Many exhibitors are being forced to find ways to reduce the cost of participation in tradeshows. The most common way this task is approached is to look at each cost line item and see what can be done to save money.
The common first step is to contract for a smaller booth space. This not only saves on the cost of the space rental but also provides an across-the-board cost reduction. The downside of such a reduction? You may have to settle for a less than desirable booth location and you’ll also need to make sure your display properties will fit in the smaller format.
After booth space, the likely second step is to look at each cost category for the show and try to determine which costs can be reduced. This is a very time-consuming process, and usually entails trying to find out how much your exhibit weighs and how long it should take to set up. This information is not always easy to get your hands on, and when you do, there are always a slew of variables that can affect the final cost of the show.
In my opinion, however, the best first step to take is to contact your exhibit supplier (assuming they store and manage your display) and lay your cards on the table. Explain to them that you have been asked to cut 25% off the cost of last year’s show. Ask them to provide recommendations. Remember, they do this for a living! They are not likely to be overly excited about this mission, but they should support you through good times and bad.
If they can’t or won’t provide you with some good ideas, you should probably consider finding another supplier.
Thinking about changing exhibit companies? Let’s Talk.
RFP is an Acronym for Request for Proposal
This is one of the few tradeshow exhibit industry terms that is also pretty common in other areas of business. In a nutshell, it means that your company has a need to buy products or services and you’d like to invite prospective vendors to submit proposals. RFPs can be sent out for something as simple as a rental backwall display or as elaborate as complete multi-year management of a hundred shows per year tradeshow program.
Once received, evaluation of submitted proposals can be difficult and time-consuming. As such, the number of companies that you invite should be limited to 3 – 5.
The basic RFP format is to provide:
- An overview of your company.
- A summary of your needs.
- An outline of how and when proposals should be submitted.
In order to make the process as efficient as possible, it is best to provide information that is concise. The key to dealing with responses in a timely fashion is to direct submissions so they are as similar in format as possible.
If you intend to request custom exhibit designs from bidders, keep in mind that designs are presented in a variety of formats from renderings mounted on boards to web-based video productions. You should clearly communicate the presentation format you prefer. When requesting designs, providing a budget number will make the final evaluation process much more productive.
You should also provide a format for the cost portion of the proposals. This can be in the form of a spreadsheet included in your RFP to be filled out and returned, or even as simple as an itemized list. Including this information helps to clearly describe what cost elements are to be included in the proposal. Things like carpet, electrical service, vacuuming, floral or technical support are not always part of the RFP process.
The bottom line? Give prospective vendors enough information to put together a proposal that is complete and in a format that makes it easy to compare. Time spent editing and refining your RFP documents can result not only in significant time savings when the time comes to review submissions, but also more quality in responses.
Trade shows can be one of the most cost-effective ways for your company to reach qualified prospects. And with a little bit of planning you can dramatically improve your results.
- Start planning as soon as you know you will be attending the show. Make your booth space reservation as far in advance as possible so you can select the best location and size.
- The majority of trade show attendees plan their trade show exhibit visits before the show. 75% of buyers arrive with pre-set purchasing objectives. A pre-show marketing campaign is essential to making the most of your trade show exhibit investment.
- Most trade shows are covered by local and industry media. Before the show, invite local media contacts to visit your booth. Find out if there will be any trade press at the show and set up a time to meet.
- Promote the shows your company will be exhibiting at and your booth location on your company website, Twitter and Facebook pages.
- Avoid printing anything at the trade show or at a hotel business center. Ship copies from your office or a printer to the show.
- Put together a comprehensive inventory list before you ship your exhibit. This will make check in and out-bound shipping more efficient, and better ensure that any missing items are identified rapidly.
- Bring more sales collateral and business cards than you think you could possibly need. You cannot afford to run out and it is inexpensive to ship it back to your office.
- Bring backup copies of all multimedia presentations on CDs just in case you have an issue with your laptop. You can also store copies of presentations online so that you can access them and download if needed.
- Organize your trade show leads in the downtime during the show and start to follow-up even before you leave the exhibit floor. Send the contact information for prospects to your office from the show and have someone send out requested collateral material to these prospects so it is waiting for them when they return to their office.
- Put together a trade show exhibit emergency kit: packing tape, scissors, pens, epoxy putty, a small trash can, power strips, extension cords, USB flash drives, cutting tools, and a tool kit. Add in anything that you might need for small emergency booth repairs and replacement parts for anything that can wear out or burn out like light bulbs.
Trade show exhibits are a big investment. Just a little bit of planning and a few tips from the pros, and you are well on the way to having a less stressful and more successful trade show exhibit.
