Time to Up Your Game: 3 Strategies on How to Approach Swag at Your Next Big Trade Show

How-To Tips

“If you’re going to give something away because everyone likes free stuff, make sure it is a gift, useful, or tasty!” Jay Menashe

Key chains, koozies, and calendars, oh my! If these are the first things that come to mind when you hear the word “swag”, it may be time to rethink your company’s offerings. While throwaways like these have been trade show staples for years, many companies are discovering the authentic opportunities swag can generate.

Trade shows have been around since the Berkshire Cattle Show debuted in 1810. But the word “swag” didn’t appear until the early 1900s – and was then associated with stolen goods! By the middle of the 20th century, its meaning had shifted to promotional items and now refers to any item given to trade show attendees as part of a company’s marketing efforts. 

In a recent LinkedIn post, EDE senior vice president of sales and marketing Jay Menashe laid out a path for creating swag that actually makes people take notice. From light sabers (yes, light sabers) to a cord case that Jay’s carried with him everywhere for years, swag doesn’t have to wind up in the trash.

In this blog, we’ll talk about some examples of swag and how to do it better!

Section Links:

  1. Understanding Swag
  2. Key Elements
  3. Design
  4. Lead Generation
  5. Partners

1. Understanding Swag

Swag refers to promotional items primarily given away at trade show booths. While it can include the tiresome threesome mentioned above, it should be an item available at your booth that helps cement your company in your prospect’s mind and memory. 

Swag often includes things like apparel and accessories, personal care products, and tech items such as flash drives and phone chargers. Food always attracts a crowd, and can be super effective if it makes a meaningful connection to your company’s products or services! 

A trade show exhibit, rightly understood, should be part of a company’s overall marketing strategy. Unlike digital marketing assets such as blogs, case studies, and white papers, shows offer an opportunity to put something of value directly into a prospect’s hands. People crave human-to-human interaction, as attested to by the strong upswing in trade show attendance post-pandemic, and swag can open the door to connections that lead to meaningful conversations! 

While swag does present great opportunities, it also presents two primary challenges: 

Cost. Your promotional freebies are not free! You’re giving away something that can represent a significant cost, so it needs to pull its weight in terms of getting results.

Value. Poorly made or meaningless swag can upend your company’s show efforts. Remember, everything associated with your exhibit affects your company’s perception by attendees.

Key Elements of Successful Trade Show Swag Strategies

Like any marketing campaign, your swag strategy should start with identifying your target audience. Trade shows are full of people who love to walk out loaded with bags of swag. But if they’re not your target audience, you get zero return on everything they carry away.

Your show campaign should also have meaningful and attainable goals. Will you be satisfied with simply recording how many people visited your booth? How many people hauled off your swag? Or how many follow up appointments were set or contracts signed? Setting measurable goals for your exhibit is critical to success.

With your audience defined and your goals set, it’s time to choose what swag you will provide. Lay out a structure for swag selection that includes impact, relevance, quality, and cost. 

Popular and effective swag might include personal care items, co-branded merch, tech giveaways, or office supplies – virtually anything that makes your visitors’ lives better.

Here are three strategies to help match your swag to your prospects:

Parents. The kids expect something cuddly or fun from a show. Stuffed animals and exciting games never disappoint!

Road warriors. Life on the road is tough. Send these folks away with something to genuinely ease that burden.

Hungry attendees. Okay, this covers everyone at the show. Give them something that feeds their interest in your product as well as their stomachs.

Designing Eye-Catching and Memorable Swag

Your swag must appeal visually to recipients regardless of its utility value. So look for items that are well-designed and unique as well as long-term useful. Swag branding should be consistent with your company messaging, including fonts, logos, and colors. 

Take every opportunity to add creativity that reinforces your booth’s theme to your swag mix. Don’t settle; this is your chance to drive home your company’s messaging and make an impact that’s remembered long after the show!

Lead Generation

The primary goal of a trade show exhibit is to connect with targeted attendees and collect their info for lead nurturing. Your team should be readily available to talk with visitors as they sift through your swag offerings. Make sure each team member has the tools they need to capture the information that will make nurturing successful at show’s end.

Partners to Check Out

EDE partners with several swag providers that have proven themselves time and again. Check out their offerings with the links below.

EcoPlum – offers eco-friendly swag options.

Buzz Impressions – specializes in hospital swag.

Crepes a Latte – provides tasty hospitality swag.

Cline Sales – delivers customized and branded swag.

Regardless of how you may feel about trade show swag, the people visiting your booth expect it. And with a little thought ahead of time, it can help the right people remember your company and your offering.

Planning a new exhibit booth this year? EDE is the cutting edge of booth design and construction. Contact us today to talk about what that can mean for you. 

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