I was about seven or eight years old when I learned the value of promotional items at trade shows. I just didn’t know it yet. I was at a home show with my parents. As we walked through the hall it was held in, I noticed people walking around with yardsticks. I really had no need for a yardstick, but seeing them made me want one. So, to make me happy, my parents kept an eye out for the booth passing out the yardsticks. I got my yardstick, and my dad got a deck from the contractor who was passing them out. I use that example to paint a picture that promotional items can and do work at trade shows- although the target audience usually isn’t a third-grader with a $10/week allowance!
The whole idea of a trade show or seminar booth is to gain new customers and perhaps repeat business from past customers. The whole idea of using a promotional item at your booth is to attract people to your table, generate interest and hopefully provoke questions. However, promotional items can also be dangerous. Why? Because people love free stuff- so you have to do this properly.
You cannot confuse an effective giveaway with a ‘freebie’- many trade show attendees love to walk around and simply collect everything in sight. You do not want this to happen at your booth. But, some trade show booth workers are quick to just lay the items out and sit back and read the paper, while qualified leads walk away with the stuff. A few suggestions to avoid that are to keep your giveaways out of arm’s reach. Then, when people approach your table, grab one and hold it, and strike up a conversation by asking a question. Then, hand them the item. Perhaps the conversation will even continue. This way, they will be walking away with the item, but also with a message about your business. Or you can offer an item to people walking by, and when they approach you to take it you can surprise them by asking qualifying question to strike up a conversation.
Another way to utilize giveaways is to create a theme for your booth, and incorporate your promotional items into that theme. Your whole booth will stand out, and will make a lasting impression. Perhaps you are an HVAC dealer. You could use the theme “Stay Cool This Summer” and have people sign up for a free air conditioner. As they fill out their entry forms (which you will use as leads), you can pass out cheap plastic sunglasses with your name on them. Or, perhaps you can even hand out bottled water with your label on it. The whole theme idea is a cohesive way to build leads, build recognition and even excitement.
There is also a lesser-known way to promote your trade show booth. You can actually promote your giveaway before the show even happens. You can send out an invitation to customers you know typically attend the shows, and on that invitation you can say, “The first 100 people to stop by our booth will get a free travel mug!” This will build traffic before the show even opens. Another way to do this is to send out a note to current or potential clients with a small item, such as a pen or magnet and then asking them to drop by your booth. They may feel obligated to since you already gave them something.
The secret weapon here is not just in the product itself, but how it is distributed. With the right product and the right salesperson working the booth, promotional items can be a very powerful tool. The leads and follow-up business will prove it!