Are you a business owner or a professional big wig? If so, then you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say, “trade shows.” And you’re probably also familiar with promotional products – you know those logoed pens and water bottles you bring to decorate your booth.

It’s part of trade show history to come armed with these freebies. Still, though, you don’t just want to bring any old thing to the table.

The end of the year is the time when we’re all thinking about ad budgets. Let’s figure out if you spent wisely on your trade show giveaways and get you on the right track with your promo product spending!

Step One

Was the Trade Show a Success?

First things first, take a moment to reflect about your trade show experiences over the last year. How did they go? Did a crazy amount of people come to your booth or were you sitting there alone on your phone most of the time?

To get your brain whirling, start with the quiz below!

Think about the promo giveaways you ordered. If you have thousands of pens leftover, you know they weren’t really that impactful. Or maybe you ran out of water bottles before the event was over. In that case, you know they were a hit and you need to order more for next year.Overall, stop using what doesn’t work and go with freebies that will get people’s attention, whether it’s something trendy like PopSockets™ or something unusual like oddly shaped stress balls.

Get a Second Opinion

Here’s the thing – self-reflection will only get you so far. After all, you don’t want to admit when you were less than swag, even if that was the case. That’s why it’s smart to ask for a second opinion.

Talk to your co-workers, attendees, and other exhibitors to get their honest opinion about your trade show presence and the giveaways that came with it. If it makes them more comfortable, you can send out an anonymous survey via email. And don’t forget to check social media. People will be ruthless and won’t sugarcoat things online.

Of course, it’s not enough to just get people’s opinions. You also have to put them into action. Find out what expectations they have and what they do and don’t like. You can use this insight to be better next year.

Step Two

Schedule Ahead of Time

trade show calendar

The early bird gets the worm, so create a list of trade shows or promotional events you’d like to attend ahead of time. Many conventions release their schedule way in advance, giving you plenty of notice to pack, recruit some employees, and order awesome promo giveaways.

It’s even easier when you download this trade show planner!

Once you’ve locked down a few trade shows you’d like to attend, it’s time to start thinking about the giveaways you want to order. The best part about promotional products is they don’t expire. That means you can order a bunch ahead of time and hold onto them until your event.

Stay on Trend

If you want to make an impression, invest in products that are trendy and relevant to the crowd. For instance, many people spend time on their phones, so it makes sense to go with mobile accessories or portable chargers.

These are all great, affordable options!

These items are eye-catching and are sure to be a huge hit with the crowd. You can also check social media and see what people are talking about.

Do Your Research

It might seem like a super cut-and-dry process to order trade show giveaways, but you can be throwing away a ton of money without even realizing it!

Do Your Research

Do some research ahead of time to make sure you get the most bang for your buck. There are thousands of promo distributors out there, so it’s in your hands to find the right one. Look up reviews, order samples, and go with the people that treat you right and not like another number.

It also doesn’t hurt to go the extra mile and stay up-to-date on news that could affect your order. For instance, in 2019 a new law made it obligatory for online companies to collect sales tax. Ultimately, this will drive prices up for consumers like you. Another thing to look into would be the cost for shipping. It may be more cost-efficient to ship to your house instead of the office. Find out before you’re dishing out more dollars than needed.

Buy in Bulk

As I mentioned earlier, promotional products don’t expire. All you need to do is find space to store them, and you can order thousands to have on hand for future trade shows and events.

Ultimately, ordering 3,000 pens now is better than ordering only 300 at a time 10 times throughout the year. To see what I mean, take a look at the Element Pen pictured below*.

Pens in Bulk Comparison

Let’s say you have 10 events scheduled on your trade show planner for next year, and you want to bring 300 pens to each one. If you order them around the time of each event every time, you’re going to pay $1,401.16 over the year.

On the other hand, if you buy 3,000 pens for all your events in one swoop, you’re only going to be paying $1,200.24. That amounts to a savings of over $200 for the year. As you can see, there’s value in having your ducks in a row and planning ahead of time.

*The example above is designed for this post. Prices are subject to change.

Step Three

What Can You Do with Leftovers?

It is very easy to reuse extra giveaway items if you don’t end up using them all at your event. Here are some ideas to get you started:


Repurpose – Useful and stylish promo items can be given to employees as holiday gifts. Not really your style? Maybe do a little bit of guerilla marketing and leave your giveaways around town with a creative note.

Top Clients

Give away to top clients – Your customers always want to know that they’re appreciated and nothing says they’re valued more than getting something cool for free.

Supply Closet

Put them in supply closet – Pens, sticky notes, and notebooks are more than just awesome advertising giveaways. They are also essential in any office environment.

Price Tag

Sell them – Higher ticket promo items, like t-shirts and lunch bags, can be sold by your company for a reasonable price. This is an especially good idea for fitness centers, non-profits, and schools.


Create a contest – Get more engagement on social media with a contest. A few lucky winners can receive your leftover promotional items in a gift basket with a few other fun items.

No matter what you choose, there are definitely ways to use every promo item in your inventory. Be creative and get to work!

Why Should You Buy Promo Products?

Overall, it’s definitely important to always include promotional items in your advertising efforts. Why? Well, for starters an astounding 85% of people do business with a company after receiving one of their promotional items.

Colorful Promotional Tote Bags

If that’s not enough, there’s also the fact that promotional products are 2.5 times more likely to receive a positive response than internet ads. Go ahead and “Skip That Ad” and pick up some cool promo giveaways!

Hopefully you’re on the right track for next year. Small businesses spend about 1% of their annual sales on advertising. It’s important to stretch your dollar as much as possible and that starts with investing in the right promotional products!

Quality Logo Products®

are experts on all things printed and promotional. Let our team of awesome, incredibly good looking, and fun promo nerds help you select awesome promotional swag today!