Common Giveaway Pitfalls Trade Show Exhibitors Should Avoid

For those in or having experience in marketing, event planning, or sales, you know how difficult it can be to show the return on trade show giveaway investments. With these tips, avoid the common pitfalls that often are the barriers to proving the value of trade show giveaways.

Trade shows aren’t cheap. From renting a space at the trade show and getting a booth built or retouched -- to hiring show services, ordering giveaway items, arranging to and from shipping, travel, and lodging expenses, and launching advertising campaigns -- the average cost of exhibiting at a trade show is around $25,000.

Your boss is most definitely going to want to see how much that $25K helped grow the business. Follow these tips and you will be able to answer that looming ROI question with confidence.

Why invest in custom giveaway items?

Whether you look forward to or cringe at the thought of next year’s trade show calendar, having giveaways can be an effective way to work the muscles of your marketing strategy to:

  1. Generate new leads
  2. Convert leads that are stuck in the funnel
  3. Break into new markets
  4. Gain more space in an existing market
  5. Create new relationships with prospective customers
  6. Make more people aware of your brand
  7. Engage with and nurture existing customers

Trade show giveaway items should always authentically communicate the message you’re sending

And if they don’t do that, ditch them. No one needs another cheap pen or USB stick. Giveaways should tell your brand story in a way that is as unique to your brand as the products or services you’re trying to sell.

A major part of determining if a trade show is worth the investment or not depends a lot on the quality, uniqueness, and usefulness of the giveaway items. Sure, the idea of giveaways may sound trite since they are such common practice, but brands that invest in unique promotional products will tell you they can make or break the entire event.

So, forget Alibaba or the vendor you’ve used in the past that just slaps your logo on another tchotchke the booth next to you will likely have, and take note of how to avoid hitting that trade show floor face first.

Avoid these common giveaway pitfalls when exhibiting at a trade show

When you hand out giveaways at a trade show to passerby attendees, as a leave-behind at an on-site meeting, or at the networking event the company is sponsoring -- you want that giveaway to not only make people interested in speaking with you and learning more, but also enhance the look and feel of your brand.

Yet, even the best marketers make these mistakes:

Ordering giveaways at the eleventh hour

As with any major investment and big event, proactive planning is critical. Start as early as possible by gathering together the key stakeholders to determine the show’s purpose, expectations, objectives, and goals of exhibiting.

Take a look at who is exhibiting (if that’s available from the show organizers) and ask around your professional network to see who is attending. Use this intel to narrow down giveaway ideas based on the premise of the show, industry, attendees, competition, target audience, and of course, budget.

When brands work with us to handcraft unique trade show giveaways, the more time they put in upfront allows us to help create and source incredible items that can truly elevate their brand and are effective at reaching their goals of exhibiting.

Speaking of planning ahead, custom hats are one of those trade show giveaways that people cherish.

Using giveaways that don’t represent the company or brand

A major mistake many of us make is equipping the booth with giveaway items that literally represent not one aspect of what the company does, what the brand is about, or what message it’s trying to send.

Engaging with your target audience using high-quality giveaways items that are custom-made for your brand not only eliminates the risk of having the same items as the next booth over but will effectively communicate:

  1. What problems your product or services solve
  2. How your clients benefit from your products or services
  3. How user-friendly your products or services are
  4. Evoke an emotional connection with your brand

Blindly handing out giveaway items without following-up

Trade shows are great channels to generate new leads for your business, but unless there is a plan put in place ahead of time on how the team working the show should follow-up with the new leads, they often fall to the wayside.

A great way to follow-up with those who are interested in your company after the dust settles from the show is to use giveaways to reignite the conversation. Depending on your budget and overall show strategy, sending custom giveaways the old-fashioned way via snail mail can make a big impact on the receiving end.

Not only does something tangible build a powerful emotional connection between your brand and the consumer, but it cuts through the noise we combat in our email inboxes daily. Taking the time to craft an authentic follow-up experience using giveaways shows your target audience how much you care and your focus on the details.

When in doubt on what to consider as a giveaway that does these things and more, this quote from Maya Angelou is a great reminder: