What to Contribute to Craft Show Swag Bags

Swag bags! Events love giving them, shoppers love receiving them, and vendors….well, vendors probably love the extra exposure but coming up with an idea and making sure it’s time and cost-effective can be a challenge.


Swag bags are a great way to attract people to the craft show and encourage them to come early. They can also be a good opportunity to get your samples, promotions, or gift ideas to the shoppers and encourage them to stop by your booth. But…you don’t want to throw any old item in there. There are a few things to think about to be sure your contribution gets noticed and is worth the cost. Here are 10 questions to ask yourself before adding to a swag bag:


1) What would you like to receive?

Put yourself in the shopper’s shoes for a second; we know this seems like a great place to throw promotional materials you can have made for pennies a piece, like your business cards, stickers, pins, pens, magnets etc. however I don’t remember the last time I noticed the business name printed on my pen or wore a pin advertising a business.


You don’t need to give the milk away for free but you’re a creative business and your swag bag item should promote that.


Keep in mind that event promoters want to be proud of the swag bags they’re handing out as well and let’s be honest, a bag full of printed promotional material just isn’t that exciting.



2) Will it be useful?

Tying into #1, consider what the receiver will find useful. You don’t want the shopper to toss your freebie in the trash once they head out the door so try to include something that will be memorable and that they will find useful.


You want to give away swag that will either encourage shoppers to buy from you that day or be something they want to hang onto or display to remind them of your business and hopefully encourage them to buy in the future.



3) What will get noticed right away?

Many shoppers will take a quick peek in the bag as opposed to going through each item right then and there. Think of an item that will stand out so they either want to immediately take a closer look or use it right then and there.


Edibles or items people would carry on them (i.e. hand cream or lip balm) are a good place to start or you can get creative and make items that stand out due to their size, cuteness, uniqueness, or wow-ness factors.


Once they take the item out of the bag, use it to your advantage and ask yourself the next question…



4) Can you encourage them to buy today?

Coupons on their own may be missed but if you attach one to an item they immediately want to take a closer look at, you can get them to take notice of the deal and nudge them towards your booth.


Create a promotion for this craft show only that swag bag receivers can take advantage of if they stop to see you. Be sure you’re not dropping your prices to the point you don’t make a profit but a little perk can result in more sales.



5) Can you give an incomplete item?

Sounds like you’re shortchanging swag bag receivers but hear me out. What can be used to complete your swag item? Create a bit of a scavenger hunt or puzzle to get them wondering what they can use your swag bag item for.


The item may be a mystery to them but has a note attached to “find _____ vendor booth to complete this item”. You can give away half an item in the bag and the other half at your booth so they need to stop by to complete it; once they’re there you have the opportunity to show them your other products and potentially make a sale.


Or you can give them an item that is useful on its own but requires a purchase from you to take it to the next level. Getting them started with a swag item but requiring them to stop by to complete it will get more people intrigued and interested in visiting your booth. Here are a few examples:

    • Jewelry – include a chain that they’ll want to come purchase a pendant from you to complete it.
    • Knitted Goods – place one boot cuff in each swag bag with a note to come find you for the other.
    • Bath & Body – give out Step 1 of your 4-Step facial cleansing process; include a note that this is just a start and to visit you to find the other products that make #1 even more effective.
    • Food  & Drink – an empty jar they can fill up with your candy or snack mixes or a paper cup with your branding and a note asking them to stop by and sample your hot apple cider.
    • Art – an empty frame they’ll want to fill with your art, or for a more cost-effective version, a photo frame card they slide one of your prints into. Allow them to stop by and choose a print of their choice from your selection.
    • Home & Office – give out 1 coaster that they can head over and purchase more to create a set.




6) Can you make it a novelty item?

