4imprint, LLC

| Updated: February 15, 2023


2018 Trade show sales survey results


The 2018 4imprint trade show sales survey shows how teams are using trade shows to successfully promote their products and services, plus how giveaways can help forge memorable connections with prospects.

[This survey was conducted using QuickTap® and SurveyMonkey®. We connected with 283 people via these two survey platforms. Sixty-two respondents said they did not participate in trade shows, so their responses were eliminated from the results.]

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Welcome to the results of our 2018 survey!

Trade shows are one of the best ways to bring people together. Every event is a chance to build a relationship. Every promotional product is a chance to start a conversation and get to know each other.

But what is the best way to make those connections? And what do they hope to achieve when making those connections? What role do promotional products play in those connections?

We wanted to find out. So, we conducted a survey to learn what the experts—folks on the trade show floors—had to say. And we discovered quite a lot! Among the things we learned: Almost four out of five respondents attend trade shows to build relationships. Most of them use promotional products to start a one-on-one conversation. And one of the top five products used to start those conversations is food.

All that information and more is contained in the pages of this eBook. We learned a lot from this survey, and now we’re excited to pass this information along to you.

Hopefully, it helps you build more connections the next time you take to the trade show floor.

Here’s to great results,

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Survey results: A look at who responded

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29% of respondents participate in 11 or more trade shows per year.

  • 1-2 trade shows per year – 17% of respondents
  • 3-5 trade shows per year – 18% of respondents
  • 6-10 trade shows per year – 15% of respondents
  • 11+ trade shows per year – 29% of respondents

Whether you participate in one or several trade shows, get your brand message on an eye-catching banner, like the Economy Retractor Banner Display.

#8922 Economy Retractor Banner Display

“Very attractive art that has generated business for our company! -Ryan from Dewitt

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45% of people surveyed work for companies with 50-999 employees.

Dress up your trade show presence with the Closed-Back Table Throw. A branded booth can help you stand out in the crowd!

#2212 Closed-Back Table Throw

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An overview of trade show participation

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Trade shows are an essential strategy

79% of respondents participate in trade shows every year

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Top 3 trade show goals

Companies that attend trade shows and events typically have multiple goals. These are the top three based on the survey:

  • 79% Build relationships
  • 76% Generate leads
  • 75% Strengthen brand

Connect with new leads and stay top of mind with the Javelin Stylus Pen.

#6551-ST Javelin Stylus Pen

“… The people running the conference said our pens were their favorite, and they took exras. …” -Stephanie from Providence

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Educating attendees through one-on-one communication is key

Nearly 80% of trade show exhibitors use one-on-one conversations to educate attendees about their products and services.

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After one-on-one conversations, the survey shows

product demos
informational literature

are the next most popular educational tools when making sales at a trade show.

Keep your communications material, marketing literature and product demo info organized with the Swing USB Drive.

#112703 Swing USB Drive

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Leveraging trade show promotional products into results

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Top ways companies use promotional products to educate trade show attendees:

  • Giveaways for one-on-one conversations (page 14)
  • Giveaways for in-booth product demonstrations (page 15)
  • Send with follow-up information (page 16)

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Conversation starters

Get them talking! The most common sales strategy for using promotional products at trade shows is in return for a one-on-one conversation, according to respondents from companies with employees 50-999.

Strike up a conversation by handing out a unique item, like this Blinking Ball.

#107475 Blinking Ball

“Went really well at a trade show I exhibited at – none left!” -Dana from Austin

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Product demo incentives

Training matters! Giving a gift in return for watching a product demonstration is the second most popular reason (30%) for using custom trade show giveaways.

Want to offer an unforgettable incentive? Check out the Cooler Shopper Tote, which is sure to delight.

#123166 Cooler Shopper Tote

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Follow up

Say ‘thanks!’ with a memorable gift. Another top trade show sales strategy is to add a memorable gift to your follow ups. It’s a great way to further build your relationships and reinforce trade show connections.

If you meet a hot prospect at the show, consider sending them a follow up with a special promotional product such as the CamelBak Chute Mag Tritan Bottle.

#123252 CamelBak Chute Mag Tritan Bottle

“Great quality bottle and the printing looks great. Customers love to receive these as gifts!” -Dave from Hudsonville

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Other ways companies use trade show promo products

  • 20% Giveaways for attending a seminar/presentation
  • 16% Attendance invites
  • 15% Prizes for games or entertainment

Games can be an effective way to engage audiences. Check out the Micro Tabletop Prize Wheel with Case.

