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SWAG (which stands for the “Stuff We All Get”) at trade shows is enormous, yet it serves a purpose. While it can aid in getting attendees to stop by your booth, help initiate discussions, or be used as a “thank you” for coming to the booth, the main purpose is to help remind attendees about your booth and product/service after the show. In other words, it’s about post-show mind share.

Like much advertising/promotion (which is what SWAG is), some companies over-think it, some under-think it, and some don’t put any thought into it at all. With nearly 30 years of experience at trade shows for companies that range from small to Global 100 corporations, here are the most common groups and some tips to more effectively utilize the power of SWAG.

The Over-Thinkers:
It’s wonderful when an exhibit has a theme, and tying your give-away into your theme can be neat. However, primarily the people who will be aware of a booth “theme” are those who created it and possibly those who are working the booth. Attendees may notice, but they actually don’t care nor will they remember your theme.

What is most important on a giveaway is your logo and website. If you choose to have your slogan, that’s fine, too. But, keep in mind, instead of fussing over the tie-in to your theme – spend that time looking for a giveaway that will be something an attendee will actually want to take home. Any giveaway can be customized with your theme, but remember, unless it’s your slogan mark, they won’t remember your theme. Instead, focus on obtaining some SWAG that is eye-catching, interesting, fun or useful.

The Under-Thinkers:
Every year, a “new” giveaway is born and the under-thinkers jump on it not only because someone said it was new, but also because it’s an easy decision. Never mind that a bunch of other exhibits will have the same giveaway or that, as marketers, a little creativity is a good thing to use.

This group is the polar opposite of the over-thinkers and will put little thought into choosing a giveaway. Like the over-thinkers, you need to spend some time researching not the “latest and greatest,” but what would be appealing to your particular audience at the show. Think about what YOU would like to bring home or to the office.

The giveaway doesn’t have to be super expensive. There are many inexpensive, creative, eye-catching giveaways out there. You just need to do some research. As mentioned, it shouldn’t have tons of copy on it, a list of products, etc. It’s not a brochure; it’s SWAG. Keep it short and simple.

The Not-At All Thinkers:
This group usually consists of those who refuse to give away free stuff, because they don’t want a bunch of free loaders stopping by the booth. This group can also contain those who actually think that attendees don’t want free stuff!

Unless you have the hottest and latest product/service at the show, you are deluding yourself to think that your service/product is enough to entice potential customers from walking by your booth. True, some of your current customers may stop by, right before they go to your competitor’s booth that has giveaways. While they’re there, your competition can now chat with them, while you stand in your booth and check your email for the 30th time. You may get a few new attendees to drop in, but what’s the incentive?

While you will get the “tire kickers,” keep in mind that just because an attendee approaches your booth because of the free stuff, doesn’t mean they couldn’t necessarily be a good prospect. As mentioned, free stuff – if used properly in the booth – can aid in initiating conversations with reps.

Additionally, everyone likes free stuff; they just don’t like free junk or more of the same stuff that everyone else is giving away. I have been to countless high-level executive trade shows, and when we had a good giveaway, the “suits” take it. When you have a fun, unique or useful giveaway, attendees take it.

What I also find interesting about the last two groups of thinkers is that they spend a lot of time discussing signage, videos and booth design or money to sponsor the big party, a lunch or a banner and spend little to no money or time on choosing an object that an attendee can take back to his/her office or home with their company name/brand on it.

It’s highly unlikely that attendees will remember the look or design of your booth, your signs, your video or what company paid for lunch. But, when they take a piece of cool SWAG back home or to the office… now you have some mind share. It not only reminds them about your company, but, if it’s a neat giveaway, they talk about it with others back at work. It sits there on the desk or at home as a reminder of your company. That’s mind share; that’s power!

Therefore, in addition to the aforementioned benefits of using giveaways to initiate conversations or as a “thank you” for stopping at the trade show, some thought should be used when choosing your giveaways. Remember, SWAG is a small piece of advertising that gives an exhibitor the opportunity to provide current or potential customers with some mind share, after the event is over. And in today’s competitive business world … that’s the power of SWAG.

Bob Garner has nearly 30 years of experience as not only a trade show magician, but also as a consultant to many of his Fortune 1000 corporations on sales performance and trade show ROI. To see how you can increase your trade show ROI, watch his trade show magicians video.

©2013 Bob Garner. All Rights Reserved. Feel free to post this article, but please use my byline and resource box. Thank you.

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