How to Exhibit at Trade Shows on the Cheap

With all the direct and indirect expenses involved in exhibiting at trade shows, they can get mighty costly real fast. But they can also catapult your business to success. So where does this leave your cash-strapped small business? Is it possible to effectively exhibit at a trade show on the cheap?

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Trade Shows = Big Cost with Big Potential Payback

Setting up an exhibit at a trade show includes a laundry list of expenses that you just can’t ignore. This list includes costs such as designing, constructing, and equipping your booth; delivery of your booth, equipment, and promotional items to the show; set up costs, space rental, utilities, staffing the booth, and promoting your presence at the trade show. These expenses, coupled with the effort required to make the exhibit a success, may make you question if it is even worth it.

But don’t let all those expenses scare you away. If you are in a business where you have something to sell, whether it is a product or service, then you have a lot to gain from exhibiting at a trade show. A well-executed exhibition in a trade show can give you a golden opportunity to meet the right kind of people, to hob nob with manufacturers, agents, sales representatives, and anyone else involved in your industry. You also can be showing off your business to an extremely targeted market.

People want to do business with people they have met. It’s a fact, and it’s all about trust  If you’re serious about your business, then you have to spend some time and money to get some good “face time” with those people you want to do business with.

Trade shows are also a great opportunity to learn what’s hot, and what’s not in your industry. Don’t underestimate the power of having all those people within a given market or industry under one roof!

 
How to Reduce the Cost of Trade Show Exhibiting

Don’t despair about the price tag of a trade show exhibit. There are several strategies you can employ to make the cost less prohibitive:

 
Spend some time thinking about and researching your goals. Know your goals so you know how to prepare your exhibit and your business, and so you have got some benchmarks to measure against. If you do this, you will be able to plan your budget more effectively and avoid some very costly mistakes. Determine how much each goal is worth to you, and how you plan on achieving these goals? If this is your first trade show, then do some research to find out the average cost of a booth and rental space, etc. You should also try to determine an estimate of potential traffic to your booth and be clear about who exactly you will be targeting with your exhibit.

 
Find the right trade show to exhibit in. This is vital. Make sure the attendees (and also the other exhibitors) are the type of people who are going to be interested in what you do or what you have to sell. Invest in shows that reach the key decision-makers of your target market. Otherwise, you’re never going to get the leads you’re looking for, and you’ve just wasted good money on travel and an exhibition stand that is never going to pay off.

Also, try to avoid newer trade shows that lack a proven track record. You have limited time and money to experiment on unknowns. Some trade show experts even suggest picking a show that is only indirectly related to your business but has the right demographics. This way, you can maximize your exposure by standing out.

 
Plan ahead. Make sure you book any transportation needed well in advance. Unless you decide to exhibit at the very last minute, which is probably not a good idea anyway, you’ll likely know well ahead of time that you’re going. Instead of paying shipping costs, why not see if you can buy some things (for example, fabric for covering your table) near the venue. Make sure you also plan out other aspects of the show, such as sending out well-timed participation announcements and press releases. Lastly, many trade shows offer big discounts for booking early and registering on-site services.

 
Determine which kind of exhibition booth will give you the best return. Exhibition stands can be expensive, ranging from 25$ to 75$ a square foot on average. But they may be worth the price, especially if you plan on re-using them. On the other hand, if you’re only planning on exhibiting on occasion, then you may want to consider renting a stand. Make sure you know what comes with the stand. It doesn’t have to be a massive installation either, a simple tabletop stand, with a couple of banners can be just as effective if used in the right way.

Just keep in mind that there are a lot of elements that go into designing an effective trade show booth. If you are inexperienced in this area then make sure that you consult with those who have the knowledge to guide you.

 
Use promotional products wisely. Don’t be blinded by gimmicks and gizmos. Stress balls and pens by themselves aren’t going to convert to customers, and you may end up just wasting money getting them branded. By all means give something away on the day, but make sure it’s something people actually want. Why not have a product demo or giveaway, or perhaps just a really nice gift bag that visitors can re-use for shopping etc?

 
Don’t waste money on brochures and fliers. Think about how many of these attendees are going to get handed at the event. Do you really think they’re going to take the time to go through all of them? Probably not. Do something a bit different. If you’re creative, people will remember you.

 
Take advantage of free marketing. The event organizers may have marketing opportunities in place that you can take advantage of, such as a profile on their website. You can also use your own marketing channels to get the word out that you will be attending the show. If you’re on Facebook, send out a post to let your fans know. Send out an email to your subscribers saying you’re going to be there. If you’re on Twitter, you can use the platform to engage with other attendees, your fans, and the event organizers.

Comments

  1. says

    I’ve attended some trade shows as a visitor but haven’t yet been on the other side of the table. Thanks for the overview and the advice when the time comes.

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