Picking the perfect trade show giveaway is a tricky business. The items need to appeal to your audience, work for your budget, and make sense for your brand. Getting the most value out of your trade show giveaway budget requires choosing a great item and pairing it with an effective giveaway strategy.
How to Choose the Right Trade Show Gift
Giving out trade show swag to booth visitors can be a highly effective way to promote your company or brand. The key to making it work is to choose items that people like and will use, and that fit your brand image.
Consider Your Demographic
To reap the benefits of promotional giving, research your target audience to ensure you pick giveaways they’ll find valuable. This has to do with their interests and their goals in attending the trade show. Where they live can also have a big impact. The 2022 Ad Impressions Study found that outerwear and performance wear are popular in all regions of the United States, but drinkware is valued most in the Pacific Region, bags are valued in the Mountain Region, and umbrellas matter in the Northeast.
This will be part of your booth design strategy, so make sure the planning and trade show marketing teams communicate so everyone is on the same page when it comes to your target audience.
Consider Your Goals
What do you want your promotional items to achieve? If they’re for raising brand awareness, go for items on the less expensive side of the scale. If you have a more specific goal, such as getting more qualified leads or sales, then choose higher-value items and tie the gift to an exchange of value.
You can get pretty specific in tying your trade show giveaways to your goals. For instance, if sustainability is a core value for your company, then choosing sustainably made swag ideas might be a high priority.
Another approach is to think about the design and feel of your trade show exhibit itself and choose giveaway items that mesh with those characteristics. If your booth is sleek and professional, carry that image through your choice of trade show giveaways. For instance, you might stick to items that are work-related and serve a professional purpose, rather than opting for leisure or wellness gifts.
If your brand image is fun and quirky, look for items that reflect these qualities.
It’s also important to pick items that fit the purpose of the giveaway. The types of items that raise brand awareness, like logo products, don’t necessarily work when your goal is to generate leads or make sales.
Trade Show Giveaway Ideas for Lead Generation
If lead generation is your focus, you can make trade show swag work for you, and opting for mid-range giveaways can be a viable strategy. Because the cost-per-item is higher than things like flash drives and sunglasses, you don’t want to give them away to every visitor who walks into your booth. Instead, reserve these items for qualified leads. This means people who fit your buying profile and have signaled a genuine interest in your company.
Apparel: In the mid-range budget category, apparel options can include sweatshirts and polos, as well as sunglasses and scarves made from more luxury materials. According to the 2022 Ad Impressions Study, “Outerwear is the most influential promotional product for American consumers.”
Wellness and leisure: High-quality items can see years of use by your exhibit visitors, giving these items lots of branding potential. A premium insulated bottle such as the Hydro Flask® is a great bet, since users typically keep water bottles and thermoses close at hand and use them often. For a more unusual option, there’s the BlendJet, a chargeable portable blender that’s perfect for taking smoothies and shakes on the go. Other possibilities include insulated travel mugs, a warm throw or blanket, or a luxury snack box.
Tech: Keeping phones, devices, and wireless items charged is a task that’s on everyone’s mind on a daily basis, and especially at a trade show. Wireless chargers, device charging stations, and other practical tech items make it easier, so these items are perennially popular. A good-quality laptop bag could be a winner at a tech-related trade show. A wireless Bluetooth speaker is another popular option—bonus points if it’s waterproof or has a built-in light show.
High-Value Trade Show Giveaway Ideas for Closing the Sale
These high-value items aren’t appropriate for all situations. They’re best used sparingly and in ways that let you maximize the value you get for the amount you spend. For instance, they’re ideal as thank-you gifts when you close sales or for qualified leads with strong potential. High-value trade show items are also useful as grand prizes for games or giveaways.
Some options for high-end or luxury trade show gifts include:
- Spa day or luxury spa treatments
- Gaming console such as an Xbox, PlayStation, or Nintendo Switch™
- iPad or iPhone
- Luxury hamper with champagne and gourmet treats
Raise Brand Awareness with These Low-Cost Trade Show Giveaway Ideas
If brand awareness is the main focus of your trade show gifts, lower-cost items are viable options. For this, you want a high volume of visitors and a high volume of giveaways. With a low cost per item, you can achieve that high volume without blowing your trade show budget.
Note that low-cost shouldn’t mean cheap items that fall apart after a few uses. Cheap items may end up reflecting poorly on your brand, so make sure the trade show swag you choose is well made.
Apparel: Items such as bandanas, scarves, sunglasses, and socks are good all-purpose items that can work for most brands. They are easy to customize with colors and graphics, which lets you design items to reflect a professional or a fun and colorful tone, depending on your requirements. Umbrellas are another popular option, with the particular advantage of having a large amount of branding space to work with.
