The conference is coming up and your team is finalizing the game plan to hype your brand to the perfect crowd. Bad Idea Steve suggests the innovative idea of handing out logoed pens to the unsuspecting conference attendees.
The question: What is the right amount of awkward silence for this kind of meeting? Is your eye twitching because of rage or caffeine?
In order to keep the Bad Idea Steves from ruining a potential smorgasbord of conference leads, you need to take action fast. With a little good advice and a small investment of creative funds, you can end up being the talk of your conference by just following the simple rules of swag.
One Grilled Cheese to Rule them All
The most recent SXSW gave the world a booth with a grilled cheese station. And suddenly, thousands of years of bored convention-goers cheered. Your audience has been walking around all day praying for something interesting to do. A hot dog at the concession stand is somewhere in the ballpark of a million dollars. If you make the effort to create a couple minutes of refreshment, you’ve already nailed it. Similarly “winning” ideas are samples of coffee-cereal, candy dispensers and/or chocolates with a custom-designed QR code.
People Like Things that Aren’t Lame
Whatever your free-stuff committee comes up with, make sure it is high quality. Carefully consider buying 10 amazing things rather than 100 items that will get thrown away immediately.
Memorable gifts noted by convention goers are appropriately branded (no unnecessarily oversized logos) and high quality. Favorites are iPhone cases or skins, flashlights, aluminum water bottles, external battery packs for cell phones, compact umbrellas, custom-etched pint glasses, and backpacks. When your gift items arrive at the office, do you want to throw some in your car before anyone sees you? If so, you’re on the right track.
It’s Cool Not to Destroy the World All the Time
The newest trends also happen to be the most socially conscious. Reuse, recycle, and redistribute as much as you can. Remember, branded eco-friendly grocery bags and free-trade backpacks are more appreciated and useful to building your image than a crummy t-shirt.
In addition, convention-goers are now gravitating towards gifts they can bring home on their smartphones like e-books, free downloads for songs and videos, and discount codes. Not only does it provide an instant potential sale while they are standing there in your booth, but digital swag has no garbage or carbon footprint.
If your target audience is particularly eco-motivated, consider using your swag budget to do a little social marketing. Donate your budget to a cause related to your business and offer free white papers or other digital swag to help convention-goers feel like they are part of your movement to do good.
Remember Bad Idea Steve from the convention-planning meeting? If you’re lucky, his new cubicle has been moved out into the alley where he can schlep his “branded pens” and sewing kits to the trash cats. There are some things you have to do if you want to be remembered positively at your convention. Leave all other items (and Bad Idea Steve) at home.
Stand Out. It’s Literally a Crowd.
Stay away from items that aren’t memorable. If every other booth at the convention has it, you don’t need one. Overdone items include pens, key chains, coffee mugs, and bags with your logo. Typically they are also very low quality.
Stand out by taking a boring idea and spicing it up. For example, instead of a mundane coffee mug with your company logo, consider a heat-transfer design that shifts design depending on whether the contents are hot or cold. Don’t give out Frisbees, unless it’s a Frisbee that makes your dog look like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Avoid Giving Antiques
Avoid anything outdated. Not many people are still really using a pen as a primary method of storing information. Paper weights, keychains, and 30-page pamphlets are not the way to get to the heart of the 21st Century buyer. Even USB drives aren’t as cool as they once were.
Instead, talk with your team about the kinds of things that people will need and use at the upcoming event. Are you headed to a place where it rains? Consider a branded mini-umbrella. What about a travel-sized keyboard with your name on it? Think of all the free publicity you’ll get every time your prospect needs to make notes from their phone or iPad.
It’s Not Nice to Get Prospects Frisked
If you are giving out items that Homeland Security doesn’t like, your swag will get thrown away at the airport. Multi-tools are super neat, but they won’t make it past security. The worst thing to see is all your hard work being confiscated because it doesn’t meet space or volume requirements.
Avoid the embarrassment and wasted money by knowing the potential flaws with your unique swag design. If you give out custom-labeled soda, hot sauce, or sun block, make your bottles small enough to get through security (3.4 ounces). Anything weapon-shaped in an x-ray will cause more problems than they are likely worth. Also keep your swag small enough to fit into carry-on.
Paper = Boring
The vast majority of printed materials are thrown away as fast as they are given out. You can test this yourself by taking a quick glance at the garbage can by the exit. Brochures and flyers are going to take up your time, eat into your gift budget, and universally fail to create a memorable experience. They also don’t resonate with customers who are concerned about the environment.
The Most Important Lesson
Don’t give away junk. People at conventions are dealing with all the stresses of travel and work at the same time. They’re likely there because they have needs to address. This is your opportunity to help them clear their head for a few minutes, catch their breath, and walk back into the fray feeling more content and pleasant because of meeting you. If you can give them value and enjoyment at the show, the odds are better they will trust you to provide the same results when it’s time to get back to work.