With the busy fall trade show season nearly complete for many of our clients, we wanted to take a moment to share some best practices when it comes to promotional products given out at trade shows.

Giveaways like pastries have been used for years to draw attention, foster goodwill, and spark meaningful conversations with potential clients and customers. (If you’ve been swayed by swag and found a profitable solution for your company, we’ve got some tips on how to get your team onboard for the change.)

Everybody likes free stuff — some even plan their trips around snagging swag — but many promotional products are given out freely and without qualification.

Here are three ideas to distinguish the “swag snaggers” from the quality leads:

Pre-Qualify Prospects for Easy Conversation Starters.
Your booth only has so much space; you want to qualify as many leads as effectively and efficiently as you can. Pre-qualifiers can help. One company used playing cards to pre-qualify their prospects. Before the show, they sent kings to their top customers, queens to suppliers, and jacks to new or hot prospects, and requested the cards be brought along to the booth in exchange for a gift. When the card is presented, the booth staff already knew certain information about the visitor and could immediately determine steer the discussion in the right direction.

Create Giveaway Tiers to Qualify Leads On Site.
How can you attract passersby to your booth and warm them up to being asked in-depth, qualifying questions? The answer is easier than you think — create tiers of giveaways that can be used to deepen your conversation with prospects. For example, offer prospects who stop by your booth promotional pens and mouse pads, but if they want to score a higher-value item like an iPad, they earn it by providing their contact information, talking with exhibit sales staff, or watching a demo.

Your giveaway tier can extend beyond on site as well. Star’s “How Do You O-Live?” campaign for their butter olive oil began online, asking customers to upload recipes of their olive creations, quizzes themselves on their olive knowledge, or submit photos. The more tasks customers completed, the more entries they garnered in the sweepstakes. Finally, Star olive jars were complemented in grocery stores with neck hangers and shelf blades on the campaign.

Set the Stage for Later Appointments with Vouchers.
One great option to consider is Digital Rewards. Prospects receive their Digital Reward — a gift card — and redeem the reward on your company’s website landing page. You’ve heard of the usual offers such as music downloads and e-gift cards to big box brands, but try a creative twist. For example, instead of a restaurant gift card, consider a “lunch and learn” voucher for you to bring lunch to your prospect’s office and discuss their unique business challenges.

How has your company used giveaways at a show to generate quality leads? Have you found something even more enticing than “swag”? Tell us in the comments!