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Cheap Trade Show Displays Aren’t Always Cheap

April 24th, 2010 · 5 Comments · Trade Show Marketing

Sometimes trade show exhibitors attempt to save money and try to get by with cheap trade show displays (and one can understand why in this economy). But usually in the big picture, cheap trade show displays end up costing an exhibitor a lot of money in the end than they save up front. The brutal truth is that trade show exhibiting is an expensive form of marketing. Often just renting the booth space can cost several thousand dollars (or tens of thousands of dollars), plus one has the travel costs of getting your trade show exhibit staff to the show, and the housing cost of putting them up in a hotel and feeding them. It costs money, big money, to exhibit at a trade show.

So if you’re going to spend your hard earned marketing budget dollars at a trade show, you want to make sure you pick up enough trade show leads and/or make enough trade show sales to recoup your expenses and actually make money. But if you make the mistake of using a cheap trade show display, and your trade show image is unprofessional (and cheap) there is a good chance that your potential trade show traffic will be turned off and will just pass your trade show booth by. My advice is to you is that you spend the money necessary to have a professional trade show display with a smart trade show design that draws a crowd. Don’t skimp on your trade show image… first impressions are often the only impression, especially if the first impression is that you are cheap. Do you want your company to look amateur, or professional?

Now the above said, sometimes “cheap” trade show displays can actually end up being the hit of the show.

[funny image of trade show booth constructed out of cardboard boxes]

The trade show display above obviously didn’t cost a lot of money, yet makes a very clear point, and is effective. So sometimes if you are clever enough, you can actually make “cheap” work to your advantage. But for most of us, it is better to spend the money to get the job done right. You don’t have to spend a fortune, and you don’t need to overpay or spend money on useless features, but make sure you get a professional trade show display that will get you enough trade show traffic and trade show business to justify your exhibiting efforts and make your company a trade show success.


5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Will // Apr 24, 2010 at 7:23 pm

    Hey Steve! Is that, (hehe), you in the photo. Or under the boxes? I have no real interest in trade shows, but always enjoy your entertaining posts. Nice that you FINALLY wrote a new one!

    It may be an expensive form of marketing, but it must pay off… at least in the medical field. My wife who is a nurse has been paid and flown to a few shows by manufacturers to exhibit how her hospital uses certain products.

    Nice to see you back. Now get with the program and don’t make us wait so long for the next one! 😉

  • 2 The Trade Show Guru // Apr 25, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    hey Will,
    Thanks for dropping by. Nope, it’s not me in either of those pictures… 🙂
    As to my blogging, I guess I’ve been too busy dealing with gophers lately (I’m trying to get those pesky critters but all I manage to catch is dirt). I’ve got to protect my new tomato plants!
    But I’ll see if I can’t get another new post written… maybe about how to catch gophers!
    ~ Steve, the gopher-hunting trade show guru

  • 3 Anders - Trade Show Infotainer // May 3, 2010 at 11:57 pm

    It’s true what you say about going cheap. It’s amazing how much information our minds can process and people instantly know if your company is a real player or not. That goes not just for the booth but how professionally the staff handle themselves.
    I too have seen some pretty original booths that make a point and are clever and simple. As Da Vinci said “Simplicity is the ultimate in sophistication”.

  • 4 The Trade Show Guru // May 4, 2010 at 10:51 am

    hi Anders,
    Thanks for yet another great comment!
    Your quote by Da Vinci is spot on, “Simplicity is the ultimate in sophistication”. I’ve got to remember that one. 🙂 ~ Steve
    PS. You could give a course on how to make great blog comments! Thanks for dropping by, and adding your valuable insights.

  • 5 Sal // Jun 4, 2011 at 10:37 pm

    At first it is all about perception. You want to “Energize” your audience. The next step is to “Motivate” them. At that point you can “Generate” results by creating value and offering a real solution, product or service that works! The booth is very important as that is a key factor to step one, but I have found from many years of experience it’s a three stage process and often in any business it may even take a few years to close a deal. You must be sure to have a results generating employee on your team and give them the support they need to follow up post show. A person like this may get a new lead in line at Starbucks but the chances are they will still visit the booth. As far as keeping your costs down and making a WOW statement at the show my suggestion would be to take the time to understand what it is your paying for. Everything has a cost to it and if you take the time to dissect the components of your professional trade show booth you may find items that your company may already have a vendor for and or be able to handle in house. Example A trade show booth may have $5000 in graphics costs from the pro booth supplier but your company has a vendor that you have preferred rates with or volume discounts and find you can get the same graphics or better for 50% less. You can now take that $2500 you just saved and hire a local Bikini Models to sign calendars in your booth or pocket the money and reduce your costs. It all depends on what you feel comfortable with. You may not know enough about graphics to cut costs there (I wouldn’t want to see anyone wind up in a situation where there graphics were wrong and didn’t know how to fix them in time) so take caution, there are many areas you may be able to cut costs such as I&D labor, trucking, and even drayage if you know what you’re doing. Every penny counts. If you’re a small company and you attend 10 trade shows per year and you save $125 a trade show by sending in your 5 boxes of literature to the hotel where your employees are staying rather than sending them to the advanced shipping warehouse for $25 a box you’ll save $1250 a year $12,500 in ten years. That’s a small vehicle.

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