Heading to a tradeshow later this summer or fall? Maybe early in 2022? Probably the last thing you tend to think about is swag. Promotional products. Giveaways. Whether small imprinted items such as pens, letter openers, flash drives, lip stuff (what’s that stuff called, anyway??), or whatever, you probably used to wait until the last moment to order. And the promotional products company would jump into action and before you know it, boxes arrive full of customized and imprinted stuff.
Hold up. That may not be that easy this time around.
What’s going on? Supply lines are bottlenecked, shipping is difficult and expensive, and it’s harder for production companies to keep supplies in stock. What’s on warehouse shelves one day may be gone next week, leaving companies scrambling to identify second and third choices for tradeshow giveaways.
Rama Beerfas of Lev Promotions, in a recent podcast interview, discussed some of the issues regarding challenges in the industry torn by the pandemic. In a recent newsletter, she outlined a few challenges still preventing the smooth acquisition and production of customized giveaways.
Inventories are low, products are selling out.
Production times are longer (this isn’t limited to the promotional products industry; many vendors in the event/conference/tradeshow world are seeing similar situations). This is often due to staffing shortages.
Shipping costs, particularly overseas, have increased. As Rama put it in her newsletter, “A contracted rate of $$3,000 per container rental has skyrocketed to $10,000 or more and bidding wars are happening.”
All I can say is “YIKES!” Well, that and be prepared for increased costs and production time if you’re planning on acquiring branded promotional items to spread around at your next event.
Last April I had Rama Beerfas of Lev Promotions on the show to talk about how the pandemic had affected her world. Thought it was time to check in again and see what has changed in the meantime. Yes, at least some things have changed, including the challenges of promotional product vendors to bring items in from across the sea. Check it out:
A sit-down with Jamie Young of Uptown Screen Printing where we delve into ways to plan goal-setting for tradeshow marketing, and how to find a good promotional product that resonates. Hope you enjoy this week’s TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee:
With tradeshow marketing on the sidelines, now is as good a time as any to brush up on your tradeshow marketing skill and knowledge. And here’s a great place to find a whole lot of tradeshow marketing tips – all in one place, and all worth their weight in gold. Check out this short under-three-minute video:
WFH. Stay at home. Shelter at home. Essential businesses only. Restaurants closed. Event industry shuttered.
Are you staying in touch with your clients? Are you doing any outreach to prospects or have you just put it all on hold?
No one answer fits everyone as we are all dealing with the Coronavirus COVID-19 Pandemic in different ways. We’re all in a different situation: some of us have worked at home for years but find that their clients are no longer as easy to connect with. Some of us have been furloughed indefinitely. Some of us have been able to collect unemployment, others are catching up with projects at home.
But the question arises: how do you let your clients and prospects know that you’re thinking of them? Sure, you can schedule a Zoom call, and maybe you should. You can send an email. You can pick up the phone.
But what if you took it one step further? I thought about the question and reached out to two promotional products professionals for ideas on what kinds of branded items might be appropriate to send to contacts to let them really know that you haven’t forgotten them.
Let’s start with Rama Beerfas of Lev Promotions in Southern California, who was a podcast guest in the past month or so. She offered several items that she felt would be worth considering:
Mini gourmet cookies
LED reading light with wireless charging
Aromatherapy candle in push tin
Wooden Stacking Zen Stones
Wooden Massager with Textured Wheels
Soft Touch Velura Throw
Custom trail mix
Smoked Almonds in Gift Box
Pick-up Sticks in Wooden Box
Oval Deck of Cards in Plastic holder
In other words, lots of good ideas for the WFM colleague. Check out the whole list with images and pricing breakdowns here.
Nicole Titus of Ipsenault Company based in Salem, Oregon came up with several ideas:
A box filled with movie night treats
Stainless wine tumblers with a message to take part in an on-line happy hour sometime in the future
A bag of coffee/mug set with a message to schedule a phone meeting
Adult coloring books and kid coloring books (as well as sidewalk chalk) to give families something to do while stuck at home (these are not very expensive so it’s a little trickier getting them to individual recipients).
