Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.
Best tradeshow marketing tips and case studies. Call 800-654-6946.

Budgeting

Nine Things You Need to Know Before Buying a Custom Tradeshow Exhibit

It’s a big commitment, investing in a custom tradeshow exhibit. Maybe not as much as getting married or buying a new house, but it’s more than deciding who should accompany you to the prom. It’s a big deal – buying a new custom exhibit. If you haven’t been through the process before, or in a while, it’s not a bad idea to review the steps.

What are the pros and cons of the decision? What about budget, logistics, staff preparation and more? They’ll all be impacted by the purchase of a custom tradeshow exhibit.

Some of the pros and cons to weigh before choosing between purchasing a custom tradeshow exhibit or a more standard, modular or manufactured exhibit.

  1. Uniqueness: A custom tradeshow exhibit means that your company will have a unique, one-of-a-kind presentation. No one else will look like (if the designer does his job!). Your designer starts with a blank slate and before doing anything on the slate they should ask a lot of questions. They should ask so many that you may wish they’d stop! But it’s all good – it means they care about creating an exhibit that you really want; one that works well for your company from many aspects: the look and feel, the branding, and the functionality.
  2. Flexibility: A custom exhibit can be designed and fabricated form the outset to accommodate a variety of needs and intended uses. For instance, if you have an exhibit schedule that demands you exhibit in a 10×20 space in one show, a 10×20 space in another show, and a 20×20 in yet another show, your exhibit components can be designed to work in all three configurations.
    Custom Tradeshow Exhibit
  3. Pride of Ownership: A custom exhibit will give you those intangibles: pride of ownership, unique corporate identity and a feeling that can’t be beat, from the CEO to the front-line staffers!
  4. Other Options: Of course, you have options other than custom, especially when it comes to smaller exhibits, such as 10×10 or 10×20 inline exhibits. There is pop-up, modular, flat-panel, fabric panels, fabric back-lit walls, monitor inset options and more. There are custom hybrids that take elements of modular designs and add unique twists that help you stand out – maybe for less money than designing and fabricating a custom exhibit from scratch.
  5. Logistics: Drayage, Shipping and Installation & Dismantle: It seems that nothing can torpedo your tradeshow marketing budget faster than logistics. Shipping, show drayage and the costs to install and dismantle your exhibit are often seen as nothing short of highway robbery. But in the tradeshow world, it’s a cost of playing the game. So, what can you do from the design and fabrication standpoint to keep these costs as low as possible? Using lightweight materials such as fabric graphics and aluminum framing can help. Knowing how to set up your own small exhibit can help you avoid having to pay an I&D company, but there are tradeoffs. You’re either paying your own crew for their time, or you’re paying the pros.
  6. Custom Look, Function and Branding: The main reason to consider a custom exhibit is that, after all is said and done, you want a booth that looks like no other. If your company handcrafts potato chips, for example, uses biodiesel fuel, donates to charitable causes, mitigates wetlands on the site of a new factory, works a staying green by invoking heavy use of solar energy, you have a solid idea of how you want your exhibit to reflect those values as part of your brand.
  7. Design/Fabrication: One question that pops up on occasion: is it important to have the same company that designs your booth fabricate it? Not necessarily. But having the design and the fabrication shop right next door means communication is smoother and more efficient. Some independent designers will gladly create a custom design that is guaranteed to wow your audience. But many may not have as much experience designing using specific materials that an exhibit house typically uses. They may also not have as much experience at knowing how much things cost. Having an exhibit project manager in close communication with the designer can help keep the design within budget.
  8. Pricing: Budget is often the key element of a new exhibit project, and creating a custom exhibit will often drive the cost higher than picking something that’s more “off the shelf.” Those standard-issue exhibits will, in most cases, cost less than a similarly sized custom exhibit. But that doesn’t mean your custom exhibit has to cost an arm and a leg. Taking time to go through the process carefully helps rein in those costs. Know what your needs are, communicate those needs to your exhibit house, and make sure they are aware of your budget. Confirm all steps of the design and reviews, all the way through to fabrication.
  9. Learning Curve: Many companies that step up from a small modular booth to a custom booth will go through a few growing pains. It’s not uncommon. They’re spending more money, they’re having to deal with higher shipping costs, I&D, and their staff now has a larger space to deal with. But ultimately, every company I’ve worked with that has gone through the process unanimously report it was well worth it. Partners, clients, prospects, and even competitors see them as bigger players in the industry. Higher respect and recognition are your due.

