Setting up a display at a trade show is expensive business. You have to rent space, create a display, promote it, stock it, and "man" (or better, "woman") it. Before you decide to get involved, take a serious look at costs of all of these components to determine if ROI (return on investment) is sufficient.
Start planning well ahead. You already know this, right? Keep yourself as organized as possible right from beginning — even before you book your space. You know how carefully today's brides plan their weddings. Months, even years ahead, they start thinking about church, reception, dresses, flowers, cake. And of course, cost. Well, you're bride. Grab your planning book and start writing down everything you must do to get yourself ready for a successful trade show season — next year's.
Even before you decide to go into a show or two you should have a hard look at costs and expected returns. This is why you create a trade show budget. Whether you admit it or not, everything has a cost, and trade shows are not an exception. Remember that your objective is to make sales, or at least generate opportunities to make sales. So you have to view your costs in that light. Everything should be done with an eye on its potential return.
The Trade Show Budget Preamble
As I've said, normal starting point for your campaign trade show BUDGET. If you work from a budget you have an outside chance of keeping your costs under control. Of course there is a certain amount of hocus pocus involved in budgeting for things like trade show marketing — especially if you've never serioulsy done it before and have no track record to go on. Still, you should give it your best shot. This is not rocket science, and any research or analysis you do will be better than just "winging it" Try using a "brainstorming" process like what follows.
First, ask yourself some BIG questions:
Q1. If I honestly summarize all costs involved in going to just one show, do I really believe I can recover these costs within a short enough period of time to make it "profitable" (make me more than it costs me)?
A1. Like most promotion and advertising, until you've done it , you have no idea how successful it will be. First you will have to summarize all costs, and then try to figure out how many sales you're likely to get from this sort of exposure. We'll take a stab at running some numbers in next section, after we've asked a few more questions.
Q2. Do I have any idea which trade shows are more likely to be "profitable".
A2. There are trade show directories and reports that can tell you about industry-specific shows. Usually they will tell you number of attendees, and hopefully something about their buying habits. Find relevant directories, and figure out some method of choosing between shows. (see below)
Q3. Are there obvious ways to enhance my "Conversion Rate" — number of attendees who buy from me?
A3. Yes, of course. Having an attractive, eye-catching display is a good start. Getting a good location on floor will help. Setting up your booth properly will help you "process" attendees more efficiently. Having a lead-gathering system will help you do more profitable follow up. Giving out memorable hand-outs will enhance your chances of being recognized later on. Training your booth staff could make an important difference.
Ask yourself a few more questions like this to get yourself in right frame of mind. Then you'll be ready to start preparing your trade show budget.
Charting your costs — first side of Trade Show Budget
Begin by assembling following information (and anything else that seems relevant as you go along):
Find a trade show directory for your industry (online is best source), or check out major trade show venues or exhibition companies. They will put you on right track very quickly. Select 10 most promising looking shows — based on your "gut feeling" about their potential for your campaign. Make a chart and list five or six most relevant bits of information for each of your most promising venues:
— Location, — Date — Booth space cost — Number of attendees — Geographic area served — Other space-related costs Add some columns to your chart where you can list other costs that are location-dependent:
— Travel costs to and from show — Additional things to rent or buy at show (tables, power, etc.) — Accommodation costs for booth staff — Shipping costs for booth display(s) and materials — Vehicle rentals required etc. Think about actual "sales process" and what you will need to have a successful one. Think of these as"one-time" costs, with your objective being to nail things down (or at least project costs) for your entire show campaign.
— Display booth design and production — Product literature — Hand outs — Staff training — Show promotion (free passes to clients, etc.) Estimating Your Sales — other side of Trade Show Budget
Now take your best stab at guessing what your Conversion Rate might be. By this I mean number of buyers per 1000 attendees. If you're a wedding photographer, take a guess at how many bookings you might get. If you're selling widgets ask yourself how many you're likely to sell as a direct result of campaign.
I know it is next to impossible to get this number right. But you might surprise yourself. And in any event, you need a "target" to justify entering into campaign in first place. Don't let yourself fall into "I'm doing this for long term exposure" trap. This is a very expensive, and quite inefficient way to get long term exposure. Go for short term exposure, immediate sales, or at least opportunity to make immediate follow ups. Focus on what you have to do to get sales NOW. And if you don't think you can pull that off, then don't start a trade show campaign!