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

Budgeting

ExhibitDay Launches Free Tradeshow Exhibit Management Tool

One of the big challenges for exhibitors is keeping track of everything: records, travel, budgets, exhibit pieces and more. Now there’s a new tool that looks to address many if not all of those issues.

ExhibitDay launches this week with three models: lite, professional and premium. Lite is free; the others are available on a monthly fee basis depending on the optimum number of users you would want to have access to the tool.

According to the press release, “ExhibitDay has been in Beta since January, 2019. During the Beta period, ExhibitDay worked closely with nearly 1,000 Beta testers across a diverse group of event teams consisting of Trade Show Coordinators, Event Managers, and Exhibitors in order to develop and test its service.”

The release details the various tools:

  1. Tracking and management of information about trade shows and exhibits.
  2. Tracking event attendees and their travel reservations.
  3. Management of booth reservations, booth services, and shipments.
  4. Tracking of event sponsorships, costs, and expenses.
  5. Event team collaboration via tasks and to-do lists.
  6. Coordination of event team schedules before, during, and after each trade show.
  7. Synchronization of events, tasks, and schedules with third-party calendaring apps such as Google Calendar, Apple Calendar, and Outlook.
  8. Event-specific and annual budgeting, fund allocation, ROI measurement, and engagement analytics.
  9. Customizations to the fields and data points tracked for each event.
  10. Granular access-control and robust user management tools.

Take a look at ExhibitDay here. And if you choose to use it, use the discount code TRADESHOWGUY and save a few bucks!


6 Ways to Save Money on Your Next Custom Tradeshow Exhibit

Let’s face it, when you’re shopping for a custom tradeshow exhibit, the dollar signs can often start spinning so much your head soon follows. Things can get expensive in the tradeshow world, so it makes sense to figure out ways to save money along the way.

Start with the premise that the reason custom tradeshow exhibits can be expensive for any number of reasons. First, there are a lot of people involved: designers, account executives, fabricators, detailers, crate builders and so on. Things are usually hand-crafted in the exhibit world in the sense that each piece has human hands on it several times. Even if a CNC machine is programmed to cut metal or wood, a human still has to make it happen. Building an exhibit is not mass manufacturing. Its individually crafted items designed and built to look spectacular.

How to keep the costs down? Here are six ways:

  1. Consider starting with a kit. Many exhibit builders offer a number of kits to keep costs lower. With a kit, the design is generally pre-determined. But with a good kit, there are always opportunities to customize the kit. In a sense, you’re creating a hybrid between custom and ‘catalog’ designs. Shop the company’s website for kits that might give you a good starting point.
  2. Know exactly what you want and get nothing more. A custom exhibit is great in that, as part of the design process, you can identify what you need – exactly. If you need just three shelves for product display, don’t go for four or five or six. Those can usually be added later. Need a charging table? There are always low budget options that are not custom but can be custom-branded.
  3. Work with lightweight materials. While there still are many heavy wood-built exhibits that appear at shows – usually for a great reason because it’s part of the brand – more exhibits are moving to lightweight materials such as aluminum frames and fabric graphics. Not only are the materials lighter, which means they ship for less, but fabric graphics fold up and ship in a smaller space.
  4. Rent furniture. If you rent the same thing show after show, it’ll add up and eventually you’ll end up paying more for the furniture than it you owned it. But keep in mind, but owning it, you have to pay to ship it, pay to store it, and pay to replace it. And furniture that you own will get scuffed, nicked and damaged over time. With rental furniture, you get brand new or like-new items, you get to choose from the latest styles, and you don’t have to worry about shipping or storing.
  5. Don’t rush it. By planning ahead for a custom designed and fabricated exhibit, you’re avoiding rush fees, last minute glitches and a calendar that is rushing at you like a runaway train. Once you’ve decided on a new exhibit, sit down with your exhibit provider and work out a realistic timeline so that all parties know what’s expected of them and when.
  6. Preview the exhibit. It’s pretty common to do this, but I have seen occasions where it’s not done, and it’s led to having to make expensive fixes on the show floor or have revised graphics printed at a rush fee and shipped using an expensive overnight service. Previews are generally designed to make sure everything works like it’s supposed to, to make sure all the graphics fit, and nothing is left out. Even if you can’t be there, make sure you have lots of photos of the preview.

