Free article: enough to stop and read?

From both the perspective of the exhibitor and the attendee, there are many reasons we choose to invest in trade shows.

When planned and executed well, a trade show can provide the exhibitors with opportunities to meet new clients, check out the competition, seek out potential joint ventures, catch-up with old pals and get out of the office.<–!break–>

It’s important that the attendees’ reasons for being there are aligned in a similar way. I asked some professionals why they attend trade shows, and here are the responses:

  • Stay in the “game”
  • Get free stuff
  • Meet potential suppliers
  • Get out of the office.

It seems the reasons companies exhibit at shows are secondary to the reasons that people attend. So what is the solution? Give people what they want in the form of fun, fish-bait takeaways.

We all love receiving free stuff at trade shows. We especially love when it’s clever or innovative. Long gone are the days that stress ball or pens would suffice. Nowadays, promotional goods are much more sophisticated. The key to deciding where your promo dollars are spent is to get items that people will use often – causing them to think of you often. Some ideas and bestseller items for most promotional goods companies include

  • Retractable badge holders
  • Anything with a USB key
  • Pens that do more, with lasers, flash lights, carabiners, etc.
  • Business cards with function, such as magnets, stickers, dental floss holders and small calculators
  • Items that are hot societal topics such as product (red) items or environmentally friendly items.

More importantly, however, it’s useful to have people use your giveaway consciously. As opposed to glancing at a pen with your name on it, give people something that leads to action. Some items that provoke a “call-to-action” include

  • Coupons for your product.
  • Coupons for products people appreciate. Consider Tim Horton’s vouchers, instead of a free colour upgrade. Or consider business cards with perks. For example, McDonald’s has thought up business cards with a tear off coupon for a free Big Mac attached. And you don’t even have to buy a drink or fries!

Some of the world’s most innovative companies have come up with useful giveaways that have a “call-to-action” associated with them. Google has given away mood-changing clocks, USB travel kits, and even digital photo frames (as grand prizes). Toyota opted for eco-friendly tree ornaments made from recycled paper—inexpensive and thoughtful. General Electric has also followed suit by giving away energy-saving light bulbs. And, of course, there is no harm in giving out what you’re known for, especially when it’s as practical as 3M’s Post-it notes.

Another really important aspect of having freebies at a trade show is the ability to measure the traffic that these items generate for you. This is especially true when you’re giving away items that have a “call-to-action” associated with them. I’m sure we’ve all noticed the increase in prize draws using access codes. In the past, we’d just roll up the rim to win or flip a bottle lid. Now, we’re forced to log-on to a web site and check if we’re lucky—the instant gratification is gone. Even worse is the experience of customers taking the effort to log-on and check for a prize, only to have to fill out personal information before they even find out if the coupon has won. No one likes the extra effort involved!

There is a simpler, easier solution to track your numbers. Consider creating a special URL for your trade show items, so visitors will be automatically redirected to your usual homepage. They’ll cruise your site while you count them as a trade show response. Free is no longer enough. Plan wisely to stop the crowds from the “grab-and-go,” make your potential customers happy and get closer to achieving your trade show goals!

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