Choose an appropruiate giveaway for your eventOne of the things I do for my clients is tradeshow planning and management: I work with booth vendors, create signs and collateral, rent the furniture, arrange for electricity, plan all the activities in the booth, hire booth staff — the whole thing. This includes planning the giveaways and promotional gifts.

One of the typical activities in a tradeshow booth is to give something to the booth visitors. It might be a brochure or a demo, but often there are mints, pens, lanyards, or other giveaways. This topic has been coming up a lot in my recent meetings with a few of my clients, so of course I thought I’d write about it here.

Targeted Gifts For Quality Leads

Giveaways typically have multiple purposes.

  • They are a way to attract people to your booth.
  • They provide a way for you to collect leads which hopefully turn into sales.
  • They are a way for you to promote your brand to prospective customers.

However, these purposes can sometimes be at cross-purposes. For example, a giveaway that will drive the most traffic to your booth might not be the best giveaway to get good quality leads.

Exhibiting at a tradeshow is expensive. Get the most from your tradeshow budget by not just driving “traffic” to you booth, but by driving “prospective customers” there. To accomplish this, the item you give away should be something that will be of interest to your particular target audience. The importance of targeting your specific audience gets more important the smaller your budget is, because there will always be those people at a tradeshow who will come to your booth for the free gift or the special prize drawing whether they have any interest in your product or not.

The more your giveaway has general appeal, the greater the percentage of your items will go to people who will never turn into your paying customer. People will flock to your booth in droves if you hold a drawing for an iPad–but how many of the leads you get will be good prospects? What if you instead give away a nice gift that your particular target audience would want? You’d get far fewer booth visitors and thus fewer leads–but a greater percentage of those leads will be good prospects. This ultimately reduces your cost per quality lead.

Meaningful Gifts vs. Trinkets

When planning on a giveaway, ideally it should have a meaningful association with your product or service, or otherwise communicate your brand. For example, a CPA firm could give away business expense journals; an interior designer could give away a booklet of fabric swatches; and a software company could give away laminated reference cards for their program (which, shameless plug, Miller & Mattson is an expert at producing). If a book has been written about your product or organization, give that away (or use that as a prize in a drawing).

Another type of giveaway, I call it a trinket, is something that might not have a close tie to your brand, but it is something that keeps your logo and URL in front of people’s eyes. The best trinket is an item which is truly useful so people use it or refer to it frequently and will keep for a long time. This includes good quality pens, notepads, bottle openers, and more. I used to put USB drives in this category, but they are becoming so ubiquitous that I no longer recommend them unless there is a compelling reason to. A trinket usually has a greater general appeal, so it should be something that isn’t too expensive because more of them will be snatched up by people who will never become your customer.

When you give away trinkets, if it isn’t associated somehow with your product, then consider tying it to what you are doing at the show. For example if you are serving beer in your booth, give away bottle openers; or if you are running a promotion based on a beach theme, give away sun glasses.

The moral of the story

Exhibiting at a tradeshow is expensive. Get the most from your tradeshow budget by not just driving “traffic” to you booth, but by driving “prospective customers” there. Before you buy 5,000 Beanie Babies or glow-in-the-dark Frisbees to give away at a tradeshow, ask yourself the following questions (at a minimum) and make sure all the answers are “yes”:

  • Does this have a logical connection to my product?
  • Will this be of particular interest to my target audience?
  • Is the quality of this item something I really want my logo to be on?
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3 Responses to Tradeshow Giveaways & Promotional Gifts

  1. Betty Seu says:

    As a business owner I wanted to show appreciation to my customers by giving them something for the holidays. I was sick of all the promo product sales guys with the same thing over and over. I was surfing the web and found I placed an order, the items were awesome and most importantly my customers really liked

  2. Kathleen says:

    There are quite a few sites that offer different “merchandizing” products. I have found that often I can go through my usual print vendor to get these things at the same or even a lower price. The key is: Come up with a good strategy FIRST, then start looking for the good deal.

  3. Latoya Smith says:

    A year ago I used PCA Delta to print some promotional lanyards, which they did a great job with. Now I use them for all my promotional items in Boca Raton, since they have lots to choose from with good prices and quality. If you need promotional items, check them out at

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