Yesterday I was up in Boston representing my company at The Small Business Expo. I’ve done quite a few different tradeshows and expos since starting with my company, but all of them have one thing in common. Freebies. Who doesn’t love all of the free little tchotchke. Pens, cellphone holders, totebags, stress balls, ice scrapers, magnets, tape measures, candy, cups, you name it I’m sure someone has it. I’ve gotten some pretty cool stuff from tradeshows over the years and I’ve also seen some stupid stuff. Quite frankly I’m tired of the drawstring backpacks but I will take a reusable insulated cup any day of the week. As a vendor though, you see they different strategies and tactics people use to collect the goodies. I have come to realize that there are 5 types of freebie hunters you will see at every show.
- The Hoarder. These people go booth to booth squirreling away all of the freebies they possible can. They take the pens, the cell phone holders, the stress balls. They have tote bags – from other booths, of course – full of freebies. They come right up to the table, start grabbing one (or even multiples) of everything you have and then run off. They don’t make eye contact, they don’t say anything. I often times wonder what they actually do with everything they take. Do they have 40 cell phones that need holding? How many hands do they have to squeeze all of those stress balls?
- The Faker. These people are still only interested in your giveaways, but they will entertain a conversation to make it seem like they don’t just want to take their stuff. I am not sure if they think they are slick, or if they are just trying to quiet a guilty conscious of some sort, but pretending to care is annoying for everyone. It wastes my time that I could be talking to legitimate prospects. I would much rather people tell me straight out that they just want my cell phone holder and be done. That brings me to my next type.
- The Tell-It-Like-It-Is. These people happen to be passing by and see something cool on your table. They come over, tell you straight up that they just want your cool gadget and they move on. You never know when or where your customers will come from so having your name on someone’s desk is a good thing. I am ok with the people who want our freebies and just tell me that. The honesty saves everyone the trouble of a pointless conversation.
- The Tag Team. These people usually come around in pairs. One person will engage you with questions while the other walks over and raids the table. 9 times out of 10 they just think they are crafty and tag team your freebies but on occasion you might get a real lead. But usually it’s just a tag team of freebie snatchers.
- The Repeat Customer. These are the people you will find at your local shows that you attend annually. It’s usually the same crowd that comes year after year. At these shows you get those people that recognize you and of course your freebies. This happens with our cellphone holders. People come running over and say something like “my co-worker has this one her desk and I love it, can I take one?” or “I got one of these last year and l loved it but I lost mine, can I have another one?” I mean, with cool stuff I can see some office jealousy and obviously there is some logo/brand recognition so I guess we’re making an impact with our stuff? That’s what freebies are about, right?
After all of the freebies are gone, the marketing documents depleted, and the booth is broken down, the one thing that matters is the quality leads you had come through. If you can generate business out of the freebie feeding frenzy then it was worth it (and the 2 hour drive in and out of Boston).