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How to Develop a Trade Show Budget

How to Develop a Trade Show Budget

Every year, any company that attends trade shows must put a lot of thought into budgeting next year’s show calendar. Regardless of the size of the company, whatever the size of the program, it’s probably a relatively substantial cost. As a marketing manager, you need to be able to arrive at a realistic cost projection and find cost-saving opportunities in the details. We’ve written this article to help marketing managers and trade show planners to improve their trade show planning process.

A common yet faulty way to develop a trade show budget is to take last years indirect costs, multiply it by a few percents, and add it to the cost of the show display space. This may get you through a rough budget process but it will cause you ugly surprises if you don’t have a way to refine your estimate. You should look at every show with a line-item style of detail. A good line item format includes direct costs, indirect costs and can be adjusted for the many variables.

Line Item Budgeting for Trade Shows

Direct Show Expenses

We consider direct show expenses to be the fees, charges and billing for to be an exhibitor. Trade show planning and logistics can be complicated. Being able to get exhibitor information well in advance can save you from some costly mistakes. This is especially true if you have show dates that are back-to-back or overlap. Generally speaking this includes:

  • Registration Fees
  • Booth Space (size and location matter)
  • Digital Attendee List (CD/DVD)
  • Freight / Shipping / Storage

On-Site Show Services

Event services can be a significant part of your trade show budget. Event service costs can include both on-site labor and tangible rental items.

  • Electrical, Internet Access
  • Carpet, Trash Can Rental
  • Furniture & Decor Rental
  • Exhibit Hall Labor (Union / Non-Union)
  • Card Swipe Equipment / Lead Forms
  • Daily Booth Cleaning

Trade Show Exhibits / Display Booths

The costs associated with your display booth will be different for a booth you own vs. trade show display rental prices. If you own your display, your costs may be limited to trading our graphics. A rental display will definitely require some customized graphics (branding). There’s also opportunities to minimize freight /shipping costs.

  • Display Repairs (if you own the display)
  • Rental Costs (if you do not own the display)
  • Custom Graphics & Branding Elements
  • Staffing / Wardrobe Needs
  • Logistics Expenses (ship display)
  • Miscellaneous Shipping (parcel delivery of collateral material)

Trade Show Advertising & Promotions

Pre-show marketing to generate awareness and (hopefully) floor traffic is a wise investment. Most of these deliverables and tasks won’t be accrued directly to a show, but they are costs incurred by the marketig department. The items that have the largest impact on trade show costs are deliverable requiring printing, mailing or manufacturing. For the most important events you may have expensive promotions such as giveaways of trips or merchandise.

  • Direct Mail, Email & Social Media Invitations
  • Program Advertising
  • Show Giveaways and Contests
  • Sponsorships / Guest Presentations
  • Booth or Hospitality Suite Entertainment

Travel & Entertainment

Travel and Entertainment (T&E) expenses are sometimes difficult to control, and can be unpredictable. You should shop lodging prices and setting daily budgets for personal expenses.

Hotels in major trade show locations are usually expensive. The hotel nearest the convention center or display hall may not be your best option. If you’re not planning to have a hospitality suite close to show it may be a good idea to make your lodging reservations somewhere else. You may trade a couple of hundred dollars a night for a $20 cab fare.

  • Air Fare, Mileage, Cab Fare
  • Hotel Lodging & Hospitality Suites
  • Food and Beverage (Show Staff)
  • Food and Beverage (Prospects and Customers)

Miscellaneous Support Activities

Some of your trade show calendar needs are not show-specific. It’s a good idea to think through every aspect of the event. Think of every thing you will need, and include contingency planning.

  • Press Release or Press Kit Development
  • Collateral Material Development
  • Lead Management (Forms, Electronic Processing, etc.)

With a well developed trade show planning process you can improve your ROI. Trade show budgeting can make a very positive impact on the bottom-line. Exercising excellent cost control can also free up some budget dollars for other marketing endeavors. After all, isn’t it a mission for every marketing department to achieve the most while spending the least?