. “On-target matches are what we’re shooting for.”

The result is a busy day, particularly for retailers, who host as many as six meetings an hour with vendors who rotate from one table to another at each eight-minute interval. The goal: to maximize time efficiency.

“Let’s face it: all of us are up against a wall with time constraints,” said Lotridge. “If you can focus in on the people that have a real interest in your product or service, that’s important to the exhibitor and to the retailer. And if they find new products they weren’t expecting to see, that’s even better.”

Retail buyers seem to respond well to the meeting format. That’s particularly true for representatives of smaller chains serving a single market or region. “We’re very small, and most of the vendors here are also smaller," said Bill Earnest, chief operating officer of 10-store Kopp Drug. "It’s a challenge geographically for them to get to us, so this works well for us.”

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