Skip to content
39-Save and Splurge
Rena PattonOct 9, 2019 9:15:00 AM3 min read

Save or Splurge? Get Savvy With Your Trade Show Spending

Whoever coined the saying “a penny saved is a penny earned” knew a thing or two about budgeting. When the time comes for you to allocate your trade show spending, keep in mind you will have to spend money to make money. The question is, how do you decide exactly where to splurge, and where to save? 

Here are our best tips to help you make the tough calls on your trade show budget:


1. Size or location?

If you have the ability to upgrade to a 20x20 island – get the island! But be mindful of your budget, you'd want to have enough to invest on your exhibit.

Shoot for the high-traffic, high-visibility areas close to the entrance rather than reserving trade show spending for a larger booth toward the back, or an inline booth.


2. Restore, redo, or replace?

Trying to decide if you need to overhaul your exhibit, add new features, or scrap it in favor of something new? Here’s what to ask yourself to make that call:

  • Is it in good shape? Are dings and tears making it look sloppy? Are those issues fixable?
    If wear and tear has gotten the best of your booth, don’t hesitate to invest in a replacement. Potential leads may consider any lack of upkeep with your booth as an overall lack of interest in your customers. It’s always in your best interest to put your best foot forward. 

  • Can you replace graphics to modernize outdated visuals?
    This is one very cost-effective way to overhaul your exhibit design. Change graphics as needed to ensure you’re connecting with your target audience.

  • Is the overall structure working well?
    If feedback has been that your booth is too crowded or too sparse, or that it lacks functionality (such as proper space for product demonstrations, welcoming seating, or other amenities to keep guests and salespeople comfortable), it may be time to invest in a new unit. 

  • How’s your lighting?
    Lighting is a cost-effective way to make your exhibit stand out. You should have a bulb roughly every 3 feet, and placed to minimize glare. Invest in lightboxes to ensure that your branding and graphics are bold and pronounced.

  • Can you add portable features?
    Adding an iPad stand or a rack for literature adds interaction potential to your booth. Rather than redoing your entire exhibit, new products or services can be featured on retractable standing banners. Use trade show budgeting on smaller, smarter upgrades.

  • What’s your end goal?
    If you’re there to generate leads, add features that enhance product demonstrations. If your objective is awareness, increase visibility with large-screen TVs or amped-up graphics.

Salespeople: Quantity or Quality?

This is a tough one. On one hand, training high-quality sales staff and sending them on the road is going to take a chunk out of your trade show budgeting. You’ll have fewer salespeople working the booth, which may lead to fewer contacts being made. On the other hand, using a high number of lower-level sales staff or contract workers may lead to increased contacts, with a lower quality of interaction. Is there a happy medium?

In a 2019 study by The Center for Exhibition Industry Research, 81% attendees rated face-to-face interaction with their potential vendors as VERY or EXTREMELY important. The value of a small but high-quality sales team far outweighs the value of a large but less qualified team.

Rent or buy? 

If you need an effective trade show booth ASAP without tripling your trade show budget, you may consider renting an exhibit. This one doesn’t have a definitive answer, as the costs of renting vs. buying are dependent on your company’s activities and goals. Here’s the breakdown: 

  • Total cost of a purchased exhibit DECREASES as the number of shows increases. The opposite is true for a rented exhibit. If you are only planning one or two shows in the near future, try renting.

  • Booth ownership incurs additional fees for storage and shipping. Renting locally reduces those fees (again, if you aren’t planning on participating in many shows).

  • Renting gives your company flexibility if a rebrand is on the horizon, or if you’re still formulating your trade show strategy. 

  • Rented exhibits have limitations when it comes to customization. If you need lots of specific features, a custom unit might be a better fit.

After some careful analysis, you’ll be able to master that trade show budget with confidence! If you still have some questions, our exhibit gurus have your answers. Don’t hesitate to reach out.