We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience.
For a complete overview of all cookies used, please see our privacy policy.

5 Ways to Become the Go-To Merch Provider for Trade Shows and Events

Home  /  The PRES&S  /  
Business Advice
5 Ways to Become the Go-To Merch Provider for Trade Shows and Events

bout 70% of Linda Milano’s business, CFB Promotional Products, comes from companies hosting or attending events like trade shows, community events, sales conferences, holiday gatherings and other types of celebrations. That’s no surprise considering that the large majority of U.S. marketers (79%) use events to grow sales.

On average, companies allocate approximately 31.6% of their marketing budget to attend trade shows and generate about a third of their new business from these events. This trend is reflected in the U.S. events industry’s projected growth, expected to explode from $340 billion in 2022 to $661 billion by 2030.

Is your print shop or distributorship fulfilling your customers’ trade show needs, from uniform polos to events tees, to all the logoed swag for attendee tote bags or booth giveaways? If not, now is a great time to start offering the products you’re already selling for money-making events using these five tips from the experts.

Show Swag Brings Big ROI for Exhibitors

Did you know there are about 13,000 annual trade shows in the U.S., with countless smaller and regional events held throughout the year? Since 85% of companies say their primary reason for hosting or exhibiting at a trade show is to generate leads and sales, high-quality merch, uniforms and display items can make a huge brand impact on attendees, leading to more sales. These stats give a snapshot of how important events are to most companies, giving you a reason to pitch your event services to almost everyone:

●      81% of trade show attendees can recall at least one exhibitor they visited six months later, highlighting the lasting impression and engagement shows offer. “This is especially true for recurring annual events,” says Brayden Jessen, owner of Zome Design. “That branded mug is so much more than a billboard for the brand or event. It can be that tangible keepsake that reminds them that they can accomplish something great or a reminder of a transformation they had at the event.”

●      Participation in events helps businesses increase brand recognition by 76%, and the absence of a company at an event can actually lead to a 5% decline in brand perception, underscoring the impact of trade show representation.

●      Converting a trade show lead is 38% less expensive than relying solely on sales calls. On average, it takes 3.5 calls to close a lead generated at an event, compared to 4.5 calls without an exhibition lead. “The swag outlasts the event and ties a positive memory to that event,” helping move the prospect to “yes,” Jessen says.

5 Tips for Maximize Your Event-Related Sales

Try these five expert tactics to grab more trade show swag sales.

1. Present your business as *the* events products specialist.

Jessen expanded his shop’s local reputation from decorated-apparel specialist to encompass event needs.

“By positioning ourselves as ‘experts who take event swag and turn it into branded merchandise that people want and keep,’ it transformed us into our customer’s go-to expert on all things events.”
Brayden Jessen, owner of Zome Design

By doing that, Zome introduced a completely separate income stream without the need for additional equipment or hiring extra employees – from trade show and event displays to custom apparel like t-shirts and socks, and promotional products like lanyards. “In the midst of a challenging labor market, this proves to be a significant advantage,” Jessen says.

Try testimonials.

To let businesses know you can help with events, feature client testimonials about how you solved marketing problems or achieved branding goals on social and your website.

“Most event attendees won’t know you’re the creative mastermind behind the swag unless you tell them. Highlight the craftsmanship behind your merch to appeal to people’s interest in the production process. If you can attend the event, grab live testimonials about people’s reactions to the swag to amplify your reach and engagement.”
Brayden Jessen, owner of Zome Design

Check in with your clients about tagging them on social media when showcasing their merch. This approach lets you leverage their audience when they reshare, a tactic called “borrowing other people’s audiences” to extend your reach beyond your own social following. Additionally, geo tag your posts to enhance your local presence, positioning you as an expert in your city.

2. Be ready to give your clients uber-personalized recommendations.

When you offer promo products to your clients, you have access to nearly 1 million items from more than 3,000 suppliers. The sky’s the limit as far as your ability to create amazing swag packs for attendees, based on the industry, type of show and brand.

Milano, owner of CFB Promotional Products, asks targeted questions to learn the particulars of the event, the who, what, where, why and when, along with the purpose and goals of attending or hosting.

