The pressure to reduce your company’s marketing spending – while also improving results — is greater than ever. At the same time, deadlines loom and tend to force quick decisions. Making an informed, educated buying choice is the difference between either empowering you to execute your trade shows with agility and efficiency for years to come — OR — doom you to trade show Hades.
What you should know as a first time trade show exhibit buyer:
• Be sure your goals dictate your purchase
• Never buy on price alone
• Remember to consider long run costs
• Don’t wait until the last minute
1. Be Sure Your Goals Dictate Your Purchase (not the other way around)
To maximize your investment in a trade show booth it’s important that your entire team, from marketing to product to the CEO, agree on the goals long before committing to a purchase, or even to a particular event.
Some examples of well articulated goals include:
- To obtain leads or clients (define these specifically!)
- To develop deeper relationships with existing clients
- To build brand equity and increase awareness
- To educate (x number) of people about our company and products
- To support your industry or the people throwing the event
- To recruit new employees from our industry
- To court investors
Your goals will determine your strategies, and your strategies will drive decisions for your exhibit booth purchase, including layout, design, graphics, traffic flow, product demonstration plans, promotions…well, everything!
If you’re having trouble getting a consensus, consider this exercise: Force your team to select their top three goals and assign a percentage of importance to each. Then ask your team to select, hands down, the most important single goal. This approach should yield the quantifiable data and buy-in you need to establish your goals…and move forward with your trade show display purchase.
A professional exhibit consultant will ask you to share your goals, budgets, marketing plans and current communications material. After digesting all the information, you’ll be provided with a recommendation consisting of a price quote and design rendering. It may take a few design modifications and quotes until the exhibit suits you perfectly. When you’re ready to buy, insist that everything is in writing.
2. Never Buy On Price Alone (or, consult with a professional)
It is easy to fool yourself into thinking the lowest price is the best value. But buying an inexpensive trade show booth can cost you more in the end – significantly more! You must be sure to consider these factors as you evaluate your options:
- Years in Business
- Success stories or case studies
- Ability to consult and partner strategically
- Availability of a local I&D crew in all the major convention center cities
We are big proponents of purchasing an exhibit from a local company. Chances are the company has been around for decades and has a deep understanding of client needs and the industry at large. In the old days, exhibits were custom-crafted, making them extremely expensive to build and maintain. More recently, exhibit “systems” evolved as an alternative to the high cost of custom craftsmanship and heavy wooden materials.
Today, there are multiple categories including portable, modular, pop-ups and lightweight metals & stretch fabrics. All have their distinct advantages, and this is where an exhibit consultant can be very useful. In the end, your exhibit consultant should help you maximize your exhibit marketing potential and help you avoid the costly mistakes you’re likely to make on your own.
If you plan to exhibit more than once or twice, chances are you’ll work closely with an experienced exhibit consultant for several years. Shop around and base your decision on more than just price. Exhibit consultants have years of experience about design, marketing, graphics, and trade show tactics. Their knowledge will help you avoid the pitfalls that most inexperienced trade show marketers make. And, there are lots and lots of expensive pitfalls. Working with a knowledgeable trade show consultant will save you money over time.
3. Remember to Consider Long-Run Costs
• Can the design you’re considering be re-configured to a smaller or larger booth size? There are lots of options these days enabling “modularity,” so that a single pool of booth property can be rearranged into new designs and configurations – and also re-skinned to communicate different messages to different audiences (or to update your brand message over time).
• Is the booth you’re considering made from lightweight materials? Or, is it made from heavy wood or metals? Considering that a large portion of your budget will be spent on drayage, shipping and storage, be sure to select the most lightweight design possible to ship
• Is the construction complicated, requiring extra labor to set-up and dismantle the exhibit? If so, reconsider.
4. Do Not Wait Until the Last Minute
For certain, rush costs will be incurred as the delivery deadline approaches. These costs are easy to avoid by simply planning ahead. Enough said!
While there are always going to be risks associated with making a new investment, by following the suggestions above, your investment is much more likely to be one that pays huge dividends – and not remain an unfortunate liability.