Don’t Blow Your Trade Show Budget: 5 Tips From The Pros

Though you might not expect it to be the case, attending trade shows can be expensive – very expensive – and that’s why most experienced participants recommend having a clear budget for every event. But what should you be budgeting for, exactly? Simply put, a little bit of everything; the process is complex enough that trade show specialists Vispronet developed a 25-point checklist. Budgeting for a trade show needs to start months in advance. With delay comes the likelihood that you’ll run short on funds before you even leave the office.

Know The Averages

The first thing you should do before you even begin organizing your own trade show budget is to know what the industry averages are, as well as how the overall budget is typically broken down. For example, renting a space should account for about 30% of your overall budget, with another 19% allotted for site services like installation – not including drayage, which should be about 10% more. The remainder should be allotted for your display, travel, promotional materials, and miscellaneous expenses.

Assess Equipment Needs

If you’ve never attended a trade show before, your first will also likely be the most expensive since there are a number of items you’ll be able to reuse every time. For example, a custom canopy can cost between $400 and $2,000, but you won’t need to buy one every time. The same applies to tables and many pieces of signage. Just be careful because the majority of the damage your booth will ever incur will happen at the shows, not during storage or transit.

Pick Some Giveaways

No one goes to trade shows to score free keychains, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t expected to have some giveaways at your table, so make sure you budget for them. There are many companies that make affordable branded goods for promotional purposes. Alternatively, make your giveaway a coupon for your services; you won’t have to pay for branded water bottles or notepads, but you could increase your conversions.

Look For Savings

As you prioritize the various elements of your budget, look for opportunities to save, such as renting tables, but don’t compromise on your display – that needs to look as professional as possible. Meanwhile, no one can see your tables under the cloths, and you’re not going to brand them. You might also find used tables and display materials at thrift stores; just be sure that everything is coordinated and matches your brand colors.

Mind Your Marketing Materials

Finally, make sure you set aside a significant portion of your budget for updated, targeted marketing materials for each trade show, and collect an updated email list to keep new contacts in the loop. You might also consider printing business cards or other handouts with a QR code or other convenient link to your business’s social media accounts and website. You want to keep them connected after they leave your booth, but visitors are going to be overwhelmed with materials, so you need to make it easy for them.

Creating a budget is one of the most challenging elements of preparing for a trade show, and whoever holds the purse strings may be surprised to hear just how much it will cost. If you properly prioritize your funds, though, you can make a great impression on potential clients and grow your business.


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