Many health club owners complain after health fairs that they didn't get even one new member. Yet hundreds of potential members passed right by their display. What went wrong?

These six tips help you dodge the pitfalls of health fair marketing:

1. Establish realistic marketing goals. Most people need several exposures to your health club or personal training business before they decide to buy. Don't expect to make lots of sales or get lots of hot leads at health fairs and wellness expos.

Instead, focus on these realistic goals:

  • Education—for example, tip sheets, quizzes, and self-assessments
  • Lead acquisition—for example, getting new subscribers to your newsletter or inviting people to a free seminar
  • Product sampling—for example, a free, quick fitness assessment or health risk assessment

2. Always gather contact information. If you do nothing else at a health fair, get e-mail addresses for everyone who stops by your booth, and get permission to contact them in the future. Have them fill out a short form with their e-mail address that grants you permission to send them your newsletter in exchange for entering them into a drawing. Announce the winner of the drawing in your first follow-up e-mail after the event.

3. Choose strategic giveaways. When you choose freebies and giveaways to offer event attendees, avoid giving away something incredibly extravagant or appealing that is completely unrelated to your business. Sure, you'll get lots of entries if you offer a drawing for free iPhones or a trip around the world, but hardly any of the entrants will be interested in anything you sell. They just want the trip or the iPhone. A better grand prize choice would be a year's worth of personal training, or a six-month free membership.

And when you choose low-value giveaways, avoid trinkets and trash like flimsy water bottles and sticky notes with your logo. Instead, choose something useful that illustrates the value you add. For example, one health club gives away small notepads with a daily healthy living checklist. It prompts an ongoing comparison between the potential customer's actual lifestyle and a healthy lifestyle. A wellness center offers a one-page flyer with a free five-question personal energy audit to jump-start conversations with prospective clients. The reverse side has additional information about their services.

4. Create your follow-up marketing in advance. Many club owners drop the ball on follow-up marketing. Why? They don't plan ahead, and after the event, they just never get around to finding the time.

Avoid this problem by creating a marketing e-mail specifically for health fair attendees before the actual event. For example, a customer success story is an interesting and low-pressure marketing communication. Of course, if you entered names in a drawing, you'll want to announce the winner. As soon as the event ends, just fill in the name of the drawing winner, add your newly acquired e-mail addresses to your list, push the "send" button, and you're done.

5. Break through the clutter. Most health fair exhibitors sit at their tables behind piles of brochures and cheap giveaways. It's visually boring and encourages "stroll and grab" behavior by people who only want the freebies.

Get wildly creative. Grab attention for your booth or table. For example, one personal training studio that offers wedding boot camps attended a bridal expo. They hired a very fit individual to wear a wedding dress while demonstrating exercises at their table. They signed up more than a dozen new boot camp clients on the spot and went home with a long list of additional qualified prospects.

6. Track your results. Monitor the number of prospective clients you add to your e-mail list after each health fair. Periodically, tally how many of those prospects actually turned into customers. Then, add up the time and money your health club invested in health fair marketing and divide your total cost by the number of new clients. Compare the marketing cost per new client to your other marketing activities to decide whether to continue, tweak or call a halt to future health fair marketing.

Use these tips to plan, implement and assess your health fair marketing and make the most of your marketing investment.

Sign up for free weekly business tips just for health and wellness businesses at www.RadialGroup.com. The Radial Group, led by Leslie Nolen, provides marketing and strategy makeovers for health and wellness businesses.