money saving ideas for trade shows

14 Money Saving Ideas for Trade Shows in 2023

The good news is trade shows work. They have the lowest cost per acquisition of any marketing tactic. The bad news is that the costs of attending are increasing. But the great news? There are many effective ways to be cost-effective.
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First, the three most vital money saving ideas for trade shows

Trade shows are known for being a unique place where you can meet face-to-face with many of your ideal customers. People go to discover new products and make purchases that will benefit them in some way or solve a problem they have.  

However, despite these benefits, the costs of attending shows are increasing across the board, from reserving booth space to hotel rooms and flights. Luckily, there are ways to mitigate rising costs.  

Generally, there are three things you can do to save money, avoid painful pitfalls and maintain a high Return on Investment (ROI). They are:  

  1. Only spend money on the right shows  
  1. Stand out from your competitors  
  1. Plan long-term instead of short-term  

money saving ideas
Premier Produce’s smaller booth contains modular elements that allow it to expand for larger shows

Only spend money on the right shows 

Don’t waste time and money reaching people who are not your target customers. Do intensive research into which shows are attracting your buyers.  

Take Rolls Royce for example. The luxury car manufacturer does not bother with attending automotive trade shows. Instead, they exhibit at aerospace, defense and jet shows. Why? Because that’s where their qualified buyers are. For someone who can afford a jet, a Rolls is an impulse purchase.  

Make sure your product finds the right hands.  

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Stand out from your competitors  

Once you find the right shows, standing out from your competitors and being unique will drive the desired traffic to your booth. The key to being unique is to be you. The best tactic is to practice brand authenticity.  

The best part about this is you don’t need to have a 40×40 booth space with a massive custom exhibit. All you need to do is send a clear message about WHO you are, WHAT you do and WHAT you do BEST.   

Another way to stand out from your competitors and save money is to use free social media platforms and email campaigns to market your booth before the show.  

Plan long-term instead of short term 

Most trade shows are annual events. Planning ahead by investing in durable materials for your exhibit is a great way of cutting costs in the long run. Cheap materials mean replacements or refurbishing, which increases costs down the road.  

Figure out how many shows you’ll be attending this year and the next. Does it make sense to rent an exhibit for every show or own your exhibit? Do the sizes of the shows differ, requiring you to change the magnitude of your presence?  

Answering these questions early helps set a realistic budget which helps to save future costs. 

ideas for trade shows
Plan ahead. How many shows are you attending this year? What’s your budget?

14 money saving ideas for trade shows  

Having discussed three simple principles for investing in a trade show marketing plan, here are some specific ideas you can apply today.

1. Draft a budget 

When drafting a budget, it helps to know the average breakdown of attending a show. Generally, the breakdown looks like this:  

  • 35% booth space  
  • 14% travel and lodging  
  • 13% show services  
  • 11% exhibit design and production  
  • 10% shipping costs  
  • 6% graphic design and production  
  • 6% promotions  
  • 5% misc. expenses  

From here you can decide which points need attention and which you can ignore. The highest priority should be given to those things which are essential to bringing leads to your booth.  

booth space trade shows
Understand your company’s place in the market to decide how big your presence should be at the show.

Booth Space  

2. Negotiate with show management 

It’s not as intimidating as it sounds. You can cut corners by offering to speak at the event in return for discounted booth space.  

3. Look for early bird discounts when registering  

This is one of the obvious things you can do if you’re on a budget. Pay attention to the deadlines and rates. Most shows offer discounts for signing up early.  

There are a variety of variables when traveling with a team. Consider them all before reserving tickets and rooms.

Travel and lodging  

4. Buy tickets early 

The earlier the better. As a general rule, tickets tend to be cheaper on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

5. Compare flight prices 

It may help to shop around and use apps like Google flights, Kayak, Scott’s Cheap Flights, etc.

6. Should you stay at the convention or a cheaper hotel across the street?  

The question is worth considering because sometimes there are unexpected losses when trying to save money. For example, you may be more likely to have breakfast with a potential client before the show if you’re staying in the same building than if you’re in a motel down the street.

Also, if you stay in a hotel down the street what will the cost be to Uber or rent a car if walking is not an option?  

Make an immediate impression on the show floor.

Exhibit design and production  

7. To rent or not to rent?  

This is dependent on your show schedule for the year. If you’re attending one show just to dip your toes back in the water, a rental may make sense. Just make sure you go with one that avoids the “rental look.”  

Remember, the key to standing out is to be unique and to be you. If your business looks like it’s a run of the mill, then what will attract by passers to your booth?  

8. Portable, modular or custom? 

If you’re attending multiple shows, then an understanding of the differences between the three kinds of exhibits will help you make an informed purchasing decision.  

Portables are made of durable materials, are cheaply shipped and require next to no labor to set up. The problem is they are generic and can make you look like an amateur. 

Modulars are flexible in that they can fit any booth space, can easily be modified for different shows, and can really help you look like an authority on the show floor. The problem is they often require labor to install and dismantle.  

Custom exhibits make an immediate impression. They are designed to be the ideal manifestation of your brand, meaning all your branding elements come together in one place. The problem is they are expensive to ship, and you may have to replace parts sooner than later.

Read our blog 7 questions to ask before buying a trade show display for further insight into making a strategic purchase.  

9. Buy durable materials  

In any case, spending a little bit extra on quality materials ensures your money goes the extra mile. Not only does replacing materials add up in the long run, but they also take time.

10. Use an exhibit house strong in design to cut costs on design elements  

A great exhibit house that is design-focused can make the most out of any space. Sometimes less is more, which is a good thing for the company looking to save. However, if done incorrectly, less sometimes means less business.  

Most exhibit houses offer an exhibit management program (EMP) that handles all logistics.


11. Use a shipper with trade show experience  

The reason why this is important is because trade shows and convention centers have their own rules that are strictly enforced. Shippers without experience may be pushed to the back of the line, causing your materials to arrive late, if at all. 

Read more about how to have a smooth installation dismantle here.  

High-quality branded giveaways are best used to attract your target audience


12. Buy for the year, not for one trade show  

This follows previous advice. Buying in preparation for multiple shows not only saves time, but it also saves money and energy.

13. Buy less with more quality 

Don’t throw money away at giveaways that don’t resonate with your ideal clients. You can use higher quality giveaways as a strategic marketing tactic to draw target buyers to your booth.

14. Promote your booth using social media  

Since the pandemic, consumers have come to naturally expect more from businesses in the digital realm. Handling social media effectively can greatly increase booth traffic at next to no cost.  

Sometimes the best money saving ideas for trade shows involves using what resources you already have available.

Let’s brainstorm a plan for your next event 

Need more money saving ideas for trade shows? Increase your return on investment and bring in more leads at your next trade show by contacting us or calling The Trade Group at 972-734-8585. We’ll create a design proposal that will help you raise brand awareness and attract buyers. 

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