Scan your desk. Count the number of pens, trinkets and stickers you’ve picked up at a tech trade show. If you’ve been to even a couple of events over the past year, chances are you’ve kept the practical giveaways and ditched the rest. While promo items can be a pull for tech trade show attendees, it’s likely that no one has partnered with your company solely because of the pop socket you gave them.

So why do tech companies still invest thousands of dollars in giveaways?

Because, let’s face it… humans like free stuff.

But there are a million promo items out there in every shape and size, for every budget. How do you know which giveaway will attract the most booth traffic?

A functional item will always win out over a gimmick. While the gimmick might attract attendees, it’s not enough to keep them interested and even might adversely overshadow your actual product. When it comes to promo, think basic items and awesome branding/ design.

Budget-Friendly Promo Items for Your Next Tech Trade Show


Ever go to a sporting event where the t-shirt cannon is brought out? People lose their freaking minds! Even the XXXL dude who isn’t fitting into that medium shirt will tackle a toddler for the chance to snag one. According to the Advertising Specialty Institute (ASI), 58% of Americans own (and wear) promotional t-shirts.

Why these are good for your SaaS Company: Branding. Even though a t-shirt isn’t super techy or advanced, the design can be - making this the perfect balance of practical and creative.  It’s also one of the only items to carry your tech company's logo and messaging in large enough font for everyone to see. The wearers of your gear will be spreading the word about your company without even thinking about it.

Average cost per item: Depending on your quantity and the number of printed colors, screen-printed shirts can be made for less than $10 a piece. Just make sure to get a range of unisex sizes for your next tech tradeshow. You don’t want to leave anyone out!

Travel Mugs

Along the same line as the t-shirts, travel mugs are both functional and provide a decent amount of space for an awesome company design. Need to target decision-making execs to make a sale? A cup of hot joe is still the morning go-to for the majority of company presidents and chief positions. The slick design and cool color palette of your company’s mug will add a new level to their morning swagger.

Why these are good for your Saas Company: Longevity. It’s not unusual for people to use the same travel mug day in and day out, meaning this durable item will be used until it breaks. Also the “travel” in “travel mug” will get your company out there. Your branding will go the distance (pun intended) when prospects bring it with them during their morning commute on the subway and their walks throughout the office.

Average cost per item: Unless you have an unlimited budget, purchasing the Yeti brand isn’t necessary. Most knock-offs are just as good and won’t break your budget. Spending $5 to $8 per travel mug should be enough for a decent insulated version.


Looking at my desk right now, I can safely say each pen I own is a promo pen. (Do people even buy pens at the store anymore???) Some may say that pens are small and insignificant but the people who say that don’t know the effect of a good pen! Ever borrow a pen, notice how smoothly it writes and check out the name on it? I may be an office supply nerd but trust me, there is something about the power of the pen.

Why these are good for your Saas Company: Effective but cost-conscious. Once again, according to the ASI, promo pens carry the best value as the cost per impression is less than one-tenth of a cent in the US. If a prospect loves the pen, they’ll use it every day, and therefore, see your company name every day. If the prospect, loses the pen, it’s more than likely someone stole it and your company name has been passed on. Win-win.

Average cost per item: A decent pen will run anywhere between $0.50 to $1.00 per pen. No need to splurge on engraved sets or fancy features. No one uses them.

No matter what you end up using, make sure it’s stored behind the booth so attendees can’t just drive by, grab and avoid interaction. The whole point of trade shows and conferences are the genuine human connections established, creating solid prospect potential. The free stuff will bring the crowds but ultimately, your tech company’s value will make them want more.   


Interested in more advice on trade shows for tech marketers? Download our free "Trade Shows in the Real World” survey report to see how you stack up against other tech and software companies.

Tech Marketing Survey Series: Trade Show in the Real World