Whether you’re looking for a custom exhibit, a modular exhibit from a catalog or something in between, most exhibit houses are willing to discuss your budget and what you can realistically expect to get for your money.


Small Biz 101: Budgeting for Trade Shows

This is a guest article by Lee Becknell of Pinnacle Promotions.

Trade shows take a great deal of forethought and planning, but your business will reap substantial rewards from participating in these types of events. Maybe your business is relatively small and you’re looking to expand your demographic, or you’ve just undergone a company rebranding – trade shows can provide a platform to spread your brand’s message and inform people of your products or services.

Whatever your intentions may be for attending a trade show, you’ll need to put a lot of planning into the process, which includes creating a budget. Use this trade show checklist to ensure your budget is considering all essential components such as promotional products and trade show giveaways, travel and booth fees.

Booth Space

One of the most essential aspects of your trade show display, your booth should be secured as soon as you decide to attend an event. The larger the booth space, the more expensive the rental cost will be, so give some serious thought to how much space your company will actually need. Aside from booth size, the location of your display plays a role in price determination. If you’re interested in a spot closer to the trade show’s entrance, you’re going to end up paying more. Though a location closer to the entrance may gain more attention, opting for a booth further in the back of the space could cut costs.

Utility Expenses

Once you’ve selected a booth at the event, you’ll need to secure any other utilities your display may require, including electricity, WiFi, AV services and other accessories. This part of the budget often gets overlooked by those who are not as experienced with trade shows. As you’re planning for the event, consider what types of extras your booth may require. Are you planning to play an informational video about your company or show photos of products? You’ll need to make arrangements for electronic connections and TV displays. Write down any additional costs and then inquire with companies near the event space to get a price estimate and add this into your budget.

Staff Costs

For a successful trade show experience, you’ll need a well-trained, professional group of employees who are willing to attend the event and share their expertise with guests. Because trade shows are typically considered occurrences outside of normal work hours, you should factor in additional wages to compensate qualifying staff members. Prior to the event, you’ll also need to train employees on what to say, how to behave and what to wear at these events. To present a sleek, united front between employees, you can purchase uniforms specifically designed for trade shows like comfortable Nike t-shirts branded with your company’s logo.

Travel and Accommodations

Aside from booth rentals, traveling to the event can be one of the most expensive parts of your trade show budget. The best way to keep this cost down is through early planning. Determine which trade shows your company will attend for the entire year and then begin scheduling travel plans right away to avoid rising prices as the event approaches. Work with other members of the marketing team to decide how many employees will be needed at the event. Then, factor in the cost of flights or renting vehicle transportation plus hotel accommodations. Keep in mind that booking a place to stay far from the event may save money in the short term, but don’t forget the additional travel costs to get from the hotel to the convention center.

Promotional Products and Trade Show Giveaways

An excellent method for spreading your company’s message and brand, promotional products and trade show giveaways, commonly called “swag,” should be a focus for your trade show preparation. Offering some useful or unique items to attendees is a great way to capture their attention and give them something to take home that will remind them of your company.

Select well-known brand-name items and have them personalized with your logo or choose a promotional product that’s beneficial to others in your industry. It’s best to order these items in bulk to get the lowest possible price. In order to plan how much you’ll spend on promotional products, estimate how many trade shows the company will attend in a year and then research how many people are expected at each event to get a sense for the number of promotional products you should have on hand.

Booth Graphics

Now that you have your booth space figured out, you need to consider how you’re going to make your company’s area look attractive and professional—feel free to get creative here. Most companies that attend trade shows will order custom signs with the name of their business and sometimes the company motto. Offering brochures or pamphlets can help inform attendees about your business and give them something to remember you by along with promotional products. People who frequent trade shows are interacting with dozens of different businesses in a matter of hours or days. It’s rare that attendees will remember every single company they encountered, so providing them with helpful reminders, like handouts and trade show giveaways, will encourage information retention and may generate prospective leads.

