Exhibiting in Trade Shows is one such ‘hands on’ marketing technique I highly recommend as it is an exceptional way to significantly increase business and grow your company’s market share. But, even seasoned marketing managers and event producers are often blindsided by Trade Show budget blow-outs after ‘signing on the dotted line’.
In this article I’ll help shine a light on the many hidden costs associated with exhibiting at a Trade Show, to ensure your budget doesn’t keep rising like a deckchair on the Titanic!
Trade Shows – Where Your Money Will Go
- Real estate in the Trade Show hall.
- Sponsorship at the Trade Show and / or at any associated conferences.
Trade Show organizers rent out real estate at their events by the ‘square meter’ (or in the US, by the ‘square foot’). This real estate comes in two distinct varieties:
- ‘Space Only’ (where you pay for empty floor space and build your stand from scratch)
- ‘Shell Scheme’ (where you pay for floor space that comes with carpet, fascia, power point, name-board and prefabricated walls).
‘Space Only’ is by far the best option for companies with a budget, as you start with an empty patch of floor, and can built a suitably impressive (and unique) stand from scratch, to ‘wow’ the great unwashed as they pass on by.
‘Shell Scheme’ is a significantly cheaper option however, but when going with this, be aware that your stand will look practically identical to hundreds of other stands around you (so grabbing the attention of people walking by is that much harder).
In this article I’ll assume that you’ve decided to go with the ‘Space Only’ option (and are going to build your stand from scratch), and are going to be an exhibitor only, rather than an exhibitor and a sponsor.
So, the next cost you’ll be hit with after forking out the deposit (a third to a half of the total cost is normal) to the organizer for your floor space, is the actual cost of designing, building and fitting out your Trade Show stand. (Note: you’ll want to split these into multiple individual lines in your Trade Show budget, but for ease of explanation here I’ll bundle them together, as there’s a large amount of budgetary crossover).
Be warned though, the cost of designing, building and fitting out your stand can easily double or triple the cost of the actual floor space itself. Yes, you read that correctly! The cost of designing, building and fitting out your Trade Show stand can easily DOUBLE or TRIPLE the cost of the actual floor space itself.
The reason this part of your show budget has the propensity to become a financial black hole, is because it includes such disparate elements as: the design and manufacture of all signage and marketing literature, the design and manufacture of the physical stand itself (including walls, carpeting, displays, et al), labour, (including installation and dismantling of your stand), utilities, furniture rental, freight, transportation, shipping, drayage, third party forcing, storage, insurance, audiovisual, photography, phone, internet and security (to name just a few!).
The final line in your Trade Show budget can best be labelled (broadly) as ‘Sales and Marketing Expenses’. These can realistically be understood to fall under three basic headers:
- Attracting visitors to your stand at the Trade Show. Think: Marketing, Advertising and PR activities.
- Standing out from the crowd while actually being at the Trade Show. Think: sales staff, promotional staff, etc.
- Following up the leads gathered at the Trade Show to ensure adequate post show R.O.I. (Think: sales 101…calling back the people who’ve demonstrated an interest in your product or service!)
These three elements (which of course in a full budget are split into dozens of individual line items) include, but are not limited to, through-the-line pre-show advertising, pre-show telemarketing, face to face sales calls to promote your presence at the Trade Show, on-site promotions, gimmicks and giveaways, staffing your stand with trained sales professionals, on-site entertainment, post show promotions and post show sales follow up.
Other ‘Miscellaneous Costs’ to take into account include: staff travel, hotel accommodations, meals, out-of-pocket expenses and an entertainment budget to wine and dine VIP clients (an often overlooked but excellent way to ‘stand out from the crowd’ and close the deals before the Trade Show is finished).
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