When you go to a networking event or conference, what is the best material to hand out (besides your business card)? A brochure? Flat/Tri-fold, z-fold? Sell sheet?
I know for myself a full 8.5 x 11 brochure is always a pain to carry around so I tend to ditch them when someone hands me one.
What will people read, not throw away, etc.
Why do computer repair companies give you things that sit on your computer? So when you are at your computer frustrated, you look at their trinket-- and think to call them.
Why do pizza delivery companies give you something to put on your refrigerator -- so when you are hungry and opening the freezer you think -- i could call them instead.
Why do cabinet companies give huge glossary brochures -- because when you lay them all out next to each other on the kitchen counter they want theirs to look the best and elicit a call.
Why do software companies hand out a mini flash drive with their software demo -- because when you return from the show and plug it in you will be reminded how cool they are and be linked to all of the great information on their site.
Why do people still hand out trifold brochures -- because they are in the print and design industry and are demonstrating what great trifolds they can design and print.
I think you want to make sure that you, your company, your product and service are triggered in their mind at the point that they could be engaged in making a purchaing decsion.
To accomplish this I think you have two main strategies: Point of Decision and Added Value.
Point of Decision:
Last weekend I went to a home show with gardening and siding and hot tubs and stuff for my house. I had a huge bag of junk -- most of which I picked up because it caught my eye, but by the time I got home and it was part of the bag -- well, it is now in my compost bin. One of the things I kept out was the seed packet for sunflowers that had a QR code to a cool bird feeder. My daughter and I are planting the sunflowers, and I went to the QR code, which was a special discount for the feeder -- and it was too good to pass up, so I bought it. It came with more sunflower seeds to feed the Cardinals.
A good idea I've heard about is handing out a "free report", something of value which isn't actually trying to sell something but demonstrates your expertise, credibility etc and that has your branding and/or contact details on it.
Or offer to send / email a free report once you've gotten their business card. This way you've established a communication channel without giving the person something they are just going to throw away.
I like to give something that I'd like to receive as well. Last year, when we launched our "free educational licenses", we handed out lego bricks with our logo, our website address and the text "free educational license" engraved.
Since we target engineers, much of our audience is likely to have played with Lego. When people have a set of three bricks in their hands, they are likely to start fiddling with them. The assumption is that nobody throws away Lego bricks. People will leave it lying on their desk forever or they will give it to their kids, nephews, grandchildren who will treasure it forever.
Small. Useful (or fun, if you can be confident of what 'fun' will be, for attendees). Intriguing. Hard to throw away. And within those constraints, almost anything.
As with all marketing, you should be thinking about what the recipient will want, not about what you want from them. Think about the size of the event and its location, how many people are going to be there and whether it's a local, regional, national or international group. Work out what someone would like to be given, and then work out how to give them just that in a way that will lead back to you.