Seed packets or other gardening-themed items (especially as we’re entering Spring)
Fitness products (for stay-at-home workouts)
Imprinted face masks (there are a few companies doing imprinted ones now)
She also referenced a number of stay-at-home kits that some of the production companies she works with have put together, including:
Business Travel kit: shampoo bottle, soap, toothbrush, toothpaste, tissue pack, comb and ear plugs.
Chill-at-Home Work Kit: Eco Carrying Bag, ceramic mug, silver stylus pen, USB fan, rubber coaster
When is a branded promotional product a good idea? You’ve seen them all, right? Pens, letter openers, tins of mints. But choosing the right promotional product for a company or product is as much an art as science. Rama Beerfas of Lev Promotions joins me to talk about the promotional products industry – and getting the right branded product for the right situation.
This is a guest post by Rodney Laws, Editor at Ecommerce Platforms.
We’re all familiar with tradeshow swag. If you’ve been through a hectic stretch of tradeshow attendance, you’ve surely lurched back to your vehicle of choice with a heavy bag of assorted items — and if you’ve ever presented at such a show, you’ve most likely opted, or been told, to hand out some products (free of charge).
It’s a long-standing staple of the industry,
so you might think it’s inevitable, but you have a choice in the matter. Don’t
want to offer free gifts? You don’t have to. If you’re on the fence, though,
you might be looking for a nudge in one direction or the other. So what should
you do? Cover your stall in tempting swag, or leave it bare and focus on the
reason why you’re there?
To borrow from ecommerce parlance (it is my industry, after all), it’s like the delicate matter of landing page development: you can have a generic landing page that doesn’t impress or offend, or you can build a custom landing page that differs from the competition in ways that may delight or frustrate. Neither option is perfect. Either can go wrong.
To help you decide what’s best for you, here
are the pros and cons of giving out free gifts. Consider them my gifts for you
(have I tipped my hand there?).
Why you should give out free gifts
All those tradeshow presenters can’t be totally misguided in breaking out the
swag bags. Here are the main reasons why you should dish out the goods:
They can easily be branded. You don’t need to hand out generic items that will get thrown in bags and immediately lose any association with you. If you do it well, you can give out branded gifts that get across your brand identity and possibly your brand message too (it depends on how much space you have for text and visuals).
Tradeshows can be dry. As much as professionals will get hyped-up ahead of a tradeshow, the energy can run out quickly if exhibits are dull and they drank too much the previous evening. But free gifts will always get attention — and even if that attention is brief, it’s better than no attention at all.
You can get quite creative. Pens are always useful, but you don’t need to offer pens. If you can think of something portable and not overly expensive, you can make it a free gift, and that gives you a lot of creative scope. Look at what others are doing, and come up with something different.
People often expect them. Unfortunately, the precedent of free gifts at tradeshows can make life hard for those exhibitors who don’t have any. It might be viewed as indicative of a lack of effort, or even a cheapness that bodes poorly.
Why you shouldn’t give out free gifts
That something is popular doesn’t mean it’s sensible.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t
give out free gifts at tradeshows:
The ROI might not be there. While it’s great to get plaudits for the quality of your swag, you
need meaningful ROI for the process
to be worthwhile. If you keep handing out products and getting less value in
return than you spend on them, then you’d be better served not giving out any
gifts at all. Sometimes there isn’t much point.
You can make it a selling
point. If you just have an empty stall, no one will
care, but if you make a point of your lack of free gifts — you could make it a
stand against plastic use, for instance, or simply explain that your brand is
so good that you don’t need gimmicks (this is itself a gimmick, of course, but
don’t mention that) — then you can get the same kind of attention at no cost.
Overall, then, should you bother giving out free gifts? Well, it depends on whether you think there’s ROI to be yielded. If you can choose the gifts well and make them actionable somehow, they can prove quite fruitful. Here’s my suggestion: try to come up with a smart free gift strategy. If you devise one, use it. If you don’t, forget the gifts. Simple!
Rodney Laws is an ecommerce expert with over a decade of experience in building online businesses. Check out his reviews on EcommercePlatforms.io and you’ll find practical tips that you can use to build the best online store for your business. Connect with him on Twitter @EcomPlatformsio.
This is a guest post by Ben Llewellyn of Ultimate Banners.
