Trade Show Cost Cutting Tips
If you’ve been in the trade show business for a while, you’re used to looking for trade show cost cutting tips, you want to get the best deal on trade show booths possible, and in general, be kind to your budget. If you’re newer to the field, we’re here to offer you some ideas on how to get more out of every dollar you spend on trade shows. But I also encourage you veterans of the industry not to tune me out just yet. These ideas might even apply to those of you who’ve been at this since TV shows started broadcasting in color!
You won’t know how to save money in your trade show display program until you know what you need to spend money on. Start by creating a list of the top five measurable objectives for participating in each trade show on your calendar. There may be some overlap from show to show, but there will likely – and should be – distinct differences in what you want to accomplish at each show.
Common objectives might relate to sales, branding and messaging, contacts with show visitors, promotion and PR, and lead generation. Consider adding managing expenses (pre-, post- and at-show) to that plan, too. Your overall goals may be different, but they should be determined well in advance of each show.
Your marketing plan for your trade show exhibits needs to address each of these areas, and you and your staff should focus your efforts on achieving these objectives before—and during—the show (and don’t forget lead management after the show).
Just because your competitors are exhibiting at a given show doesn’t mean you need to be there. Smaller, vertical market or “niche” shows may expose you to better prospects, save you money and give your trade show booth a bigger presence on the show floor, which can help you achieve your objectives.
Those objectives might be stronger branding messages, more contact with show visitors (assuming there may be fewer of them, letting your staffers get more face time with each prospect—resulting in a positive effect on sales). Add to that better opportunities for promotion and PR, and smaller expenditures all around, and you will have minimized costs before, during and after the show.
There are always ways to waste money in the course of pulling off a show. The two simplest ways to save money at trade shows:
- Show services manuals often offer discounts for orders placed in advance — your plan should always include ordering and paying for all trade show supplies and utilities, prior to the deadline printed in your manual, and
- Never paying rush charges for anything. Overnight shipping, last-minute airline or hotel reservations, or hasty modifications to your exhibit design or the signs and graphics—all of these are budget killers.
As much as possible, your show planning should anticipate such costs and include the deadlines in your calendar. Your budget should also have a line item for “contingencies” (generally 10% of your overall budget) to be used for things you just can’t anticipate, like when your trade show booth gets shipped to Portland, Oregon and your show is in Portland, Maine. Or maybe the big boss decides to attend at the last minute and you’ve got to fly him or her in, and rustle up a limo and a fancy hotel room in a matter of hours.
So many exhibitors come up short on the details, even when all the essentials are in place: they may have good exhibit design, ample booth staff and attractive signs and graphics. But perhaps their messaging doesn’t resonate with the target audience at a particular show. Perhaps their literature doesn’t align with their trade show banners or the overall show message. Or maybe staffers don’t engage effectively with show visitors.
When planning for an efficient exhibit, little changes can bust your budget – for example, if management decides to change the messaging at the last minute (which means changing the graphics or printing new collateral materials).
Think through your theme for the show and make sure there’s consistency in each aspect of your participation in the show (at the booth, in the show guide, in advertising elsewhere in the exhibit hall or at the host hotel).
And if your staffers aren’t good at making connections with attendees, consider booth staff training. It can mean dollars back in your budget if it helps your people close more sales.
Everything you do to make your trade show booth —and your people—work smarter, brings a bigger return on your exhibiting investment.
The best place to learn how to be an effective trade show professional is by working in the trade show field. At every show, there are scores of other exhibitors to learn from. As you’re setting up your booth displays, stake out how your neighbors and others on the show floor do things. During show hours, do a little covert surveillance on other trade show booths. Watch how their staffers engage prospects. See if their messaging seems logical to you. Ask yourself what you might do differently if you were in charge of their exhibit design.
Last but not least, put this sleuthing to work in planning for your next show. You might want to start a journal of “best practices” you observe at every exhibit hall you find yourself in. You’ll be learning by doing; it’s just that others will be the ones doing, while you’re spying on them. As we mentioned earlier, the easiest trade show cost cutting are the dollars you save by beating the deadlines in the show services manual, and the dollars you don’t have to spend because you’ve planned well and didn’t get stuck with last minute, unexpected or “rush” charges.
Other simple tricks include planning your travel well in advance, to take advantage of travel savings on flights and rooms. Perhaps take advantage of regional sales people that live near your big shows, to cut down on travel costs. More subtle ways to save money might mean investing in portable trade show displays.
Well-made portable trade show displays are designed to be light weight, easy and fast to set up and disassemble, while still being reliable. Light weight design might cost a little bit more at the product level, but saves so much money over the lifetime of the display, by saving you shipping costs, drayage fees, and labor costs. And there are plenty of portable trade show displays that come with lifetime warranties – meaning you’re going to get a lifetime of savings from them!
Those dollars add up over time, and your trade show display marketing budget can definitely benefit from spending that money in the right ways.
We’re always available to help you when it comes to saving money on your exhibit. From a tabletop to a pop up display to even more custom trade show booths, American Image Displays can help you make the right statement on the show floor, at the best possible pricing. If you have questions or would like more information, call us at (425) 556-9511 or email [email protected]