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Believe it or not, one of the best ways to get leads is to have an exhibit booth at a conference.  But unless it's in your hometown, conference exhibits can be expensive.

And, unlike the 1989 film "Field of Dreams," if you build it, they might not come.

I'm always amazed when healthcare product manufacturers or design firms tell me that they didn't get any leads from a conference at which they were an exhibitor. Unless it was totally the wrong audience for them (and that happens), they should always come home with leads.

But, you can't just show up anymore and expect conference attendees to flock to your booth. So how do you make the most of this marketing investment? Here are some strategies.

1. Invite Them

This may seem simple, but you need to invite people to visit your booth at the conference. Send an email blast your customers/clients a week before the event telling them you're looking forward to seeing them and where to find you.

Depending on the conference and your level of participation, some organizers will do a pre-conference email blast on your behalf to registered attendees.

You get to write it, but they send it. This is particularly valuable if you've never exhibited at the conference before.

Post updates on social media two weeks prior to the conference. Share an image on social media of something you're going to be showing or talking about.

Show a picture of the people who are going to be working the booth. If you're sponsoring or involved in any events at the conference, tell them about it and invite them to stop by.

2. Show Something New

Of course, the biggest incentive to visit your booth is a fabulous new product or service that fills a need in the marketplace. That's also something you can promote in your pre-conference emails and social media posts.

Also, healthcare product manufacturers that enter and win design competitions that are judged at conferences (Nightingale Awards, Best of Neocon, etc.) can draw attendees to their booths. The same is true of healthcare design firms who are recognized at conferences for winning awards (Health Environment Awards, Healthcare Design Awards, Environments for Aging Awards, etc.).

Now I know it's often hard to time product introductions to conferences. But if you exhibit at the same conferences every year with nothing new to show, pretty soon clients/customers may stop visiting your booth.

Or walk away with a the impression that you're no longer relevant.

And I encourage design firms to get creative with their booths or exhibits at conferences.  Is anybody but me tired of text-heavy design boards?

3. Give Something Away at Your Booth

The other way to get people to come to your booth is to give something away.

I love giveaways that involve a company's product, like the colored baseballs the leather company Spinneybeck used to hand out at Neocon.  People would line up at the showroom on the first day to get them.

Others are the photo portfolios distributed by Henry Domke Fine Art Photography at Healthcare Design. Coasters made of flooring products. Luggage tags made of laminate.

A few years ago when the folks that produce The C.A.R.E. Channel were introducing a VR product at a conference, they gave away paper VR goggles. You could insert your phone into them and view some 360-degree nature imagery via an app.

4. Run a Contest

Contests are also good ways to get people to stop by. If they give you their card or you scan their badge, they are entered to win something cool.

The best contests are those in which your customers/clients can win something that has meaning for them and is related to the industry you serve. Anything with money is good -- like free registration or a travel voucher for next year's conference.

Fun Fact: "If you build it, they will come" is a famous misquote from the 1989 film, Field of Dreams starring Kevin Costner. It's actually "If you build it, he will come."

"It" is a baseball field that Costner's character Ray Kinsella constructs in his Iowa cornfield hoping to bring old baseball players back from the past to play ball. "He" refers to Kinsella's father.

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Sara Marberry_013-Retouched-New copy

What's my story? I'm a healthcare and senior living design knowledge expert who writes and speaks frequently about trends and issues affecting these two industries. I'm also a strategic marketing consultant and content creator, working with companies and organizations who want to improve the quality of healthcare and senior living through the design of the physical environment. You can reach me at .

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