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Are You Budgeting Enough for Your Trade Show Exhibit?

Most people don’t like to discuss money, but what’s the first question people usually ask when they see something they want?

If you’re like me, your immediate next thoughts are, can I get it for less? Or, how can I get it for less?

Analyzing pricing, branding, discounting and budgets is a verbudgety complex equation, so I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts with regards to budgeting when it comes to trade show marketing, first because I’ve heard the statement that trade shows are so expensive millions of times, and second because I see misaligned budgets way too often.

First and foremost, I should mention that our advertising community at large has created a discount thought mentality for consumers. Secondly, I’d like to point out that the trade show industry in North America has just recorded its 18th consecutive quarter of positive growth. That is 4 and a half years of growth!  So here’s the reality: trade shows are expensive, people like discounts and / or have limited money to spend AND trade shows work! In fact, polls taken year after year, typically come to the conclusion that trade show marketing is the best marketing medium to reach one’s target market.

In breaking down the statements above while taking into account reality, I’ve come to the realization that most budgets are designed to work just well enough to get ROI, but are also restricting marketers from maximizing their potential.

The reality is that most marketers now understand that committing to exhibiting is an investment, however the check-and-balance person (finance guy or owner), says “Hold on, you only have x-amount to invest.”

So, we can all agree that fixed costs are immovable, yet we all try to still be thrifty on the cost for renting your space, transport costs, renting electrical, hiring labor, travel costs, etc… Regardless of those costs, the exhibit budget, promotional budget, creative budget, staffing budget, strategy budget, is typically the areas that companies try to limit their spend. This is where the debate between marketing & sales versus finance should begin … however, in reality, it’s not even debated because budgets are not typically challenged. This is where I see a true gap for potential growth.

I’d like to qualify this within my realm of expertise. I’ve practiced designing exhibit solutions for over a decade and have very rarely gone down the design path without being guided by a budget. In a recent brainstorming session with designers, the number one challenge designers are faced with is meeting the budget expectation. Almost all the designers admitted that the final design fell way short of their creative capabilities, but more importantly, that the designed failed to properly reflect the brand they were designing for. Consequently, the final solution met functional requirements, but delivered the brand message and positioning at a fraction of what it truly deserved.

So, the debate is out there … how should an exhibit be designed; by budget or creativity?

You may find that if you give yourself the opportunity to invest a little more, that your trade shows results will increased by a surprisingly larger amount.


 Whether you’re new to trade show exhibiting or not, the Trade Show Tips for New Exhibitors will give you a solid foundation of knowledge to help you succeed. From budgeting, to exhibit design, measurement and more, this white paper is a must read. Click here for your free copy.

About the Author

The president of Skyline Entourage in Montreal, Quebec, Doug is an experienced marketing enthusiast who has a passion to drive business. He loves challenges, design trends, and unique perspectives. He is also a family man and active member of the community, and loves to play hockey, baseball & hike mountains.

2 responses to “Are You Budgeting Enough for Your Trade Show Exhibit?

  1. So true. Planning is critical when dealing with trade shows. If you start early the money you save in last minute expenses can be used to invest in the best things to make your booth a success !

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