If you’ve ever been to a trade show, you’ve probably received a giveaway, or two, or twelve. They’re everywhere – and best of all, they’re free.

Not all are created equal, of course; sometimes you can tell when a business just doesn’t put a lot of thought or time into creating a really good giveaway. They slap a poorly-designed logo on a few pencils, or something useless, and expect people to keep them, let alone get a favorable impression from them?

Hardly.

Here, I’ll give you an insight into what makes a great trade show giveaway so you can better brand your business with freebies and gifts to those who grace your booth with their presence.

Three Words: Functional. Functional. Functional.

The best giveaways are functional. Period. End of story.

You want to give people items that they’ll actually use. Why? Because if they can use it, the item is more likely to avoid being a new tenant at the trash can posted by the exit and instead take up a new home on a person’s desk – which means your name and logo will be staring at your visitor for days, weeks, or months to come.

You know one particular item that I love? Tote bags. Why? Because people hate walking around with their hands full, especially at a trade show. If you manage to get one of these in the hands of a visitor, he or she will have a useful reminder of your business throughout the show and beyond.  (Plus, these tote bags turn into day bags, grocery bags, and gym bags once they get home.)

Badge holders, lanyards, and badge reels are also popular because people actually use them. Go figure.

Attractiveness Matters (It Really Does)

You also need to make sure that whatever product you use is attractive. No one wants to lug around something that is mind-numbingly ugly.

Try this out: Pass around a picture of the item or the item itself and see how many people in your office think it looks good. If anywhere close to half say “It stinks”, it probably does. You’re better off using items that win over a majority of your team.

This rule goes double triple for items that are worn. Also make sure that the look of the item matches your corporate tone and image. A law firm probably shouldn’t give out giant foam fingers, which might otherwise be great for recreational sport companies,

Don’t Be Afraid to Spend Money

You shouldn’t buy a lot of expensive swag just to give it away (unless you’re Apple and happen to be sitting on billions in cash), but you can and should invest in some higher-priced items and reserve those for people who fill out a contact card, sit for a demo, or take some other kind of action.

If people give you their time, you should give them something nice in return. They’ll remember you even more – and you could possibly pick up their business!