4 Takeaways From A Trade Show Giveaway Tale of FAIL

February 05, 2016

4 Takeaways From A Trade Show Giveaway Tale of FAIL

A prospect contacted us about an eco friendly booth giveaway from our website for a trade show. 

TRUE CONFESSIONS: I thought their choice for a branded item was less than optimal for their marketing target of franchise owners of food chains. (The food chain was far from healthy options or perhaps there would have been a tie-in!) I love this sustainable pencil, but find it a promotional giveaway better suited for a school,an eco friendly target audience or as an Earth Day promotion. 

I didn’t share that confession, as it was my sales assistant who was working with them. My assistant set about ordering samples from the factory, getting pricing, arranging payment, etc. The client needed special handling for shipping which meant an additional step. Complaining? No. Just sharing that we spent hours and hours pulling everything together.

The client was emailed an order confirmation detailing the complete breakdown of charges days before ‘the call’. Our CFO spoke to their accounting manager and arranged a pre-pay by check and emailed a FedEx label for them to overnight the check.

The call: the next day, a different manager contacted us to negotiate price. Huh?

Our prospect (who we thought was a client), had found a similar pencil from China for .40 each but it would not be engraved with their company name. (We thought that was the point, but I guess not!) Our price to the ‘client’ was $2.25 each with their company logo engraved on each pencil.

So, the client, errrrr...prospect, told us "if you get in the $1 range, you can keep the order." Thank you, but, no thank you. That wouldn’t cover our COST.  I don’t hide that we are in the branded merchandise business to make a profit.

The event by now was 15 days away. Will the pencils ship from China on time? Will there be reliable tracking? Will the shipment clear customs on time?  And will you be surprised when you open the box at your event with the wrong item? These are all questions I would be asking. 

Even though they weren’t a client, we shared research we did, after they asked us to meet the Chinese price, telling them why we thought there were BIG RED FLAGS. Why? We knew better. I felt it was the right thing to do.

I understand pennies count, whatever the size of your organization. But here are my takeaways from this:

  1. Why wasn’t the staff given a budget for marketing giveaways for the event? That would have immediately taken this item out of the running. Instead, they let two of their staff take the order to the point of arranging for a check to be cut to pay PROMOrx. OprahWinfrey says “I try to surround myself with people who really know what they’re doing and give them the freedom to do it.” Good advice.
  2. Why not partner with a professional promotional products distributor who can point you to the best branded items, in stock, to meet your event date?  A true branded items professional can not only save you time, but also share promotional item ideas you may not find in hours of surfing the web. Is there a ‘best in category’? Yes. Is there a reason A is cheaper than B? Yes. Details count. Ask a pro.
  3. Are you comparing apples to oranges?  Are the branded items the same material? A single wall aluminum water bottle looks like a double wall insulated travel bottle UNTIL you put cold water in them on a hot day. 
  4. Time is money. Could your staff be focusing on other projects? Do you really find it ok to have them ‘surfing the web’ trying to find the latest trade show giveaway? What you need is to partner with a knowledgeable promotional products distributor to find best in category, on time, done right. One who cares as much about your brand as you do. (That’s the PROMOrx Team by the way!)

UPDATE: The company ordered 5000 of the .40 pencils from China. They arrived with Chinese text. Late. It was too late to have them laser engraved with their logo even if they had arrived with English text on them.

One of our decorators told us it would cost around $2 - $3 each to engrave them here in the US.

The Chinese vendor refused to take them back. They are now trying to sell them. On ebay. 

How did we find out? The original person who reached out to us told my sales assistant. 

What did they end up taking to the trade show? Printed brochures. OUCH.


I promise I'm not saying I told you so.

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888.553.9569 extension 3

Author: Vickie MacFadden, the PROMOrx.com owner. I'm a tell it like it is Southerner who loves Mother Earth, electric and solar, and the color purple. I'm into details which is a huge asset when it comes to company swag!