How to keep your next trade show under budget

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Trade show marketing may not be on the top of your business’s radar, but it really should be. According to one survey, 99% of exhibitors found unique value in a B2B trade show, which was not offered by other marketing channels.

Think about it. Trade shows combine social media with face-to-face customer interactions; it’s really where offline meets online, if only for a brief 2 hour period.

That’s why trade shows and industry conferences continue to grow in popularity each year. According to Statista, trade shows generated $12.8 billion in revenue in 2016.

While the benefits of trade shows are self-evident, the costs can be a little disconcerting. If your trade show ends up going well over budget, which it often does, then you could end up receiving very little return on your investment. Fortunately, we’ve curated this list of trade show hacks to help you save money on your next trade show and get the most bang for your buck.

Choose the Right Trade Show

This tip is mostly obvious, but it’s important to choose a trade show that best aligns with your target audience and brand. There are literally thousands of trade shows across several industries, from broad to niche, and wasting your money on attending each one is not a guaranteed strategy for success.

I suggest considering local shows to save money on travel, but I wouldn’t let transportation costs dictate your next trade show. Seek out a trade show that offers these opportunities:

  • Networking
  • Keynote speaking
  • Exclusivity to your industry

Go Paperless

By narrowing down your trade show, you can identify a conference that best positions you to stand out from the crowd. This is important because attending a giant trade show will require lots of physical paper materials and a massive booth to cut through the noise.

By attending a small trade show in your industry, you can ditch the brochures and paper marketing materials in favor of email leads and social media followers. This strategy also forces you to interact with customers in order to receive email leads and such.

Besides, brochures are just trash liners. Choose to capture leads with email and promote using social throughout, so people never miss an update.

Rent an Exhibit

By narrowing down the stops on your trade show tour, you can save money by choosing to rent a trade show exhibit for one-time use. While not as flashy as a prefabricated display, you won’t have to compete as hard if you attend a trade show with less competition.

Prefabricated displays are incredibly expensive to build and transport. Besides, you can hire trade show decorators who adversely save you money on creating a flashy display, as well as on wasting money on expensive decorating materials. That’s what we call having your cake and eating it too.

Choose Your Space and Booth Wisely

The number one cost of attending a trade show will be the size of your booth. Renting out space to host an exhibit is just a cost you’ll have to absorb. Of course, you can reduce this cost by negotiating for a smaller booth space, as long as you can still acquire a good location.

This is an instance where it’s ideal to hire a professional trade show marketer who can help negotiate this on your behalf. Although, if you’ve followed our steps from before, you can still create a flashy display without the costly investment of renting out a huge space at a huge conference.

Hold a Contest

Finally, it’s keen to be selective in giving out merchandise. Freebies should be a pull item not push. Don’t just hand out a tee-shirt and branded pen to any yahoo who visits your booth. Speak with them first and hand it to them when you know they can be a valuable lead.

One tip to cut down on merchandising is to hold a contest where you give out exclusive merchandise. This is an excellent pull tactic that’s more selective than the previous tip. Again, use social media and your promotional materials to get the word out before and during the trade show conference.


Trade shows are one of the most effective lead generation strategies out there. With the ability to capture leads from face-to-face interactions, as well as email sign up, trade show conferences are a great place to acquire new customers, clients, and investors.

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