Plan How to Transport Booth Accessories

Another minor detail that many companies overlook when planning for trade shows, logistics are essential to transporting your supplies. If you’re traveling a long distance with a lot of equipment (think TV displays, furniture for your booth, etc.), then you’ll likely need to book a freight service to deliver the accessories. For companies that don’t require much equipment, you can also consider shipping essential items, including your promotional products, to the trade show location to lower your overall cost. Be sure to get an estimate on either logistics services or shipping costs when planning your budget.


Lee Becknell serves as the Senior Digital Marketing Manager for Pinnacle Promotions. Lee oversees digital marketing from the Atlanta, GA headquarters. Lee has been with Pinnacle for over six years. Lee enjoys spending time with her husband, son and golden retriever, running and taking naps.

What Story is Your Tradeshow Exhibit Telling Potential Partners?

Yes, we know that your tradeshow exhibit tells a story. Often, a great exhibit design will capture the brand so accurately that the design is often all that is needed. But frankly, that’s the exception more than the rule. But even without an iconic design that broadcasts what your company is about, your tradeshow exhibit tells a story anyway.

Here’s how:

Design: even an average design can be executed well and tell a big part of your story. But a compelling story can come to life. Tell the story of how you created the soft drink because your Grandma used to make something similar when you were a kid. Or how you invented something to help a friend. Doesn’t really matter, your product or service likely came from some inspiration. Can you tell the story of that inspiration in a concise way using graphics and 3D elements?

Graphics: here’s where most of the story is told, and the weight of this rests on your graphic designer and marketing team that is communicating the correct message to the designer. Get it right and you’ve done better than most of your competitors. Get it wrong…?

Craftsmanship: not all exhibits are built from scratch. Depending on where you purchase your exhibit, it may be something that’s designed and built from scratch in the USA. Or it may be from an overseas manufacturer and it came direct from a catalog showing thousands of similar designs. With an overseas manufacturer involved, you will be hard-pressed to know the quality of the materials used for the exhibit.

Cleanliness: at least this is something you have quite a bit of control over during the show. But a clean booth tells a story. So does a dirty booth.

People: the booth staffers are your front line. Are they well-trained in how to engage with visitors? How to ask the right questions? How to politely disengage? How to act in a booth (stay off their phone, don’t eat, etc.)? Whether you like it or not, visitors will forget a lot of things. But they’re very likely to remember an unpleasant or below-average encounter with a booth staffer. Just like they’d probably remember an encounter that impressed them.

Stories are told with every piece of your marketing and your prospect’s interaction with your company. What story are your prospects being told, and what are they remembering? And is that story in line with your goals?

Top Ten All-Time Most Viewed TradeshowGuy Blog Posts

I got an email the other day from someone whose newsletter I had just subscribed to, and in the introduction email there was a link to the top 5 most read blog posts on her blog. That’s when an idea light lit up over my head and gave me an idea for a blog post (as a blogger, you’re always looking for ideas, right?).

Next thing you know I was pawing through my Google Analytics account to find out what were the most-viewed posts on this blog. These are the ones that floated to the top, for whatever reason. It’s all organic. I don’t advertise, but I do share links now and then on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. On occasion there might be a link here from Pinterest. Or another blog.

This blog is aging. It’s over ten years old, having been launched in November, 2008. There are almost 1000 posts.

One more note: the analytics breakdown shows the front page as “most-viewed” and a couple of pages (not posts) showed up in the top ten as well, including the Contact Me page and the We Accept Blog Submissions page. But beyond that, here are the top ten blog posts since the beginning of the blog (in traditional countdown order):

Number Ten: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet for Exhibit RFPs. I created a one-page sheet on what should go into an Exhibit RFP (Request for Proposal), and posted it on Cheatography.com, a site for thousands of cheat sheets. Kind of fun. They regularly sent me emails telling me how many times it was downloaded (500! 1000! 1500!). Not sure how accurate that is, but obviously it’s been seen by a lot of people. From September 2017.

Number Nine: Breaking the Ice: How to Attract Tradeshow Visitors. I referenced a number of techniques taught by tradeshow colleague Andy Saks for this article, which appeared in December 2015.

