As a small business owner, I try to make the most of every marketing dollar. But I’ve realized that I fall into a common trap every time I go to a trade show. Leading up to the event, we get all of our marketing and promotional products in line; we put together relevant brochures, check our business card levels, bring samples of our work, and stockpile enough pens to transcribe most of human history. As a business owner it seems like a good idea, give people something they can take away and use. As a visitor to one of these events, things take on a much different outlook. What ends up happening is we stock up on free bags from the clever vendors, and go on a shopping spree fill them with promotional giveaways until we have enough pens and tchotchke items to last a lifetime. Most of these items end up in the trash or in a “pen drawer”.┬áThe two types of vendors I remember most are; vendors who gave me a promotional item with distinct use or long term value (double walled tumblers, flashlights, multi-tools, steel cased pens, towels, polos, T-shirts, food) and vendors who engaged me in conversation and had a product or service I could benefit from.

So why should I even buy promotional pens?

If you plan on buying a promotional pen with the sole intention of setting it in a basket at your reception desk or leaving them by the dozens on a trade show table, you may be disappointed in their ability to generate prospects on their own. As a small business owner on a limited budget I would advise against distributing thousands of pens at a trade show, in favor of a different approach. Instead keep pens with you at all times, leaving them like bread crumbs for your potential customers. Over the years I’ve heard enough waiters and waitresses complain about their best pens being taken to finally make a connection. What is a frustration and cost of doing business for them could be a perfect opportunity for you. In addition to your good tip, ask your server if they would take and go through a dozen or two of your pens. In most cases they will gladly take as many pens as you give them. They won’t even have to pass them out as people will inadvertently (or intentionally, who can tell) end up with them anyways; and the ones who don’t will still see your marketing message. Now your local restaurant is generating impressions for you business for the cost of some pens.

Use the same strategy every where you go; any time you have to sign for a package, sign a receipt, add your name to a list or fill out a slip at the bank just leave your pen there for the next person. The difference between these places and a trade show is simple, your pen is the only one around. Scarcity raises the value and potential attention people will pay to it. At the end of the day marketing is about making your message stand out from the white noise that we endure on a regular basis. If we step back and actually pay attention to what everyone else is doing, and look for ways to do things just slightly differently, we can use that to our benefit. Whether you’d like to pick up pens to scatter in the wind or for laser targeted guerrilla marketing, we have hundreds of pens to choose from that actually write and feel good in the hand. Just send us a message or give us a call and we’d be happy to help!