Fresh Ideas for Business
#9 The Tale of the Inappropriate Giveaway
Giveaways are often a staple for businesses at trade shows. People often think that by giving out "freebies" they will have potential customers flocking to their booth. I tend to disagree (mostly because I usually throw away giveaways - but that's just me).
Attracting attention to your business or nonprofit at any event, however, is critical. Some shows can be quite expensive to participate in - not to mention the cost of your time. It all adds up. If you plan to do any type of show the main goal is to get seen, get information on "target" clients and reinforce relationships with existing clients (and other vendors) so you can grow your database and convert leads into sales or donations.
Now comes to the tale of the inappropriate giveaway. As the marketing director for an IT firm in New Mexico (yet another ill-considered career choice but that's a whole other blog) I developed a strategic series of trade events to showcase the company's products and services. The company had no existing trade show materials, presentation boards - nothing. Zip. Nada. I had to start from scratch. With no marketing budget to speak of. Lucky me. Fortunately, I had been able to obtain two feature articles for this company so I did have that material to work with.
After having worked so many shows through the years I can practically do them in my sleep. I quickly borrowed a booth backdrop, laminated the recent feature articles so I could attach them, stole pictures off the web of IT images (which reproduced badly by the way), laminated those, whipped together some promotional materials - so there was SOME semblance of a professional presentation of the company's services.
But there was a missing link: A giveaway. Something different that would catch the eye - and hopefully to distract attendees from the yucky IT images on the backdrop. The show was targeting the Aerospace industry. The attendees were to be representatives from the Air Force and Aerospace industries.
Well, like any desperate marketing professional in a bind you end up at Party City at 7:00 pm the night before the show (I had been looking for a giveaway for a couple of weeks to no avail). As I combed through the rows of plastic plates and party favors...eureka! I saw the perfect solution - little toy airplanes!
As I snapped up a few bags (just to have something to attract attention on the table) I noticed the price: $6.99 for a package of 10. That was WAY over budget - I'm not kidding. That was a no go. OK, now for Plan B.
Close to the toy planes I saw packages of Army Men. Yes, those little guys that most of us played with as kids and have probably ruined vacuum cleaners throughout the ages. Better yet - they were only $1.99 for a good sized bag! That's it! Now, you are probably thinking "Army Men?" They don't have your company name on them and this show was for the aerospace industry! Well, necessity is the mother of invention as they say. I figured if they were a big flop I would just take them off the table.
So I splurged and bought 3 bags. The next day I set-up the booth - it actually looked pretty good - and put the army men on the table (tan and green for additional color). So as high-ranking professionals walked by the booth they would stop and do a double-take.
Everybody HAD to pick up one of the army men. Pretty soon we had a crowd around the table. It was interactive - people started setting up battles. They laughed. As they played I talked about our products and services. They loved it - and our company received several request for proposals from the show. By the way, nobody really "took" the toys, it was more like a "prop." But everyone remembered us because of those little army men.
Marketing Moral Number 9: Your Giveaway Should Reflect Your Type of Business & Your Audience
In a perfect world, you want a giveaway that ties into your business (i.e. tape measures for construction at a home builder's show, for example) with your company's name, website, etc. If you have a limited budget you can do other things like have attractive flowers, candy, a prize for a contest they have to enter so you can get contact information - it depends on the type of show and who you want to attract. Try to get giveaways that are different, however. I don't think I've ever contacted a company because I have a pen with their name on it.
Why This Worked: This was, in a lot of ways, a HMA (Happy Marketing Accident). It worked because it was different, people could see and touch them and it brought attendees out of their normal professional "zone." They smiled and it got them talking. Keep in mind that giveaways can be a big waste of money. I always hear from businesses that people just take their stuff and never talk to them at trade shows. Don't expect to people to come to your booth just because of your giveaway. There are other ways to draw them in.
Next Installment: My Top Ten Marketing Mistakes and Why They Worked
#8 Oh My God, We're Killing the Prom King!