Giveaways! What are they? Items such as pens, screwdrivers, backscratchers, sticky notes, boxes of mints, luggage tags and koozies, what do they have in common? They’re referred to as “swag” and are some of the most common giveaways at trade shows. They may also be items your marketing reps give to potential customers.

People are always interested in picking up or receiving free stuff from companies like yours, sometimes just because it’s free and other times because they think the item is fun or useful. However, the reason you’re promoting giveaways is so that potential customers will be reminded to call you if they’re ever in need of your services. But before you go out and buy a gross of personalized stress balls, consider these tips:

Display your company name, phone number, and what service you provide on each item. If what you do is not readily apparent by your company name, spell it out.

How often will it be used and seen? Items like key chains, rubber wrist bands, coasters and mini Frisbees will be relegated to the back of a junk drawer, never to be seen again. But branded hats, t-shirts, coffee mugs, quality highlighters/pens, mini flashlights and USB flash drives are the type of items that are more likely to be used over and over again, imprinting your company name on the user’s brain each time.

Stay away from perishable giveaways. The idea for a giveaway is repeated use by a prospective customer. But once they’ve consumed your box of mints, cookies, or candy, what good does it do you?

Business cards have long been and continue to be a common handout. But even these can be improved so that customers remember you:

Don’t use a boring card. These days there are some great templates that you can choose from or you can easily and cheaply design your own online.

• Don’t get too fancy or artsy-fartsy. One that’s confusing or extra large or odd shaped that won’t fit into a business card holder will likely get lost or tossed.

• Don’t leave the back blank. Use your imagination for giveaways. For instance, print a coupon and/or add a QR code that will direct them to your site with an introductory offer.

With all of the competition you face, make sure you’ve got an edge by helping your customers find you first and have fun picking through the list of giveaways you can use.