Tradeshows on a Shoestring Budget
Attending and exhibiting at a tradeshow can lead to excellent bottom-line benefits for your company: exposure to a highly targeted audience; opportunity to pitch your company’s marketing message; generation of sales leads; and the opportunity to learn more about your industry through panel discussion, speeches, and seminars.
The reality, though, is that many marketing budgets have been tightened significantly as a result of multiple years of recession so not all companies have the carte blanche to blow big bucks at tradeshows anymore. No need to remove tradeshows completely from your marketing plan, however. Take a critical look at your tradeshow expenses and you might find some creative ways to carve some costs out of your overall tradeshow budget.
Here are a few areas where you might be able to cut costs:
Transportation. This can typically account for a significant portion of your tradeshow budget so it’s the first place you should look at to trim down on expenses. Biggest thing to keep in mind: plan early! Most companies will know six months to a year out that they are going to be exhibiting at a particular show, so plan ahead and make your airline reservations early. Airlines penalize last-minute business travelers with high-priced tickets. Fly everyone in the day before the show and fly them out the last day of the show to save on extra food and lodging costs.
Also, keep in mind other modes of transportation if the event isn’t that far away. Renting a van to take a large group of people or partner with another exhibitor in your area and charter a bus, which can significantly cut down on travel expenses.
Hotel. Typically larger conferences will offer attendees and exhibitors rooms at hotels within a close proximity to the event at a discounted rate. Take advantage of this savings. Booking an economy hotel farther away might seem like a smart strategy, but once you add up taxi fares, it might not make sense. Double up employees in each room to instantly cut hotel costs in half.
Also, if you’re attending multiple events throughout the year, look at hotel chains that offer special discounts for multiple hotel stays or those that offer special member programs that offer additional discounts, such as free nights after a certain amount of stays. Also, book at hotels that offer free breakfast. Might sound silly, but feeding a large group of people breakfast every day will add up to hundreds of dollars after a multi-day stay, and possibly bloat your budget.
Booth rentals. You can instantly shave hundreds off your budget by renting your tradeshow booth. This can be especially helpful for companies that to exhibit but need to cut tradeshow costs in the short-term as well as for those companies that don’t attend shows frequently. Make sure you read your rental agreement carefully and understand the terms of it. Find out what accessories will come with the booth and what you’re responsible for bringing. Be creative and enhance your rental booth with banner stands, literature racks, lighting and other extras that can increase traffic to your booth.
Shipping. Exhibition halls often add significant costs to receiving and storing your freight and associated material for your company. Instead ship things such as literature and giveaways directly to your hotel instead. Mark shipped boxes with a shipping label that reads, “Hold at front desk for (your name)’s arrival.” Hotels do not charge for accepting and holding shipments for guests.