5 Trade Show Giveaways That Are Definitely Going in the Trash

I have a confession to make: Your trade show swag is not hanging on my keychain, cleaning my glasses, or being used to write reminders on your branded notepad. In fact, it’s probably collecting dust in the back of my desk drawer or was given to my kids and I haven’t seen it since. We all know people expect swag at every trade show booth, but most of the time we choose items that have nothing to do with our overall marketing or business goals. If your trade show strategy includes slapping your logo on a cheaply made tchotchke, it’s time to rethink your game plan. Here are the top five trade show giveaways that are probably your worst investment.

1. Pens

Everyone uses pens! Potential clients will write with these every day and think, “I love the way this pen writes. I wonder who made this superior writing tool. Oh, it was [insert business]. I should call them right now and give them my business!”. If only it worked that way, right? Pens are one of the most overdone branded items that are given away. In fact, I have no less than 47 branded pens in my desk drawer right now and you want to know which is my favorite? The regular old ballpoint – with no branding – I’ve been using for years because I like the way it writes. Unless your pen was approved by J.K. Rowling, it probably won’t stand out in your customer’s junk drawer.

2. Keychains

No, no – hear me out. We’re not just giving away any keychain. Our branded keychains FLOAT in water. They have an LED light. They have a LASER pointer. You guys, no one is thinking about your business when they are struggling to bring grocery bags into their house. Tacky trinkets of little value probably do not reflect your normal standards of operation. If your company focuses on high-quality products or designs with superior customer service, I may not make that connection when I’m using your keychain laser pointer to play with my cat.

3. Toys

Kids love toys! People will definitely visit our booth if they know their kids will get a gift. Unless you are a toy company and you’re giving away the hottest Christmas present of the year, a branded kids item probably won’t get you more business. Trade show giveaways should focus on brand recognition with your target audience. Children are (hopefully) not making the buying decisions in your client’s household, so why invest money in an audience that will not be investing in your business? Focus on items that provide value and intrigue to potential clients.

Pro Tip: Having something for kids may mean getting more face time with their parents, but a bag of generic candy from the grocery store shelf is much more cost-effective and works the same.

4. Koozies

People love koozies! I have one from my cousin’s wedding, one from that parade I went to, one from that company picnic ten years ago – they’re so useful! If your koozie giveaway does not include an alcoholic beverage, I’d place a bet that no one will be talking about your awesome company-branded beer holder after a trade show. We understand that giveaways are an investment and it’s easy to lean towards the cheaper items so you can afford to give one to every single person who walks by your booth. However, every person attending the trade show is not your customer. Your goal at these events is to identify qualified leads and follow up with them following the show. Not to throw a koozie at someone as they walk by your booth in hopes they decide to do business with you after knocking back a few beers.

5. USB Flash Drives

Businesspeople use flash drives all the time! I bet they would love a super convenient way to share data on this handy device. We are so tech-savvy!  While flash drives are widely used in business, it’s no longer cornering the market in the data-sharing space. With free online file-transfer sites, Apple AirDrop, Dropbox, Google Drive, and literally an endless amount of other options that do not require a physical device, flash drives are usually not a business’s first choice for data transferring. This giveaway will most likely end up in my desk drawer along with my 47 branded pens.

Here’s the takeaway: trade show swag will not drive new business to your company. Business is all about relationships, so focus on engaging in meaningful conversations, creating a memorable experience, or partnering with other local companies that complement your business goals. Instead of spending thousands of dollars on trade show giveaways, invite people to an event hosted by your company after the trade show. Showcase your company values by donating to a local charity for every person that signs up for your e-newsletter. Choose creative over boring, humor over status quo, and intrinsic value over mass-produced. Contact Tulip Tree Studios to help you shake up your next trade show booth and actually deliver results.