Number Eight: 23 Pre-Show Marketing Tactics, Promotions and Ideas. A laundry list that was posted in October 2009 when the blog was not even a year old.

Number Seven: How to Build a Tradeshow-Specific Landing Page. Inspired by Portland’s Digimarc, it’s a look at the steps you can use to put together an online site specifically to interact with potential tradeshow booth visitors. From December 2017.

Number Six: Write More Orders at Tradeshows by Replacing Paper With Digital Technology. One of two guest posts on the Top Ten list, this is from Sarah Leung of Handshake. April 2015.

Number Five: Tradeshow Debriefing Questions. Another oldie but goodie, this post from September 2009 guides you through the after-show info-gathering process.

Number Four: Virtual Reality for Tradeshows. You’ve seen them at shows: people wearing VR goggles. Is it worth it? A brief exploration, from June 2016.

Number Three: Exhibit vs. Booth vs. Stand. They’re called different things in different parts of the world, so I took a whack at trying to explain it. Just last summer in July 2018.

Number Two: 10 Skills Every Tradeshow Staffer Should Have. Margaret Coleback of Vantage Advertising LLC dashed of a great list for staffers, which appeared in January 2015.

Aaaaand, at Number ONE: SWOT Analysis for Tradeshows. It still surprises me that this post gets a whopping 3.95% of all of the traffic on the site. At the time I wrote it I had been spending a fair amount of time with a friend who was going through school to get his degree in marketing, and one thing that we discussed in depth was the SWOT Analysis. S=Strengths; W=Weaknesses; O=Opportunities; T=Threats. It’s a great exercise to work through in regards to your tradeshow marketing appearances. Check it out. It’s from February 2015.

Got any favorites?


What’s Holding You Back from a New Tradeshow Exhibit?

Last time when you set up your tradeshow exhibit and lived in it for a few days, did it feel cramped? Were you wishing you had another table to sit down at with potential clients? Trying to cram too many products on too few shelves?

Maybe it’s time for a new exhibit. So what’s holding you back?

It might be finances. Certainly that’s one of the biggest things that holds any company back. But beyond money, are you moving out of your comfort zone? It happens frequently. Many clients we work with at TradeshowGuy Exhibits have been using banner stands and pop-ups, which transport easily and take just a few moments to set up. Nothing wrong with that, but these companies have grown enough that they can afford a larger exhibit, one that not only looks good to give their brand a brand new look, but because it’s more complicated it needs to ship in a wooden crate using semi-trucks, it will likely need to be set up by an I&D (installation/dismantle) management crew.

What will your visitors think when you show off a new exhibit?

And yes, that moves many companies beyond their comfort zone. Having been down that road with a lot of companies, we often help navigate that path.

But if it’s money, there are ways to convince the purse holders that it’s time to invest in a new booth.

First, consider what would happen if you did nothing for the next 2-3 years. Your exhibit would be a few years older. Many of your competitors might already have upgraded to a new exhibit which will look a lot sharper than yours. How will your visitors then perceive your company compared to those competitors? Remember that perception counts a lot, and almost nowhere does it count as much as it does at tradeshows. Visitors there see you at your finest. And if your finest comes up short from what you want and what your visitors think you should be, that could be a problem.

Then again, maybe a new exhibit isn’t the answer. You might be better off investing in booth staff training. Or pre-show marketing. By doing this, you can still crank up the ROI on your tradeshow marketing investment and put off the exhibit investment for a couple more years.

But if you are seriously considering a new exhibit, think about who it will impact and how. Where will you store it? How much will it cost to ship or setup and dismantle?

Understand how much time you’ll need to design and fabricate the exhibit by talking to experience exhibit builders. Your new exhibit will last you several years, maybe 5 to 7 or more depending on the type of exhibit and how you use it.

Once you’ve decided that it’s a good move to pitch the powers-that-be, be prepared. Contact a few exhibit houses to understand their processes and timelines required, along with budget ranges for the size and type of exhibit you’re considering.

