Trade Show Advice from Skyline

If your boss, or your boss's boss, demands that you cut your budget by 5% or 10% or even more, what would you cut first?

Here are some tips industry veterans shared that can give you a place to start - and where not to cut first:

  • If you've measured your trade show program's performance and can prove its success, be vocal about advocating for your program - don't just take proposed blind cuts lying down. "Measurement is your friend" as those who measure are twice as likely to keep their budgets. Your corporate executives may want to reduce costs, but they will also recognize the value of bringing in revenue at a good ROI.
  • Don't panic, keep your head and you will survive this downturn - and yes, there is a downturn now and it will continue, but we don't know for how long.
  • Recognize that if there are fewer attendees at a show, the tire-kickers will be weeded out, so the higher-quality attendees will remain. Your booth staffers will have an easier time getting higher-qualified leads.
  • Trim booth space at bigger shows - especially if there are fewer attendees expected.
  • Eliminate under-performing shows - assuming you've been measuring already and know which shows bring the least return for the cost.
  • Rent your exhibit properties to avoid large capital expenditures and add flexibility.
  • Move more towards modular exhibits to lower shipping, drayage, storage and refurbishing costs, plus provide greater flexibility to adapt to changes. (See second article in this issue about the newly updated report, The Trend to Custom Modular Exhibits.)
  • Don't cut booth staffers unless you really expect to have too many in your booth. For example, if you have a show that costs you $50,000 to exhibit at, and you trim 2 of your 8 staffers to save $2,000, you will cut your costs by only 4%, ($2,000 divided by $50,000) but potentially trim your leads by 25% (2 divided by 8). That decreases your R.O.I. with minimal savings.
  • Similarly, don't automatically cut your pre-show and at-show promotions budgets unless you have been measuring and know they don't bring much impact compared to their cost. For example, if promotions have been only 10% of your budgets but bring in an additional 30% of your qualified leads, then trimming your promotions will actually reduce your ROI.
  • Write a brief of your measurement objectives before your show - and share it with your exhibit house. You'll be on the same page before starting design - and be more likely to get an exhibit that helps deliver the results you need.
  • Extend your exhibit's reach before and after the show by setting up an event and exhibit-specific micro-Website that previews what attendees will see, allows them to set up appointments before the show, and stays up after the show is over.
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