“Then we start the fun part of brainstorming for creative ideas. We listen to each client’s individual needs and guide them to make product and apparel choices to help their brand shine and stand out.”
Linda Milano, owner of CFB Promotional Products

3. Have go-to product recommendations for exhibitors and attendees.

When it comes to events, you’re catering to two main groups (hosts/exhibitors and attendees), each with their own set of needs. Those on the event staff or exhibiting side need to stand out easily, with a unified professional look. “Clients like custom embroidered or printed items like t-shirts, polos, jackets, hats, lanyards and name badges,” Jessen says.

Beyond that, CFB provides notepads, pens, games, prize wheels, table covers, banners and giveaways. “The games add an element of fun and provide an opportunity to engage with the show attendee who can earn a prize. That helps them remember the company and leads to the next step in the sales process,” Milano says.

Now, let’s talk about what attendees typically want. Jessen notes, “They want keepsakes from the event.” T-shirts are a common choice, and he suggests expanding the options to include lanyards and other affordable swag items.

Go beyond the basics with items like stickers, writing instruments, notepads or journals. For practicality, he suggests including snack kits and water bottles to add value and keep attendees hydrated. Small, inexpensive items like lip balms and mints are also a hit, especially since attendees are often engaged in networking.

Think reusable.

And don’t forget the packaging! Whether it’s a simple cinch bag or a fully custom-branded box, Jessen emphasizes what a big impression it makes on the recipient. He often advises clients to choose reusable, practical items that will have a life beyond the event, like cooler bags, backpacks, or duffle bags, ensuring a lasting brand impact.

4. Reach out and promote your trade shows at the right times of year.

Jessen and Milano identify spring and fall as the prime event seasons for their businesses. Trade shows are prevalent from January through late March, followed by a surge in smaller events from March to June and then again from mid-August through late October. Reach out to event coordinators and exhibiting business early and proactively.

“Don’t wait for them to reach out to you. Event coordinators have a lot on their plate with organizing the entire event. Not every event coordinator or exhibitor values swag or swag preparation the same, so it’s key to educate them and get them on your schedule.”
Brayden Jessen, owner of Zome Design

Work with a short list of suppliers that understand and value your business and will work as a trusted partner to ensure your success. “When ordering products for a large event, stick with the suppliers you know and trust, since one you spend tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands of dollars with each year will take care of you differently than a supplier you may have never worked with before,” Jessen says. “This way, if any issues arise, you can easily contact them and know they’ll take care of everything. This is helpful if you’re ordering multiple products from different suppliers.”

5. Don’t wait until the last minute, but be ready to handle the rush.

The Zome team reaches out to customers who host and attend events months in advance.

“No one likes a rush, including the initial ideation process. When a client calls in a panic, you’re not always in your most creative mindset as you scramble to make something work. Giving yourself more time puts you in the right place to put your best work forward.”
Brayden Jessen, owner of Zome Design

Plan ahead when shipping directly to venues.

When you’re shipping items to a convention center or event location, be aware of the venue's shipping and receiving requirements to build in enough time. Similarly, if you’re faced with a rush order, look for suppliers located close to the venue, so you don’t add in the complexity of lengthy shipping times. Some vendors may offer free or low-cost rush solutions, so keep them on your shortlist too.

Finally, if you decorate in-house, recommend simpler solutions that don’t have the potential to fail during production.

“For example, if you’re not a pro at more advanced techniques like water-based discharge screen printing or puff embroidery, suggest a technique you know you can quickly produce with the quality you’re known for.”
- Brayden Jessen, owner of Zome Design

Trade Shows Pack a Big Opportunity

In a dynamic landscape where a staggering 79% of U.S. marketers use events for sales growth, the burgeoning events industry presents a substantial opportunity for print shops and distributors.

To tap into this market, position your company as specialists in event products. Offering a diverse range of products for both exhibitors and attendees, including reusable items for a lasting brand impact, is key, for positioning your business as an indispensable partner in the thriving events merchandise market.

Dec 3, 2023