Exhibiting on a budget

Exhibiting is all about making an impact. Whether it’s about networking or promoting a product, it’s about standing out from the crowd, drawing people in and exposing your brand to as many people as possible. But it’s not cheap. For many small businesses, exhibiting at a trade show is an essential but costly activity. So how can you cut costs without cutting the impact? Here are some quick tips to help you.

Make the most of free marketing

Make the most of the free publicity on offer by the event-team which often sends out press releases and uses social media to publicise their event. Just make sure that you’ve given them concise and up-to-date information to include in their promotions. They will also have an exhibitor list on their website so be sure to give them a well-written description of your company and what it does. And don’t be afraid to ask them what else they offer. They might carry a special feature in the event prospectus. If you can think of an angle that would appeal to their visitors, suggest it to them. Then, of course, you have your own social media channels to boost awareness of your attendance.

Keep travel costs to a minimum

There are so many ways to save on travel costs these days. Firstly, try and find a good deal at a local hotel. If you find one, you’ve struck gold as usually they charge premium prices during events. Staying locally will save on transport costs but you may pay a bit more for your room. Booking early may get you a better rate. And when you find a hotel, if possible, share a room with a colleague or friend who is also exhibiting.

Leave your brochures at home

Rather than spending extortionate amounts of money on printing literature, use the power of the internet and create an online platform that tells your customers all that they need to know about you and your products and services. Or why not put it all on a key drive that they can take away with them and read through at their leisure.

Book early and keep in touch

At exhibitions and trade events, the location of your stand is important. Repeat exhibitors usually get preference, so if you know the exhibition team it’s worth asking. If it’s your first time, then it’s worth booking early and asking them if you can have a stand in an area where other similar companies are situated. Foot-sore visitors aren’t going to want to trudge to the other side of the exhibition halls just to visit you alone. Many exhibitions will offer discounts for early bookings, so get in there as early as you can. And if you fancy an upgrade at a later stage, check in with them again just before the booking deadline. Event organisers despise empty space and may offer you a heavily discounted or even free upgrade.

Need versus want

Big isn’t always better. With the right design, colour and branding, you can create an eye-catching smaller stand. If you have the space, tape out the smallest stand area available on the floor of your office. Decide on what you will need during the exhibition and see what fits without the space becoming cluttered. If you need a larger space try the next size up and keep going until you can fit everything you need in comfortably. But one word of advice –be realistic about what you really need and how much space you actually need to fit it all in. In essence, if it’s not essential you don’t need it. It’ll just take up valuable space and money.

Re-use and re-build

You can rent an exhibition stand for a fraction of the cost involved in buying one. So if you’re staggered by the cost of building a bespoke stand or are planning to attend a few exhibitions in the near future, you’re probably better off renting one. Modular stands can be reimagined and reinvented with just a few tweaks giving you the flexibility to change the shape and style of the stand according to the space you have available; expand or reduce the size of the stand depending on your needs; and alter the design and branding without it costing an arm and a leg. Having a new format at every exhibition gives regular exhibition visitors the impression that you are fresh and inventive, and have something new to say or show.

Get clever and creative with furniture

While most trade shows will offer furniture and accessories to hire, these are usually at a high cost. It might be more economical to buy most items from big retailers such as IKEA, Homebase or some of the larger supermarkets, particularly if you plan attending a host of future events. It also gives you a chance to create your own colour schemes, shapes and styles. And don’t hire a load of comfy sofas and potted plants to give your stand that homely feel. Unless you’re in the landscape gardening industry they’re not going to add anything to your stand.

Choose promotional items carefully

Shop around for promotional items and put some thought into them. Stay away from the usual pens and coasters, and choose something that will make you stand out but is also practical for the visitor. Otherwise they’ll end up in the bin at the exit. So it’s worth spending that little bit extra on your freebies. And to avoid giving them away to every Tom, Dick and Harry, place them somewhere near the back of your stand and exchange them for a business card, so you’re only giving them to people who are genuinely interested in your products or services. Alternatively, you could hold a prize draw. In return for having their name entered into the draw, ask visitors to place their business card in a large bowl, the draw could provide another opportunity to create a buzz around your stand.

Bring your own food and drink

Of course there’ll be places to buy food and drink but they’ll be expensive. So, if possible, bring your own food and drink with you or buy a sandwich from somewhere as you travel to the exhibition. This will also help you to avoid queues at food stands which take you away from the stand for a considerable length of time.

Smart man with glasses in black and whiteTom Rigby, Author

For over 20 years, Tom Rigbyhas helped businesses across the UK to find their voice and communicate their messages, in print and online, whether they want to generate sales, attract customers, inform stakeholders, educate the public or persuade them to join a cause. He is a published author and occasional contributor to a number of publications. www.tomrigby.com

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