The Art of the Trade Show Freebie

I think trade shows are great, usually really buzzy and full of enthusiastic marketing and business development people ready to give advice and tell you about their latest products and services. This is great. I am a big fan of business shows and the way in which they can help you to get your business out there. In fact, I often exhibit myself. The reason I am writing this post, though, is to talk about promotional merchandise; the do's and the dont's. 

So imagine you go to a trade show and by the end of the day you leave with a bag full of free swag. What do you do with it? Keep it? Throw it away? I want to share with you my experience of promotional merchandise I received at three business shows that I recently attended in Bristol, Bath and Corsham. Some exhibitors really knew what (and how) to push into my hands to create a lasting impression of their company long after the show was over. Others, less so.

So here they are, my latest promo items

I think the times of company literature in the form of a flyer or a booklet with lots of text delivered in a linen (or worse, a plastic) bag, with a massive company logo on the front are long gone. We have entered the era of the cool exhibition freebie. We all know why brands want to give us all this stuff, it's all about brand touch and lasting impression. It used to be that brands had to make 7 points of contact with a client before they made a sale. Apparently, now it's gone up to 14! So, the game is on! 

The dont's

Plastic bag with your catalogue and business card in. First of all, plastic is bad for the planet as it takes 500 years to degrade.  Secondly, a big catalogue will go straight into the bin - everything is accessible online and your potential clients usually don't have space to keep it.  And lastly it feels very pushy to give somebody your promotional catalogue.

Anything that is badly designed or looks cheesy - if you have an amateurish look, people will assume you don't know any better or don't care and they won't select you. 
Don't hide your promotional items and only give out to special people - everyone is a potential client - their friends might be interested in your product or service - you never know! 
Don't place a massive logo and a telephone number on something that your potential customers might otherwise want to use - linen bags are awsome but the reality is that people dont want to be a walking display for you.  Place your logo in a way that will gently remind them about your brand but won't be overwhelming. 

I made linen bags for sourceabl launch campaign because I think linen bags are great. I placed a tasteful tiny logo at the bottom of the bag, and guess what - they were the busiest stand at the exhibition show - women queued to get their hands on one of these bags! We also got everybody who received the bag to have a picture taken, you can browse the gallery here. Did it work? Oh yeah! It really got the brand out there!

The do's

Create something useful - provide merchandise that your clients could actually use every day and carry your brand with them, for example a beautifull and tasteful notebook. I had some great notebooks from Radisson Blu and Xero, a pencil sharpener from Acorn Health & Safety and a hand sanitiser from Natwest. All very useful.

Interesting and unusual - make something memorable and surprising, something that visitors will remember your brand for, such as a branded tin of baked beans made by Decent Design, or a lubrication gel by Love Honey. Definitely two brands that I remembered.

Logo and contact details - include them in! But as mentioned before, please make them the right size!

Stylish - we are living in an ever more design concious world so any freebies that you are preparing should be aesthetically pleasing and a pure joy to carry around. 

My very favourite freebies came from Recognition Express, Gradwell and Goughs this time. The notebook Gradwell has created is very stylish and handy, I use it every day to take notes at meetings, so surely I must be exposing Gradwell's brand to everybody I meet. I also take my bottle to the gym with me 3 times a week, many of my gym buddies have already commented on it so big congrats to Recognition Express. Goughs had it spot on as well - everobody needs a USB and who does not love chocolate? Thees particular chocolate lollies were made by The Artful Chocolatier who developed their business idea around their very own research study claiming chocolate to be the best in attracting attention. 

Brands take notice!

Do not spend money on useless and tasteless freebies that nobody wants. Invest in quality beautiful items which your potential clients will be proud carrying around. This will pay off, big time! 

Enjoy your day, 


This blog post was written for and originally appeared on Sourceabl Blog.