#109513-MCR Micro Tabletop Prize Wheel with Case

“We had lots of people be drawn to this wheel. It’sb een great to have. Love it.” -Marlene from Orange

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Ranking the 5 most popular trade show giveaways

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Here’s a look at the top 5 trade show giveaways, according to popularity with attendees.

  1. Tech Products (Page 20)
  2. Apparel (Page 22)
  3. Food (Page 24)
  4. Bags (Page 26)
  5. Drinkware (Page 25)

[Respondents were asked to rank each category in order of popularity with attendees (1 being most popular, 5 being least popular). The results in this section show the order of those ranked as #1.]

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Power up your marketing! Tech products are by far the most popular promo product for trade shows. Simply put: catch the attention of trade show attendees with tech gifts!

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Help them stay energized about your brand with the Energize Portable Power Bank.

#128421 Energize Portable Power Bank

“Everyone loves these! It’s definitely one of the nicer giveaways in a sea of exhibitor booths so helps us to stand out. …” -Amy from Reno


Keep trade show attendees organized with the Hail Storm Bluetooth Ear Buds with Carabiner Case.

#143613 Hail Storm Bluetooth Ear Buds with Carabiner Case


This premium Velocity Charging Tech Kit will have busy business travelers thinking of you on the road.

#135094 Velocity Charging Tech Kit

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Wearable, wow-able messaging. Apparel came in second among the most popular trade show giveaway ideas. And that’s great news for your organization: attendees just can’t wait to wear your brand.

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The Shadow Heather Polo in men’s or ladies’ will showcase your brand in style.

#133148 Shadow Heather Polo


Stretch your marketing capabilities with the Adult 5.2 oz. Cotton T-Shirt, screen-printed with your logo.

#107249-S Adult 5.2 oz. Cotton T-Shirt


Top off a great day of networking by giving them the Incite Chino Twill Cap with your name embroidered on it!

#133861 Incite Chino Twill Cap

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Hungry for more? Crave-worthy marketing will have them coming back for seconds, so think food if you want to attract trade show attendees.

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Sweeten leads with the Resealable Kraft Snack Pouch or these personalized Andes® Thins.

#106345 Andies Thins
#140554 Resealable Kraft Snack Pouch

“Well worth the cost. Everyone loves Andies mints and having our brand on them at trade shows makes them stand out.” -Theresa from American Fork


These savory goodies will give them something to chew on: the Tasty Treats, or the Butter Popcorn Cone Bags.

#115009 Tasty Treats
#137568 Button Popcorn Cone Bags

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Bags are big. Think totes, backpacks, briefcases, duffels and more—bags came in fourth among trade show giveaway ideas. Trade show attendees just can’t wait to carry your brand to the masses.

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Trade show attendees will carry your brand for all to see. Delight them with the Fun Tote, the eye-catching Etched Pocket Drawstring Sportpack, or the trendy Carbondale Color Accent Backpack.

#105488 The Fun Tote
#143408 Etched Pocket Drawstring Sportpack
#138849 Carbondale Color Accent Backpack

“Perfect size for a two day conference. Lots of storage and easy accessible outside compartments.” -Raymond from Olive Branch

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Drink up! Custom drinkware for trade shows gets them thirsting
for your product.

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They’ll turn to the Lines Coffee Mug for their morning joe and your marketing message.

#143774 Lines Coffee Mug


The Simplex Tumbler with Straw keeps their drink cool and your brand hot, hot, hot!

#143770 Simplex Tumbler with Straw


With helpful features like a spill-free top and non-skid bottom, the Custom Accent Stainless Travel Mug will keep them thinking of you long after the show.

#138132 Custom Accent Stainless Travel Mug

“These cups were a big hit at the home show we gave them out at.” -Meredith from Wilmington

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Trade show giveaway ideas that work

When it comes to trade show giveaway ideas, there are so many unique and memorable ways to stand out from the crowd. Make an impact with one-on-one conversations and thoughtful custom promotional products, and you’ll energize your lead generation efforts.

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Share your trade show story!

Have you found success with using promotional products at trade shows? You can help others by sharing your expertise!

Simply email [email protected] with a photo and brief description of your success story.

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Read Less

Trade shows are essential for building business relationships and making new connections. In this eBook, 4imprint shares results from a 2018 Trade Show Sales Survey showing how companies use trade shows to educate prospects, along with the trade show giveaway ideas that helped them.