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Gillian
by Gillian
on February 9, 2016

You know the feeling. You come home from a trade show and your arms are sore from lugging around 3 or 4 branded tote bags jam packed full of USB drives emblazoned with logos, business cards for people you don’t remember meeting and an odd t-shirt or two. Were you in a fugue state? Where did all this stuff come from? Lucky for you as an attendee, you can push it to the back of your closet and never think about it again.

 

But if you’re on the other side of the table handing out those USB drives and tote bags, you have a challenge ahead of you because someone pushing your brand into the back of their closet is not ideal, so its time to think of some new trade show booth ideas.

 

Giveaways or swag are a part of the deal when you have a booth at a trade show and in some ways what you choose to give away can make or break you. Yeah, they’re pretty important.

 

You want to make sure that what you give away at your booth is:

  • memorable
  • useful
  • affordable


There is no one-size fits all solution for trade show giveaways and that’s because what you want to give away should target the people who are actual, genuine leads, instead of just trying to get your name in front of as many people as possible.

Rule #1

Know Your Target

Anyone can give away a frisbee with a corporate logo on it, but there are only a few companies for whom that would be a reasonable idea. For example, if your cash rich and time poor CFO persona stops by your booth, she probably is not going to be particularly interested in a frisbee. Instead, try to come up with trade show booth ideas that have you giving away something directly applicable to your core market. There might be something else that same CFO would love to have. Like one of those green visors that accountants wear in movies.

 

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[caption: ok, probably not that.]

 

Rule #2

Decide if You Want to be Talked About Now or Later

While the types of actual swag you could choose is virtually endless, most things fall into one of two categories: those that are useful/interesting immediately (like a smartphone wallet or an ice cream sundae bar) and those that are useful in the long term and might be saved and used later on (like a t-shirt, a smartphone stand, or theoretically a USB drive).

 

Of course, if you have the budget for it, you could leverage both of these strategies, but if not decide which is more valuable to your company at its current stage. If you are brand new and want to be talked about at the show, a more immediate and potentially ephemeral tactic might be best. Food, sponsored happy hours, and trade show care packages will get people talking immediately. On the other hand, if you are more engaged in a long sales cycle and already have leads stopping by your booth, something more tangible and long lasting that your leads might keep on their desk for a while is a better strategy.

Rule #3

Think About Why People Are At the Show

Why do most people attend trade shows? It’s not, unfortunately, to spend a weekend with you getting to know exclusively about your product or service. Instead, most people attend trade shows to investigate new products and largely to network and learn.

 

This is when scheduling an event like a happy hour or even a drawing to take place at your booth can be extremely valuable. People come to trade shows to connect with other people so if you can make sure they are doing that where your branding is prominently displayed, that will be one of the most powerful trade show booth ideas you can use.

 

Rule #4

Business Cards are Optional

If you go to a trade show, you will collect business cards regardless of whether you are exhibiting or just attending. And some people will tell you that business cards are still absolutely essential. But as far as lead generation, handing out a business card is far from the most effective trade show booth ideas. Instead, consider giving away a digital download of a whitepaper or ebook. To get the download, visitors have to give you their email. How’s that for lead generation? We’ll talk more about how you can use content and inbound marketing as part of your trade show strategy later this month, so be sure to check back (or better yet, subscribe!)

 

Rule #5

A Speaker Slot is Worth a Thousand Pens

Maybe not precisely a thousand, depending on the trade show attendance, but you know what I mean. If you can get in front of a captive audience at a trade show to educate them on your product, service, or company you’ll almost certainly get more qualified leads that way then spending the same hour or two handing out swag at your booth (although you should be sure someone is there at all times).  


It’s your choice whether to have giveaways at your trade show booth. With inbound marketing, you may not need to spend a lot on disposable swag. However, if you do decide to go with giveaways, be sure you do it in a strategic way so you can make the most of your trade show dollar.

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