Setting a budget for a trade show program is fraught for most clients. So don’t feel like you are in the minority if you are burying you face in your hands or rocking in the fetal position.  After 18 years in the industry I would like to share with you four techniques you can use to set trade show budgets that will stop the angst and hair pulling (yours or someone else’s, your choice).

 1. Use a budget from previous years

I know, I know, this seems so Captain McObvious but since it really is SO apparent, it gets totally forgotten about. Here is what you do:

  • Look in previous years marketing reports to extract the figures from the trade show program of past years.
  • On average, add CPI (consumer price index) for each year since the last record of trade show spends. For example, if 2010 was the documented trade show spend take the base figure x 3 years x CPI and voila! There is your budget!
  • The fine print: Be real about this. For example, don’t include a touch screen in you wish list if high cost hardware was not a part of your past show budget. You need to throw a bit more coin in if you after this sort of high spend gadgetry!

 2. Use your spend for the floor space as a guide

I have seen this method work with taking both the square meterage and total cost as the key-determining factor. For example, if your stand space cost $100K, then clients sometimes allow an equivalent amount for the design and build of a stand. Alternatively, some clients use a dollar figure for each square metre. A quick and dirty guide: 6 x 3 (18 sq metres) stands allow $100-$150 per square metre for a custom stand. 6 x 6 (36 sq metres) allow $80 – $120 per square metre for a custom stand. Everything under 18 sqs: $120 – $150 per square metre and over 36 square metres: $120 – $200 per sq metre.

The disclaimer bit:

  • This is plus GST
  • This is based on a 1 off use custom design and build
  • This does not include 2 storey stands, catering, high-end technology, ponies (dude, they are HIGH cost and HIGH maintenance) and elaborate anything. This is a guide only, not something carved high on the mount!

3. Tie it back to your objectives

Say you had a million dollars for your marketing budget (steady now) and your objectives for this year include launching a new range of products that require in person demos with the intension to book meetings with key customers for a more detailed demo. The aim is to book 80 meetings with 20% of those visited buying your new technology product and placing orders within 60 days. Fantastic! Trade shows will serve you well and with such a major objective, you might allocate around 80% of your marketing spend to achieve this goal. But what if your major goal for the year was to launch a new website that was compatible across all platforms and showcases your entire suite of products. Now this a different beast and you would best tipping say 60% of your budget into a flawlessly built out website and the rest of that budget into promoting the shit out of it and yes, some of those promotion activities might include trade shows with your key audience in attendance. These examples show how important it really is to set clear objectives in your marketing plan as it provides a road map on how to achieve those aims.

 4. Make it up

No, seriously. Often when I see clients and I ask what the budget is, there is some nervous shuffling about and then those despair-inducing words are uttered, “there is no budget”. Hogwash. There is always a budget, it is just people might feel uncomfortable talking coin, they are worried that you will use every last dollar and want to see what they can get for less or they really don’t have much clarity around what a trade show stand might cost. So what I advise is this. As a marketer setting a budget for the stand, write down any figure you get an intuitive hit on. Now double that. How does that sit with you? Too much? Too little? Keep feeling you way through this writing down numbers, crossing out, dividing by 3, adding another 20% and so on until you get a figure that you think is a fair price for your stand brief. Next step is to tell the design firm that you partner with and they will – if they are solid operators – if you budget is too tight or super workable. Both extremes are met with raised eyebrows so this is no guide for which end of the spectrum your budget sits!

Hey!  Bonus infographic!

Set your trade show budget.  Stress free style!

Set your trade show budget. Stress free style!

Got a burning question about the budgeting for your own trade show program? Please leave a comment below or get in contact here and I would be happy to get my abacus out and see how I can help!

In my quieter moments I like thinking of who I would be in an alternate universe and when I saw this hot clip from MIA with ladies who are doing some hell-yeah stunt driving, I knew who I wanted to be this week in my alt-universe.

See you next week!