Situation: You are getting ready to exhibit at your most important show of the year. You pull your exhibit out of the warehouse and realize that the graphics and entire exhibit looks outdated and tired. You need to update, but your budget is limited. You can’t afford to replace your entire trade show booth – you can’t afford to fade into the background at this show.
One Solution: Replace your exhibit graphics with flat screen display monitors and a media player.
There are many ways to update and refresh an outdated trade show exhibit. Increase booth impact by replacing graphics with digital displays will add a high-impact look to your display and help bring it up to speed with newer, more high-tech exhibit properties.
Converting your graphics to flat screen digital displays can involve greater up-front costs than just replacing the graphic panels, but you will be building longevity and flexibility into your exhibit. Plus, adding digital display monitors has other benefits:
- You may be able to save on graphics production unless you create very elaborate digital presentations.
- You can create attractive dynamic signage that will attract attention and draw more people into your booth.
- You can quickly update your messaging by creating new content.
- You can affordably adjust your brand presentation and featured products for each show’s specific market.
- You can create presentations that will help customers visualize what you can do for them.
Updating your trade show booth with digital display monitors and a dynamic presentation can help you attract trade show attendees and encourage more of them to buy your products or services.
Need help with updating your trade show display? We can help. Let’s talk.
Doing Basic Planning Makes Participation in a Trade Show More Profitable and Less Stressful.
First ask yourself, what do you want from the show?
As you begin your planning process, be sure to understand why your company is spending the money to rent a space in the first place. Who will be attending? Which attendees are important to your company and why? What products do you have to show? What do you want to say to visitors to your booth? Gaining a clear understanding of these “strategic” goals is vital to helping everything else fall neatly into place. As such, decisions on design, graphics, product placement, staffing, etc. should all be made based on your overall show strategy.
Next, develop a timeline.
Most show manuals include a timeline or schedule of events. This is helpful for dealing with the logistical details, but you need to make a personal timeline to guide your planning. You will also need to deal with your tradeshow display, all graphics, literature and premiums, room and dinner reservations, the list goes on and on. The only way to keep all of this organized and still be able to sleep at night is to start with a timeline. The first one that you make will be very difficult and time-consuming, but with the groundwork laid, subsequent show timelines can be as easy as cut and paste.
Get some help.
Your exhibit company should be able to take most of the display issues off of your shoulders, but it is best to confirm things with them from time to time to make sure that they are on track. This will allow you to focus on the things that are more difficult to outsource.
Be sure to set internal deadlines.
Make sure that things that must be done internally are listed on your timeline and communicate deadlines well in advance to everyone involved. Often, one of the most difficult things for trade show managers to do is to get their own trade show booth shipped to the show on time. With that in mind, sometimes it makes sense to set an internal deadline that leaves you a week or so fudge factor just in case.
Brochures need to be ready to go well in advance. It may make sense to send your boxes of literature to your exhibit company so that they can ship them to the show with the display. This will allow you to check one more thing off of your list, and as an added benefit, it’s one less shipment you’ll have to track down on-site.
Develop a trade show timeline, check it several times a day, and work well in advance. It’s not as easy as it might seem, but the payoff is well worth the effort.
Need trade show advice? Let’s talk.
Ordering electrical service is one of the most difficult aspects of tradeshow preparation. Just when you think that you have watts figured out, the next electrical form wants you to order amps. Volts seem easy enough, but what the heck is 3 phase? How about 24 hour power? Seems like a good idea, but it doubles the cost of each connection.
Trade Show Electrical Service Preparation
For the vast majority of tradeshow exhibits, the electrical requirements are pretty straight-forward. For a 10’ backwall exhibit, one standard minimum service outlet placed behind the booth will be all that is needed. If the plan includes a reception counter or table on the aisle, another minimum service outlet nearby will be handy to provide power to a lead retrieval device or laptop. As tradeshow displays get larger and more complex, it is advisable to have an electrical drawing. This is usually a simple display floorplan that shows exact placement of all electrical outlets and the required watts or amps for each. It is best to provide as much detail as possible. Most exhibit companies provide this service as part of their preparation procedure.
Once you have the electrical diagram, you can simply count the service outlets and fill out the form. Make sure to submit the form early enough to take advantage of any discounts.
Heavy duty electrical service such as 220 or 440 volts is used to power machinery. This type of service is very expensive and the order should be placed by someone who is very familiar with the equipment. Most convention centers turn off electrical service to displays at night. If you have equipment or computers in your exhibit that should not be turned off, or if you have refrigerators or freezers in your booth, you should consider ordering 24-hour service.
