How to Spend Your Trade Show Swag Money Wisely

    By Chris Wallace | Small Business

    Setting up shop at a trade show or convention can be an expensive proposition. You’ll have to come up with the rental fee, obtain signage and other displays for your booth and pay the employees who represent you. You might even have to deal with travel expenses, if the show is out of town.

    The best money you’ll spend, however, will be on the items you give away at your booth. Hundreds or even thousands of potential customers might drop by to visit with you, and you’ll want them to remember the name and purpose of your business and your contact information. Items that serve a useful purpose, such as pens, key chains and calendars, will help spread the word about your company or organization long after the show comes to a close.

    Useful Items

    Here are some reasonably inexpensive items you can give away to clients and potential clients:

    • Pens – Even the digital revolution hasn’t undermined the value of a good pen – ask any restaurant server who has had one stolen.
    • Coffee mugs - These are useful even for people who don’t drink coffee. They’re fine for other beverages, and, if they are tastefully designed, some people will use them as paperweights and pencil cups.
    • Chip bag clips - Nobody wants stale chips or pretzels; your potential customers will keep these around the house or office.
    • Lip balm and hand sanitizer - Both are popular personal items. They will be useful only until the product is used up, however.
    • Eyeglass cleaning cloths - These have other uses as well, such as cleaning a computer screen or keyboard.
    • Golf tees - These are inexpensive, and just about anyone who plays the game can use them.
    • Key chains and key chain flashlights – For now, at least, we all have keys, and most people will find a flashlight to be a useful tool that will actually get added to the chain rather than misplaced and forgotten.
    • Reusable shopping bags - Why not provide the visitors to your booth with a good reason to be kind to the earth (and to stuff their other swag into a vessel with your logo)?
    • Reusable water bottles - People carry these everywhere, which means potential customers besides those who attend the trade show will see your message.
    • Post-it notes and notepads - You should get good mileage from these; many people use them around the house and office.
    • Tape measures and rulers - These also are useful around the home and office.

    Of course, you don’t have to stick to “takeaway” freebies. Many conference participants would be happy to claim a giveaway that simply makes them feel better. A relaxing chair massage falls into this category. They will appreciate the massage after a hard day at the trade show, and they also will spend more time than they might have otherwise at your booth.

    You also might consider letting your visitors compete for prizes. You can have them guess how many marbles are in a large glass jar, or let them spin a wheel to determine what they win. You can give away gift cards that can be used at various local or online stores or items of lesser value for those who aren’t as lucky. Keep in mind that some people will visit your booth just for the opportunity to compete; they won’t care what the prize is, as long as they win it.

    Evaluating Cost

    If you have a marketing budget to spend on giveaways, you’ll obviously want to spend it wisely and maximize your impact. Depending on how many items you buy, you’ll lighten your bank account by anywhere from $3 to $20 each for T-shirts, laptop bags, stainless steel water bottles, baseball caps, jump drives and duffel bags. Polo shirts and dress shirts can set you back even more.

    Regardless of how much you spend for your giveaways, or swag, as they are commonly known, you should carefully weigh the cost against the potential return. Here are a few questions you should ask before deciding what freebies will draw the most people to your booth.

    • Will attendees think your freebie is useful? - You’ll always find an array of backpacks, pens and tote bags at trade shows and conventions because they can be used at the show and elsewhere later on.
    • Will people have fun with your freebie? - If you are giving away stuffed monkeys that scream when you hurl them across the room or balls that bounce really high, trade show attendees will flock to your booth. Silly stuff is popular stuff. But will it have a lasting impact and still be used after the event?
    • Can people use your freebie at the show? - Giving out snacks, bottled water or even an alcoholic beverage will draw people to your booth. Keep in mind that if attendees have been at the convention for much of the day, they’ve probably talked too much and walked too much. They would appreciate a cold drink and a place to sit down.

    When deciding what to give away at your trade show booth, you should be as creative and innovative as possible. You want the word about your booth to spread throughout the convention floor. In other words, you want people to look for you, not to find you by accident.

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