From the Blog

How to Choose Swag or Tsatskes for Tradeshows

If you’re not up on your Yiddish, a tsatske is what most would identify as a small souvenir, an almost worthless giveaway. In the world of conferences, trade shows and events, tables are littered with hundreds of them. From mini sewing kits, to golf balls and tees, to carabineers and key chain flashlights – I’ve seen them all.

One question my clients often ask is “what should we bring with us for events?” They want to stand out. They want to get the right people to their booth or table.

Here are a few questions I ask my clients in return:

  1. Who is your target audience at the event?
  2. What types of social events or networking opportunities exist at the event?
  3. How much time are you going to have to engage that target audience?
  4. Out of X number of people attending the event, how many do you think will stop by your booth/table?
  5. How do you want to be remembered?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, why are you going to the event?!
Now, let’s create a hypothetical situation…

Target: Decision makers in IT from Fortune 500 companies (total attendees, 2,000)
Social opportunities for engagement: Your event is going to be scattered with three non-speaker lunches, two cocktail hours, and at least six coffee breaks throughout three days of panel discussions

Time allotment: 8 hours over 2.5 days to openly and quickly engage with the attendees
Desired outcome: Out of 2,000 people, you’re hoping for at least 1% to actively engage (or, 20 people)

Impression: Positive, engaging, thoughtful, caring, high caliber

Let’s say you have a modest budget for this event – $1,500, which divided evenly would be 75 cents per person. How should you spend that budget? Evenly? You could buy 2,000 key chain bottle openers for approximately 75 cents a piece. Or you could buy 12 Kindle Fires for $120 a piece and have 12 special gifts for pre-established scheduled meetings with high-value targets. Which do you think will have a greater impact on your ROI?

Now, if you’re just hoping to get some brand recognition, ignore everything I’m about to tell you.
If you’re interested in engaging in meaningful discussions – it’s going to take more than a wad of free post-its to get the ball rolling.

For events such as this, I tend to stick to the motto “go big or go home” when it comes to giveaways. Why? Perhaps it’s my own personal experience that has jaded me, but I have collected more than my fair share of mini highlighters, rulers, stickers and key chains. Not one of them has made me take any type of action with a company.

Which brings me to my next point: What is my giveaway going to make someone do?
Why are you giving away stuff to begin with? Do you know? Well, it comes down to the social norm understood as reciprocity – I give you something, so you give me something in return. So, here’s where it gets interesting…

You want to give that person something that is indicative of the worth of that person’s time. If you’re handing them a stack of brochures and a pompom critter with your brand stamped across the bottom, what do you think that’s telling your target about how you think of them? Well, at best, you’re telling them you’re not thinking of them, you’re only thinking of how great you are. At worst, you’re telling them they’re worth less than a dollar to engage.

Now not everyone thinks in these terms, and sure, there are plenty of people who go to these events and pick up tons of free gum, coasters and plush toys for their kids who are, in fact, decision makers just looking to do research and get a freebie in the process. Why are you engaging them with souvenirs? If they are in fact doing research, don’t ply them with more stuff to shove in their carry-on bag – give them your business card and set a time to perform a demo.
The point of gifts is to make the reciprocity norm work for you. You want your giveaway to make the other person want to give you their time and then potentially, hopefully, their business.

So, go big or go home. If you want to get attention and keep it, you’re going to need to spend wisely. But don’t go spending $10,000 on iPads and Kindles just yet. That would be nuts.
Instead of wasting $1,000 on each event buying giveaways for hundreds of people, save your budget and spend it on higher value personalized giveaways.

At the end of the day you want to be able to ask yourself: did the reciprocity rule work, or was I just burning money? If your table is filled with interesting collateral and your sales team is busy having engaging conversations with targets you’ve pre-established, I can guarantee the ROI on your giveaways is going to soar.

How many tsatskes do you have? How many of them are from companies you chose to do business with versus those with whom you were already engaged? It’s my opinion that it’s better to spend your budget on things that are going to generate more interest from meaningful targets than to create brand recognition with a new USB powered mini speaker. What are your thoughts?