tradeshow booth budget

Budgeting for a tradeshow can feel like a shot in the dark, especially when you’re a newbie or trying to scale up. We have some experience in the tradeshow realm, working with everyone from side hustlers to experienced pros and everyone in-between. One thing we’ve found across all our students and clients is this: Splurge selectively and skimp elsewhere to stay on-budget.

Tradeshow booths tend to cost more for new stationery makers than seasoned because of the start-up costs involved in creating a booth from scratch. Designing a booth is a lot like a kitchen remodel or planning a wedding; it’s going to take longer and cost more than you expect. Count on it. Average costs for the National Stationery Show is about $7,000 to $10,000, but we’ve seen costs soar to $20,000 or come in at about $5,000.

At the end of the day, you will ultimately decide how you want to invest in and show up for your booth. But as you’re planning, take into account the four booth buckets, as we like to call them: booth, marketing, sales tools and travel/lodging. Here’s what you need to put in each bucket:

Booth

A tradeshow booth is essentially a blank canvas, with either white or black curtains hanging from 8-foot pipes. It’s up to you to find décor for your booth that is both on-brand and on-budget. Consider lighting, walls, furniture and displays you’ll use in your booth and opt for “green” items—things you can reuse at the next tradeshow. It may cost you more initially, but you’ll save money in the long run.

Marketing

Make sure your ideal client knows you’ll be at the tradeshow! Use promotional mailers and flyers leading up to the event to help with this, and send marketing emails to those already on your list. You can also plan for giveaways and gifts during the show, but be sure to include these in-kind items in your budget. An advertisement in the tradeshow promotional materials is also a great way to let your audience know you’re there.

Sales Tools

You participate in a tradeshow so you can make sales—so be prepared! Budget for order forms and catalogs so customers can place an order right at your booth. iPad ordering systems are a streamlined way to receive orders, but keep in mind that you’ll need a hotspot to capture wifi and access to QuickBooks Online, Handshake or Shopify. And don’t forget to add processing fees into your budget.

Travel & Lodging

Travel costs vary widely depending on where the tradeshow is located and how you travel there. If you have frequent flyer miles or points on your credit card, use them to reduce your overall costs. Share a hotel room with an industry friend or check out Airbnb to save on hotel costs. Chances are you won’t be in your room for long, so this is probably a great place to scrimp.

You’ll notice that we don’t include product development in our tradeshow budgets. This is something you should be doing year-found, whether you attend a tradeshow or not. So product development should be part of your general budget, as cost of goods sold or part of running a business.

Budgeting for a tradeshow can be a challenge, and you want to make sure you’re staying in the black and making sales. Our Set Your Budget worksheet is the perfect way to map out a budget, and then keep track of how you did. Download it and start planning your next tradeshow!

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