10 Tips to Tame Your Trade Show Budget

January 28, 2020

De-de Mulligan

De-de Mulligan is a digital marketer, blogger and President of Mulligan Management Group, a full-service, boutique marketing agency. A former meeting planner who received the MPI Ohio Chapter’s Planner of the Year award in 2006 and 2012, she brings a unique perspective to her blog posts, including for Rentacomputer.com. You can connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

There’s no question about it, exhibiting at a trade show can be expensive. There are the booth cost, show services and other essentials that will help draw in attendees to your exhibit. However, it’s essential to keep these expenses under control. Here’s a summary of 10 ways to do just that. 

  1. Map Out All Your Costs 

According to EXHIBITOR Magazine, the average trade show budget breaks down in five broad categories. For example, if your budget is $45,000, you can expect to pay the following percentage for dollars for each:

  • Booth Space and Contents (51% - $22,950)
  • Personnel, Travel, Lodging, Meals (18% - $8,100)
  • Electricity, Wi-Fi, Drayage (12% - $5,400)
  • Technology Rentals, move-in/move out (11% - $4,950)
  • Marketing, Collateral, and Giveaways (8% - $3,600)
  1. Set up Your Budget by Asking Vendors for Ballpark Figures 

If you are going to your first trade show or don’t exhibit regularly, it’s okay to ask for estimate pricing. Most suppliers welcome this opportunity as a way to give you what you want at a price you can afford. 

  1. Minimize Overtime, Especially if the Venue has a Union

Every show manager has negotiated on your behalf the move-in and out rates. In your contract, it will spell out the union’s role is at the trade show and which hours and days are within standard billing rates. Once you know their part, plan accordingly. This mantra also extends to temporary booth staffing. 

  1. Use Social Media and Free Tools to Get the Word Out

Rather than sending direct mail, create a content calendar for social media posts. Promote those posts to your target audience. Use the show’s free press release distribution channel. Offer to write a guest blog on the trade show’s website in exchange for identifying your booth number at the end of the piece. Not only will you save money, but you’ll also be able to measure the impact of your efforts along the way. 

  1. Rent Equipment

Through the rental process, you’ll save money on shipping and storage. National rental companies can 1) deliver, setup, and strike their laptops and tablets, 2) preload your apps and 3) Keep their equipment’s operating systems and apps up-to-date, minimizing your risk for problems, including a cyberattack.  

  1. Don’t Always Rely on Preferred Vendors 

If you are traveling to a new city or exhibiting at a venue you’re not familiar with, preferred vendors can give you peace of mind. However, that doesn’t mean you’re required to use them unless it’s stipulated in the contract. When possible, use your trusted provider or obtain at least one other quote. 

  1. Get Rid of Paper and Promotional Items

Brochures, flyers and giveaways (unless they are expensive) end up being thrown away or left in many attendees’ hotel rooms or cars. Instead, focus on sharing business cards or investing in a lead retrieval system that can easily capture pertinent information about your booth visitors.

  1. Take Advantage of Early-Bird Rates

Register for the trade show, book your flights, hotel rooms and event rentals as early as possible for maximum discounts.

  1. Reduce the Size of your Booth

Evaluate your 2019 trade show ROI. Do you need all that exhibit space? If you didn’t close a significant amount of business, don’t have any new product offerings or want to tighten your spending belt, it may be the perfect time to go smaller.

  1. Double-check Your Invoices Against the Agreements

Billing mistakes are made, especially with large trade shows. Pull out your contracts to ensure you received everything you wanted at the agreed-upon price.

By following these ten tips, you have an excellent opportunity to keep your budget intact, enjoy the show, and collect valuable leads! 

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