Health fair marketing always strikes me as the “tastes great, less filling” marketing strategy. Like lite beer, it sounds great — but the reality so often falls short of expectations.

These do’s and don’ts shed new light on what works, what doesn’t, and how your wellness center, health club or yoga studio can avoid common traps and pitfalls:

1) Health fair marketing vs sales

The purpose of health fair marketing is to make connections and increase awareness, NOT to make immediate sales.

Think about it for a minute: what are the odds that you’ll meet lots of strangers who are primed and ready to enroll in your weight loss program, even though they’ve never heard of you before?

Low, low, low.

So you’re doomed to disappointment if you’re expecting to close lots of new business.

The usual measure of success we recommend is the number of new contacts you leave with — people who showed a threshold level of interest in your business by signing up for your healthy lifestyles newsletter or a free white paper on corporate wellness, entering a drawing for a health coaching or personal training package, etc.

2) Made you look!

Most health fair booths, tables and displays are just tables covered with a few stacks of ill-chosen, badly presented and poorly written information, and a couple of people lounging behind the booth in folding chairs, talking to each other. Look around at the next fair you go to and tell me I’m wrong.

Gosh, no wonder health fair marketing’s a dud for so many health and wellness businesses.

Decorate your booth and think like a host or hostess.

Picture your 5×10 area as the world’s most compact party and you’re on the right track:

  • big posters with client and patient pictures from your wellness center or clinic
  • lots of balloons
  • lively music
  • someone in a fun (but relevant, please!) costume to attract attention
  • hold a drawing with a huge and highly noticeable fishbowl or other business card or entry form collection container that gets folks to slow down and look
  • STAND UP — don’t hide behind the table
  • greet people warmly and shake their hands
  • meet people’s eyes as they pass by and give them a big smile.

3) Health fair marketing incentives are great, but…

Health fair marketing incentives that encourage people to visit your health fair booth and that encourage them to hand over their contact info are fine.

But a word of caution. The best incentives are those related directly to your chiropractic clinic or nutrition business. For example, you might offer a drawing for a free year-long weight loss program offered by your firm.

Don’t make the mistake of offering an extravagant and unrelated incentive – for example, an iPad or iPhone. Lots of folks will give you their contact info so they can get the goodies – but almost none of them will actually have any interest in your services.

And worst of all, you’ll walk away patting yourself on the back — “Wow, 482 new email addresses!” — only to wonder why you never hear from these folks again.

4) Logo merchandise – stop the madness!

Do not waste your money on trinkets and trash – cheap logo’d merchandise often unrelated or only vaguely related to your business.

Water bottles with your health club name, a fridge magnet shaped like a barbell with your personal training studio’s phone number, pens and sticky pads with your health coaching practice’s logo – trust me, the fact that someone uses your pen when they write “milk” on the shopping list your magnet holds on their fridge will NOT increase the likelihood that they will be back to buy something from your business.

If you want to use this kind of giveaway, make it USEFUL and directly related to your business focus.

For example, a nutrition business might give away a fridge magnet that lists the vegetables that should always be purchased as organic, due to pesticide contamination. Or you might give away a small notepad with a preprinted daily “healthy habits” checklist.

5) Call to action

Your main goal at a health fair is simply to get contact information from people who have at least a threshold level of interest in your services, so that YOU can take the initiative and communicate with them in the future, rather than hoping they remember you…which they almost certainly won’t.

So we usually like to see a call to action like a newsletter signup or a sign-up to receive a white paper or a sign-up to receive an invitation for a free seminar or briefing.

6) Beyond your business card

You need something tangible that instantly sparks the curiosity of anyone who stops by your booth or table.

Your business card ain’t enough. And no, I don’t mean a water bottle or magnet with your logo!

Instead, create something interactive that will encourage your health fair contact to stop and engage with your business concept for a minute or two.

Particularly effective examples include a five-question quiz, a brief and focused self-assessment, or a relevant pencil-and-paper puzzle or game (for example, trivia questions that explode common myths about your particular health or wellness area).

This is NOT the same as product marketing materials, which we discuss next.

7) Marketing stuff people will actually look at

Health fair visitors will actually scan and even read:

  • case studies of real people your business has helped — “How Carol Avoided Knee Surgery Through Yoga”
  • tipsheets with ideas provided by your clients and customers — “Five Things No One Told Me When I Was Diagnosed With Diabetes”
  • competitive comparisons — Weight Watchers vs Curves vs bariatric surgery vs your weight loss program
  • buying guides — how to choose a health club or personal trainer one-page myth and misconceptions
  • quizzes — “Are You Smarter Than A Fifth-Grader About Osteoporosis?”
  • guides and self-assessments —  “Myths & Misconceptions About Nutrition & Sports Performance” or “Am I Ready To Train For A 5K?”

All of these materials demonstrate your expertise, and they’re all designed to address different phases of the buying cycle.

Now, don’t spoil it all and flop down messy stacks of handouts on your table. Use vertical displays that are easy for passersby to scan.

8) What happens next

Your health fair marketing plan should have a before and after stage. Know BEFORE the health fair what you plan to do AFTER the health fair.

We tell clients that you should follow up with your new contacts within 3 business days.

No, you don’t necessarily need to contact each one individually. Do what makes sense for your yoga studio, wellness center, health club or clinic.

If you want people to like your Facebook business page, make sure you’re posting frequently so there’s stuff for them to see and respond to. Not cats doing yoga, but content that’s relevant to their interest in your business. This is a great time, for example, to offer a free class or other complimentary experience (more on this below).

If they signed up for an email newsletter, go ahead and send the current version. Send each one an individual email that thanks them for stopping by the booth. Put a postcard in the mail. And so on.

Marketing is additive (not addictive, that’s different), so you need several touchpoints to make a lasting impression.

9) Follow-up events

Email and direct mail are one-way communications. You want to get past those as quickly as possible so that you’re actually engaging with two-way communication with people who are likeliest to become customers.

An live in-person or webinar-style event is an excellent follow-up activity that sorts out folks who are relatively readier to buy from those who were just idly checking things out for future reference. For example, a corporate wellness provider might  offer a webinar like “Employee Wellness: Separating Hype From Reality”.

A dietetics practice might offer a short weekend seminar on “Junk-Food-Proofing Your Kids In Five Easy Steps”.

Set the date and topic ahead of time. That way you can say to booth visitors, “Let me get your email address so I can invite you to Event X and send you all the details.”