There’s no shortage of benefits that come with attending an exhibition, which is why it is something that a lot of event promoters and businesses do. However, that’s not to say that a successful exhibition is guaranteed without a level of planning and hard work. There are certain things that everyone should do before attending an exhibition, many of which first time event promoters don’t realise.
Things Everyone Should Do Before Their First Exhibition
There’s a lot to think about before attending your first exhibition, which can make the entire lead up stressful. It’s never a case of turning up and hoping for the best because organizing and planning is key. Here are ten things everyone should do before going to their first industry exhibition.
1. Invest in Branded Freebies – A lot of businesses make the mistake of trying to keep the cost of attending an exhibition as low as possible and though this does make sense, it is often beneficial to spend a little. After all, spending a little can often lead to you making more in the long run. Investing in branded freebies is a great way to impress potential customers and it reflects well on the business as a whole, as branded freebies are usually associated with successful brands. Giving someone a branded freebie, such as a pen or portable charger, is also an effective way to boost brand awareness. Once the event has finished, people are still going to remember who you are and the business name will be seen by more people.
2. Set Clear Goals – Before attending any exhibition, you should be sure on what your business goals are for the day. Think about whether you are aiming to sell a product, whether you are hoping to network with other businesses or whether you are simply trying to get the brand name out there. This is especially important before attending your first exhibition, as the entire day is likely to be busy and having a plan can keep you organized and on task. Make sure that your goals are realistic and that everyone is working towards the same thing.
3. Research Competitors – It’s hugely important to stand out at an exhibition, but this can be difficult when you have an abundance of competitors to contend with. Looking at competitors and seeing what they are doing is a good way to find out what works, what doesn’t and what you could do differently. Though you will want to stand out and should avoid copying them, you should always work to industry standards and showcase yourself in a similar way. If you are new to a specific industry, researching competitors is a great way to know what’s expected of you.
4. Prepare and Plan Their Exhibition Space – Attending an exhibition can be stressful, especially when you are doing so for the first time. However, planning ahead can help massively. Consider what you will need for your exhibition space and allow adequate time to source everything before the big day. You will also want to make sure you have reserved the space, allowed enough time to set everything up and have advertising materials printed ahead of time.
5. Design Fantastic Artwork – With so many competitors at an exhibition, it’s important that you make a statement and stand out. There are a few different ways to do this, but starting with designing fantastic artwork is key. It’s important for banners and advertising materials to stand out from the rest, which is why standard or generic banner artwork isn’t good enough. There’s a lot of help out there and pull up banners ten signs they are working | ultimatebanners.co has a lot of advice on creating designs that work. Artwork should grab attention, create intrigue and provide information.
6. Allow Enough Time for Banner Printing – The turnaround for banner printed is extremely quick, which means that last minute orders aren’t usually a problem. However, it’s always best to avoid leaving it to the last minute if possible. When you leave banner printing to the last minute, you’re not leaving any room for error or delays. This could mean that you are left without the banner needed for an exhibition and no way to solve the problem. Reduce the stress of your banner printing by organising everything the moment you have the artwork. It’s better to be ready too early, than too late.
7. Spread the Word About Attendance – Once you know that you are attending an exhibition and have confirmed everything, spread the word and let everyone know. You could have existing customers attending the same event, in which case they can look out for you. There could be people there who have heard about the business and want to know more, in which case an exhibition is a great opportunity for them to do so. It’s also helpful for other businesses to know that you will be there, as they may be interested in networking.
8. Think About First Impressions – There is no doubt going to be a lot of people attending any exhibition, so it’s important to think about first impressions before going as making a good first impression is key. This includes ensuring that your display looks great, that staff know what to say to passersby and that you are ready to answer any complicated questions. You should aim to appear friendly, professional and knowledgeable about the industry. Though an individual may not take you up on a service or product then and there, you will want them to have a position opinion of you for future reference.
9. Get Staff On Board – A lot of hard work and energy goes into attending an exhibition, which is why getting other staff members on board is key. Not only does this allow for work to be delegated, but it reduces stress throughout the day. Rather than one or two people attempting to do everything, a large team provides more free time for networking and building a relationship with potential customers.
Ben Llewellyn is co-founder of Ultimate Banners in Birmingham (United Kingdom). Ben loves cycling and everything tech. He works as a designer and developer working with clients in the exhibition advertising and digital services sector. Find Ben on LinkedIn.
