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Exhibiting sometimes gets a bad rap for being expensive, but there’s also a distinguished group of exhibitors who get an overwhelming response and their expo’s are an intergral part of their marketing mix because of it. 

This is not down to luck. 

Don’t be mistaken, these special souls work their guts out to generate sales and create solid connections that super-charge their businesses.   

Not everyone sets out with pockets brimming with cash to create a showstopper exhibit. To be honest, most businesses are battling their budgets to some degree. Every exhibition is a finely tuned balancing act where you cut costs in areas that don’t cut the impact. Afterall, a significant return on investment is why you’re going!

So, what are the top cost-saving measures you can take to ensure you have a super successful trade show without incurring big expenses?

… So glad you asked 🙂 

1/ Less Quantity, but Better Quality

The Parisian’s are famous for this! They don’t supersize everything, instead opting for better quality produce in smaller amounts. They don’t miss out on enjoying rich foods and their waistlines are trim.

Think about the amount of space you will actually need. There is some prominence that comes with booking a large space, but if all the finishes are poor or you’re having to fill space with furniture so it doesn’t look empty, you might have… hmm, overdone it?

There is nothing more dismal. I hate being the bearer of bad news when clients come to us with empty pockets. Good people go unnoticed at a trade show because of this one mistake. Don’t be one of them. More design mistakes to avoid.

Booking your stand space is a costly part of the budget and you still need to leave enough in the kitty for logistics like staff expenses and freight, but you must also ensure you can dress the space in a way that reflects your brand or you risk losing people before you’ve had a chance to demonstrate why they should do business with you.

When it comes to exhibiting size really doesn’t matter. The main objective is about creating impact. Create an eye-catching stand with a design that aligns with your goals and you will win every time!

2/ Less Shows. Be Selective!

There are many reasons why you would select a show to attend… More is not always more. 

Some clients of ours only go in one show bi-annually while others attend upwards of 30 per year. It might be THE show for your industry or you may do more regional shows to liaise with a wider customer base.

Regardless of where you fall, every client wants to put their best foot forward. You can either spread yourself finely and do more shows with less budget for each, or improve HOW you attend to make sure you’re more effective at the ones you do go to. (It’s funny that people don’t always consider this an option!)

Think strategically here – If you have a history at these events, is there one that consistently outperforms the others? Or do more of your target market attend one over another? How can you amplify your impact at those shows? 

If you do attend multiple shows, another great strategy is to prioritise them based on performance and potential business at each. We like to do this in tiers. 

  • Tier 1 = Shows you want to go gangbusters at. More of your marketing spend should go towards making these work their tail off. 
  • Tier 2 = Smaller stand or lesser budget allocation as they have a smaller reach. The structure could be a section of your larger stand or a different design specific to these events. 
  • Tier 3 = The events you have 10mins set up at. Likely to involve a pull up banner.. You know the ones!

3/ Less Structure, Better Message

It’s funny how some people think there’s a set criteria to every stand design… “Must have a reception counter, lounge furniture, brochure holders”.

To get cut-through you need laser focus. You need the balls to step aside from what has been done to death and create an environment that screams your key message and is easy to interpret. I’m not kidding – people are so distracted these days (me included) that we need to know who you are, what you do and why we should bother stopping to talk to you.

“How people interpret your space is the single most important factor in determining whether you have a successful show or now”

As a tradeshow strategist I see people putting effort into all the wrong things. The kind of things that make them “look the part” but don’t make an impact. I hate to break it to you, but every time you build something custom you gobble up budget. Fast.

If the things you are building are expected by visitors, you aren’t doing anything different to stand out. You have to get creative with what you do build and put the effort into how you communicate with your audience.

4/ Lose the Brochures 

Brochures are exxy! You print them, transport them, hand them out willy nilly and can’t track them. You’re crazy if you don’t get with the times and have an online copy so you can track interested parties.

You don’t have to spend truckloads of money on printing and you don’t have to dump a heap into a new tech-tool that does this. There are options for all budget levels. Do this old school, sending via email or create a qualifying tool or interactive display that has more bells and whistles. Regardless of how you choose to do it, save the logistic costs no-one sees and get smart about how your sharing information with people. 

Trade shows aren’t just about spreading the word, you’re mad if you aren’t using them as a platform to learn about your customers behaviours. We have been helping clients integrate processes to do this in the background because it’s too good an opportunity to assess the best way to communicate with them to get you more clients in the future. 

5/ Think Beyond Promotional Items

A lot of companies bring promotional items to exhibitions to give out, after all, who doesn’t love a freebie! But, if you are really wanting to cut costs for your expo budget then think outside of the box and forget all about the traditional pens, badges, mugs etc. Again, these items are soooo expected. They have been done to death and you just end up attracting people who want free stuff. 

Instead, get clever about what you share and how you share it. Make sure there is a direct link with your messaging so it’s more impactful and people remember who you are.

An idea might be to hold a prize draw where prospective customers put their business card or contact information in a box and the winner(s) enjoy a complimentary product or service. It may not be an earth shattering, leading edge concept and you may not touch as many people, but will engage the visitors who are genuinely interested in what you have to offer and it gives them a taster of how you work. 

6/ Re-Use and Re-Build

If you are planning to participate in several exhibitions then designing a new stand every time can become rather expensive. Not just the cost of the build, but in the time it takes for you to coordinate every new installation.

A custom reusable exhibit alleviates the need for reinventing the wheel each time and an experienced design team will help you to develop a stand that is capable of looking different every time or suiting different configurations at each event. If you go down this path, make sure you have key elements that keep within your company brand guidelines and become the foundation for what is often a different message/promotion at each event.

The beauty of a reusable exhibit is that it frees up your time to focus on your messaging and put more effort into improving the customer journey for your visitors. This is the fun part that makes people feel special and your message more memorable!

As you can see, it’s a delicate balance and there is no cookie-cutter formula to navigating the best solution for your personal expo budget. If you think exhibiting for ROI is for the big boys with the crazy budgets? Think again! Give us a call and let’s see how we can help you.

Yours in Exhibiting,

Jess