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An Ample Guide to Managing Your Trade Show Budget

Updated on February 9, 2016

The Importance of Planning and Budgeting for Your Trade Show Event

Three business partners planning and budgeting their upcoming trade show event.
Three business partners planning and budgeting their upcoming trade show event.

View Your Trade Show As An Investment

If you have ever participated in a trade show, you know that the expense of it doesn’t always measure up to the success of it. When incorporating a trade show into your budget, it’s important to take a step back and make sure that your costs are going to produce a valuable outcome. Bottom line — is this event going to build upon your business foundation?

The amount of time and money that goes into preparing a booth at a trade show can be extremely underestimated if you have never done it before. Just like any investment, evaluating your goals and capabilities prior to committing is a financially healthy decision. There are many factors and variables to consider that will help you to run your budget against your goals and determine if it is the right investment for your business.

Step 1: Set Your Goals

What do you hope to accomplish or produce at this trade show? Are you wanting to sell a minimum of $10k in product? Are you hoping to get 500 people to sign up for a consultation? Would you like to grow your Facebook following by 15,000? — In order to move forward, you must determine what you want to accomplish and then decide how you’re going to work towards those goals.

Step 2: Prioritize Your Goals

Often times, you’ll have several goals for your business. Some goals are more trade show appropriate than others. To help prioritize your goals, start by writing all of your business goals down on paper and then go back and determine which ones are practical for the show and which ones might be better suited for other marketing initiatives.

Considering a game plan when brainstorming different goals is a great way to determine whether or not a trade show is the best environment for meeting certain goals. For example, trade shows include a great deal of networking. They serve as a great tool for getting a foot in the door with potential customers. Design your goals around making connections and followup appointments, rather than attempting to conduct your business from start to finish within your booth.

Step 3: Determine Your Budget

How much money do you have to spend on your trade show? Can you accomplish your goals with the budget that you have? When you bring your budget into the equation, this is the time to potentially reevaluate all of the goals that you’re hoping to meet and consider eliminating some in order to see more return on others. Spreading yourself too thin can become an issue and one that you want to avoid where it is possible.

When considering your budget, there are many things to take into consideration before you ever establish your goals. For instance, where is the show going to be held? Will you have travel costs? What is the entry fee for the trade show? What is the cost of the size and placement of the booth you’ll need to accommodate your setup?

There are a lot of upfront costs that will give you a sense of whether a trade show makes sense financially for your business. Don’t forget that once all of those costs are taken care of, there are many additional costs you will incur once you reserve the booth space.

Additional costs that you will need to take into consideration are items like, staffing the booth, banner stands, signs, displays, contests, product giveaways, promotions, setup, takedown, etc. The important thing to understand is that there a great deal of costs, but there are also ways to assess and pull back in some areas that don’t cater to your goals.


Find affordable materials and displays that fit your trade show budget.
Find affordable materials and displays that fit your trade show budget. | Source

Step 4: Allocate Your Budget

Once you have the goals that you’re working towards down on paper, you’ll want to start allocating your budget towards the unavoidable costs as well as your goals. Odds are, you’ll probably have some goals that are more important than others and that you want to allocate more budget towards the most attainable goals.

First, start by determining the costs that are fixed and unavoidable and then determine how much budget you have to put towards your specific goals with what remains. For example, if you decide that your goals for the show are to get 500 people to sign up for a consultation as well as build your Facebook following by 5,000 followers, first determine which goal is more important as far as your bottom line goes.

You may determine that getting 500 people to sign up for a consultation is of more value at this point in time, therefore you will want to allocate more of the remaining budget to getting people to sign up. This might include spending 70% of what is left on additional people to staff the booth, allowing more conversations to happen, which will lead to more sign ups. That portion of the budget could also go towards a few iPads to provide an easy collection method for signups within your trade show display. The remaining 30% of the budget would then go towards building your Facebook following. This could include purchasing a large banner stand, letting people know that if they Like you on Facebook, they’ll receive a free giveaway (people will Like your Facebook page for a free chapstick—you don’t have to get carried away. Keep it simple!).

As you can see, these are small scale examples to simply give you an idea of how to analyze and allocate your budget.

Step 5: Measure Your Success

At the end of the day, always be sure to measure the success of your trade show. Once the show is over and you’re all cleaned up, pull the numbers and see how many consultation signups you were able to pull in and how many new Facebook followers you have. You won’t always reach your goals, but you can always determine what could be done differently the next time to get closer.

What do you think?

Do You Think Trade Shows Are Better for Selling? Networking? or Both?

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