There are lots of elements to be considered if your marketing plan for the year includes participation in tradeshows, and a number of good reasons to include it in your plan in the first place. One element that has been closely focused on over the years, sometimes to the exhibitors detriment: the tradeshow “giveaway”. The use of promotional items for creating lasting attention and retention of brand image has cycled up and down in popularity over the last 50 years or so. There are some interesting correlations between the state of the economy and the level of quantity and sophistication attached to the promotional items given out at shows. In general, when times get tough, the quantity goes up, and the quality/cost goes down. When times are hard, something in marketers minds says “better to give away lots of cheap stuff just to get the name out there, than to spend the same but only give away half as many nice items that actually connect accurately to the brand”. Why, I have no idea, but it’s bunk.
In reality, if you choose to distribute promotional items at a tradeshow, that choice should be as well-thought-out as the display construction, the sales training scheme for the event, the selection of size and location of the stand, and the selection of representatives working the show. Often such items are an afterthought, an add-on after everything else has been decided. Sometimes, there are “Standard” items that the company keeps a stock of, or makes available to each location for marketing purposes – they get a better price buying in higher quantity, and they make available or distribute it throughout their “system” for use in ad hoc marketing efforts, including local tradeshows. Ever visited a home improvement show, and the local bank has purchased a table space and brings water bottles and stress balls, and thinks this will make them memorable to the attendees and that they will open an account or apply for a loan? For the impact that really has on the audience, they may as well have taken the money and put it in one of those plexiglass Grab-a-Buck boxes – that at least connects money and banks in people’s minds and might have gotten them some attention!
If you’ve made the decision to promote your business with a branded item, if that selection is made carefully, it can be of great benefit at that event, and can drive recognition and awareness, not necessarily sales. If really obvious, it can create buzz on the show floor and drive traffic to your display from elsewhere on the floor. And if you’ve really read the audience right, that item will be so specific to a particular population that it will help qualify that traffic and thin and focus the lead selection before they arrive! Now that’s a promotion.
Some general rules of thumb for a successful promotional item giveaway.
1) If you can do so, and it’s appropriate, try passing out samples of the product. Smaller, not necessarily fully functional, but a good replica of your product will at least remind the recipient for months to come, who gave them that item and what they make.
2) If you can’t sample, for whatever reason, select something that links practically to what you do or what you offer. This type of item at least will carry some activation, that coupled with the logo printed on the item, will conjure up a memory of your firm and what it offers.
3)If you can’t sample, and you can’t link practically with your product, link with the audiences habits or industry specific needs or processes. If you’re marketing to engineers, a measuring device of some type is a good example of this – they can actually use the item at work, where they hopefully make purchasing decisions.
4) If you can’t do 1, 2, or 3, at least make the item something useful or entertaining and of good quality, including the imprint method. Also, be aware of the audience. If you can, try to select items that are at least non-toxic – sounds strange, but I can’t tell you how many stress balls and foam toys I’ve handed to my young kids only to find out the printing rubbed off when they got drool on it, or put it in their mouths.
In short, smart, engaging, creative choices that engage the audience’s imagination, trigger a memory of what you do, your products or your brand promise, that are practical and useful within your industry are the best bets for effective giveaways.
There are lots of other tips and tricks to using promotional items to drive traffic and leads. More later . . .