Make a written description of the exhibit requirements. When pitching the boss, offer a reasonable price range for the project, how long it’ll take to amortize the cost (3, 5, 7+ years), do your best to explain how the next exhibit will increase your lead generation (three clients in the past three years have told us that the increased size of the exhibit and the newness of it tripled their leads at the first show!).

Show the “soft” return on the exhibit, such as the impact the new look will have on your current customers who see the positive direction your company is taking. Or on the employees, who see the same thing. There are a lot of things that might be holding you back from investing in a new exhibit. But with careful planning and working with the right partners, you can create an environment and a situation where the new exhibit can become a reality.

10 Reasons to Change Exhibit Houses

Most companies we work with at TradeshowGuy Exhibits work with one exhibit house for several years, and the urge to change doesn’t come around much. Maybe you’ve been comfortable or years, but something changes. Could be minor, could be major. But it does happen. People change, goals change, situations change. Changing vendors can be challenging and pose a set of challenges. Lots of people are uncomfortable with change and prefer to stick with something even though it’s a good idea to at least look around.

When doing your evaluation, look at all options. One option might mean staying with your current vendor. But when evaluating, make one list with those that are considered competent service providers and those that might be looked at as critical partners.

What reasons might you have – valid reasons – for shopping around for another exhibit house? Let’s take a look at some things that might come up.

Your needs and goals have changed. It may be that you’re working with an exhibit house that excels in smaller exhibits, such as inline modular booths, but you want something custom. Turns out that your current vendor may be able to do what you want, but it’s a stretch. Or perhaps you want more, such as a coordinated tradeshow marketing strategy with planning and execution, and all your current vendor does is design and fabricate exhibits.

Their designers aren’t thinking out of the box like you’d like. Exhibits can get really wild and weird, believe me. I’m sure you’ve seen them! But if the exhibit house you currently work with has a group of in-house designers that seem to stick with the tried-and-true, and never really show you something wacky, it might be time to find another designer. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to move on from the same fabricator, it may just mean bringing in an outside designer.

Lack of Communication. Do you hear from your exhibit house only when you reach out to them for something? Or do they stay in communication frequently even though a show is not currently pending?

Problems with Delivery. In the tradeshow world, deadlines run the show. Does your exhibit house meet deadlines without breaking a sweat, or do you feel that they’re struggling – which means you’re anxious much of the time? The most reliable vendors can hit a bump in the road on occasion, but if that happens do they communicate that to you? Or is the failure to deliver consistently a trend in the wrong direction?

Change exhibit house

They take you for granted. Big exhibit houses are equipped to handle everything from small in-lines to gigantic island booths that spill out of a show’s floor, it seems. If you’re one of their small customers, it may be that they just assume you’re well-taken care of without really checking. Sometimes a lack of communication tells you that they have other priorities.

Poor Service. If a company really wants and values your business, you’ll see it in their service. There shouldn’t be invoice errors, lack of attention to detail, slow response time.

The person that’s handled your account has moved on. The new person doesn’t really “get” you. It may mean that you have to work to get to know them better. But as the account manager, that falls more heavily on them to retain the business than it does on you.

Personality clash. This could be anything (politics, religion, brusqueness, and so on). It may not mean it’s time to move on. It may just mean you need to deal with another person at the company.

Pricing. Not only what is the price, but what are you getting for the money? Some vendors are great at providing a basic service at a good price. Others may be more skilled with more resources who can creatively collaborate, but that may come at a cost you’re not quite ready for. An unexpected price increase may also spur a change. Price increase happen, everyone does it over time. But if a price increase is coming on things that you normally purchase from your exhibit house (graphics, labor for repairs and upgrades, etc.) and you aren’t informed ahead of time, that is not good business.

Culture. Maybe not as big a deal if you’re not actually working for a company, when it would be a really big deal. But sometimes that culture doesn’t transfer well and if it makes everyone uncomfortable and awkward, it might be time to move on.