There is a tremendous benefit to your company when your tradeshow marketing moves to a significantly higher level. Tradeshow marketing is by far one of the most cost-effective, highly targeted methods of reaching your potential customers and maintaining strong relations with your current clients.


7 Ways to Save Money at a Tradeshow

Oh yes, tradeshows can be very expensive, so what should you do to save money when exhibiting at a tradeshow? Let’s take a look at just a handful of ideas.

  1. Partner with a bigger exhibitor. You may be a perfect complement to a partner with a much larger booth presence. Explore the idea of taking a small corner of a smaller exhibit. Both exhibitors will benefit from the added traffic when both exhibitors are promoting the joint appearance.
    save money at tradeshows
  2. Rent an exhibit. Not always the best of go-to solution, but for many exhibitors, renting a booth means not dealing with storage. Usually at one-third the cost of purchasing a similar exhibit.
  3. Dig deep to cut your travel costs. Cutting those costs may mean taking one or two fewer people, staying in hotels that are on a transit line but still a bit away from the convention center.
  4. Save power by using LEDs instead of hot halogens.
  5. Cut your shipping weight. Using graphic graphics that fold up are going to cost a lot less to ship, and will take up less space.
  6. Cut your shipping costs even more. Shipping monitors isn’t a big deal. But imagine if you had them purchased locally, delivered them to the convention center, and then either shipping them home in your crates, or donate them to a local nonprofit and take a tax write off.
  7. Don’t use your exhibit properties only at the exhibit. Work creatively to use them at other times of the year. Set a graphic up in your company entrance, show it off in the conference room or use it for a video shoot. Getting more usage out of your exhibit materials, especially the graphics, gives you a chance to stretch those dollars.

Exhibitor Magazine Offers Budgeting Numbers in Latest Issue

What does a custom exhibit cost on average? How much does it cost to store your exhibit? What’s the cost per lead when exhibiting at a tradeshow?

The answers to these and many other questions are revealed in the November issue of Exhibitor Magazine. You should check out the full magazine article for everything here, but it might be fun to look at just a few items for the sake of this post.

For instance, to answer the first question: what does a custom exhibit cost on average? According to the article, which quoted from the Experiential Designers & Producers Association’s 2017 Economic (Custom) Survey, the current average falls between $137 and $161.17 per square foot. In-line exhibits average $1,370 per lineal foot. Double-deck islands average $237 per square foot of total area.

Okay, let’s try another: exhibit storage. From the same survey, exhibit storage industry average is $.30 monthly per cubic foot, or $4.39 monthly per square foot.

How about the cost per lead? From a sales lead survey done by Exhibitor Magazine, only three in ten exhibit managers track the cost per lead generated at shows they attend, the average figure per lead among those who do is $164.91. I would suspect that number fluctuates widely over industries. And if you were to search for average cost per lead, you’ll get a very disparate cost from industry to industry. When you start to dissect lead cost numbers, you run into a litany of qualifications: what exactly is a lead? How are they qualified? How were they generated? And so on. But having that figure is a good bit of data; it’s often been shown that leads generated at tradeshows are more qualified and lower cost than leads generated other ways.

