As a small business owner, it can be difficult to take time off from work to participate in an industry trade show, conference or seminar. However, trade shows provide excellent opportunities to explore new ideas, network with other professionals and promote your brand, products and services.

If you want make your trade show appearance a success, you need to stand out on the crowded trade show floor and attract foot traffic to your booth. The best way to do that is with premium print marketing materials that showcase the benefits of doing business with you and provide memorable giveaways.

There are a lot of options. Where do you start? Here are five cost-effective, branded products you will need to get designed and printed for a trade show, plus some helpful tips to make them hot-ticket items.

1. Business cards

Bring business cards. Bring a lot of business cards. Conference and trade show attendees collect a ton of business cards, so yours need to be compelling and make a memorable impression.

Add value to your business cards: A coupon code adds incentive for keeping your card. A QR code, useful chart or sports schedule will also make your business card worth saving.

Highlight your benefits: Just your name and title won’t be enough. Highlight the benefits of doing business with you —lowest rates, satisfaction guaranteed and more. If you want more real estate on your card to share your benefits, you can print a folded business card. You’ll even have space to add some eye-catching images.

Get your card into shape: Printing your business card in an unusual shape, also known as a die cut, is a clever way to get attention. You can go simple with rounded corners or square shapes, or cut your entire card into a shape that relates to your business. For example, if you’re a pet store, you could have your business card cut into a bone shape.

Give your business card a little bite with a die-cut business card.

Here’s a tip

It’s not just what you print on your business cards that matters. A premium, professional paper stock such as super-thick 16-point paper makes a great impression. Plus, business cards printed on 16-point paper can stand up to wear and tear if they’re shuffled around throughout the trade show.

2. Stickers

Stickers can be placed anywhere and everywhere, but no matter where they are, they’re promoting your brand.

When you hand out free stickers at an event or trade show, you create excitement and get people talking about your business, product or service. People like to get something for free, and stickers are always a fun and interactive way to reach out to potential customers.

Try vinyl stickers: Branded stickers make great handouts at trade shows and conferences, but they’re also useful for branding your packaging and other print marketing materials. Vinyl stickers are durable and come in a variety of sizes. Add a high-gloss UV coating for an extra shine.

Consider packaging labels: Roll stickers are spooled on a 3-inch core and are great for boxes and branding. You can also try sheet stickers, which are printed on 12-inch by 18-inch sheets. Plus, you can vary the design on each sticker.

Window clings and decals work great on borrowed space: Window clings, also known as static clings, and repositionable adhesive decals are easily removable. So while your brand will stick in attendees’ minds long after the trade show, your sticker residue won’t.

Die-cut stickers always command attention: An eye-catching die-cut sticker printed in a custom shape speaks to the uniqueness of your business.

You can transform a plain sticker into a memorable branding opportunity with die-cut stickers.

Here’s a tip

Magnets are often saved and placed on refrigerators and filing cabinets to hold photos and papers. This is a smart way to keep your brand top of mind.

3. Pens

If you want to hand out a useful promotional piece, be a pen pal. According to Advertising Specialty Institute, 50 percent of U.S. consumers own promotional writing instruments.

Pens are an affordable way to get your brand in your potential customer’s hand, and they’re perfect for every industry. Make sure you pick a quality pen worthy of your brand. An unusable pen tells prospects that your business is unreliable, too. A cheap pen will most likely end up in the trash after the trade show, so it’s best to order pens that have the write stuff.

  • Plastic pens are the most common giveaway. If you want to promote your eco-friendly side, try pens made from biodegradable and recycled plastics.
  • Metal pens are available in a variety of colors and options (click, twist, rollerball).
  • Try a wood pen. Wood pens are eco-friendly and have a very distinctive look that attendees will want to hold on to.

A pen-stylus is always in style.

Here’s a tip

If you want to add a little something extra, try a pen-stylus, which includes a soft rubber tip for touchscreen devices.

4. T-shirts

T-shirts are always popular items at trade shows and conferences. In the ASI study, 58 percent of U.S. consumers say they own promotional shirts. T-shirts are often put on right away and worn by attendees on the trade show floor, which increases your brand awareness and promotes your booth.

When printing shirts, remember that quality matters. No one is going to wear an itchy, scratchy branded shirt. Cotton tees are, hands down, the most popular T-shirt giveaway. Cotton is comfortable and casual for everyday wear, perfect for lounging at home, hitting the gym or running errands.

Printing a T-shirt that people are proud to wear outside of the trade show is simple: Print your T-shirt in your brand’s colors with a clever saying or cool design. For example, a landscaper at a home and garden trade show could hand out shirts that say on the front, “Leaf it to us,” with a simple logo design on the back.

Here’s a tip

If you’re printing T-shirts with just your logo, increase attendees’ chances of wearing your branded T-shirt with a simple design. No one likes to feel like a billboard. Also, offer a variety of sizing options, because everyone wants a shirt that’s flattering.

5. Tote bags

Everybody collects tote bags. We use them for shopping, going to the gym and for carrying our lunch to the office. A branded tote bag has the chance to be seen by thousands of people.

Handing out branded tote bags at the trade show is smart. It’s a giveaway that trade show attendees can actually use! They will use your tote bag to carry all their tradeshow swag, which means your brand will be seen all over the showroom floor.

If you’re going to dedicate some of your budget to tote bags, make sure you print tote bags worth saving.

  • A polypropylene, or plastic, bag is popular, but if you want to make a statement, go with a cotton or canvas bag. Those are durable and washable.
  • A custom jute bag, which is made of natural vegetable fiber, is also a great way to demonstrate your eco-friendly sensibilities.

Milan jute tote bags are perfect for bold logos.

Here’s a tip

Make sure you slip your business card, logo stickers, pens, T-shirt or other print marketing material into the bag for the attendees to look at later.

Trade shows are the perfect opportunity to network, learn more about your industry and grow your business. Using these cost-effective and branded giveaways is a surefire way to make your trade show appearance a success.

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