10 Tips for Handing Out Business Freebies

Date: July 30, 2013

10 clever and memorable ideas to market your brand at an event.

Don’t give them coffee mugs. Don’t give them squishy balls. And whatever you do, don’t give them plastic flying disks.

"Giving away a mini Frisbee says that your company thinks that it's young, fun and hip, but in reality, just like the mini Frisbee, it’s uninspiring and useless," says Brian Beltz, an SEO consultant at High Rank Websites.

With all the usual suspects having been ruled out, business owners face a dilemma. Doling out tchotchkes at trade shows and other public affairs can help spread brand awareness, but your giveaway must be something eye-catching, something new, and maybe even something a little exotic. Here are some fresh choices:

1.Cash money

At credit- and debit-card issuer AEGIS FinServ Corp., President Jim Angleton hands out gift cards preloaded with amounts varying from $10 all the way up to $150. You can bet those get remembered. The company budgets $8,000 for this marketing and goodwill effort.

2.Games of chance

Inject the fun of a casino into your promotion with a customizable video scratch-and-win game. Companies like oddsonpromotions.com make these available on tablets, so there's likely no extra equipment needed on your part (assuming you have or can get your hands on an iPad or the like). Customers select spots on a grid for a chance to win free meals, drinks, cash, etc., with business owners programming the game, starting at around $1,150.

3.Positive reflection

As owner of Magnum Plastics Inc., Gary Castelle has been a design engineer for more than 30 years. "I came up with the idea for my latest product one evening when I was behind a school bus and noticed it was pinstriped with reflective tape. I thought it would be a better idea if they put that reflective material on the kids—I’m not really worried about hitting a bus. I wound up putting it on Velcro and created an easily attachable, transferable, two-sided flexible reflector that is waterproof, shatterproof and ultra-light weight." Print your logo on the disk, which wholesales for around $1 (prices vary), and people will have a highly visible, shiny reminder of your name.

4.Spicy choices

One of the fastest-growing food items, and a popular corporate giveaway, is hot sauce. There are dozens of offerings, including those with customized labels from Landry's Pepper Company in Louisiana. They come in 5-ounce and 2-ounce sizes, starting at $1.25 each for 960 bottles. Your business can fan the (gastronomic) flames of commerce with these spicy treats.

5.Boost the volume

Riding the coattails of the hottest consumer item around, Esbert Cardenas looks to Apple's near-ubiquitous iPhone as a launching pad for freebies. As CEO of Image Outfitters, a promotional-products specialist, he points to iPhone "amplifiers" as a hot giveaway. These customizable devices hold the phone and amplify the speaker volume without any powered mechanism, with prices ranging from $3 to $6 each.

6.Sweet attraction

"How do you cut through the clutter and remain relevant long after attendees have checked their luggage for the trip back home? One word: chocolate." So says Jennifer Sicotte, marketing and public relations manager at Tasty Image in Juniper, Florida. Specifically, Tasty Image offers a chocolate business card imprinted with your logo. They’re eye-catching and scrumptious. The only problem: They may not last long.

7.Rack ’em up

Among its diverse promos, SmartOfficeDeals.com offers a miniature billiards table game at $15.90 for 50 units. Just as it sounds, this pint-sized pool table gives the busy executive a way to sneak in a little desktop 8-Ball between meetings.

8.Get in the game

Wasp Barcode Technologies makes barcode scanners and printers, and, for its trade show presence, the company offers a participatory experience. "In order to create awareness, encourage participation and get people interested in the company, Wasp offered a barcode ‘laser’ tag station at their booth," says Meghan Matheny, a PR rep with BLASTMedia. "Wasp encouraged users to try and scan barcodes in order to enter to win free products and/or consultations." By taking a hands-on approach to the conference promo, the company was able to not only intrigue but also engage potential clients.

9.And then there’s poop

Well, it isn’t really poop, but it sure looks real. As president of startup Scoopette, Steve Kaufman has invented a novel device for scooping dog waste. At trade shows he promotes it with "poop" erasers, made with part eraser clay and part brown clay, along with custom pencils. Each comes with a thank you card, reminding people where they can, um, dump their business.

10.Pass it on

TisBest gives businesses a chance to help their trade show guests give back. The company produces convenient gift cards that allow recipients to make direct donations (paid for by the exhibitor) to one of more than 250 national and local charities. The exhibitor can give away cards in denominations starting as low as $5, making it possible for recipients to join them in supporting worthy causes. Now that’s certainly more memorable than a Frisbee.

Read Next: How to Maximize Your ROI on Free Samples


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