And finally, one bit of data from the article that jumped out at me: Exhibit-House Markups. How much does an exhibit house markup their prices from their suppliers? Keep in mind that this markup is generally the only way for an exhibit house to cover the cost of salaries, keeping the lights on, marketing, and so on. I’ve always been curious about this item and have never seen this information published. So, here’s the skinny:

  • Raw materials used in construction/fabrication: 93%
  • Subcontracted materials and special purchases: 67%
  • Subcontracted labor: 55%
  • Transportation: 28%
  • Show services: 27%
  • Installation-and-dismantle labor: 29%

This information came from the same EDPA 2017 economic survey as mentioned earlier.

Be sure to check out the remainder of numbers in the article, including average exhibit house charges, labor union charges, electrical, international exhibiting numbers and more. Good stuff to keep handy as you plan your budgets for 2018.


TradeshowGuy Monday Morning Coffee – September 11, 2017

We are awash in data, no matter what business we’re in. TradeshowGuy Tim Patterson talks with Oz du Soleil of ExcelOnFire (YouTube channel) about how to handle all of that data: how to make sure it’s clean, how to analyze it and much more.

ONE GOOD THING: For Oz, it’s cigars. For me, it’s the beginning of football season – college and pro!

Ask Me Anything: Answers to My Most-Asked Tradeshow Marketing Questions

As a company owner, salesman and project manager for TradeshowGuy Exhibits, I get tradeshow marketing questions. Hoobooy, I get a lot of questions. I thought it might be fun to answer a handful of the most common questions I get.

Our shipping costs are sky-high. How can we bring these costs down? Many questions are about costs, so it’s a good place to start. Certainly, if something is heavy it’s going to cost a lot to ship. Wood panels are heavy, and many older exhibits have a lot of wood pieces. It also adds up in drayage costs at the show. Some clients like the image that wood gives them, so they bite the bullet and build the cost of shipping into their exhibiting program. Others that want to bring the shipping costs down look at lighter materials, such as silicon-edge fabric graphic panels (SEG) that give a great look but don’t have the weight and heft of wooden or other types of panels.

How can we increase our ROI? It seems that tradeshow marketing is hit and miss. Yes, investing in tradeshow marketing can be expensive, but done right, it can be a boon and open doors to markets that you wouldn’t be able to otherwise reach. Sometimes it comes down to exhibiting at the right shows. It often means putting more time, energy and resources into pre-show marketing, booth staff training and a booth that accurately represents your brand (among others). There are a lot of moving parts and if you let a few of those parts go unattended to, it can contribute to your failure. I spoke with a former exhibitor recently who said the last time they exhibited was years ago and it was a bust. When we spent a few minute dissecting it, we come to the conclusion that as a small local business, one of their biggest challenges was finding a local show that could provide a large enough audience of potential customers. Without deeper digging, it was impossible to know in that brief call, but we both felt that we identified one of their most important challenges: getting in from of the right audience.

How do we work with a designer? We’ve never done that before. Often I end up working with exhibitors who are in a sense moving out of their comfort zone. Before now, they have purchased exhibits from a source that just shows them a catalog of pre-made items. Nothing wrong with that, there are hundreds and hundreds of modular exhibits and accessories that are more or less ‘off-the-shelf’ that will do a great job for you. But exhibitors will often reach the point where they have the budget and desire to move into something custom. Working with a designer is straightforward – but you have to choose a designer that knows how to design in 3D. Graphic designers typically won’t have the skill to do so. However, trained 3D exhibit designers know how to design exhibits that take into account all of your functional needs: storage space, display space, foot traffic flow, graphic layout and so much more. A typically-trained graphic designer won’t have the skill that a 3D designer does. As for working with a designer, it’s typical to have a long conversation, either in person, or on a conference call, with the company stakeholders so that all needs are discussed. At that point the designer will create a mockup or two for review and once comments are in, changes are made until the final design is agreed upon.

tradeshow marketing questions

I need a new exhibit. Should I prepare and issue an RFP (Request for Proposal)? It depends. There’s no definitive answer on this one. An RFP does a couple of things: it helps clarify your exhibit needs by forcing you to articulate all of your needs, budget, timeline and so on. Putting it all in black and white is a great exercise whether you’re putting out an RFP or not. If you don’t have an exhibit house in mind, issuing an RFP allows you to vet a handful (probably 4 – 6) companies, and make them jump through some hoops to make their case, and perhaps even do mock designs for you. On the other hand, if you have been working with an exhibit house that has done you well – has created great exhibits for you in the past, has been an effective partner for years – then no doubt you’re in good shape staying with them.

