by Mike Thimmesch
Stretching an already tight budget can be a challenge, and the trick is to pursue savings that are transparent to the attendees at your exhibit space. Whether you are planning your company’s initial launch into trade shows or taking over an exhibit schedule previously handled by another trade show manager, the associated costs can be a little intimidating. If your budget is limited, these 10 tips can help you get the most out of your exhibit dollars:
1. RENT YOUR EXHIBIT: Exhibit rental can sometimes be a more practical solution than owning, particularly if you’re uncertain about your long-term commitment to exhibiting. You may also change your messaging often enough or your exhibit size often enough that it makes sense to rent. Short-term rental expenses may make more sense than buying and amortizing custom materials that may later end up going unused. When locally sourced, rentals can often save you shipping and storage expenses.
2. UTILIZE FREE SHIPPING: When ordering items for trade shows, consider ordering from the chain retailers or Amazon that includes free shipping and have it deliver directly the show site or hotel for you.
3. CONSOLIDATE YOUR SHIPMENTS: Although it’s not always possible to send your materials in one shipment, any minimum parcel fees can really add up if you end up sending 15-20 additional boxes after your initial pallet. When you do send follow-up shipments, try to shrink-wrap them into a single unit, which will save you parcel fees, and reduce the chance of lost boxes.
4. BE SELECTIVE: “FREEBEES” AREN’T FREE: Your booth giveaways may seem small and inconsequential, but their costs do add up and consume a large part of your marketing budget. As nice as it can be to have customized giveaways for each event, the costs of those short-run orders (as well as any excess, aged inventory left over after the show) can really break the bank. Strive for “evergreen” giveaways that you can use at every show, and buy in bulk to lower your unit costs.
5. USE VIRTUAL GIVEAWAYS: A lot of mass-merchandise premiums end up generating no leads, or are essentially exchanged for hundreds of cold leads that your sales team will never have time to follow up on. Instead of giving away lots of mediocre giveaways, put several pieces of highly-visible, highly-valuable swag on display. When attendees inquire about it, offer to mail it to them after the show in exchange for answering a detailed digital marketing survey. You’ll likely see a better ROI on your investment this way, and your sales team will have better qualified, post-show leads.
6. KILL THE UNCESSARY STORAGE: All too often, our exhibitors will simply forget what they have in storage, and in turn pay fees on crates or exhibit materials that can be pitched out. Make sure you have an on line inventory of what you are storing and be sure to evaluate it at least one time per year, sometimes more. You could also consider selling the assets on the secondary markets and gain something for your investment. The gain could cover the cost of what the disposal would have been.
7. FILL THE VOIDS: Become pedantic on filling up every available void in your crates and reduce the over number of skids going to the shows. Ask your exhibit house to keep the crates open when they are prepping the exhibit so you can insure you are not shipping an empty crate (I literally just had a client do this, they shipped an empty product crate to the show).
8. EXPLORE COOPERATIVE BOOTH SPACE: Sharing a booth with an allied local business can not only let you split booth costs, it may allow you access to a better location in the show than you could afford if exhibiting solo. In addition, you can often capitalize on each other’s marketing leads.
9. REFURBISH EXHIBIT: Trade show exhibits can start to show their wear after several years of usage and travel. If your budget is tight and you can’t commit to a brand new booth, consider updating your signage or adding a few new components.
10. DESIGN FOR LONGEVITY: Take a look at your graphics and considering doing 80-90% of messaging in a timeless messages that will last for the life expectancy of your exhibit. Make 10-20% of your graphic messaging product or time frame specific and this will save significant dollars that would be spent on graphics. Make the changing messages affordable and easy. Save the details, limited time offers, etc., for your booth staffers to share in show floor conversations.