How to Get a Great ROI (and New Patients) from Local Health Fairs
The end of summer brings an upswing in health and wellness fairs across the country. Undoubtedly, you’ve participated in at least one of these and know how expensive they can be. Think of all the costs associated with exhibiting at an event: booth space, marketing materials, branded tchotchkes to give away, travel tolls (depending on your state), food, your staff’s time AND the oft-forgotten opportunity cost of not being in your office to see patients.
That said, since health fairs often attract individuals who value natural healthcare, they can offer a great opportunity for you to connect with prospects. In this digital world, face-to-face interaction with prospects is limited. At a health fair, your ideal prospects converge upon one place, where they are all accessible to you! Like for any other marketing venture, if you have a plan for participating in health fairs and follow through afterwards (where most people fall short), your return on investment will be higher. Exhibiting at local events can be a successful marketing strategy for your practice.
First, decide whether you want to participate in an event. This can be done by asking a few questions:
Questions for Event Organizers: Are the event organizers targeting your ideal patient? Do their promotional plans seem adequate? How many attendees do they expect? Does this seem realistic? How many times have they held this event? Do they share attendee lists before/after the event for your marketing use?
Questions for Your Practice: Can participation in the health fair help accomplish your overall marketing and practice growth goals? Can you easily promote your participation through your regular marketing strategies (newsletter, ChiroTV Network system, advertising)? Do you have time to plan and prepare adequately, or should you make a note for next year?
Once you decide to participate:
Set your expectations (based on what you know) to measure the success of the show. Decide on a new patient goal or how much you want to grow your email list. Estimate how much everything will cost. Determining a few metrics ahead of time will give you a basis of comparison across events and will help you make decisions later.
Find ways to promote the health fair. This helps show your community support and brands you and your practice in the community. Helping to promote the show will enhance the event’s success and demonstrates that you are supportive of the community’s overall and lasting health. There are several ways you can promote your participation in the event.
- Create a coupon that show attendees can present at your booth in exchange for a free giveaway item. Email/mail this coupon to your lists before the show. Display them in your office. Sometimes, event organizers will provide you with a list of people who have RSVPed before the show (likely given because they anticipate freebies!) It’s OK to invite current patients to the show. They may be proud to introduce you to family and friends who are not yet patients.
- Promote a small free service, like a posture analysis, that will be conducted at your booth. Recently, we saw an IT company advertise a “free dark web scan” in a pre-event email. What a great idea! The IT company is building good will (offering a first step for data protection), growing its email database (name and email are collected on the offer page) and branding its business (with an intriguing offer)–all before the show!
- Participate in the event organizer’s promotions and games. Event organizers like to have successful and fun events, so they often create games that attendees can play on social media or during the event with extra exposure for exhibitors. Some of these are free and some are paid. It’s up to you to decide whether it makes sense to pay for additional exposure. This usually depends on how strongly the health fair aligns with attracting your ideal patients and reaching your practice goals.
- Decide on a theme for your booth. To make this decision, look at what you’re pushing as your most profitable program, service, or product. Align the theme of your booth with the goals you have for your practice and the messages you want to communicate. Just as you would for any other marketing or advertising campaign.
Shine at the Show
First impressions are very important. There will be a lot going on at the show and you’ll only have a few seconds to attract attention. Your booth should look professional and stand out. Your team should be identifiable as a team, as in wearing the same shirt with your company logo.
Behavior is also important. Do not hide behind your table. Make eye contact with passersby and greet them. Ask them a question related to your booth theme. Invite them to partake in a free sample or demonstration. According to research, 80% of event attendees say free samples help them decide to buy. Don’t just give something away, however. Ask to add them to your email list or some other form of reciprocity. The bigger the giveaway, the more you can ask. If you would like to build your direct-mail list and need a home address, you’ll probably need to offer more than a pen.
A note: Before adding show attendees to your email lists willy-nilly, familiarize yourself with your country’s anti-spam regulations. This is the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States, CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation) in Canada and GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) in the European Union. These regulations outline certain proofs of permission required to add folks to your list and may levy fines for violating the rules. The email provider you use (MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc.) may have summaries and guidelines that are easier to understand than the legislation itself.
Many times, event organizers set up social media hashtags for their shows. Use your social media accounts to post in real-time. Talk about the event and post pictures of your team at the booth. There are also ways to use these pictures in your marketing when you return to the office.
Lastly, talk to your peers. You can pick up on trends, learn new industry information and possibly find some joint venture partners to help you reach your goals.
Follow Up Faithfully
This is where most event exhibitors fall down but is the biggest opportunity to increase your return on investment. Just a few tips for following up:
- If you promised something to somebody, do it! Provided you’ve taken good notes, give people a call back, send them that email with the resource you mentioned, put a brochure in the mail.
- Immediately upload and “tag” emails from people who signed up to your list at the show. This is so you can keep track of who becomes a patient down the road and where they heard of you. Most email programs have a way to do this.
- Email those who attended the show and signed up for your email newsletter. Find out how they liked the event. Send them your welcome email with a free download or an autoresponder series of information about your practice. Include pictures from the event to remind them of your booth. (This is why we suggest taking pictures at your booth with your team.)
- Create an office event with the same theme as your booth. This will give people the opportunity to learn more if you piqued their interest at the show. Use the questions they asked to create your content. Send the details to your entire list.
- Record the metrics for anything that can be measured: number of appointments scheduled, increase in email list, etc. Make sure to record actual expenses once the event is over.
- Have a short meeting with your team to download the lessons you learned from the experience.
- Compare the ending metrics with your earlier lists of estimates and goals. Did you hit your numbers? Why or why not?
- Find out from your team members what they thought worked and what they thought didn’t work. Did you make valuable connections from prospects and/or industry peers?
- What were the most frequently asked questions when event attendees approached your booth? This information can be used for future informational events, articles and marketing materials.
- Overall, decide whether you would like to do this event again and/or what you would do differently. Maybe you’d spend the money elsewhere next year!
There you have it! Just a little bit of planning can help you make smart decisions about health fair participation and increase your return on investment when you do attend.