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Tote bags, pens, mouse pads, lanyards, CD’s, note pads, candy, gizmo’s for your computer, stress balls, luggage tags, buttons, pins, card holders, golf tees, sweat bands, mugs… don’t you just love it? Lots of people do. Ask visitors why then attend certain shows or what they remember best and they say - “all those cool giveaways.”

Ask them what they remembered more, the give away or the exhibitor, and nine time out of ten the answer is the give away. So, does the investment in promotional products at a show make sense? Sure it does. But there is more to making a promotional product work. It’s serious business and requires some serious thought.

What’s the advantage?
Studies have shown that an attendee who leaves an exhibit with a tangible reminder of their visit has a better feeling about that exhibitor than one who left empty handed. This does not include those attendees who walk into your booth and help themselves to the piles of promotional products on your counter. Rather it is those visitors who stopped, asked questions received some information and then were given something to reinforce the visit. See the difference?

Some exhibitors habitually give away something to everyone and justify it by saying, “My name is on every one. Surely someone will see it and call or visit my website.”

Other exhibitors say “people really like our give away. They come back year after year to see what we have to give away.” Yes, I ask, but do they buy?

The bottom line is if you handle promotional products properly you will be reinforcing your product, service or program with a tangible reminder. If you give them away to anyone who walks by you are doing nothing more than attracting the collectors.

What is a good give away?
This is the $64 question. Promotional products are like a fickle lover - satisfaction one year and disappointment the next. Your business and your visitors interests are constantly changing. We are all becoming more sophisticated.

We used to see lots of those little fuzzy things that stuck to your suit jacket like a moth on a wall waiting to be swatted. We don’t see much of that anymore.

For years the best give away was a mouse pad. Everyone had a computer. The store bought mouse pad was plain and unexciting. Marketers saw this blank slate waiting for a message. It was a good idea for a while but seasoned show attendees now have more pads than mice.

How relevant is it?
Your promotional product is a reinforcement of your message. Part of this reinforcement comes from what is printed on the item the other comes from the item itself. Some connections are obvious. A car dealer might give away a key chain or a city directory, a landscaper, a sample of wild flowers. The closer the connection to the actual product or service the more the message is reinforced.

It is also an opportunity to reinforce your marketing message. You marketing message may consist of words, images or sounds that are connected to an overall marketing program. The item allows the recipient to connect the promotional product with the images they may see in the newspaper, on television or in trade magazines. These marketing messages are found on t-shirts, shopping bags, luggage tags, stress balls, writing instruments, sweat bands or water bottle holders,

How useful is it?
There is no point giving something away that will end up in the back of a drawer. You want to ensure that the right person will take it out and use it. Giving away a cute stuffed toy that will make the attendee a hero at home is not good reinforcement. The toy joins other toys from previous shows, labels are torn off and you, or your kids can’t tell one from the next.

It must be useful to the recipient, a decision maker or influencer. Rather than going through a catalogue of promotional products and choosing the first thing that fits into your budget, take some time selecting. This starts with a clear picture of who your attendee is. What are their business habits. What kinds of promotional products will be most useful and appreciated.

Practicality is the final criteria
At a recent show an exhibitor gave away hoola hoops. It was an interesting idea because the exhibitor had tied the hoop into their marketing message - 360 service. It was highly visible in the show because everyone seemed to be carrying one so you might conclude it was a successful campaign. The problem was that it was an international audience at the show. A hoola hoop does not fit into luggage. It certainly doesn’t fit into the overhead compartment on an airplane. I doubt that security would let it through. The bottom line was you saw lots of hoola hoops at the show but none at the airport. What about meter long measuring stick, canoe paddles, or oversized posters. You do not want your message diluted with inconvenience. That’s bad marketing. As cool as the idea may seem - be practical. These people are your customers.

Here are some hints on the best way to handle your promotional product.

1. As an attraction tool. These are promotional products that require some time to distribute rather than the pick-up-and-go variety. The luggage tags are a great example. When an attendee requests a luggage tag it may take up to one minute to prepare the tag. The smart exhibitor takes advantage of this time to begin gathering information about the attendees needs.

2. As a disengaging tool. These are items that are given to reinforce the visit. Once the conversation is over the exhibitor simply says, “Thank you for spending time at our exhibit today. As a reminder I would like you to have our special promotional pen. If you want any further information about our organization our web-site is printed on the barrel.” By handling your promotional product in this manner you reinforce the visit.

If the attendee who comes to you and says, “My buddy got one of those cool ball caps, can I get one?” The answer is always, “Yes.” But before you hand over the hat, ask them a few questions. Take advantage of everyone you have a chance to talk to. That is what face-to-face marketing is all about.

Promotional products work. With a bit of care, some thought and a dash of creativity you can create a promotional product which is the perfect addition to your exhibiting plans.

About the Author:

Barry Siskind, President and Founder of Internationals Training and Management Company. Barry is a consultant, speaker and internationally recognized expert in trade and consumer shows. Barry is an active member of the Canadian Association of Exposition Management (CAEM), the Centre for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR), the Trade Show Exhibitors Association (TSEA) and International Association of Exhibitions and Events (IAEE).



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