Trade shows are a valuable opportunity for business owners to showcase the work they do and raise their professional profile in their larger industry.  The challenge to you is standing out among a crowd of fellow exhibitors that are doing exactly the same thing.  One of the preferred methods of business marketing at these events is to hand out promotional materials to attendees who visit your space.  Promotional materials of this kind are inexpensive and are a popular alternative to the ubiquitous business card.  You have to do some planning if you’re going to get the most out of these materials.  Before you place an order for several dozen customized pens, notepads, or magnets I have some suggestions you should keep in mind.

1.       What promotional items are going to contribute to your booth experience?

Just because you can get a good deal on customized pens or pencils doesn’t mean that you should order them.  Pens are handed out by almost every exhibitor at every trade show; there’s a good chance that yours will simply not stand out from the sea of similar items.  Try looking for items that are in keeping with the spirit of your booth or your products and services.

2.       Compare prices by inquiring about bulk rates or other special deals.

There are hundreds of companies selling customizable promotional products and their prices can vary considerably.  It’s worth shopping around to get an idea of how much you’ll be expected to pay for particular items.  You might discover that the price difference between companies is more than you expect.  Make sure to inquire about bulk rates; companies usually give price breaks if you order several dozen units at one time.  There might be shipping specials or seasonal sales in effect, too.  All this research will allow you to plan your entire purchase down to the penny; that way you can feel certain that you’re safely within your marketing budget.

3.       Don’t get stuck in a rut.

If you’ve ordered promotional materials in the past, don’t automatically order the same items again.  An enormous variety of things can be customized.  Water bottles or insulated cups with your company’s name on them would be a clever item to bring to a food and beverage expo.  Floating key chains will be very popular at a trade show centered on boating and water recreation.  Small packages of crayons can be handed out at an educators’ conference.  Reusable shopping bags will be eagerly taken by people attending any event focused on resource conservation.  Be willing to take a little chance.  If you come across a promotional item that strikes you as interesting, get a few.  If they’re interesting to you they’ll be interesting to the people visiting your exhibit space.

4.       Plan ahead. 

Because you get valuable price breaks on bulk orders and can save on shipping when you purchase above a certain amount, think about what materials you’re going to need in the future.  It’s helpful to plan your trade show attendance at least a year in advance so there’s going to be at least one event to look forward to.  You can save a lot of money on materials by ordering your entire years’ worth at one time.

5.       Explore customization options.

The great advantage of promotional marketing materials is the opportunity for customization.  Small items are usually only able to accommodate a few lines of text and a maximum character count of less than five hundred in total.  Larger items can naturally accommodate a greater character count and larger font sizes.  Many customizable items can accommodate small pictures, such as company logos.  You can get very creative in the space available.  Try designing an image highlighting a particular product or add a clever line of text to an otherwise common item.  Look at product examples on the sales website or speak with a sales representative about possible design options.

6.       Think about packaging.

You can use packaging to increase the visual appeal of promotional items.  This is another good way of distinguishing your item from others being handed out at the same event.  Small boxes and bags can be given the customization treatment for even less than most promotional items.  You could pack a customized box full of handouts to deliver a high-value item for less than you might otherwise spend.

In the rush to get everything ready for your next trade show, it’s easy to forget to order a fresh batch of marketing items.  Keeping your marketing materials fresh through the use of interesting items, unique forms of customization, and clever packaging will help you be ready for any event.