As in something unexpected for what you sell but still related. If adding a piece of your work doesn’t make sense cost-wise, brainstorm some fun novelty items that will catch shoppers’ attention and that you can tie back into your business. If you can make it humorous…bonus points! A few more examples:

    • Jewelry – you may place a candy necklace in a swag bag if you sell jewelry that’s “really sweet”.
    • Knitted Goods – static guard or Bounce sheets to protect the wearer of your knitted hats from the dreaded static head look.
    • Bath & Body – a stress reliever ball may help you advertise your stress-relieving bath bombs.
    • Food & Drink – a mini mug with a mini sample of your hot chocolate mix.
    • Art – a little piggy bank might be great to advertise your art that won’t break the bank.



7) What will be the cost?

Advertising is an expense of doing business but make sure you’re not going to break the bank to contribute an item. You likely won’t get a sale from every swag bag receiver but make sure your return on investment makes sense.


Let’s say you’re spending $5 per item in material and time and have 25 bags to fill. Do you think the cost of your swag will bring in at least $125 worth of business?


If you can’t think of a worthwhile item to contribute to each swag bag, see if there’s an option to contribute to a portion of the bags. Half-baked ideas or items won’t do any favors for your brand.



8) Can you use up scrap materials?

To make swag items more cost-effective, use the scraps you were going to toss anyway. If you have leftover pieces of fabric, beads, and other materials that aren’t big enough to make a full-sized product out of, consider what you can make that’s a smaller version.

    • Accessories – if you make handbags, you could sew up some coin purses out of leftover fabric.
    • Jewelry – make some key chains or fancy hair clips out of leftover beads you don’t have enough of to make a full necklace.
    • Knitted Goods – you could make little crocheted ornaments at Christmas time out of the ends of a yarn bundle.
    • Bath & body – use smaller containers to create sampler sizes.
    • Food & Drink – snack size is obviously the way to go here.
    • Art – take one of your favorite pieces and create prints you can turn into bookmarks, magnets, or a holiday card they can use on one of their gifts.
    • Home & Office – if you make wreaths, you could make gift toppers out of your extra supplies or mini signs if you have scraps of wood left over from your full-sized signs.



9) What can be used with your products?

Maybe they haven’t purchased from you yet but if they do, they’ll have a handy tool to use with your items! Shop around to find discount prices for buying in bulk or check out your local dollar store or thrift shop.

    • Jewelry – buy some polishing cloths and stamp your logo on them
    • Knitted Goods – something they can clip onto their hat, scarf, or mittens to spruce it up like a bow or button
    • Bath & Body – facecloths they can use with your products or a hair tie to keep their hair off their face while they apply your mask.
    • Food & Drink – metal spoons to stamp your name, logo, or initials on that people can use to dish up your dips and sauces or stir your drink mixes.
    • Art – a kit for hanging your art on their walls; perhaps picture hooks and a novelty hammer or level if you can find them at a good price.
    • General – gift tags could be used for the shopper to put on the gifts they buy from you



10) Can you work together?

If you’re having trouble thinking of an item to contribute that’s significant enough, consider if there’s another vendor that you can work with to create 1 swag item that uses both your products. Someone who crochets may offer a soap saver bag and team up with a soap maker who can place a sample-sized bar of soap in each bag.


Be sure that each item is clearly labeled and points out that they are made by different vendors (you don’t want one person getting all the glory).




    • Be sure it makes sense for you – if what you have time or money to contribute isn’t going to leave a good impression with the bag receivers, think about skipping it altogether. A poorly made swag item won’t encourage shoppers to buy the real thing and may damage your brand.
    • Use that bag as an ice breaker – “Oh good, you got a swag bag! My _______ swag is in there, here’s a larger version of it” or point out another item that compliments it.
    • Make it easy for the event organizer – your item should stay clean and tidy in the bag. No multiple pieces that will get lost in there, require assembly by the organizer or be messy for them (no glitter!). And don’t forget to get your item to them on time.
    • Don’t forget to tag the item – although we don’t recommend business cards as your sole contribution, be sure you’re attaching one to your swag item. If they love it, they need to know where to find you. Bonus if you know your booth number ahead of time: add a sticker that states “Find me at booth #___”






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  1. Aaahhh! Wish i had read this three weeks ago. Some great ideas here. Thanks for the article.

  2. Made Urban says:

    For the next show 😉 Thanks for reading!

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