How much does it cost? It’s a question people don’t really like to ask, but usually end up blurting it out. Some items come with a set price, like the off-the-shelf catalog items, but if they’re shopping for a custom exhibit, there is no obvious answer. In my younger salesperson days, I’d answer the question with “well, what’s your budget?” but that’s not really a good answer. The better response I believe, is to ask them how they come up with a budget from their end. What is their process for determining how much they are willing to invest? There are industry standards – which are pretty accurate, and a good starting place – but the client has to work through a number of internal issues unique to come up with a realistic budget for their project. A final thought on this: if their internal discussion gives them a number that isn’t realistic for their expectations, a reputable exhibit house will tell them so.

How quick can you get it done? Or: how long will this take? This question often comes from an exhibitor who hasn’t paid close enough attention to the calendar and are now scrambling to get something in place. A recent exhibitor asked me – months (almost a year) ahead of their need  and asked “how long does the process usually take?” The question was about designing and fabricating an island booth from scratch. I silently gave him kudos for asking the question up front (and not waiting until a month or two before the show), then told him my answer: for an island exhibit, we’d love to have 3-4 months at minimum. Six months is better. But we’ve turned around island exhibits in 5 or 6 weeks IF the client has a really strong idea of what they want and all that’s need for design is for the designer to create the rendering and confirm that the look and feel and dimensions are accurate – and then we’re off to the races.

Certainly there are other questions I hear, but in reflecting the past year or two, these seem to be what come up the most-asked tradeshow marketing questions. What questions do YOU have about exhibit creation or tradeshow marketing?

 

Is Downsizing Your Exhibit the Right Move for You?

Many companies I work with are in the process of increasing the size of their booth, is that the right move for you? Perhaps downsizing is a better choice. So what comes into play when you consider the decision?

Often the choice is strategic. You may know that some of your major competitors are either not going to be exhibiting at a specific show where you want a presence, yet you don’t want to do the full exhibit that you’ve done in the past. Or it’s a show where the attendance is down, so having a smaller presence doesn’t hurt you.

Your brand is morphing into something different, and investing in a new exhibit doesn’t make sense. In this case, you can go for a smaller presence for less money. You might also consider renting an exhibit, which can give you significant savings in the short term.

You need to show a better ROI to the powers-that-be. Investing less in an exhibit is one way to cut up-front expenses and increase the overall ROI.

Downsize your tradeshow exhibit

You’re planning to invest more heavily in pre-show marketing. This is a simple re-focusing of your marketing tactics. Putting more emphasis on reaching visitors prior to the show with direct mail, for instance, can bring people directly to your booth with an appointment and plan in hand that is congruent with your goals.

The bigger shows get even more expensive, and yet you still need a presence there. One way to keep your presence at the show is to have a smaller exhibit. Smaller booth space may also mean you don’t have to send as many people to staff the booth, saving yet more money.

You’re reassessing your overall tradeshow marketing plan. I’ve seen some companies simply pull out of a show for a year or two. They’ve had a major presence for years, yet taking stock of the value of the show was important enough to them to not exhibit and to rather just send several members of management to meet with other exhibitors and partners offsite.

Having decided to downsize your exhibit, make sure that the smaller version of your brand is still impactful. This means that graphics have to be well-designed and of high quality, your exhibit structure should be of high quality, the booth space needs to be kept clean, your staff should be well-trained and well-prepared and your products and service offerings should be your latest and greatest.