You will also need to provide the electrical diagram to the show electricians. They will use your electrical order and diagram to route extension cords on the floor to the locations specified. The diagram is normally sent in with the electrical order. If things change, be sure to provide the updated electrical drawing before you go to the show. The electricians typically go to work right after the booths are taped out on the floor.
A word about safety… One of the most common complaints heard from exhibitors is that they have to pay an electrician $90.00 to plug in their lights. While the cost does seem high, there is a very good reason for an electrician to make the connection. This process ensures that the electrician has an opportunity to inspect the wiring in your display. This may seem like a hassle, but keep in mind that on the night of January 16, 1967, while the biggest tradeshow of the year was hours from opening, a fire that was later traced to faulty wiring in an exhibit, burned Chicago’s McCormick Place to the ground. One person died and economic loss included the building, all of the exhibits and products.
I’m sure you can agree, it’s much better safe than sorry.
Does your exhibit company provide electrical service as part of their preparation procedure? Need help? Let’s talk.
Combine Rental Items with Your Custom Tradeshow Booth and Save Money
Even if you have made the investment in a custom tradeshow booth and own your exhibit properties, it may make sense to explore the idea of renting additional items that you may need. Rental offers a cost-effective way to change or add to your tradeshow display to meet your specific requirements.
For example: an exhibitor normally reserves a small island booth space (20 x 20 or 20 x 30). They own a custom tradeshow booth and it serves them well in the 3 shows that they exhibit in annually in this configuration. However, they recently introduced a new product line that will debut at a major industry tradeshow. As a result, they plan to have several meetings with very important potential distributors for the new product line at the show. Providing a private area within the booth for these meetings is a necessity.
It was determined that the best way to accomplish these goals would be to use a double deck display. The upper level of the double deck would provide the space for these important private meetings without sacrificing valuable floor space.
The problem is that the cost of purchasing a multilevel structure would definitely blow the tradeshow budget. Instead, the exhibitor decided to rent an existing structure and surround it with the exhibit components that they already own.
Customize Trade Show Exhibit Rentals to Your Exact Specifications
This is just one example of combining rental items with purchased exhibits. Exhibitors frequently rent conference rooms, reception desks, workstations, towers and overhead signs. Finishes on rental items can be changed so that they match existing tradeshow booth materials.
This cost effective solution should always be a consideration when planning your tradeshow exhibit.
Need a piece to match an existing trade show booth? Want to expand your current concept? Starting from scratch, but know you won’t be able to buy? We can help. Let’s talk.
A trade show exhibit is a rare opportunity to surround your key prospects with your brand experience. An exhibit is not an impersonal 2-D experience like a TV commercial. It is not virtual and passively interactive like your company website. An exhibit can be a real 360-degree brand experience, alive with people and almost completely in your control.
When you invite key prospects into a 360-degree brand experience, your booth has a chance to be one of those few memorable moments from the entire show. And the exhibitors who create these memorable moments are almost always the show sales leaders.
Be true to your brand position and personality.
Make sure that you start out with a platform that is consistent with your brand position and personality. If you are a technology company, you can be playful and use a comic book superhero theme. On the other hand, the same theme is probably not appropriate for a health care benefits company who needs to establish credibility and trust. Similarly, if your company manufactures euro-design furniture, your booth can be sleek, experimental and minimalistic. But if your company makes traditional American style furniture with a focus on fine craftsmanship, your booth design should reflect that heritage.
“Surprise and Delight” your target customers.
To create a memorable moment with your booth, you need an overarching theme and concept that will surprise and delight your target customers. You are looking for something that will break out of the endless sea of logos, photos of smiling customers, and product images. Based on surveys of trade show attendees and exhibitors, the memorable booths are not the biggest booths, they are the ones that had one big idea and focused on it.
I can’t give you a list of foolproof big ideas. You’ll need to work with your team and exhibit design company to create the concept. I can pass on one secret – get your internal and external team members to think only about your brand and what would really “Surprise and Delight” your target customers. Don’t be distracted by what your competition did last year or even what your company did last year. Brainstorm first, then evaluate the ideas once you have a list.
Once you have a concept, everything else will fall into place.
One unifying concept will pull everything together. If you have multiple products or divisions involved with the show, use the concept to unify everything. Make sure every aspect of the entire exhibit – accessories, product displays, signage and lighting – builds on the big idea.
And never forget: when it comes to a great trade show exhibit, less is more really applies. Focus relentlessly on your brand and your concept.
Preparing a corporate marketing budget these days is a daunting task. All companies need to increase sales leads and amp up revenues, but shrinking marketing budgets have forced companies to carefully consider what must stay and what must go as far as budget items. An important component of the overall marketing budget is the portion allotted to tradeshows, which can be a valuable tool to help increase the visibility of your company and boost sales.
