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On September 30, 2022

Five Steps to Pick Swag that Doesn’t Suck

If you’re going to have a booth at a trade show there is nothing more ubiquitous than swag. Sadly, for many companies, there is very little strategy behind items they give away, and that’s a lost opportunity. While most swag will find its way to the waste paper bin or the back of a file drawer, well-selected promotional products can make a lasting impression and keep your company top of mind long after the trade show, expo, or conference. So how do you select swag that makes an impact?

1. Know Your Buyer Persona

The first question to ask yourself before ordering a bulk supply of swag for your next conference or tradeshow is, “Who is your audience?” Work with your sales team to create a buyer persona of the perfect client for your business. Design this persona down to the details and ensure your sales team weighs in on what kind of people purchase from your business the most often so that you know you’re targeting a possible audience. 

2. What do They Want?

Once you’ve created your buyer persona, you should clearly understand what your target audience is looking for. You want to offer swag that you know they’ll want, not something that they just feel obligated to snag and then never use. What kind of business are you operating? Can you offer them a piece of what you sell? For example, healthcare businesses can give away sweatbands or cool water bottles, tech businesses can give away computer accessories like laptop camera covers and cell phone holders. Got a solar business? Offer cell charger power banks that recharge in the sun or windable rechargeable flashlights. You’re the expert in your own business so you and your team should be able to come up with several ideas for giveaways that fit what you offer and your buyer persona. 

3. Offer An Experience

You know that saying about memories lasting a lifetime? Well, it’s true. If you’re in the business of offering a service that can be demonstrated on the go, think about offering a piece of what you do at the event. This can be great for businesses that can create a gamified experience. Sending people home with the memory of an impactful demonstration and maybe even a polaroid photo of the groups of friends participating in the activity. Just don’t forget to put your business logo sticker on the corner of the photo!

4. Make your Swag Work for You

Wearables are always a tempting option for trade shows because most people love a free shirt. However, giving away a free shirt doesn’t guarantee that the recipient will wear the shirt in front of your audience. At the recent Inbound Conference, The Hubspot Hacks YouTube Channel enticed its shirt recipients to wear the shirt to the next day of a conference by offering $100 giveaways to randomly chosen guests who are spotted wearing their swag the next day. This strategy obviously works best at multi-day events but can give your businesses more of a presence than just at your table or booth. In fact, Hubspot Hacks didn’t even have a booth at Inbound, but they were able to make a splash on the tradeshow floor with their clever “hack” for passing out swag. As an important reminder, don’t forget to post to your social media when you give away the cash and include a photo of the winner to show your follow-through. 

5. Don’t just Give it Away

One of the best ways to ensure you’re leaving the convention or tradeshow with a well-curated list of contacts and sales appointments is to require a sign-up in exchange for swag. This will work best with more attractive swag, so don’t skimp on this one. This tip is also considered expert level because you will need to be sure you’ve developed your buyer persona comprehensively and trained your staff on how to determine if someone fits the profile. Otherwise, you’ll create more work for yourself on the back end of the event because you could be left with a large contact list to sort through of people that weren’t your intended audience and only filled out the form or scheduled with you for the freebie. Even with taking the risk, this can strategy can still be a big payoff and is worth a try if you’re confident in identifying your ideal customer through a quick chat.

Bonus: Get Creative

It’s ok to try new things. Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and switch up your usual swag with something new. Or traditional swag like hats and koozies can become more fun if you gamify it. A great example is ChikoUSA. At the recent RE+ Convention, they utilized a claw machine to let their audience play for swag.


Just remember, know your ideal consumer and what they want and might actually use. Also, don’t forget to show people a piece of what your company can do for them. Most importantly, remember the follow-through. Swag should be one part of a much larger plan to connect with your prospects and communicate the value of your brand. If you’re planning to attend a trade show, conference, or expo and want to make sure your business is ready make sure your swag doesn’t suck, but that’s just one piece, of a much bigger plan. Make sure your next trade show is a big success and download our free checklist here:


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Linda Nunes-Quimby
A rare decaffeinated millennial motivated by research and the passion to turn knowledge into content that helps others.

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