When Every Dollar Counts

Nancy Johnson | September 7, 2016

Quick, anyone who DOESN’T care about the cost of their trade show and event marketing program – raise your hand!

Well, judging from the stark lack of hands in the air, I’m going to guess that your budget matters. And it should. In a competitive business environment, every dollar counts.

How do you keep those costs in line? Here are some tips I’ve developed over the past 20+ years I’ve been part of this industry:

  • The “D” word. If you’re new to exhibit planning, you may not understand why many people believe “drayage” is a four-letter word. When you pay it, you’re probably quick to agree. Drayage is the cost to bring properties from the dock to the show floor and back. It’s a short trip that can easily amount to more than your transportation charges.

Drayage is an expense that generally can’t be eliminated – but certainly can be tamed. It’s based on weight, so the use of lighter-weight materials (like metal extrusion and fabric) can help minimize costs. In addition, watch out for overtime handling charges. While the advance to warehouse rate may be a bit higher, you may avoid OT charges on direct to show rates. And that 15%-25% upcharge can truly be a budget-buster.

Also remember that your best defense against drayage is to carefully consider what you are sending to the show. If you aren’t sure whether you need that box of literature, just leave it at home.

  • There’s a difference between cost and value. We’re all drawn to a deal. But sometimes the low-price leader will ultimately cost you the most in the long run. If you receive a quote that seems unreasonably low, ask questions.

For example, lower-grade materials can reduce upfront fabrication expenses. You will probably discover that your booth has a shorter lifespan with more frequent needs for refurbishment. Materials matter.

  • Should I pay someone else to do this? It’s very tempting to try to do things “internally” to save money. And some companies have the resources to do so, with well-qualified in-house staff dedicated to specific functions. You may have the bandwidth to arrange your own show services, for example. But if you’ve never done this before, you may be surprised how complicated those orders can be – and how much time it takes to reconcile all those bills post-show.

Or consider digital content. Often, we hear clients say they want their agency to produce the content because they are leveraging existing assets. While they do have content prepared for another medium, it might not necessarily match the aspect ratio needed for your rental LED screens. This leads to the mad-dash overnight to resize or worse recreate the content to the proper specifications – and ultimately increases both cost and frustration level. If you’ve contracted a digital engagement resource, take full advantage of their expertise to ensure your outcome is a success.

Trade show and event marketing can be an expensive business, but honestly – when executed well – no other channel comes close to what we can accomplish. The investment you make today should pay back in business relationships that stand the test of time. Make the most of them!

Nancy Johnson, VP Sales, leads MG’s national team of account executives as they develop and execute face-to-face marketing solutions through exhibits and events. With almost 20 years of industry experience, Nancy has been an integral part of MG’s account team since 2000. She built her skills while serving as account lead on many Fortune 500 clients. Her wisdom and quick wit make her a favorite among MG team members and clients alike.