If you've attended a conference or trade show lately, you probably ended up with a tote bag full of "stuff"--from t-shirts to pens to fidget spinners.

Company gifting is not a new concept. It creates awareness and, as in any relationship-building process, lets customers and prospects know you value them. How do you decide what to give and when to give it? Timing and quality are just two of the key elements of the gifting process. 

At B2BMX (a conference for the marketing technology community), I walked the aisles, talking to exhibitors about how they choose their swag and which items are the most popular these days.

  • Stickers are clearly trending. The laptop sticker seems to have replaced the business card. Tech companies want you to display their brand and a sticker--especially like those from Sticker Mule, which come in a variety of shapes and sizes-- is a fraction of the cost of a t-shirt or even a business card. Sigstr's stickers said "Email will never die." Featuring a caption rather than just a big brand will likely increase the number of people who want your sticker on their device.
  • If you're not sure what your prospects might want, go for the "swag buffet." One exhibitor offered a wide array of old-school and high-tech options--from pens and notepads to breath mints to chargers.  They didn't limit the number of items an attendee could take, which increases the number of brand impressions they were making on that prospect. ReachForce themed its array of giveaways--all items related to mobile devices. 
  • Socks are timeless. "Where did you get those?" several people asked when they saw me carrying socks from Uberflip (pink with very subtle logos) and SnapApp (blue with gorillas on them). Not only are they easy to pack for return journeys, people will think of your brands every time they pull them on.
  • Decide whether you want to be memorable/long-lasting or simply unique. KickFire handed out tiny bottles of Fireball cinnamon whisky with the tagline, "Give Our Data a Shot." Once the booze is gone, so is the logo, so if you decide to go that route, be sure you're scanning visitor badges as you hand out your swag.

After you've given away a lot of "stuff" and scanned those badges, how do you easily stay in touch with prospects? Sendoso (one of the exhibitors) has automated the gifting process, sending out everything from thank you notes to personalized swag. They've found that gifts personalized with the prospect's alma mater are among their most popular lately, proving the point that you need to know your audience when you're choosing your gifts--whether you're spending pennies per gift at a trade show or selecting the perfect item for a targeted high-ticket client.