The reality, however, is that no matter how you look at it, tradeshows are expensive endeavors. You have to rent the space, create a display, promote it, stock it, and staff it. So before you decide to undertake a tradeshow, take a comprehensive look at all the costs associated with exhibiting as well as the expected returns.
Establishing an accurate tradeshow budget early is essential to developing an overall strategy that will achieve success and assure upper management buy-in. The amount you allocate to tradeshows will depend upon the scope of your efforts and the number, size and location of the shows you are planning on exhibiting at throughout the year. Though strategies will vary from company to company, the methods of establishing a tradeshow budget remain relatively the same.
Let’s take a look at some of the larger components you’ll need to be cognizant of when preparing your overall tradeshow budget.
Space rental. Exhibit halls will charge your company based on the size of your display so determine early what size booth you will be using so you can more accurately estimate how many dollars to allocate to booth space rental.
Utilities and related booth expenses. There will be a charge for installing and dismantling your booth. Other expenses include electricity, gas, water, and any other items you may require at your booth during a show.
Exhibit display, signage and accessories. This would include everything from display production, graphics, and banners to booth furniture, literature racks and any equipment needed to demonstrate your products. Crating and storage costs should also be added to this category.
Shipping and drayage. This would include all expenses associated with transporting your exhibit and materials to each location. Freight would include charges for shipping your exhibit, literature, and any other materials to the event location and back to your office or warehouse. Drayage costs account for items delivered to and from your booth space from the loading dock of the exhibit hall or conference center.
Travel and entertainment. Try to put together a realistic estimate on what it will cost you and your staff to attend each tradeshow. This estimate must include travel expenses (airfare, taxi fares, rental cars, etc.), meals, and hotel expenses. This category would also include any expenses associated with entertaining prospects and customers during the show.
Show marketing. This would include all the marketing and sales collateral required to support the exhibit. These materials could be used at multiple shows, so keep in mind that these costs will be spread over a number of shows. These might include product literature, handouts, staff training, and show promotional items.
Want to know how to leverage our experience and make your trade show budget go further? Let’s talk.
Exhibiting at trade shows is a costly and time-consuming marketing activity. Though that is indisputable, the costs are often more than recouped when the show is a success and your company leaves with many promising sales leads that can— with proper sales follow-up —be converted into future customers.
So how do you determine whether a trade show was a success and worth the expenditure? In order to determine if the cost of attending a show was justifiable, you’ll need to calculate the show’s return on investment (ROI). In this case, ROI is the gain or loss from the money spent on various marketing activities (tradeshows, sales promotions, advertisements, etc.) that are intended to drive sales.
Calculating ROI is pretty straightforward. You simply divide the gross sales dollars resulting from the effort, in this case a tradeshow, by the cost spent to execute it. For example, if your company generated $600,000 in gross sales as a result of sales leads generated at a trade show event and it cost $150,000 to attend.
ROI: $600,000 ÷ $150,000 = 4
ROI is expressed as a ratio so it would be 1:4, which means for every dollar invested, your company got back four dollars. The tricky part is that it’s very difficult to determine exactly which sales leads from tradeshows resulted in actual sales. So in this case, you’re estimating ROI, not calculating an actual ROI.
In order to estimate ROI from tradeshows, companies use a variety of methods. Some companies have determined through past experience the average number of qualified leads it takes to get a specific number of opportunities to pitch to potential buyers, and how many of these will ultimately result in a sale.
The number of presentations that close in a sale are known as the “close ratio.” Over time, a company will be able to compute an average close ratio. Once a company has determined a close ratio, it can use leads generated at a show to estimate potential ROI from that event.
Another way to estimate ROI is to perform a sales conversion study. This is a controlled interview technique that is conducted via email or phone within a few weeks of an event. The intent is to uncover buying intentions and purchasing time from a pool of qualified leads collected at an event.
ROI: Gross dollar buying intentions ÷ cost of the event and the cost of the survey = Potential ROI
Don’t overlook the soft benefits
While you are calculating the dollars and cents, don’t forget to consider the benefits of exhibiting that can’t be expressed in numerical terms, like:
- Strengthening relationships with current clients.
- Increasing brand awareness.
- Consumer education efforts.
- New product introductions.
- Investor relations and improving perception of your company in the financial community.
- New market introductions.
- Public relations including editorial coverage.
- Competitive intelligence.
- Customer insight and research.
Though measuring exact ROI is difficult, these techniques can help you estimate your possible return using information that is more easily accessed from your internal sales groups. Using a projected ROI is a great way to strengthen reported results from tradeshows as well as to increase your credibility with upper management.