Wellness and leisure: From colorful stress balls and resistance bands to daily essentials such as lip balm and hand sanitizer, most people are happy to collect these kinds of gifts whenever they’re offered. Reusable straws, tote bags, and sturdy coffee mugs remain popular items too.
Tech: Tech-related items are generally popular, although what’s considered a “must-have” doesn’t stay the same from year to year. USB flash drives have fallen out of favor, but PopSockets and screen cleaner are two good alternatives that can get plenty of use. Microfiber cloths are well-used too and provide a good amount of space for branding. Webcam covers are another option that is currently popular, thanks to a renewed emphasis on digital privacy and security.
Combine a Giveaway with a Sales Promotion
You could avoid a traditional freebie altogether by offering a giveaway that represents a different kind of reward. This can be highly effective, and since you won’t have to transport promotional products, may also help reduce your shipping costs.
For instance, offer a reward in exchange for signing up for a newsletter, filling in a survey, or making an appointment for a product demonstration. Make the reward something that brings the recipient back into contact with you. For instance:
- A discount on a future sale
- A gift certificate toward the purchase of your services
- A gift offer with a purchase or a signed contract
This strategy might not bring in as many visitors as free, general-interest promotional products, but the visitors you get are more likely to be truly interested in your trade show booth and what you’re offering. This kind of giveaway can save you some time by filtering out people who aren’t prospective clients and customers.
Pro Tip: This strategy works best in conjunction with a solid pre-show publicity campaign. When you’re attracting visitors with intent rather than general foot-traffic, you benefit from building up plenty of interest in advance of the show.
Prize Drawings Versus Giveaways
Giving out hundreds of low-cost trade show promotional items is one approach, but if that’s not your style, there are other options. An alternative is to offer one or more prizes of significant value as a means of getting people to visit your booth. Trade show attendees collect small, low-value key rings, plastic cups, and desk accessories all day. Many of those will end up in the trash or handed off to the kids once they’re back home. Think about what’s really of value to your desired prospects, and then give them the chance to win it.
General-interest items such as iPads are a popular option, but this doesn’t necessarily serve your interests. You might end up with a situation where most of the entrants aren’t part of your target market—they just want a free iPad.
Instead, choose trade show giveaways that have value for your target audience. Something your own company produces or provides can be a great option for this purpose. For instance, offer free ad space if you run a popular website; a free website upgrade if you offer web design services; or a discount on home repairs if you run a home contractor business.
By offering something of value, you can ask people to provide something of value in exchange for an entry into the drawing: their contact information. Ask people to drop a business card into a bowl or give their contact information to enter, then hold the prize drawing at the end of the day or show. It’ll cost no more than you’d put into buying a large number of low-cost trade show giveaways, and you’ll end up with a basketful of people with whom you can follow up.
What Items Should Be Avoided?
It wasn’t so long ago that USB flash drives were a popular giveaway item. With cloud computing, they are less useful than they used to be, and many organizations ban their use at work due to security risks. Instead, choose tech gifts like stylus pens, cell phone wallets, power banks or portable chargers, Bluetooth key tags, or phone stands.
Some other items to avoid include:
Paperweights, letter openers, mousepads, and other desk accessories: In general, avoid anything that’s unlikely to be used or needed in the modern workplace, especially with more people working from home. You don’t want to give the impression that your business is stuck in the past.
Calendars: Wall calendars and desk calendars used to be popular, but they’re another in a long line of items that has been replaced by digital counterparts. Ditto sticky notes!
Pencils and pens: A little old-fashioned and overused as promo items.
Anything cheap: Cheap promotional items and inexpensive items aren’t necessarily the same thing! It’s fine for an item to be inexpensive if it’s well-made and performs the function it’s designed for. A cheap item is poorly made, breaks easily, and doesn’t do what it’s supposed to.
What Are the Pros and Cons of Giveaways?
Giving out your own trade show swag items can be an effective promotional tactic, but they’re not always successful. It takes more than giving out handfuls of promotional pens to make a mark on today’s attendees.
Pros: Branded giveaways have several potential benefits. Most importantly, they can help you:
- Pull in more booth traffic
- Build brand visibility
- Generate more leads
Cons: You can’t necessarily do all three of the above at the same time. Giving away free items, such as keychains or bottle openers, to pull in booth traffic isn’t likely to help you generate qualified leads because most—if not all—all your traffic will be people after freebies.
Another issue is that most giveaway strategies don’t provide you the ability to track success metrics.
These problems are solvable, but it requires planning and preparation.
Trade Show Giveaways Can Add Impact to your Booth
High-impact branding is an important part of trade show success, and swag can be a highly effective way to get more eyes on your brand message and make lasting impressions. To maximize the value of your branding, choose trade show giveaways that are genuinely useful, and make sure to distribute those items in a way that makes sense for the show.