Trade show setup & displays on a budget
Are you a small business looking for new ways to spread awareness about your products or services? Have you thought about exhibiting at a trade show but figured it was too expensive? Then we’ve got some inexpensive trade show ideas for you.
Trade shows are a great way to expose your business to a wide variety of new customers in your targeted market or industry. However, owning a small business can be tough and every penny counts, so the costs associated with a trade show can be overwhelming. But in this article, we’ll share with you a few simple money-saving trade show ideas that we’ve learned along the way that can help you save valuable time and money.
From the optimal size and location of your vendor booth to shipping, setup, and takedown, we’ve put together some simple cost-effective tips to help you have a successful trade show.
Plan your trade show budget
Before you do anything, plan your budget for the entire trade show. Not only do you need to think about the cost of the trade show booth, but you also need to track all related expenses for the show.
Make sure to include travel and meal costs for staff, the shipping cost of your trade show exhibits, the price of promotional items and printed marketing materials, as well as labor for setup and teardown of your booth if you don’t do it yourself.
Choosing booth size & location
Most trade shows offer a variety of booth sizes from 10′ x 10′ to 20′ x 20′. For a small business, you probably don’t need anything bigger than a 10′ x 10′. It’s what our company uses and we find it works great.
And don’t think that because you have a small booth your opportunities are small. That just isn’t the case. Not only will you save money but you can also still have an incredible event even with a 10′ x 10′ trade show booth.
It’s the location of your booth at the trade show, more than anything, that is key.
Since human beings have a natural tendency to go to their right, choose a booth on an aisle or corner to the right of the trade show entrance if you can. Other good spots can be where people tend to congregate and meet, like near busy food outlets or restrooms.
If you can afford a little extra money, a corner booth is an ideal option as your trade show display will be seen by visitors from multiple directions. These are usually slightly more expensive than an inline booth but we’ve found that it’s worth the money if you can squeeze it into your budget.
Shipping & set up of your booth
Another inexpensive trade show idea is DIY shipping and setup. We save a lot of money for our company by packing, shipping, setting up, and taking down our own trade show booths. We’ve learned some great tips along the way to make everything more efficient and less expensive.
A real game-changer for us was discovering Trade Show & Go. The company’s shipping pallets turn into tables when unpacked that you can use for your trade show displays. We purchased some this past year to use for Avery trade shows and it’s been a lifesaver.
We pack and ship our pallets ourselves before and after the show so we have everything waiting for us when we arrive at the exhibit hall. And since most trade shows charge a fee for tables, it saves us money on rentals.
The pallet-table combos also make it easy for one person to set up and pack up a booth if need be, meaning fewer labor costs. Plus, you don’t have to worry about storing your pallet during the show or waiting several hours after the show to have your pallet delivered.
Another money-saving trick is to wrap your pallet yourself. You can buy a heavy-duty roll of shrinkwrap for as little as $14. At a trade show, it usually costs between $60-$100 for the decorator to do it for you.
Trade show display tips
You don’t need to have an over-the-top booth to get attention. Simplicity and clean, easy-to-view displays will have a higher impact on attendees. And less is always more, especially if you’ve got a smaller booth.
Trade show banners and backdrops are also important. This will be attendees’ first impression of your brand, displayed on a very large scale.
Our partners at PC Nametag offer inexpensive trade show pull-up banners that range in price from $150 to $304 depending on the materials and features you choose. They are quick and easy to assemble and a great alternative to hiring someone to set up your backdrop for you.
You can use just one banner or spread your imagery out on a slightly larger scale with two or three. Use this as your opportunity to get creative. Really think about how you want to convey your brand to people who are walking the show. There is nothing worse than a sloppy, wrinkled tablecloth or backdrop that’s falling down.
Make sure your display artwork and marketing materials are aimed at your target audience. If you can’t afford to customize your printed materials toward specific demographics, then come up with a strong generic message that works for all the different trade shows you attend.
Product displays they’ll notice
Showcase your products as the hero and have samples so people can feel touch and interact with them. Make sure they’re easily accessible and that you have plenty for easy replenishment. People love samples and freebies, especially custom stickers.
Add depth and grab attention to your products and prototypes with different levels for your displays.
Another money-saving trade show idea is using decorative crates that we bought at Michael’s for a few dollars. They’re a great way to display products when using tables.
Depending on the look you’re going for you can use a rustic brown crate or paint it black, white, etc… so that it goes with the flow of your overall booth aesthetic.
Stand-up racks work great to display marketing materials and other products and promotional items and don’t take up much space.
Generating potential leads
Gathering leads and following up with potential customers after the show is the most important part of the show. Building a reputation that sticks is what exhibiting at a trade show is all about. It’s about getting your brand out there and making sure to leave a positive lasting impression on everyone who passes your booth.
Having warm, friendly employees who can answer key questions, as well as build a rapport and relationship with people is very important.
You must engage people walking by your booth. At least say hi and be friendly. And don’t let people stop and look at your products, take a freebie, and then walk away. Even if you’re busy, let them know you’ll be right there. If you’re not busy, don’t just sit in a chair in the back of the booth looking bored. Walk the show if you have co-workers with you or network with exhibitors in neighboring booths.
Most trade shows offer some sort of lead retrieval app that you can use to scan the badges of people that you talk to. However, these apps can be quite expensive. Something as a simple fishbowl for a chance to win a prize is a money-saving trade show idea and an easy way to collect business cards or customer emails.
We’ve found even just having cute or funny stickers on the table as giveaways are enough to get customers talking and generate a lead.
It doesn’t have to be anything extravagant as the costs can add up. But giving away even free products or services or a gift card can turn into future customers.
Follow up with your leads
Once the show is over and you’re back in the office, make sure and follow up with all your leads. There is no point in exhibiting at a trade show if you don’t connect with your potential customers.
Send out emails, sample packs of your products where applicable, and personal phone calls. Don’t contact trade show attendees immediately following the expo, as they will likely be overwhelmed by vendor calls. We generally wait about two weeks before making our first connection.
Still not sure you want to exhibit at a trade show? Check out other ways you can generate sales without a storefront.
Do you have any good trade show tips that you’ve learned? Please share them with us and our readers in the comments below. Or if you have any trade show questions that we might be able to help you with, feel free to send Nichole an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make sure and check back in the near future, as we will be adding more money-saving trade show ideas and tips including booth design and layout, trade show booth etiquette, generating traffic, and more.