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Guide To Custom Trade Show Giveaways


Many of our clients have the same question: What do I need to know about custom trade show giveaways? They simply aren’t sure which promotional items to order and how many they’ll need.

It’s a great question to ask. Trade show giveaways are a critical component of the trade show experience. They can build a buzz at your booth, motivate prospects to action, communicate a message, create awareness and so much more.

To help our clients better understand custom trade show giveaways, we talked to exhibitors from a variety of industries to get answers to the top trade show questions.

Learn from their tradeshow tips to make your next tradeshow a triumph.

custom imprinted coastersThere are so many options – how do I decide on the right trade show giveaways?

Give it some thoughtful consideration, according to Dave Poulos, Chief Consultant for Granite Partners. “If you choose to distribute promotional items at a trade show, that choice should be as well-thought-out as the display construction, the sales training scheme for the event, the selection of size and location of the stand, and the selection of representatives working the show,” he says. “If the selection is made carefully, it can drive recognition and awareness. If you’ve really read the audience right, the item will be so specific to a particular population that it will help qualify that traffic and thin and focus the lead selection before they arrive.”

Paula Ledbetter Sellergren, Director of Marketing for Mather LifeWays, suggests the giveaways always meet three requirements: They’re a good fit for your brand, they’re functional and they have a splash factor. “We look at whether the giveaway will become a hot-ticket item that other attendees will see and want to seek us out for,” she says.

For Jay Veltz with Urban Armor Gear, samples are the best giveaways. “We often simply give away our products: protective cases and screen protectors for smartphones, PDAs and other portable electronic devices,” he says. “Sure, the cost is higher, but the likelihood that our cases will be used on a daily basis and create the exposure we desire is much higher.”

How many trade show giveaways do I need?

Most exhibitors agree: It all comes down to budget and expected attendance.

Barbara Sanner, CEO of Complete Marketing Solutions, looks at the size of the show. “For large shows of 2,000 or more expected attendees, I usually plan for 25% of attendees to stop by my booth and get a giveaway,” she says. “For smaller shows, I plan for 75% to get a giveaway.”

Jennifer Seyler, a PR professional who runs FitnessAndNutritionConversations.com, likes to determine if there is any flexibility in her marketing budget. “I take 10% of the expected attendance, so 900 if 9,000 people are expected, figure the associated cost ($10 per bag totaling $9,000) and determine if it’s in my budget or if there is wiggle room,” she says. “If there is wiggle room, I bump up the giveaway to between 1,000 and 1,200 with a trade show audience of this size.”

Ledbetter Sellergren looks not just at the number of attendees, but the makeup of the audience. “We see how many people attending are our best/potential customers, and this helps us set the budget,” she says.

Do I need to take my booth size into account?

Absolutely, according to Ledbetter Sellergren. “We consider how much room we have in our exhibit to store the giveaways or whether we need the exhibit hall to store them and bring them out to us as needed each day,” she says.

How do I time the distribution of my tradeshow giveaways?

Don’t put out all the items at once, says Seyler. “Get a feel for the crowd and distribute appropriately,” she suggests.

promotional cord wrapShould I offer more than one promotional item?

Yes, says Seyler, but be smart about it. “You start to find that you’re pushing the lower-cost item,” she says. “You also get people who come to your booth because they heard of your giveaway – which is typically the more expensive one.” Her solution: If you hand out more than one item, make sure their perceived value is the same.

Sanner agrees it’s a good strategy to offer more than one giveaway. “This is one of the best-kept secrets of trade show giveaways: Have different items to give away for different types of people who stop by your booth.”

She breaks her giveaways into levels A, B and C. Level A items are “y‘A’y, a real possibility!” “These are people who come by who have a real interest, an urgent need and could actually become a client.” This is a good time to pull out a higher-end item – $5 or more.

Level B items are “maybe they’ll ‘b’uy!” “These people have some interest in your product or service, and stop and talk awhile. For them, pull out your ‘secret stash’ of products that cost you $1.50 or so. If they buy from you, you’ll easily recover from your $1.50, and you’ve definitely built some goodwill.”

For those attendees who are simply checking things out, wondering what you do, Sanner has Level C giveaways that cost well under a buck a piece. “You appreciate their stopping by and want to show good faith,” she says.

Should I send promotional products pre- or post-tradeshow?

Seyler does not. “I keep the giveaways as a benefit to visiting the booth,” she says. “Pre-conference awareness is leveraged to gain additional traction to the booth, and giveaways during the conference provide additional excitement and potential buzz among attendees.”

custom grass planterDo I obtain any information from attendees before handing out the items?

Yes – Ledbetter Sellergren calls it “information currency.” “We have attendees complete an information card or give us their business card in exchange for our giveaways,” she says. “This way, they aren’t ‘trick-or-treating’ without us getting something in return.”

Can I use the giveaways as part of a contest?

Sure – it’s another point of interaction, and it’s an opportunity for attendees to keep thinking about your booth and tell others about their potential win, Seyler says.

Five bits of tradeshow wisdom from successful exhibitors:

1. “Make sure your giveaway makes sense to your brand and isn’t overused as a giveaway.”—Jennifer Seyler

2. “Give them something YOU-branded that they will use after the show is over.”—Paula Ledbetter Sellergren

3. “Smart, engaging, creative choices that engage the audience’s imagination, trigger a memory of what you do, your products or your brand promise, that are practical and useful within your industry are the best bets for effective giveaways.” —Dave Poulos

4. “Choose something useful or practical that has the potential to be put into everyday use.” —Jay Veltz

5. “Be sure that what you select has a long shelf life and the quality is there, even if it means paying a little more.” —Barbara Sanner


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