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Another way to utilize giveaways is to create a theme for your booth, and incorporate your promotional items into that theme. Your whole booth will stand out, and will make a lasting impression. Perhaps you are an HVAC dealer. You could use theme "Stay Cool This Summer" and have people sign up for a free air conditioner. As they fill out their entry forms (which you will use as leads), you can pass out cheap plastic sunglasses with your name on them. Or, perhaps you can even hand out bottled water with your label on it. The whole theme idea is a cohesive way to build leads, build recognition and even excitement.
There is also a lesser-known way to promote your trade show booth. You can actually promote your giveaway before show even happens. You can send out an invitation to customers you know typically attend shows, and on that invitation you can say, "The first 100 people to stop by our booth will get a free travel mug!" This will build traffic before show even opens. Another way to do this is to send out a note to current or potential clients with a small item, such as a pen or magnet and then asking them to drop by your booth. They may feel obligated to since you already gave them something.
The secret weapon here is not just in product itself, but how it is distributed. With right product and right salesperson working booth, promotional items can be a very powerful tool. The leads and follow-up business will prove it!
Cindy Carrera is a creative author who's written numerous articles about PR including: business promotional items, custom promotional products and wholesale promotional items.