Tradeshow and Exhibit Thoughtleaders
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Mim Goldberg's Articles

Your Promotional Products: It's much more than just
thinking trinkets

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Too often when we think about promotional products we think - neat, nifty, trinkets, junk or freebees. And if this is the case we are missing the boat completely. Promotional products are all about why trade shows are called trade shows. It's giving something and then getting something in return. It's using that item as an integrated marketing tool to create memorability long after the show.

Your giveaway is only a concept - that link to you that remains in the mind of the recipient.  It's an idea that you want to be internalized, not the product you are giving. So what do you need to consider before simply going to a catalogue and selecting an item?

Start with your objectives

  • why are you attending this show
  • who is your targeted audience
  • what do you want to take home?

Do you want to increase name awareness? Do you want to drive traffic to your exhibit? Do you want attendees to view several of your demonstrations or sit through your live presentation? Do you want only qualified attendees to receive the item or everyone who comes into your exhibit?  

Once you have addressed these questions, you can then begin to select an item that will truly work for you and serve as a tool to support your objectives. If your objective is to increase name awareness then you might want everyone who walks by or into your booth to receive your giveaway. If you are targeting specific attendees - such as CEO's you will be far more selective.

A question that arises often is "Is it OK to use two different levels of giveaways?" The answer is yes, one to the key and highly targeted prospects or current customers, and another to those attendees that do spend time and communicate with staff who are still unknowns.

When used effectively promotional products can help promote TOMA - Top of Mind Awareness. That is, when combined with your theme or message, the giveaway can help that attendee remember you up to 14 weeks after the show. And if you are not selling directly on the floor, this is incredibly valuable. The most recent study conducted in 2000 by PPAI at O'Hare and Dallas airports indicated that 73% of business travelers surveyed were carrying an ad specialty item. 73% could remember the name of the company 6 months after the show.  61% carried more than one item. 41% said they had had the item(s) for 2 years.

Often times, promotional products can be over-attracting and non-selective particularly if you have the newest, hottest item on the floor.

Over-attracting because everyone on the show floor wants one, and something for nothing has great allure. Non-selective because those that want your gift often have no interest at all in you or your product.

How can you make your promotional product best work for you?

1.   Have it communicate a specific message about your company, your product, or a new service. Perhaps your company has just been part of a merger.

2.   Have it promote an idea, a theme, the benefit of doing business with you. Maybe you have just instituted a 24/7 service hotline.

1.   Motivate the attendee to visit you with an offer of a free gift. We know that this notion does attract, but make certain the list is very targeted and those that are invited are either potential customers or current customers.

2.    Reward the attendee for taking the time to stop and visit you. Perhaps to receive the item they need to participate in several of your demos, visit with a staff person, sit through your live presentation.

Preparing your staff in advance and communicating with them either in advance will assure all works they way it was intended. The staff need to be aware of what the promotional product is, where it will be kept, who will receive it, and what the attendee needs to do to receive it.

Here are some things to consider in selection of a promotional product.

1.     Does it have a natural link with your message? Is it useful, tasteful, attractive, a quality item?

2.    Consider your audience - audiences change from show to show. What may be appropriate to one group may be a turnoff to another.

3.    Make the item specific to your business so there is some type of logical tie-in. Can you actually use your product as the item? A company that 
manufactures doormats and carpets turned their product into a coaster. That way, the attendee can actually touch and feel the item long after the
show is over.

4.    Personalize your giveaway. Be sure the prospect has a means of reaching you after the show has ended. Include your company name( not just initials), your phone, your email, your web.

5.    Be selective - avoid the hit and runner. Keep your items  out of sight unless your objective is for every attendee to     receive your item.

5.   Does the item have value? Gifts that have perceived value to the recipient are kept and used. Others are given or thrown away. Do you view it as a trinket or junk? If so, that attitude will be communicated.

7.   Is it useful? If so, it will be kept and used. Think about what you carry with you when you travel or what sits on your desk. Consider "on the desk" instead of in the desk. That way your message , your logo, your company with remain prominent. A luggage tag, a leather coaster, a good pen, a paperclip holder, a business card holder, a calendar,  a clock, a holder for post-it notes, a mousepad,   a screen cleaner.

8.   Avoid being a copycat - after all how many do you need or can you use?

9.   Be wary of food items even if personalized. Once they are consumed their value is lost. Also be aware that often the largest market for these will be other exhibit staffers who may not have a chance to eat but know they can find sustenance or that quick sugar fix at your booth.

Remember for your promotional product to be viewed as something other than a trinket, it must be the idea and concept that link you with the item you select in an integrated manner. 


2012 by Mim Goldberg