7 Easy Ways to Update Your Tradeshow Exhibit

The natural inclination for most exhibitors is to get the most money out of their booth, so it’s important to consider ways to update that tradeshow exhibit. What options do you have?

  1. The first and most obvious is to change the graphics. Products and services change, and you can show that change with new graphics, and still keep the old frame of the booth.

    Yerba Prima updated their booth by replacing about half the graphics.
  2. Add to your exhibit by including things such as iPad kiosks, banner stands or interactive elements that previously were not there. The challenge, especially in smaller booths, is to keep from adding items that clutter up the booth but don’t really add to your overall effectiveness.
  3. Rent something, such as a charging table and furniture. Your original exhibit may not have come with a budget big enough to do all that you wanted, so after using it a few times, instead of purchasing new items, you can rent them.
  4. Add space. If you’ve been exhibiting with a 10×20, you could upgrade to a 10×30, which would give you 50% more booth space. Then, add something like a meeting area, a theater viewing space or something similar.
  5. Hang a sign. If you’re in an island booth, or some other space that allows you to hang a sign from the ceiling, but you’ve never done it, this is one way to draw more eyeballs from a longer distance. And with the idea that perception is important, having a hanging sign gives you a big upgrade in people’s minds.
  6. Custom flooring. One way to set your exhibit apart from neighbors is to add custom flooring. We recently did a custom booth for Schmidt’s Naturals of Portland, and as part of their exhibit, the flooring was custom. Several people in the company, as well as visitors, commented that the flooring really went a long way to set them apart from other exhibitors.
  7. Hire a pro. Even in a 10×10, the presence of a professional presenter can draw a crowd, and really set you apart from competitors. In a larger space, having regular professional presentations is often a good investment that more than pays for the investment – without a single change to your booth other than making sure you have the space for the crowd.

Preparing for your 2017 Tradeshow Schedule

Yes, it’s upon us – 2017 – have you planned your new year tradeshow schedule? Chances are you’re at least planning a few months into the new year, but have you detailed out the entire year?

Tradeshow planning, as any tradeshow coordinator will tell you, is the key to success. And since there’s a lot to planning, it makes sense to spend a lot of your time making plans, checking plans and then double-checking.

Start with your tradeshow schedule. What shows are you going to? Make a master list of the dates of the shows.

Size of exhibit. Note the size of booth space your company has committed to rent at the various shows.

Break it down. Now start breaking out the various products and services that you’re promoting at each show. Chances are those items will change depending on the audience that’s expected at each show.

From there, you can start breaking out the graphics messaging, sampling needs if any, demos desired at each show and so forth. Break out the details as far as you can at this point; you’ll need to break them down further at some point anyway.

tradeshow schedule

Now you can start determining how many people will be required at each show based on booth size and expected visitors. From this you can figure out what staff members will likely be tasked with working the show.

Beyond this, you can compile website URLs and contact information for all of the shows. Pull up previous year’s paperwork to compare to pricing and floor plan and booth location to what is happening this year.

From this you can compare costs and leads generated, perhaps going so far as to compile the number of new clients or sales generated from 2016 show appearances.

Once you’ve put down most of the broad strokes and details of your shows and booth rental spaces and so on, you can start the task of determining what, if anything, might be changed or added to your current booth properties. Is your exhibit in good shape, or does it need an upgrade of some sort? Or is this the year you’ve decided to invest in a brand new exhibit? That’s another task entirely, but it would be part of your yearly tradeshow schedule planning.

While this is really just a 30,000 foot view of the process, once you put this all together, the real fun begins of breaking out each element of each show and making them work successfully.


Free Report: “7 Questions You’ll Never Ask Your Exhibit House”

How to Measure Tradeshow ROI and ROO

There are many ways to measure tradeshow ROI (Return on Investment) and ROO (Return on Objectives). Let’s count a few of the important ones.

