Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Trade show marketing is an expensive proposition. Buying the space is just the start. There are some rules of thumb of how much to expect to spend. When you go to set up your budget, here are some broad categories:

  1. Space
  2. Exhibit, graphics, services and freight
  3. Promotion

Space. Probably your biggest cost, it is what the exhibit sits on and defines your space in the hall. This varies from size (tabletop to large custom) to location (front or back of the hall). Expect to spend upt to half (50%) of your allocated budget for this.

Exhibit, graphics, services and freight. The rest of your budget will be spent on these items: buying or renting an exhibit; designing and producing appropriate graphics illustrating your products and services; buying the support services (electrical, drayage, material handling, rentals); and the transportation to and from the show. Of this, freight is probably the largest percentage of the money left over.

Promotion. Set aside an amount at least equal to the space cost to promote your participation in the show: pre-show mailings, e-mail blasts, advertising, post-show mailings and followup.

The budget process starts at a 40,000-foot level and goes all the way to the ground. That is, it would be best to have a “bottoms-up” approach to budgeting so that you can be sure to meet it and not exceed it. Set the budget for each show and then roll those individual budgets up to the total number allocated for the program. If you have to trim, you can eliminate whole shows or allocate more budget. Don’t reduce the budget of indivual shows to meet the top goal without being sure you can produce the show effectively for that reduced number. It’s the kiss of death to underproduce a show just to go.


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