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10 Ways to Trim Your Booth Budget


While everyone would like to buy a custom booth that meets all their needs and not have to worry about budget, that is not always realistic for most marketers. Whether you’re a small business owner, you are experiencing soft sales this year, or just have a CEO that does not understand the value of live marketing, the reality of a tight budget is something we all must adapt to at one time or another. Below are a few tips to help you trim your trade show budget.

  1. Ensure your budget is realistic
    • Check the budget from past years. If your department has not exhibited, you could check with other departments or divisions.
    • Reference trade show publications or organizations like CEIR or the EDPA for an average cost per square footage.
    • Remember that you get what you pay for, so if you are planning to re-use your exhibit, it may make sense to spend a little more on it this year.
    • Consider environmental costs. Yes, you can buy something online and just toss it when you are done (or it breaks) but in the end we all pay for that.
  2. Go smaller
    • A smaller booth will mean a smaller space rental charge, less shipping & drayage and a smaller exhibit charge. While not ideal, you can still make an impact with a smaller booth if you have great pre-show promotions, graphics and above all, dedicated staffers.
    • Bring less products and less giveaways to the show.
  3. Do less
    • Really think carefully about the shows you attend. Maybe instead of going to 5 shows this year, go to 3… but have a bigger presence at the show that has the best audience for your product. Picking the right shows may allow you to do less and get a better return.
  4. Reuse
    • Whether you choose to rent or reuse last year’s assets, minimizing your new purchases will save you money. You can still work with your exhibit company on how to keep your look fresh with a few new graphics or by creating and updated promotions or digital content for your exhibit.
    • Instead of buying new staff apparel just for the show, see if your staffers have something they can use from their own closet, as long as it is professional and enables visitors to recognize them as company employees. A company branded polo shirt or a brand color you can all agree on could do the trick.
  5. Buy local
    • Instead of attending national shows pick a couple of regional or local shows (as long as they are relevant) and save on shipping, drayage and travel costs.
    • See if you can get a local sales rep or company representative to help you staff the booth to save on travel costs.
    • Rent your exhibit locally if you are exhibiting internationally or across the country.
    • Instead of ordering flowers or plants from the show organizer stop by a local vendor and pick them up there (ensure it is not against show rules).
  6. Keep it simple
    • Really dial down your giveaways and sponsorships.
    • Instead of bringing brochures, pens and phone chargers you just give away higher end, more relevant gifts for only your best qualified prospects or clients attending the show or event.
    • Don’t bring brochures. Instead, collect information about each prospect and only mail or email a brochure to those who have show interest in that specific product or topic.
  7. Learn to share
    • Work with other divisions of your company (or partners) in the same market who don’t directly compete with you to share your booth space and the costs associate with exhibiting.
  8. Less labor
    • Think hard about the exhibit you are bringing to the show and how much labor cost goes into setting it up (whether hired labor or your own).
    • Work with your exhibit company on simplifying your exhibit so you can save on show labor.
    • Reducing labor could mean bringing a simple pop-up display or an inline exhibit that you can set up without tools to this show (rather than a more complex backlit system with multiple kiosks and monitors).
  9. Go for ground transport
    • Ship your exhibit well ahead of time so it can go by ground to the advanced warehouse.
    • If the show is close enough, consider having booth staffers drive to the show and visit some clients along the way (consider the value of your time when you evaluate this option as it may not be worthwhile if you are flying into major cities).
  10. When in doubt: justify
    • If you have tried multiple ways to cut costs and just can’t meet the budget that has been set, talk to your supervisor and ensure that the budget is realistic given their objectives.
    • Estimate the revenue you expect to generate or sales costs you plan to save by going to the show and justify the value of your expenses.
    • The answer may not be to cut the budget further, but to ensure that you are spending it where it matters so you can get the results the company is seeking.

While you consider all these cost saving measures, also ensure that you are not cost cutting so much that you don’t achieve your objectives. Sometimes it makes sense to spend more if that means you will get better results and consequently a higher return on your investment.