  1. Web traffic. You might not think web traffic relates to tradeshow success, but trust me, it does. Knowing how your traffic ebbs and flows before and after tradeshows is one indicator that is worth noting in your overall information gathering.
  2. Social Media Reach. Compare before and after numbers of social media likes and followers. Your level of engagement, or reach, during a show, can show a spike in engagement on your most-used social media platforms.
  3. Booth Visitors. Count the attendees in your booth. Yeah, it’s a pain to do, but if you can manage to at least get a rough count of visitors to your booth each show, you can compare from year to year and show to show.
  4. Show Buzz. Do you have visitors that showed up at your booth because there was some show talk that drew them there? If you have an indication of that, try to find out if they were interested in your booth or products or both.
  5. Networking. How many industry colleagues did you and your team connect with during the show? How were those conversations? Could you consider many of them fruitful, leading to future steps?
  6. New product launch or demo. Count the number of people that attendee presentations or demos, or the number of product samples that were given away. Count the number of leads at those demos, which leads to…
  7. Lead Generation – new leads in particular. Lead generation is THE key metric you need to track from show to show and year to year. That and…
  8. Sales. How many dollars were generated as a direct result of leads generated at the show.

To determine your ROI, take the total revenue generated, subtract the investment in the show and you have your raw number. To get the percentage, divide your original investment into the net income.

To figure out your Return on Objective, identify your objectives prior to the show. You may have non-financial event goals such as customer meetings, samples given away, press coverage, branding, name recognition improvement, collecting emails, enhancing client relations and so on. Then make notes by observing and documenting as much related information as you can. ROO looks at items that do not directly translate to immediate sales or sales opportunities.

You can evaluate such things as:

  • What was the best part of the show?
  • What was the least valuable?
  • Did the booth size work, or was it too small or too large for your purposes?
  • Did your signage convey the right messages?
  • Was your pre-show promotion effective?
  • Were there enough visitors throughout the show to keep your staff busy? Were they overwhelmed?

No matter your overall approach to tradeshow marketing, the more information you are able to gather relating to your ROI and your ROO will make you a better marketer.

3 Tradeshow Webinars That Are Worth Your Time

I love webinars.

No wait, I hate webinars.

I’ve attended so many webinars over the years that it’s easy to come away with both feelings: love and hate. Hate when you spend an hour only to have the presenter take the first 20 minutes giving you his poor sob story, 14 minutes of actual information that you can use, and 26 minutes trying to sell you on his $2,000 product.

But then there are those that cut to the chase, make it worth your while by delivering the goods. So I thought it might be fun to cruise YouTube and try to track down a handful of tradeshow webinars that are actually worth your time.

To begin, Ruth Stevens teams up with Lands’ End in 2013 for a tradeshow webinar called “Get More Out of Your Tradeshow Marketing,” which last about a half hour and is packed full of great information presented professionally.

Udi Ledorgor, author of the Amazon #1 Bestseller “The 50 Secrets of Tradeshow Success,” joined Pepperi for a fun-and-info-filled webinar. It clocks in at just under 40 minutes, so if you’re keeping score and home you now have almost 70 minutes of education to soak up by staying on this page. And if you do, of course, Google will love you, I’ll love you, and more people will find me. So you’re watching these now for TWO reasons: you’re going to learn something that will make you better at tradeshow execution and for the good of all mankind.

But wait, there’s more!

I ran across a rather long, but worthwhile webinar called “5 Tips to Maximize Your Tradeshow Experience” put on in advance of a show in 2016 called QuickBooks Connect by Kelly Bistriceanu of TSheets and Yoseph West of Hubdoc. While there are a number of QBConnect-only mentions for meetups and so forth, these two speak very knowledgeably and discuss some good ideas on planning and execution of tradeshows during this hour-plus webinar:

Okay, if you managed to make it through these webinars, I’ve taken up a couple of hours of your time by now. But y’know what? You’re smarter! And you’ve earned a break and probably a cup of coffee.


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