There are a lot of reasons that companies are not a good fit. And there’s no wrong answers. There are a lot of exhibit houses out there vying for your business. We hate to turn business down, but it happens because for whatever reason, it’s not a good fit.

free tradeshow exhibit quotes

There’s Always a Tradeoff

When I first got into the exhibit industry in the early ‘00s, the company I was hired by, Interpretive Exhibits in Salem, was heavily involved in an exhibit for the Army Corps of Engineers. It was a permanent installation (still there) at The Dalles Dam in The Dalles, Oregon. The theme of the exhibit was “Tradeoffs” and it addresses the various parties involved in the needs and desires of the Columbia River. For every group that had in interest in utilizing the Columbia River as a resource, there was a tradeoff

of sorts. Sports fishermen, Native Americans and their fishing rights, shipping and transportation, recreation and so on – there were all sorts of groups that wanted something out of the river. The exhibit went into detail to explain each group’s interests and how they had to compromise, in a sense, to get a lot (but not all) of what they wanted.

That concept – the tradeoff – comes up in my mind frequently, and it can be applied to virtually anything that you are involved in.

Apply it to the tradeshow world: if you are willing to spend the money on a larger exhibit, the tradeoff is often that you must also be willing to hire a crew to setup and dismantle the exhibit, and you must be willing to pay more for shipping.

If you want an exhibit that can quickly be setup by one or two people, the tradeoff is that you must be willing to settle for a very simple design with limited bells and whistles and perhaps a lesser impact than something more complex.

If you want to have a professional presenter in your booth space pitching attendees several times an hour, the tradeoff is that not only do you need to invest in hiring that presenter, but you’ll need to make sure you have enough staff on hand to engage as many of those attendees as possible before they slip away.

It seems like we’re always giving up one thing to get another. We don’t live in a world where we have it all. Or a world where we have nothing at all.

We live in a world where we’re always calculating a tradeoff that works best for us.

Top 5 Challenges Facing Tradeshow Managers

Not every tradeshow manager faces the same challenges. Some are overwhelmed by being understaffed. Others have a boatload of shows to deal with and it seems as if there is never a breather.

But in the work I’ve done over the years with tradeshow managers, the same handful of issues keep coming up as being significant challenges:

tradeshow manager challenges

Logistics: there are a lot of moving parts in tradeshow marketing. Shipping and I&D (installation and dismantle) make up a big part of those logistics. Add to that shipping product samples, getting everyone scheduled for the show and the booking a convenient hotel and many other bits and pieces and handling the logistics of tradeshow marketing is often outsourced. That’s one reason why at TradeshowGuy Exhibits we are taking on more and more logistic coordination for clients.

Exhibit Brand Management: keeping the booth updated from show to show. New product launches, new services and more means that the exhibit needs to be updated for upcoming shows to reflect that. It’s common, but the timeline sneaks up on people. In a sense, the challenge here is coordination between graphic designers, production facilities and making sure all items get done prior to the booth crates being shipped out.

Company Growth: Many companies we work with are doing very well. But that means moving from small pop-up type exhibits to more complicated exhibits with light boxes, custom counters and more – all of which ship in larger crates and would be set up by hired EAC’s (Exhibitor Approved Contractors). All of this change means that the person handling the shift is moving out of their comfort zone. They face a lot of choices around whether to hire installers, how to package the exhibit for shipping (crates vs. a handful of plastic molded cases, for example), and more.

Getting Good Results: Exhibitors who don’t get good results complain that tradeshows are a waste of time and money. Yet other exhibitors at the same show rave about how great the show was, how many new leads they made and new contacts they came away with, and how many sales were closed. So what’s the difference? Frankly, many exhibitors don’t prepare or execute well. Tradeshow marketing is not rocket science, but with all of the moving parts it’s easy to let a few items slip through the cracks. And those missing items can make all the difference between success and failure.

Budget: It costs a lot of money to exhibit at tradeshows. For companies that do tradeshows, the amount invested in tradeshow marketing is about a third of their overall marketing budget. Making all of their tradeshow dollars stretch as far as possible is an ongoing challenge faced by all companies. For a long list of ways to cut costs at tradeshows, check out this webinar.

Other challenges include booth staff training, record-keeping, keeping track of your competition and other items, but if you can keep these few items under control, you’re doing better than a lot of your fellow exhibitors!

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Tradeshow Guy Blog by Tim Patterson

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