How to Choose the Right Promotional Item

02/26/13 by Bev

C’mon admit it – you love the freebies!  Whether it’s the sample display at the grocery store, the coupon for the free item from our favorite store, or the giveaway from our preferred vendor — we all like something that’s free!

The same goes for attendees at trade shows.  Even if an attendee has no interest in the company whatsoever, they will stand in line to get that fancy tumbler, free t-shirt, or shiny USB drive.  The booth with the peppermints will quickly get passed over for those nicer giveaways.

The trade off for those companies is that, while they may get more people coming by their booth, they have spent much more money upfront.  Does it pay off?  What is the key to buying products that people will use and that will help them remember and call you at a later time?

Promotional items are a billion dollar industry, and trade shows account for approximately 10 percent of those sales.  It seems like everywhere you turn someone is peddling pens and cups, and there is an endless array of options for your company.  The key is to focus on the relevance, quality, and the Cost Per Impression (yes, there’s a technical term for that).


Let’s say you are participating in a health services trade show.  You must carefully consider your audience.  You will likely have in attendance hospital administrators, insurance representatives, medical professionals, office managers, and pharmaceutical consultants.  Think through promotional items that would be valuable to them.  They all are likely very busy individuals, so consider a tumbler or portable cup, key chain or lanyard, desk calendar or day planner, or USB drive.  These are all items that would realistically be used by on-the-go professionals in the medical industry, but not as much by attendees at a sporting goods industry trade show.  If you fully assess who will be coming by your booth and determine a practical and relevant giveaway, you are much more likely to have your name seen over and over again by your attendees instead of thrown in the trash.


You may be tempted when comparing prices for your promotional items to steer away from the high dollar investments and go with the budget items.  This may end up backfiring on you, though, so proceed with caution.  Think about it – if your tumbler leaks or your pen doesn’t write, are you going to keep it?  If your t-shirt is itchy and your baseball hat doesn’t fit right, will you wear them?  Bottom line is that you may end up wasting your money altogether buy purchasing a cheap item that no attendee will end up using, not to mention giving your audience the impression that your company does not care about quality or details.  A few extra dollars wisely invested in your promotional items will likely end up yielding high returns!

Cost Per Impression

CPI is summarized by stating that the greater the frequency of exposure, the lower the cost per impression.  What this means is that the more times your attendees use your item, the less it practically costs you.  To compare, if your giveaway is a candy bar with your logo and company information displayed on the label, your item will get used and seen one time, leaving you with a high cost per impression.  However, if your giveaway item is a business card holder to be used every day and seen by not only the attendee but also the recipient of the business card, you will have a low cost per impression.  Don’t be tempted by the fun or trendy items – strategically evaluate your anticipated cost per impression when deciding which promotional item is best for you.

In the world of promotional items, it is so easy to get lost or sidetracked.  When planning the perfect giveaway for your next trade show, don’t forget about what is really important and what will give you the best bang for your buck.  If you need some help coordinating all these details for your next trade show exhibit, call Exhibit Edge today!

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