This is a guest article by Lee Becknell of Pinnacle Promotions.
Trade shows provide companies and marketing professionals with excellent opportunities to grow their brand awareness and generate valuable leads, but there’s a lot of preparation that goes into participating in a trade show. Between budgeting, arranging travel plans, preparing staff members and ordering promotional products, it can be difficult to prioritize all the necessary tasks—especially if you’ve never attended a trade show before.
We’ve compiled some helpful tips to guide you through the trade show process. From determining which conventions to attend to booking your travel plans, you’ll be able to master your first trade show experience and grow your business in the process.
Selecting the right tradeshows
first of many steps in the trade show preparation process is selecting which
events are the best for you to capture the attention of your target
demographic. Begin by researching upcoming events in your industry and decide
if you’d like to showcase your business on a local, regional, national or even
international level. If you’ve never attended a trade show as a professional,
you may want to start small with a local or regional event before moving on to
national and international events.
Depending on factors like location, other attending vendors and time of year, some trade shows may be more beneficial to your business than others. Ask other experienced business owners in the industry for tips and try to seek out feedback on specific shows for more insight on which events would be the most advantageous to your company. Keep in mind that you should try to plan all events for the year at once to keep yourself organized and provide plenty of time to make arrangements, including enough time to order promotional products.
Book flights and hotels in advance
Determining which tradeshows you want to attend well in advance ensures enough time to plan, prep your employees and purchase travel accommodations before prices begin to rise. Tradeshows typically attract people from across the country, and sometimes even the world, which means everyone will be scrambling for plane tickets and hotel rooms. The earlier you can plan, the better off you’ll be in terms of securing accommodations.
If you’re the one in charge of planning for tradeshows, you should develop a travel protocol to ensure that all employees know how they’ll be arriving at the event and where they’ll be staying. Once the most willing and qualified employees have been selected to participate in the event, you can create a spreadsheet to organize important information such as flight and accommodation details. If the event is close enough to drive to, coordinate groups to carpool.
Many tradeshows are hosted in convention centers, which are usually located inside a hotel. If you can plan the trip in advance, you may be able to secure rooms right at the convention center, saving your employees travel time and the additional costs associated with transportation.
Budgeting for the event
Setting a budget for any given event is an essential part of the trade show planning process. A good rule of thumb for estimating the total cost is to multiply the price of a space at any given event by three. This should give you an accurate guideline on how much you’re likely to spend on all major expenses, including booth rental, display materials, travel and promotional products.
Set objectives for the tradeshow
can provide businesses with many different kinds of opportunities—networking
with other influential members of the industry, generating leads, expanding
your brand influence and building a reputation for your company. But, before
you hit the trade show track, you should set some clear, obtainable goals for
First, determine specifically what you’re hoping to get out of each event and avoid goals that are too vague. Are you looking to expand your brand’s exposure? Generate sales leads? Recruit employees? Announce a new product line? All of these objectives are common reasons to get your company involved with trade shows. By narrowing down your intentions, you allow the business to more accurately create materials and select promotional products that will reflect your goal and lead to your target results.
Order promotional products well in advance to use as trade show giveaways
products are vital to the success of a company’s display booth. Handing out a
unique product that people will actually use will help your business stand out
and make an impression at the trade show. Though attendees certainly go to
these events to learn more about the vendors and network with other
professionals in the industry, people still tend to gravitate towards booths
offering some type of trade show giveaway.
Attract more people to your booth by offering useful and interesting trade show giveaway products like customized travel bags or retail-inspired tumblers. Once you’ve attracted people to your booth, you’ll have the opportunity to talk to them about your company and spark their interest in your products or services. Another huge benefit of promotional products is that these items work as usable advertisements. Every time someone reaches for that promotional product with your company’s distinct logo, they’ll be reminded of your business, which can lead to conversions and positive word-of-mouth reviews.
Lee Becknell serves as the Senior Digital Marketing Manager for Pinnacle Promotions. Lee oversees digital marketing from the Atlanta, GA headquarters. Lee has been with Pinnacle for over six years. Lee enjoys spending time with her husband, son and golden retriever, running and taking naps.