Exhibiting at trade shows is an effective way to meet future (and current) customers face-to-face. And the cost to participate is less than meeting a prospect at your office. Plus, there’s something to be said for the excitement a show brings. Combine that excitement with the best trade show giveaways and your booth is sure to become a hot spot on the trade show floor.
But how do you select that perfect product?
In this edition of our Blue Papers®, we discuss the best promotional items for trade shows, what makes them popular, and how to make them work for you. We also include advice from 4imprint’s Trade Show Manager, Jen Klitzke, who shares her list of trade show giveaways you’ll want to try.
Maximizing trade show time
In a world where potential customers are just a call, social media post or email away, trade shows may seem like a less-than-necessary marketing strategy. But according to a Forbes® lead generation study, trade show networking is among the top five marketing tactics.
Trade show giveaways help you maximize your time at an event by:
- Attracting people to your exhibit
- Building awareness of your product or service
- Offering an incentive to attend an educational session or talk at a later time
- Creating goodwill
Although you can easily attract attention with a fun, hot or unusual item, it’s important that you know what you want to accomplish with your products before you make a selection.
Know your goal
Are you looking to connect with hundreds of people for a minute or two, or do you want five ideal candidates to schedule a longer sales presentation? Determining your target audience will help you decide if you should hand out budget items for a crowd or bring a handful of high-end products to make a big impression on fewer attendees.
Know your audience
Whom are you going to meet and under what circumstances? What items will people at the trade show find most useful? Which items will they think are cool? Understanding your audience will put you on the path to the perfect promotional product.
Horizon Credit Union in Melville, Sask., found that an adorable toy helped connect with kids—and kids at heart—at the community’s local business trade show.
“We’ve been attending for years and years,” Marketing Specialist Christi Dmytriw said. “We did some financial literacy training, but it’s harder to attract people when there’s not anything you’re physically selling.”
Last year, however, Dmytriw gamified the experience. “We ran a bean bag toss,” she said. “We had people answer a question, and if they got it right, they got a bean bag they could throw for points. Depending on how many bean bags you won and how many points you got, you were able to select a prize.”
They offered prizes to adults and children, with the top “kid” prize being a bean bag monkey. However, the adorable monkey ended up being a big attraction for kids of all ages.
“It was really cute because the kids would try—maybe they’d win a monkey or maybe they’d win a pencil or a piece of candy,” Dmytriw said. “So, mom would come over and say their child really wanted a monkey. Mom would try, dad would try, grandma and grandpa would try.”
The game was a hit for the credit union, too. “The bean bag toss brought in a lot more people than usual,” Dmytriw said. “It gave us more of an opportunity to talk to people and get them thinking about financial security, products and services.”
Select the giveaways that people want
Once you know what you want to accomplish, it’s time to select your giveaways. Some of the best trade show giveaways are those that are trendy or a fan favourite everyone can use. Klitzke attends multiple shows each year and has a pulse on the top trade show giveaways. Here are five categories of giveaways—and more than a dozen of the top promotional items—she suggests.
1. Sustainable items
“Everyone is looking for a way to let people know their company or organization cares not just about them, but about the environment,” Klitzke said. According to one study, 58% of Canadians (PDF) will think more highly of a company that gives them a product that’s better for the environment.
Klitzke says she gets great results when offering:
- Stainless Steel Straw Sets: A popular trend in a budget package, this reusable straw—complete with wire cleaning brush—features a large area to imprint your logo on the case, and the straw can be laser-engraved.
- Telescopic Stainless Straw in Carabiner Cases: This compact, reusable straw is for the person on the go—the clip makes it easy to attach to a bag or purse.
- Crossland® Vacuum Camp Mugs: In addition to being reusable, this retail-inspired mug is all the rage at trade shows.
2. Smart tech for smartphones
Two out of three (PDF) of the most influential items in Canada are tech-based—which might be why Klitzke sees so many tech items getting love on trade show floors.
Today, our phones are a jack-of-all-trades. They tell time, keep our schedule, store information and much more. They see a lot of use, especially on the trade show floor. That’s why three of Klitzke’s tech recommendations work with smartphones:
- Slim Wireless Charging Pad: Designed to work with Qi®-enabled devices, this pad has a sleek design that looks great on a desk or bedside table.
- Tube Power Bank: For the person whose phone always needs to be at the ready, this item easily slips into a bag, purse or pocket so a power-up is within reach at all times.
- Tuscany Smartphone Wallet with Ring Phone Stand: The stylish add-on features a pocket for cards and ring that pulls double-duty as a grip and phone stand.
- Seek Wireless Tracker: Attach the two-way tracker to keys, a purse, phone, luggage or other important item. Then download a free mobile app—the tracker will alert the user if a paired item has been left behind. Lost phone? Press the button on the tracker and it will help locate the device.
- Webcam Privacy Cover: This handy plastic cover sticks to your webcam to prevent spying, and slides open when in use.
3. Great ideas for the great outdoors
Klitzke notes that some of the best promotional items for trade shows don’t require a smartphone. These giveaways are perfect for unplugged camping and hiking trips—or just for everyday use.
- Britton Pop Up COB Lantern: This compact, handy lantern is something everyone will appreciate, whether they save it for emergencies or take it on camping trips. It’s also available with a wireless speaker to up its tech game.
- Travel Waist Pack: On-trend and convenient, this fanny pack keeps all must-haves close by while exploring or hiking.
- Tap & Track Pedometer Watch: This pedometer watch tracks time and steps without the need for apps or software. It’s great for a hike in the woods or for daily step-counting.
In the past, the College of New Caledonia in Prince George, B.C., has used top trade show giveaways like PopSockets®—to capture attention, but they’ve also gotten attention-grabbing results from a useful item that doubles as an outdoor-related giveaway.
“When it comes to trade show items, I want to be sure we’re going to offer something people are going to like, use and want,” Operations Manager Liz Blackburn said. One of the most popular giveaways at a community trade show they attend every year is the Zip Pouch ID Holder.
“People really are using them for their hunting and fishing licences,” Blackburn said, noting that both activities are very popular in their community. “It’s bright orange so people can see it and small enough that people can tuck it in their pocket. I even have one myself because it was easy to carry when I was on vacation and all I needed was my driver’s licence and a little cash.”
4. Items that follow trends
Sometimes the best way to get visitors to your table is to have the item everyone wants. PopSockets® are still hot, says Klitzke. And offering updated styles—like the PopSockets Phone Stand – Wood Grain or the PopSockets Phone PopWallet Plus, for example—of such a popular product can draw people to your booth.
5. New spin on the classics
While trendy items may come and go, some of the best promotional items for trade shows are the ones that never go out of style. Consider the promotional pen—a giveaway that turns a limited budget into an opportunity to connect. Writing instruments are always a good choice because they generate 3,000 impressions at a cost of less than 1/10 of a cent per impression (PDF). And people keep their pens an average of nine months.
These tried-and-true promo items can be extra eye-catching. Simply select a new style or desirable feature. For example, the Glacio Stylus Metal Pen is offered in a variety of fashion colours, while the Javelin Stylus Pen is available in bright metallic colours that really pop when arranged on a trade show table.
As for the Pilot® FriXion Retractable Erasable Gel Pen, Klitzke says, “You couldn’t ask for more. It writes in gel ink and you can erase it. You have to love these.”
Tops in trade shows
With so much competition to attract the best leads at every event, having one of the best trade show giveaways at your booth can turn yours into a must-visit exhibit. And every time you hand out an item that perfectly highlights your brand, you’ll start the conversations that turn visitors into customers.